But at least I didn't bench him in a real game with 1:17 left after he put up 29 points (eventually 32 total), five rebounds, four assists and two steals one game removed from being DNP-CD'd for being late to practice.
Nuggets coach George Karl's substitution of Anthony Carter for J.R. Smith at the 1:17 mark - after J.R. had carried the Nuggets all night - was not the main reason why the Nuggets lost tonight's game against the Hornets. But it certainly didn't help and it was, at best, a very curious decision. Not only was J.R. lighting up the Hornets on offense, but he came up with two big steals and several big rebounds on defense, as well. Moreover, the Nuggets had a nice rhythm going throughout the tail end of the fourth quarter prior to the A.C.-for-J.R. substitution...why disrupt it?
Unlike a lot of this blog's readers, I'm not insistent on J.R. starting (although I'd absolutely prefer it if he did). What I am insistent on, however, is that the Nuggets settle on a set rotation already. If you look at the elite teams in the league like the Lakers and Celtics, they rotate their starters and reserves like clockwork to build up consistency and set expectations with their players. Karl's substitution patterns on the other hand, are totally erratic. Why does Carmelo Anthony sit up until five minutes left in the fourth quarter? Why does Renaldo Balkman get meaningful minutes one night and a DNP-CD the next? The rotation questions are endless.
I understand that Karl has to tinker with the lineup now that Chauncey Billups has joined the team and more adjustments will be necessary. But 12 games into the ACB Era (during which the Nuggets are 9-3 thanks to Billups and Karl), isn't it about time that our Nuggets players knew what to expect minutes-wise each night?
Once the Nuggets settle into a set rotation, my hunch is they'll stop blowing games whenever J.R. Smith has an electrifying performance.