J.R. Smith Is Lake Michigan

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JR Smith is Lake Michigan on special days in the cold months. Promise I’ll try my hardest to get that to make sense by the end of all this.

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It’s a cloudy Saturday in Chicago and I’m zipping in and out of lanes on Lakeshore on my way to watch Jeff, Who Lives At Home at the apartment of a girl I’m a fan of. Lake Michigan’s to my left and, against all wintery odds, it’s blue. Baby and Carolina. This is weird.

The whole of Chicago is almost always fairly dark grey in its winter coat. The sun comes out to playeeyay every so often, but for the most part, it’s a whole lot of grey. Lake Michigan is usually part of the grey. Today it’s not. Today it’s different and I talked to my eyes and we decided that difference is good. On the cold days, Lake Michigan usually looks like Bon Iver sounds. Today it looks like Jimmy Buffet sounds. The lake makes me a Parrothead and I am wasting away in Margaritaville with the John Hancock Building in my eye line as my little Nissan deals with the wind whipping off the water. The blue of the lake is popping like bubble wrap and I welcome that because it’s the monotony of the winter grey that gets you. The every single day of it. It’s unchanging and bleh and the same dadgum thing all the season long. You begin to expect it.

Not today, though. Today the lake is calm. Flat as spring break in Cancun stomachs. It’s clear and sharp and blue and my eyes are drawn to it because it’s something I’m not used to and the same ole same ole can peace out forever.

Stay with me.

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JR Smith is not normal.

The New York Knickerbockers have Smith and he is the new for forever. He’s the change.

The National Basketball Association in and of itself is an exciting entity. There are stars and story lines and characters that can keep the public occupied year round. But for all the story lines, for all the stars, more and more we are not shown personality. Not real personality. The personality we’re shown is a drip. A marketing boardroom forged, carefully crafted identity founded on commercials with quick cuts and poetic voice overs with 1990′s hip hop playing in the background. I’m saying, stuff tends to err on the side of familiar. Someone is asked a question and a stock PR approved answer is accessed and delivered with all the care and attention you give the soles of your shoes.

JR Smith is sick of the predictability. He’s tired of the milk man, the paper boy, and evenin’ TV. Everywhere he looks, everywhere he looks, it’s bland. We got him to hold onto, though. JR Smith paints his feelings all over the wooded floor. He plays with personality and a general spirit of, “Yes. That’s right. I am here. You’re welcome.”

And that is good. That is good, and necessary.

He’s pumping in 17 a game right now for the second best team in the East and he’s unloading several tons worth of charisma upon the Mecca nightly.

See, the league tends to look and sound the same in the regular season. A game happens. Someone wins. Someone loses. The parties involved are then asked about the win/loss and they talk of this being “just another game” or the fact that they’ve “gotta get better”.

Not JR. JR tweets pictures of his girl’s backside and does things like this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UfF3zmr7uI). God Bless the reaction and the snarl and the NEW YORK STAND UP of it all. You see that look in the stands? He’s identifying who wants to have his children in that moment. We all do, JR. We all do. 

 
He swags out, nodding all “Of course that happened” on game winners. He chucks. A lot. From far out. Doesn’t really need to see the whites of their eyes. He fires and fires and if they don’t happen to go in, well hey, he’s out here trying.

Guys like LeBron and Durant are exciting players, but their efficiency and overall skill level lead to us taking them for granted as you pretty much know what you’re going to get from them on a nightly basis numbers wise. They’ll have explosive moments of Dear God What Am I Watching, but you know when you look at LeBron’s box score you’re gonna see something in the neighborhood of his averages: 26, 8, and 7. Durant will make a three look like a layup and okie doke somebody with a cross over and pull up over them on his way to a semi-quiet 29, 8, and 4. They’re established and deadly and we know that so it isn’t surprising when they wind up putting up those numbers.
JR is different because of the unexpected. He’s exciting for entirely different reasons. He’s a guy worth watching, because of the excitement in not knowing what will happen. He could lay a complete egg, or go for a 30 piece out of nowhere. While he’s getting more consistent, he’s still a guy that’s just shooting 40% from the field. He can light fires under the MSG crowd, or have them begging for Novak. He is the truest wild card we have in the league. This is why he is must watch television.
The NBA is a league where we can know a lot. Advanced stats and Synergy and film study and player tendencies lead us to be able to predict and expect certain things. We know a play and how often it works with the personnel on the floor. We can study plus-minus and know which five man lineups work best in certain situations. The most refreshing thing about Smith, to me, is our inability to know what he’s going to do. There’s joy in that. The complete lack of an idea as to what he will do. That’s excitement. That’s edge of your seat. And if you want to get all David Stern’s marketing team about it, you could even say that’s BIG. Super BIG. The BIGgest.
 
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See, I liked that chilly Saturday on Lakeshore with a blue Lake Michigan because it wasn’t the same stuff I see every cold day in this super windy city. It wasn’t stale. It was fresh. It was unpredictable. So is JR.

2 Comments

  • Reply January 20, 2013

    Tim McKay

    Great article and even better writer!

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