Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Smith payment stalls lawsuit
HOUSTON -- Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith made a last-minute payment to a Houston attorney before Wednesday's game against the Rockets to stall a lawsuit filed against him.
Smith was named as the defendant in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Harris District Court by high-profile lawyer Rusty Hardin, a Rockets' season ticket holder. Hardin is best known for representing pitcher Roger Clemens in his legal battle with former trainer Brian McNamee, who claims he injected Clemens with steroids.
Hardin was hired to represent Smith in 2006, after Smith was accused of breaking a player's jaw in a pick-up game at a Houston recreation center. That case was settled, but Hardin's lawsuit claims Smith failed to pay $22,753.51 in legal fees.
Dale Jefferson, Hardin's attorney, had threatened to serve Smith with legal papers before Wednesday's game at the Toyota Center. Smith paid a chunk of the fees less than two hours before tipoff, prompting Hardin to call off the process server. Smith has 30 days to pay the rest.
"Mr. Smith has owned up to his obligations, and agreed to pay them in full," Jefferson said, before he and Hardin settled into front-row seats. "When he does that, we will dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice. It has not been accomplished yet, but he did make a good-faith wire transfer prior to the start of the game."
The 24-year-old Smith called the dispute "a miscommunication." He said before the game that he wasn't aware that the bills had not been paid and had to "talk to my financial people about that."
Jefferson set a 6 p.m. deadline for Smith to start paying the fees, and Smith's wire transfer on Wednesday was received with eight minutes to spare.
"It was like a 3-pointer at the buzzer," Jefferson said.
The lawsuit is the latest in a long list of legal and disciplinary issues for Smith during his six NBA seasons.
He spent 24 days in a New Jersey correctional facility last year after pleading guilty to reckless driving.
Smith admitted driving an SUV through a stop sign and colliding with a car in June 2007. His friend, 21-year-old Andre Bell, later died from his injuries.
Smith was suspended for the first three games of the 2007-08 season after an incident at a night club. The previous season, Smith served a 10-game suspension for his role in a fight with the New York Knicks.
The Nuggets considered suspending Smith this week when he sulked on the sideline after playing a season-low 12 minutes against New Orleans last Saturday night.
The team decided not to punish Smith, and the 6-foot-6 guard scored 12 points in 28 minutes of Denver's 116-110 win over Charlotte on Monday.