With J.R. Smith mired in a playoff-long shooting slump, head coach Mike Woodson may be forced to consider reducing his minutes. Woodson has rightly stuck with Smith, hoping that he would get it going, particularly since the team has been so reliant on his scoring throughout most of the season. But with alternatives beginning to step forward, Woodson will be less hesitant to keep Smith on the bench should his play dictate, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York:
Could J.R. Smith, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, be spending more time on the bench?
New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn’t rule out the possibility of cutting Smith’s minutes in light of Smith’s recent shooting struggles.
“I’ll gauge J.R. as we go along and if I feel he’s not giving me anything, I could always turn to other guys on that bench,” Woodson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco Show.”
“I feel good about the guys that come in off that bench just like I feel good about J.R. But if he’s struggling and I feel the need (that) I’ve got to pull him, then I will do that as the head coach and then other guys have got to come in and step up and play.”
Brian DiMennaI think Woodson has given J.R. plenty of rope and for good reason. Smith’s improvement over the last couple months really elevated the Knicks as a team, and made it suddenly not so crazy to daydream about a sustained playoff run, so it’s been no surprise to see Woody continue to let Smith try to shoot his way out of this.
But the good news for the Knicks is that between Prigioni and especially Shumpert, the Knicks have people stepping up to fill the void left in the wake of all those missed J.R. jumpers, that unless those misses finally turn to makes, there’s less of a reason to just sit back and hope he finds his way out of it.
I’d say both Prigioni and Shumpert should be playing more, but I’d be especially reluctant to take Shumpert off the court for too much time. Shump has been a revelation of late, with his defense returning to the game-changing variety we saw last season, while his offensive game is expanding seemingly on a daily basis. And given Indiana’s weakness in handling the ball, Shumpert can really be a difference-maker in this series. Time to turn him loose. Along those same lines, anyone whose taken even a cursory look of Prigioni’s on/off court numbers this postseason, would be hard pressed to understand why he’s playing just 20 minutes a game.
None of this is to say, “GIVE UP ON SMITH! HE STINKS!” as much as it is just to say that it’s less imperative that he get going. There was a case to be made that without Smith finding his form, the Knicks were doomed either way, but with the contributions they’re getting elsewhere, they can finally afford to play J.R. only when he’s actually playing, you know, well.