The Knicks got a huge win at home Thursday night with the defending champion Heat in New York for the first leg of a back-to-back ending in Brooklyn tonight. The game was nationally televised on TNT, but J.R. Smith rode the bench all night. The Knicks are shopping him after Shoelacegate™ cost him $50K, and coach Mike Woodson has been adamant J Swish needs to grow up a bit.
Smith claimed after the game he was unaware the benching would occur, and has no idea where he stands within the organization at this point. Via Ian Begley at ESPN New York:
“Honestly, I don’t even know at this point. At one point I was for sure, and now it’s rocking the boat,” Smith said after he was benched for the Knicks’ 102-92 win against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. “But it is what it is. It’s the nature of the business.”
Coach Mike Woodson wouldn’t comment on why he benched Smith against the Heat. Smith said he arrived at Madison Square Garden expecting to play and never was told by Woodson that he wouldn’t.
“I think that’s the most misleading part of it,” Smith said. “I could see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it. But it is what it is. We got the [win].”
The New York Daily News‘ Frank Isola echoed the dire situation Smith finds himself in after his behavior over the last half-year, concluding his piece today by writing, “It’s a little late in the game, but the Knicks have clearly had it with Smith. And Smith knows it.”
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was even more cutting in his assessment of Smith’s character yesterday. Woj took a deep dive into Smith’s psyche, from the death of Smith’s friend when he crashed his car, to his classless time in China, last season’s Six Man of the Year award, more offseason drama, culminating in a suspension, followed by all the headaches he’s induced so far this season:
This is a different NBA financial climate, where teams are stingier than ever on awarding long-term, guaranteed money to those as combustible and unreliable as Smith. Smith’s exodus is a non-starter and the Knicks know it.
If Smith didn’t have such an inflated opinion of himself, he’d probably know it, too. Everyone understands how this will go now: Smith will tell everyone that he needs to grow up, that he’s let down his coach and teammates and fans. The Knicks will start to play him again, and it’s just a matter of time until Smith’s self-destructive act will resurface. Once again, he’ll be ignorant to the score in the final seconds of a game – like the loss he cost the Knicks in Houston – or he’ll get into trouble off the floor. Or probably both.
And when Smith’s benching ends with these Knicks, there will be no epiphanies. No revelations. Everyone knows how this story ends with him, how the money will dry up and how he’ll wish he had done everything so differently in his career. It is sad and predictable and on a collision course with cliche.
Someday, Smith will make that call to room service – insisting upon more of everything – and there will be no one to answer. J.R. Smith is 28-years old, and it is too late to threaten and punish a spoiled, suburban kid. No trade, no epiphanies, no changes. The Knicks deserve J.R. Smith, and he’ll belong to them until the bitter end.
Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger inferred a logical fallacy after Smith’s coach-mandated truancy came on the same night the team looked so spirited:
But ask yourself this: Was it merely a coincidence that the Knicks gave their most spirited performance of the season on the same night coach Mike Woodson benched his most notorious knucklehead?
The night began without any such warning, other than Woodson’s reluctance to even mention He Who Must Remain Nameless.
“In fairness to our team, I’m not addressing anything else with J.R. — I’m just not,” echoed Woody’s decree.
Then he stapled J.R.’s shorts to the bench for the next 48 minutes and was rewarded with professional performances from eight other guys — yes, including Toure’ Murry — to score a building-shaking, streak-validating 102-92 triumph over Miami.
Sure, maybe the two events are coincidental.
But for one night, the Knicks absorbed every haymaker LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could deliver, as the two Miami stars had A-games; and they kept their poise after each punch and tore the Heat apart with the long ball in the second half.
Woj, D’Alessandro and Isola aren’t the only national writers that think Smith’s time in New York might be up, and the game last night was an example of why — at least on the court. The timing of New York’s best effort to-date this season has to raise some eyebrows.