Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's getting hard to tell whether J.R.
Smith is doing more harm to himself with his on-court performance, or with the
ever-growing stream of nonsense that surrounds him outside of game action.
No matter the personal cause, Smith is near the top of the list for reasons in
trying to explain why the New York Knicks, last season's Atlantic Division
champions and the second seed in the Eastern Conference, have fallen flat in
On the court, Smith has been a disaster this season. He is averaging 11.3
points per game on 12.0 field-goal attempts, all the while hitting 35 percent
from the floor.
Last season, when the Knicks were great and Smith was Sixth Man of the Year,
those numbers were 18.1 ppg on 15.6 field-goal attempts and 42 percent
Never in his career could he stop a bath tub from going by him on the
defensive end. But, at least the Knicks knew that in advance.
Why the decline? Could it be signing a three-year, $17-million contract turned
Smith soft? That makes sense to me. It's also worth noting that maybe Smith's
season a year ago was the anomaly.
Smith's best scoring campaign prior to last was 15.4 ppg. He's shot over 42
percent four times in his 10-year career. Jacking up shots has never been a
problem for him.
The regression in Smith's game this season is the single biggest factor in the
Knicks' decline. Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace were professional
leaders on a team devoid of them. They've all moved on, so, that leaves it
with Andrea Bargnani's arrival (he's been fine), Tyson Chandler's injury
(definitely a factor in some losses), Ray Felton's decline (noticeable, but
not as steep as Smith's), or Smith.
A team can live with a player having a down year. It's happened since the dawn
of time. What becomes harder to live with is when the struggling player
jeopardizes the team with his blazingly stupid behavior.
Smith was suspended to start the season for a failed drug test. That's not
great, but it's not the end of the world.
"Shoelace-gate" (because where would we be in America without adding "gate" to
the end of a brewing situation), is a whole other subject entirely.
On Saturday, Smith tried untying Dallas' Shawn Marion's shoelaces while
standing waiting for a free throw. It's not clubbing him with a chair or
anything, and most even laughed.
The NBA didn't. The NBA told him don't do it again.
He did in THE VERY NEXT GAME HE PLAYED!
"It was a joke but a joke gone wrong," Smith said. "It was one of those
warnings where you really don't know the outcome of it."
Here's the outcome - the league fined him $50,000 for "recurring instances of
It was a silly thing to do the first time and he's warned. Who does Smith
think he is that the NBA was only joking, or half-serious about the warning?
To go out and do the exact same thing again, not expecting consequences, is
either beyond stupid, or past arrogant.
Either is unacceptable.
Smith's coach, Mike Woodson seems done.
After the drug suspension, Woodson said, "he's got to grow up and do the right
After the shoelace incident, Woodson inched closer to wit's end.
"I'm not happy about this because he was warned, he comes back, and he makes
the same mistake, and it's not right," Woodson said on ESPN New York's 98.7 FM
radio. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops
up, but it's got to stop."
Woodson retaliated in the only way he could - he benched Smith.
Smith didn't play a minute against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. He was
healthy, he was dressed, he was ready and he sat. All 48 minutes, Smith was
essentially Katie Holmes, just in Knicks sweatpants.
Woodson drew his line, although some, more closely connected with the team,
believe the order came from higher up. Some have speculated that owner James
Dolan mandated the benching.
No matter who decided it, Smith sat. He distanced himself from the team during
huddles. This might be the only way to get through to him. A healthy DNP-CD is
a major source of humiliation for a player of Smith's caliber.
For it to come on a TNT nationally-televised Thursday night game, that clears
up the message. For it to come against the two-time defending NBA champion
Miami Heat, that blatantly displays the message that if you continue to
humiliate our organization with your crap, we can too.
Oh, and the best part - Woodson never told him he was sitting.
"I didn't know anything about it," Smith said. "I expected to do the same
thing I always do. I think that's the most misleading part of it."
Love it. What has Smith done for the Knicks to deserve any favorable
treatment? Nothing, that's what, so he can deal with a little embarrassment.
Seems fair considering the embarrassment he's caused.
And what does Woodson, if he was the one to pull the trigger on this, owe
Smith? All Woodson did was utilize Smith in his best season as a professional,
then, when Woodson is fighting for his professional life, Smith valued getting
a laugh over everything else.
We haven't even touched on Smith's displeasure that his brother Chris was cut
from the team recently. It was widely assumed Chris was a Knick as a show of
faith in J.R., but once brother was cut, J.R. took to twitter and talked of
That's a big word and he since deleted the tweet, but Smith clearly has no
clue. He's someone who does whatever he wants, however he wants to do it, with
no concern of the consequences of his actions.
That's the worst attribute you can have in a team. Smith is an individual who
does what makes him happy. Does Smith want to win? Sure, who doesn't? But for
a player struggling so badly on the floor, maybe he could do the Knicks a
favor and not constantly present himself in a bad light. He can't work on his
game 24/7, but maybe when he's on the floor, be professional.
The worst part about this whole thing for the Knicks is they're stuck. They
can discuss trading him all they want, and maybe they get a partner in a
"crap-in, crap-out" kind of trade, but it's not that likely.
The Knicks may be saddled with Smith for two more years. Hard to have sympathy
when they outbid themselves for his services at almost $6 million per, but
Smith needs to shape up immediately.
He's not a kid. Smith is a 28-year-old, 10-year veteran of the NBA who has
been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars and suspended more times than
almost anyone in the league.
Thursday's benching needs to be an alarm. It's hard to have faith in Smith to
get the message.
- Dennis Rodman won't be discussed.
- Kevin Love spouted off about some of his teammates not being engaged enough
at the end of games when sitting on the bench. Public airing of grievances
should be left for Festivus, but Love is the leader and everyone should take
heed. The Wolves have to be a frustrated group. There's a lot of talent on
that roster to flounder for yet another season.
- Eric Bledsoe's knee injury may cost him the season and the Phoenix Suns a
legitimate chance at the postseason. He and Goran Dragic combined for one of
the best backcourts in the league. The Suns could endure. That group, led by
first-time head coach Jeff Hornacek, is all about team first. There's magic in
what they're doing, but losing the best player is a lot for a young,
inexperienced team to overcome.
- Jrue Holiday's leg injury, coupled with Ryan Anderson's herniated disc,
doesn't just cripple the New Orleans Pelicans' almost non-existent playoff
chances, it helps the Philadelphia 76ers, who own New Orleans' first-round
choice in the upcoming draft. It's top-five protected, but the Pelicans
shouldn't fall that far into an abyss without those two. There are plenty of
bad teams in the NBA.
- Movie moment - The name of the "Dumb and Dumber" sequel is "Dumb and Dumber
To." That is already in the discussion for most brilliant movie title of all
- TV moment - Finally started watching "Breaking Bad." While catching up on
old shows, hearing good things about "The Honeymooners."
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