J.R. Smith, back when he was in uniform (Getty Images)
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski more or less put New York Knicks swingman J.R. Smith on blast earlier on Friday, but because the Knicks are the Knicks, Smith’s most recent saga isn’t quite done being worked over. Likely in reaction to that unprecedented “fined for pretending to untie someone’s shoes” penalty the NBA gave Smith on Wednesday, Knicks coach Mike Woodson benched Smith during Thursday’s impressive Knicks win over the Miami Heat.
Woodson offered a no comment both during TNT’s telecast of the game (during an interview just before the fourth quarter) and also after the contest – clearly displeased with having to deal with yet another headache in what has become a riotous Knick season.
"I'm not addressing anything else with JR. Just not gonna do it....let's just talk about the game."
And what a game it was! The Knicks’ motion offense did fantastic work in keeping the Heat defense on its heels, out of nowhere New York’s extra passing allowed for myriad looks in the interior, while star forward Carmelo Anthony took advantage of several dagger moments down the stretch with his spot on shooting.
(And now let’s talk about J.R. Smith.)
After the win, Smith told any media that would listen that Woodson (who called Smith’s shoelaces stunt “unacceptable” in a radio interview on Thursday) did not disclose why he benched last season’s Sixth Man of the Year, as if anyone needed an indication based on Smith’s embarrassing perpetuation of a non-story and eventual fine. He also wondered if his future in New York was in question.
"Honestly, I don't even know at this point. At one point I was for sure, and now it's rocking the boat," Smith said after he was benched for the Knicks' 102-92 win against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. "But it is what it is. It's the nature of the business."
"I think that's the most misleading part of it," Smith said. "I could see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it. But it is what it is. We got the [win]."
"If we play hard and we win, I'm happy. If we play hard and lose, I'd have something to say. As long as we keep winning, I'm fine."
Those are the right things to say, following a nationally televised embarrassment like this, and Smith could be seen clapping and exhorting his teammates once it became certain that New York was going to run away with a win over the defending champs.
One has to wonder, though, if the Knicks will be “fine” with paying Smith nearly $18 million from now until 2016, the result of yet another misspent offseason that saw the Knicks bidding against themselves to secure the rights to a player that wears out his welcome everywhere he goes (or, in the case of his 2006 trade to the Chicago Bulls, before he even goes there). It’s true that Smith was coming off an award-winning season in 2012-13, but more recently he was coming off of an embarrassing playoff performance, one that was exacerbated by endless social media updates of his late night ne’er do-welling.
Smith shot just 33.1 percent during last year’s playoffs, but more tellingly that mark was the second straight postseason that saw J.R. hit less than a third of his shots from the field, and the fifth time (in seven playoff tries) that he’s hit far fewer than 40 percent of his looks during the extra frame. Couple that with his current 34.8 percent shooting mark from the floor, and the fact that he takes 12 shots a game, and you can see why the Knicks attempted to rouse him on Wednesday with leaking news about his trade availability.
And you can also see why the rest of the league laughed New York off. From CBS Sports’ Ken Berger:
"I hear Shanghai has a spot," one rival GM said Wednesday when polled about potential takers for Smith.
Another executive, when asked about teams that might be interested, texted, "Erie?"
Former coach George Karl echoed those thoughts, and actually on record! From ESPN New York:
"He's going to wake up some day and he's going to realize that he's thrown away some great opportunities and great years because of this mockery that he brings to the game," Karl said.
Though J.R. said the right things in the wake of his benching, he still doesn’t really understand why the NBA wanted to put a quick stop to the idea of someone untying the shoelaces of their million dollar athletes that are expected to run and jump for 30-some minutes a night.
Here’s his take on the warning the NBA gave him, from a report filed by the New York Daily News’ Frank Isola:
“Yeah, pretty much. They warned me, but it wasn’t one of those warning where you go ‘Oh damn,’ it was one of those warnings where you really don’t know the outcome of it. You don’t even know if it was a warning or what it was. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really change anything now. We won. We beat Miami, a championship team, so you can’t complain.”
“It was one of those warnings where you really don’t know the outcome of it?” What, you thought they’d just had you another warning? Stop … or I’ll say “stop” again?!?
With that in place, this is also what Smith is supposed to be saying right now. Because the shoelace fine is so unprecedented – being fined for basically joking about something he was warned to stop doing – Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that the NBA’s Players Association is thinking about appealing the league’s fining of Smith:
The Players’ Association is mulling whether to appeal J.R. Smith’s latest $50,000 NBA fine for “recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct’’ violations, according to a league source.
One legal argument, according to a source, would be that Smith didn’t untie the shoelaces of Detroit’s Greg Monroe, and it was unclear if he touched them as Monroe stepped away. Smith’s intent on the second violation would one of interpretation. The argument would be Smith only should be fined only for the first violation in Dallas with Shawn Marion.
These are insipid semantics, but they are semantics that count. The NBA didn’t mention Smith oh my god am I really writing about this untying Dwight Howard’s shoelaces earlier in the year in the press release announcing the fine, and he technically did not untie Greg Monroe’s shoelaces, so in some stupid ways it is hard to see why the warning would lead to the eventual punishment. A thrown punch results in an automatic suspension, but this is akin in some ways to being suspended for jokingly throwing a fake punch.
This is the world that J.R. Smith creates. It is so stupid.
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- New York Knicks
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