Luis Guzman and J.R. Smith (Johnny Nunez/ WireImage)New York Knicks shooting guard/enigma J.R. Smith has an entirely accurate reputation for irrational confidence. His on-court approach lacks all shame, and in most cases that makes him the ultime boom-bust player. That lack of control often extends to his off-court activities and comments, too.
So, when J.R. Smith says something ridiculous about the Knicks, it's a bit of a "dog bites man" story. Yet Smith's comments on his team's chances at the NBA title in 2012-13 have drawn a fair amount of internet attention, because they are pretty silly. From Ian Begley for ESPNNewYork.com (via EOB):
"Right now with the talent we have, what it says on paper is championship all day. But it's a matter of us going out there and doing it," Smith said after appearing at an event in Harlem at Nike's House of Hoops to promote/give away some Nike sneakers to children.
Smith says he goes into every season with a "championship or bust" mentality. But that's particularly true this season.
Smith believes the moves the Knicks made in the offseason give them enough talent to "compete with anybody."
"It's just a matter of us being smart with our talents and making the right plays," Smith said.
The Knicks are not going to win the championship this season for myriad reasons: their parts don't seem to fit particularly well, they have to integrate lots of new players, they're probably too old to hold up over a full regular season and postseason, etc. These are perfectly standard opinions for anyone without a direct connection to the Knicks franchise.
Smith does have a direct connection to the Knicks, though, and that means we have to look at his opinion a little differently. Players on playoff teams should think they can win the title — if they don't it's effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's not to say that Smith answered the question in an ideal manner — he could have said the Knicks are one of several teams with a shot, so as to provide a saner context for these comments — but the fact that he views this roster as a championship outfit is acceptable. Plus, Smith also said that the Knicks only look that way on paper. In reality, he was saying that the Knicks need to follow through on their potential to be worth anything, which is almost hilariously conservative for a player as unpredictable as Smith.
On top of all this, it's important to remember that Smith likely only said these things because he was asked about them. In a situation like that, how exactly is Smith supposed to respond? By saying the Knicks will be a middling playoff team once again? J.R. Smith is not a standard-issue dependable veteran, but that doesn't mean we should treat everything he says as the rantings of a crazy person.