Sam SpiegelmanTim Hardaway Jr. — not J.R. Smith — was the first guard off the bench last night in the Knicks’ 98-96 overtime victory against the Suns last night. Smith played 25 minutes, scoring 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting, also dishing out two assists and grabbing a pair of rebounds.
Though it seems as if Smith is finally inching out of Mike Woodson’s doghouse, the coast is not clear yet.
Woodson had one message for Smith, who was benched after shoelace-gate made headlines last week: be a pro.
“The bottom line is he’s got to be more of a pro and do the right things and just concentrate on playing basketball,” he said of Smith, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year. “That’s the name of the game, nothing else. You got to concentrate on your craft and what you’ve been paid to do — that’s play basketball. … That’s all I want him to do.”
Smith is averaging about seven fewer points than he did during his award-winning campaign last year, not surprisingly after he received a three-year, $18 million contract over the offseason. But even more concerning than Smith’s clown antics regarding shoelaces is the fact the Knicks have played better without Smith’s contributions.
During the Knicks’ five-game win streak, Smith has played in about 23 minutes per game, including his benching against the Miami Heat. He’s averaged just over five points per game during that stretch and 11.1 over the past 10. Overall, he averages about two fewer points in Knicks losses than Knicks wins.