Writing for HoopsHype, Chris Tomasson is reporting that Chauncey Billups flew to Las Vegas today to be with troubled Nuggets shooting guard J.R. Smith for the remainder of the summer.
I suppose it's fitting that in the same week Allen Iverson's NBA career finds itself very much in limbo, the player he will forever be linked to - Billups - is proving once again why he might be the single greatest leader in professional basketball today. Knowing the leader that Billups is, I can't say I'm surprised. What I am surprised by is the little coverage this story has received. How many times in NBA history has the de facto leader of a franchise taken several weeks out of his offseason to be with a fellow player coming off a tough summer?
Even A.I. publicly called out Smith for needing to get his off court life in order to improve his on court life, but he certainly wasn't proactive in helping Smith off the court. In fact, and without hating on A.I. too much, during The Answer's tenure in Denver he was rumored to be an enabler of Smith's off court antics, not the "disabler" as Billups is clearly trying to be.
As pointed out in Nate's exit interview of J.R. Smith from the other day, Smith has the potential to be a 20 (points), five (assists) and four (rebounds) player this season. Especially since he'll presumably be the 2009-10 starter as reported by Tomasson here at Denver Stiffs during the 2009 playoffs. But if it weren't for Billups' arrival in Las Vegas today, perhaps Smith's ascension into becoming the All-Star caliber player we know he can be wouldn't have a chance to materialize this season.
(Photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill, AP)