October 15, 2008 11:57 PM
Karl aims displeasure at Smith
By Chris Tomasson
Rocky Mountain News
Just when Nuggets guard J.R. Smith was having a controversy-free training camp, he again seems to have raised the ire of coach George Karl.
After Utah's C.J. Miles tied the score 109-109 with 8.4 seconds left in regulation Wednesday at the Pepsi Center, Smith sought to hit the game-winning shot. After not even remotely looking to pass, he hoisted an airball three-pointer from 27 feet.
The Nuggets ended up winning the preseason game 120-119 in overtime. Still, Karl wasn't overjoyed.
"I hated J.R.'s shot at the end of the game,'' Karl said. "That was more of a me shot than a basketball shot. I could have called a timeout to get a better shot. I thought everyone knew that, if you put your head down and went to the basket, you had a 60 to 70 percent chance of drawing a foul.''
Oh, well. It's only preseason.
The Nuggets are still trying to get Smith to think pass more often, but he is making strides. Of course, it would really Smith if he could get his shot going again.
After shooting 5-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-7 from three-point range Wednesday, Smith is shooting just 18-of-49, including 3-of-14 on three-pointers, in the preseason while averaging 18.0 points.
If Karl is going to tolerate Smith at least sometimes having an itchy trigger finger, he's going to have to start shooting better than that.
Nevertheless, where would the Nuggets be without players driving Karl crazy? Back with the team is swingman Ruben Patterson, who was dispatched in 2006 after causing Karl to lose even more hair.
Karl might not have any hair left after Patterson picked up a technical with 31.5 seconds left in regulation Wednesday from the bench, which allowed the Jazz to hit a free throw and force overtime. Patterson was mad about having fouled out with 1:51 left in regulation.
"We did a lot of things that had a little bit of insanity to them," Karl said.
Patterson has promised to take Nuggets players out to dinner to make up for his gaffe. At least Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony seems to have already forgiven Patterson.
"It's terrible,'' Anthony, who didn't play after the third period, said of playing overtime in the preseason. "I was joking with George, telling him put me back in with eight seconds left on the regular clock, in regulation. But we pulled it out."
BUTTER ON THOSE COMMENTS?
Karl wasted no time before Wednesday's game building up Utah, Denver's nemesis in the Northwest Division.
"I might put them at the top,'' said Karl, when asked how he would rank the Jazz in the Western Conference. "I trust that team... They've got players at a position where they're in a contract year (Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur) and I think it could be a special year in Utah.''
Karl then was asked if he was trying butter up a division rival.
"I think they've earned the butter,'' he said.
But after some prodding about whether he really thinks Utah is the best team in the West, Karl backed off a bit. He put Utah in a grouping at the top with New Orleans and the Lakers.
Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko laughed when told about Karl's comments.
"I doubt when we get to play Denver (in the regular season), he's going to back off and say, 'They're stronger than we are,''' Kirilenko said. "I bet he's going to play to win.''