Brian DiMennaI’ve stopped even trying to form an opinion on J.R. Smith. Is he a lovable character? A breath of fresh air? Just a fun guy, enjoying his time in the World’s Greatest City, while playing some inspired ball? Or is he a malcontent, unprofessional, betraying his teammates, coaches and fans with inappropriate late nights ahead of pivotal playoff games? I don’t know. I lean toward the former, but I totally get those who think latter. The only thing I do know is the Knicks desperately need him to play well.
And that is a precarious place to be.
Relying on J.R. Smith feels like jumping out of a plane with a hand-made parachute with a self portrait stitched into the side, “Wow, that sounds really cool. But it’ll open when I need it, right?”
“Yeah, probably … I think so … it should.”
I think we’d all developed so much confidence in Smith over the last two months we kind of overlooked how much of an aberration they were. A career 43% shooter, he shot over 50% over the last 16 games of the season, averaging 6.6 free-throw attempts per game, up from a career mark of 2.6 attempts per game. He was essentially a completely different player.
Which isn’t to say, there was no expectation for off nights, but I think there was trust that there wouldn’t be this many of them. Mike Woodson has stuck with J.R. through all the shooting woes, even as some would call for him to play slightly less, but I see where Woody’s coming from. If Smith can’t find his shooting touch at some point during these playoffs it’s not going to matter much what else he tries to do.
The Knicks have asked a lot of Smith this season — perhaps unfailry — and he’s mostly delivered, but they desperately need some steady production from him if they’re going to sustain this run.