He wants to go by his given name, Earl Smith III.
Smith said there are "a lot of personal reasons" that "I can't really explain at this time" for the switch. He went with J.R. because he was often called "Junior," but now he's going back to his given name as part of an effort to fix an image that's taken some hits over the years because of a poor driving record that resulted in the suspension.
Smith says he plans to phase in his new - or given - name over the next few weeks, although the Nuggets plan to keep calling him J.R. On Tuesday, Smith was expected to come off the bench against the Chicago Bulls in his first appearance after a tumultuous offseason.
Denver's Kenyon Martin returned after missing a game with a bruised left fibula.
Smith went from finishing second in the voting for the NBA's Sixth Man award and helping Denver reach the Western Conference finals last season to spending 24 days in a New Jersey correctional facility during the offseason after pleading guilty to reckless driving. He was involved in an accident in 2007 that caused the death of a passenger in his car.
"I always learn from my mistakes," Smith said. "I definitely have a different outlook on life, on basketball, on everything."