J.R. Smith in the hour of chaos (Bruce Bennett/ Getty).
It is no great revelation to declare that the New York Knicks are currently in the midst of a rough time. After Wednesday night's terribly disappointing late-game loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Knicks sit at 3-8, tied for last place with the cross-river rival Brooklyn Nets. Although several players are out with injury, it's unclear exactly how they'll improve to fulfill owner James Dolan's always-insane expectations of a championship. They're an old, flawed team, even if they appear to have enough talent to get back to playoff contention. (We haven't even finished the first month of the season, after all.)
Whatever your opinion of the team's potential for success this season, it does not seem rash to consider if the Knicks will not make the postseason (and, in a cruel twist, lose their first-round pick as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade). Fans can be forgiven for panicking, freaking out about the direction of the franchise, and wondering if the whole thing isn't some practical joke perpetrated by an Andy Kaufman-influenced billionaire.
However, we expect the members of the team to handle the situation a little more calmly, or at least channel their frustration in a positive, non-frazzled manner. But most teams don't employ J.R. Smith, and he's ready to say he's in panic mode. From Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com (via SLAM):
"We're frustrated," Smith said of where the team is mentally, despite most saying it's too early to panic. "Like you say, it's too early to panic, but me, personally, I'm panicking. I don't like this.
"I don't want to play 3-8 basketball," Smith continued, in regard to the Knicks' record. "I don't want to play 50-50 basketball. If we're going to be a championship-caliber team and call ourselves that, then we've gotta play like that. It can't be no other way."
It's possible that what Smith refers to as "panic mode" really just means that he's going to get serious and do his part to ensure that the Knicks don't continue to slide into the lottery. Still, it's interesting to consider what panic mode could mean for a player as enigmatic and frustrating as J.R. Smith. On a nightly basis, Smith baffles with his erratic shot selection, defensive breakdowns, and ability to take over a game playing exactly the same style that submarines his team's chances at a win. Panic Mode J.R. Smith could be even crazier, with a tendency to dribble with his palms and throw elbow passes as a matter of course. I mean, he already got stuck inside a garage on Thursday, so something must have changed.
Or maybe we're looking at this all wrong. Merriam-Webster defines "panic" as "a state or feeling of extreme fear that makes someone unable to act or think normally," but Smith already acts in an abnormal, seemingly frazzled manner fitting someone we would think to be panicked. It's entirely possible that J.R.'s panic mode actually involves playing with the ease and basic sanity of a trusted veteran. He could flee to the opposite extreme.
I figure this suggestion will mean little to Knicks fans facing a truly depressing season at Madison Square Garden, but you have to take the positives anywhere you can get them.
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