Aldon Smith's future -- and undeniably a key part of the 49ers' future -- now leads up to a new date: July 25, when the talented linebacker is scheduled for sentencing before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Daniel Nishigaya.

Smith pleaded "no contest" to three felony weapons charges and one misdemeanor DUI on Wednesday, and the judge set July 25 for the sentencing, which is right about when the 49ers will start training camp.

How conveniently inconvenient.

According to the D.A. representatives, there was no plea deal. This is all on the judge, and the sentence can be anything from nothing to four years and four months.

San Francisco 49er Aldon Smith leaves a Santa Clara County Superior courtroom after pleading no contest to weapons and DUI charges Wednesday afternoon, May
San Francisco 49er Aldon Smith leaves a Santa Clara County Superior courtroom after pleading no contest to weapons and DUI charges Wednesday afternoon, May 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. He will be sentenced on July 25. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Maybe Smith will walk away with a slap on the wrist, and then maybe the NFL will do very little to further suspend him (with the LAX incident still pending, and maybe that goes away, too.)

But maybe Smith will get hit with some jail sentence on July 25, and maybe the NFL will follow that up with a six-game, eight-game or even longer-term suspension, after surveying all of his erratic and illegal behavior.

It's all unknown at this point, and even if you give Smith all benefit of the doubt, who's to guarantee that he'll walk the straight and narrow from now until then? That's two full months of good behavior (or at least public good behavior).


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I suggest that owner Jed York and G.M. Trent Baalke assign some great minders for Smith -- better than the ones he's had for the last few years -- or even better, Baalke and York should do the Smith baby-sitting themselves, 24/7, because they're the ones who've staked the reputation of their franchise on this.

They could've put some separation between themselves and Smith after the LAX incident, and I've reported that they were ready to.

San Francisco 49er Aldon Smith enters a Santa Clara County Superior courtroom before pleading no contest to weapons and DUI charges Wednesday afternoon,
San Francisco 49er Aldon Smith enters a Santa Clara County Superior courtroom before pleading no contest to weapons and DUI charges Wednesday afternoon, May 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. He will be sentenced on July 25. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Then they changed their minds, and by their public words, you can tell who led that charge: Baalke has been more passionate defending and supporting Smith in recent days than any player in Baalke's tenure.

So the 49ers caved and picked up Smith's fifth-year option when they didn't have to (a strong signal to Smith that everything was OK), and Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have given every indication that it really doesn't matter what Smith does, as far as they're concerned.

As long as he's eligible to play, he will play for the 49ers. Because he's terrific -- I don't want to deny that logic, because it's the NFL and these guys are paid to win games, not lead angelic choirs.

Still. There's some responsibility here to field a team that is representative of a franchise's inner beliefs, and I guess York and Baalke are doing that by supporting Smith every step of the way.

The 49ers -- whether they admit it or not -- have cast their lot with Aldon Smith.

His mistakes are their mistakes, and there have been many.

His recovery, if it happens, is their recovery.

His plea is their plea.

And, because the 49ers have decided to back him very publicly this offseason, his sentencing hearing is their sentencing hearing.

Now we wait for July 25, and the NFL sanctions, and whatever other firestorms No. 99 kicks up. He's one of the defining personalities of the team, for good or bad -- the 49ers have made sure of it.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

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Aldon Smith pleads no contest to four charges, will be sentenced July 25.