Author’s Note: Since the completion of this piece, it has become apparent that J.R. is going to be fine and that the knee injury is not nearly as serious as first thought. Though that renders much of what is said here somewhat irrelevant, the emotions and pain that occurred at the time were still very real, and reflect well on how difficult this lockout has been for everyone.Â
I had finally come to terms with the lockout. I understood we werenâ€™t going to see basketball this year. I was well aware that if the players followed through with their plan to decertify, there was a chance weâ€™d never see the NBA again. I had no doubt that basketball could be gone for years. I accepted all of this. I was still upset with the owners and saddened by the lack of basketball in my life, but for the most part I had made peace with all of the possible doomsday scenarios that could befall the NBA, its players and the fans. Then yesterday happened.
Maybe you were distracted by the awful football game on NBC, or yet another revolutionary episode of The Walking Dead, but the most important event of yesterday came from the Chinese Basketball Association. As we all know, J.R. Smith has taken his talents to China during the lockout. Well, it appears his Chinese basketball career has come to an abrupt end. Please see the video below:
This does not look good at all. Russ Oates from the SB Nation Denver writes:
“As we can see, this was a non-contact injury, which could potentially be even worse than had he injured it while colliding with another player. He got over to the bench before the pain got unbearable…There has been no additional update on his injury.”
Upon hearing this, I was absolutely devastated. If Smithâ€™s injury turns out to be serious, and robs J.R. of his frightening athleticism, The NBA (if it continues to exist) will have lost one of itâ€™s most colorful, fun, and explosive players.
Iâ€™ve written extensively about my love for J.R. before, but it bears repeating that he is one of my absolute favorite players. His dunk over Gary Neal last year will remain one of the best Iâ€™ve ever seen. His insistence on performing 360 layups, and the sheer absurdity of this dunk off an alley-oop bring all kinds of joy to my basketball watching experience. I could handle the NBA taking that away from me for this year and possibly longer. But to take away J.R. Smith forever? Thatâ€™s unacceptable. I believe Phillip Barnett of Forum Blue and Gold put it best when he tweeted the following:
Furthermore, this injury could have further implications amongst all NBA players. J.R. could be the cautionary tale that prevents more players from making the jump into other professional leagues. Players certainly would like to have a source of income during the lockout, but if that comes with the risk of voiding their contract once the NBA returns, it may no longer seem worth it.
Just when I thought I was accepting and adapting to a lost season, J.R.â€™s injury has reignited my contempt. In some ways, I think itâ€™s greater than it ever has been. This feels completely and totally permanent. There are certainly going to be major system changes, but the game of basketball should remain largely the same. Iâ€™d be able to see the same players competing every night, with Chris Paulâ€™s dribble moves and Blake Griffinâ€™s dunks still providing the same excitement as before. None of that was supposed to change. But now it feels as though something real is gone; weâ€™ve lost something forever. I may have seen the last of JR Smith. No more crazy dunks, or torrid shooting streaks. All of that ridiculous potential remaining forever unfulfilled. Iâ€™m not sure whether thatâ€™s fair or unfair. I do know that this wonâ€™t be a hypothetical loss; itâ€™ll be real, and itâ€™ll hurt.