New York Knicks scorer J.R. Smith is not having a very good time right now. Since winning the Sixth Man of the Year award on April 22, Smith has done pretty much everything wrong, from getting suspended for elbowing Jason Terry in the head to not playing adequate basketball at a time when the Knicks need him badly. In his four games since returning from suspension, Smith has shot a combined 15-for-57 (26.3 percent) from the field and 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from beyond the arc. Many Knicks fans want his minutes cut drastically, and he appears to be doing serious damage to his market value as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
It's enough to make you want to yell at him. So, during Tuesday night's Knicks win in Game 2 of their series against the Pacers, head coach Mike Woodson did just that. Near the end of the first quarter, Smith took a pass from Tyson Chandler near the rim with a very good chance to score. Unfortunately, he let his pivot foot wander and was rightfully called for a travel. So, like any disappointed leader would, he expressed his disapproval at J.R. by yelling a more severe version of "goshdarnit." Yes, an NBA head coach yelled at one of his players as if he were a 10-year-old goofing off in gym class.
It's worth marveling at just how rapidly Smith went from the peak respect level of his career to becoming the same untrustworthy enigma he's been typified as since he entered the league in 2005. In truth, this possibility wasn't ever really absent from Smith's rise to acceptance — there was always the chance his bad habits would get the better of him. The problem was in not allowing for that nuance, in acting as if he would be a steadying veteran presence forever. The good news for the Knicks is that the same approach dictates that he's not a lost cause just because he's been awful of late. Smith could return to his award-winning form in Game 3. As we've come to learn, his fortunes can change in an instant.