Tonight is NBA nickname night and here’s a new nickname to consider for J.R. Smith, “clown prince.”
The day after the New York Knicks’ impressive and surprising win over the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat, all anyone is talking about is J.R. Smith. No, Smith isn’t the topic of conversation because of hitting the game-winning shot, dropping 50 points, or putting up a triple-double. Instead, he’s the buzz of basketball, or at least among those talking Knicks news, for what he didn’t do last night. Coach Mike Woodson benched last year’s sixth man winner without warning as further retribution for shoelace-gate and a $50K fine from the NBA. While shocking to see Woodson, who’s often criticized for turning a blind eye to Smith’s disruptive and unmanageable behavior, finally come down hard on Smith, it was also gladly received. But above all, for many Smith loathers, it presented a ripe opportunity to pile on the hate and unleash.
Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski (Woj), one of my favorite and most trusted NBA insiders, took to his keyboard last night and cranked out a piece about Smith, or as he referred to him, “NBA’s clown prince.” Woj sugarcoats nothing. He dives right in, reminding us that Smith’s immature antics are nothing new. He cites examples from Smith’s experience playing overseas in China, where he was fined over $1,000,000 for various reasons. Here’s some of the tomfoolery outlined in the story.
Perhaps his greatest excess of idiocy had been a weekend of running a room service bill into the proximity of $3,000, a source with direct knowledge told Yahoo Sports. He kept ordering food, stacking piles of trays upon trays – “just to see if they would keep bringing it to the room,” the source said. All uneaten, all on the franchise’s tab – all a window into a fool.
Woj also talks about how Smith’s tough guy persona is just an act or “con”, because at his core, Smith is just a New Jersey prep-school kid from a good two-parent home. According to Woj, Smith admitted to being a follower and easily influenced by others, who needed to mature. In an interview shortly after being released from prison for reckless driving charges in 2009, Smith told Woj, “If someone would ask me to do something that was on the borderline, more than likely I’d say, ‘OK, let’s go.’ Now, I think I see the bigger picture finally. …I think I need to mature and understand what I say before I say it, and what I do before I do it.” Sounds good, but four-and-a-half years later, Smith’s maturity level is still a major concern and hindrance to his game. Woj predicts Smith’s final chapter to his NBA story will be as predictable as ever.
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.
I don’t know what Woj hoped to accomplish with this story. It seems rather self-serving. But given Smith’s behavior over the course of the season, which began with a six game suspension, he’s overly deserving of the media drag. Compared to last season, his numbers are way down. Last year, he averaged 18.1 ppg, 5.5 reb, and shot .422. This season, he’s only averaging 11.3 ppg, 4.5 reb, and .348 field goal percentage. Not to mention how he singlehandedly blew the game against the Houston Rockets.
As far as I’m concerned, when we’re talking about Smith’s role with the Knicks, it’s as simple as addition by subtraction. The Knicks have won their past four out of five games with little to no contributions from Smith. In 2014, when Smith has taken under 10 shots, the Knicks have won. Coincidence? Never. Knicks fans have known the team plays better and more controlled ball without Smith for a while now. It was Woodson who seemed stubborn or ignorant to this fact. But after last night’s game, it doesn’t seem that even Woodson is rushing to Smith’s defense anymore. Woodson admitted to liking the Knicks rotation without Smith. According to ESPN New York, Woodson hinted at the possibility of further reducing Smith’s minutes. ”We are going to play it out and see how it goes,” regarding the look of future Knicks’ lineups.
Only time will tell if Woodson continues to lay the smackdown on Smith, or if this was a one-time thing, but Woj thinks it’s a losing effort, regardless, as Smith is too far gone. He closes the piece by saying, ”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.” No, I disagree. Not even the Knicks deserve J.R. Smith, a lazy, burdensome, feeble-minded distraction who’s dragging the team down night after night. No one does.
Head to Yahoo! and read the full article here.