DENVER -- A photo in the Denver Post Monday sparked my curiosity. It showed the Nuggets' J.R. Smith waiting out a rain delay on a golf course Sunday, the off-day between Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
This was hardly news, as NBA players are spotted on golf courses all over the Western Hemisphere this time of year. But they're usually NBA players whose teams are getting ready to exercise a lottery pick, not compete in the conference finals.
Smith, one of the stars of Denver's Game 4 victory with 24 points off the bench -- including 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range -- walked down the hallway toward the arena exit after the game cradling his infant daughter in one hand and a sleeve of golf balls in the other. He'd just met with a few military service men and women outside the Nuggets' locker room, a nod to the Memorial Day holiday. They'd given him the golf balls, which were inscribed with the U.S. Army logo.
"I play golf before every game," Smith said. "You get out there and focus on something else for a second, relax, and then come in here at night and go to work. I think it helps me focus more because I'm not really thinking about it throughout the whole day and then by the time I’m here, I’m well rested and the game is the only thing that’s on my mind."
Wait a minute, I said. You played golf yesterday and today?
"Yup," Smith said. "I got rained out on the second hole yesterday. I played 15 today."
Michael Jordan was perhaps the most avid NBA golfer of his generation, but to my knowledge, he never played on a game day -- especially during the playoffs. Blackjack the night before, perhaps, but not even M.J. could squeeze a round of golf in between shootaround and Game 4 of the conference finals. I don't know what this means, except that J.R. Smith is A) A better golfer than I am (his handicap is 10); and B) Makes much better use of his time.