J.R. Smith Has “Basketball” Explained to Him

Ace ESPN New York scribe Ohm Youngmisuk has a new article out on ESPN.com, wherein he transcribes various discussions he’s had with various Knicks’ personnel that suggest that one Earl Joseph Smith — presumably some 20+ years into the organized-basketball-playing portion of his mortal life — has come to understand some nuances of the sport that had previously escaped him.  Like “your team gets points when other people wearing the same color shirt as you put the orange thingy through that netty job” and “try to defend someone sometimes.”  We’ll take this one FJM style:

The adjustment to the triangle offense has been “a struggle” for J.R. Smith, and it isn’t just because the system is foreign to him.

Is it because he’s a crazy person?  I bet it’s because he’s a crazy person.  Let’s find out.

A candid Smith admitted that he must alter his shooter mentality and wrap his mind around the team-first concept being preached by Knicks coach Derek Fisher and president Phil Jackson.

“…and every other coach he’s ever had but whose lectures about team basketball he missed because he was imagining what it would be like if halfcourt shots were worth 40 points.”

And it hasn’t been the smoothest transition for the former Sixth Man of the Year, who has been trying not to force shots.

J.R. Smith last season: 14.2 FGA/36; .415 FG%; .514 eFG%; 3.3 Assists/36

J.R. Smith this preseason: 14.9 FGA/36; .392 FG%; .490 eFG%; 3.5 Assists/36

Go on…

“Yeah, absolutely,” Smith said when asked if he has had to make a conscious effort to play differently. “I mean, believe it or not, being the type of player I’ve been, it’s a struggle. I’m not going to lie.”

I believe that you are not lying about this.

“Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring is something that I never really had to do before,” Smith continued.

I do not believe that you are not lying about this because I have seen Knicks’ games before and the result is not determined by comparing “JR Smith points” to “Opposing team points.”

“I’ve always been in a situation to score, [now I’m] in position to take my time and let the game come and let my teammates succeed more than myself, I think that’s the ultimate win.”

It’s not actually the “ultimate” win.  It’s just “winning.”  That’s what you call it when your team outscores the other team.  Also, this is not unique to the triangle and, thus, not germane to a discussion of what is new this season.

The Knicks’ adjustment to the triangle, not just physically but mentally, will take time.

JR Smith somehow not knowing that “team offense is important” is basically agnostic as to any particular offensive system but, OK, I’m with you.

It has not been easy so far in the preseason for the Knicks,

Accurate as to effect.

who also have had to deal with injuries to Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon.

Inaccurate as to cause.

Smith admitted his struggles after scoring five points in 23 minutes in a 103-100 win over the Wizards on Wednesday night.

A game in which he actually did take fewer shots and had a passable .500 eFG% AND the Knicks beat a good team.  So, if this is an example of his “struggles” then he (or someone else) fundamentally misunderstands the thing that the first 2/3 of the article says he’s been spending the preseason learning.

This preseason, Smith is averaging 8.5 points and shooting 39 percent from the field in six preseason games. Smith said Fisher has explained why the team-first mentality that comes with the triangle works.

This is admirable, despite how odd it seems to me that he actually needs to be told this.

Fisher says the project of installing the triangle and the overhaul in mentality will not happen overnight.

“You know J.R. like many players, this is difficult to do,” Fisher said at practice Thursday. “Last night, we talked about we’re not just installing new software to the computer. We’re building a computer from scratch, and that’s not easy to do.”

Especially when one of the cores in the computer’s processor has spent the last 20 years being programmed to use all system resources to run GIFs of J.R. Smith hitting contested threes.

When Jackson took over as team president of the Knicks, one of his major goals was to develop a new culture and way of thinking in the franchise. Like he did with his previous stops with the Bulls and Lakers, Jackson wants his players to think about the team first, shedding all individualistic tendencies.

W/R/T the Bulls: Who besides Jordan had “individualistic tendencies” before Jackson’s arrival?  Did he really have to convince Craig Hodges to stop being a black hole?

W/R/T the Lakers: Kobe and Shaq destroyed a dynasty that still had legs, largely through those “individualistic tendencies.”

Don’t get me wrong, Jackson does a great job managing egos.  But this is stated a bit too strongly.  Also: all non-Craig Hodges players listed above are top-15 all time NBA players.  J.R. Smith might be a top-15 2014 Eastern Conference wing player.

In an interview with Charley Rosen for ESPN.com, Jackson said Smith has to improve his shot selection and trust the triangle.

“J.R. Smith is easily the best athlete on the team,” Jackson said. “But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot.

“His defense also needs work because he tends to be a ball-watcher, and he’s late in chasing his man around screens when he should be tailgating him,” Jackson added. “Defense is the key to any winning team, so Smith has to really work hard on his deficiencies in training camp.”

100% of these things were also true before this season but if the triangle construct actually helps Phil get through to him on this point then more power to him and all the more reason it’s a great hire.

Carmelo Anthony wants Smith to know he is not alone in this transition or “test” as the Knicks’ franchise star described it.

“I don’t think it’s a struggle for J.R.,” said Anthony, who scored 30 points and beat the Wizards with a shot and the foul for a game-winning, 3-point play with 13.9 seconds on Wednesday. “It’s something new for everybody. It’s a test. It’s a new system. … I can just put my arm around him and tell him be patient.”

“It’s going to work itself out,” Anthony added. “And the more we play, the more we’re going to get used to this system, the more we’re going to find where he can be productive, I can be productive, everybody can be productive.”

Anthony made it clear that he needs Smith this season.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re kind of left out of what’s going on, [but] everybody is going through the same thing,” Anthony said. “He’ll be all right. It’s preseason. We need him. He knows we need him. We know we need him. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do.”

No snark here: I LOVE this passage.  It’s what we need from Melo.  He just committed the rest of his prime to this franchise and this is perhaps the single best quote I’ve seen in his time here indicating that he plans to embrace his role as the leader of this team from every angle.  Awesome.

Less than a week, everybody!


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Kevin McElroy watches the Knicks and owns a computer.

31 thoughts to “J.R. Smith Has “Basketball” Explained to Him”

  1. “Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring is something that I never really had to do before,” Smith continued…..

    That is priceless. Literally guffawed….

  2. The reason JR and every single other current player in the NBA “struggles’ with the triangle is it’s the exact opposite of the style of basketball they’ve been taught and played all their basketball lives.

    The triangle’s main “purpose” is floor-spacing with the view of the offense “exploiting” any mismatches. It’s core is “pass and go-away” and “read and replace”, which run counter to PnR. This “style” was prevalent in the 50’s/60’s and early 70’s but has been replaced as the players have become more athletic and “one-on-one” basketball is easier and, individually, more fun. If you see dribbling, you’re watching a “mistake”.

    JR is not only not alone in his critique, but if you’re hearing/reading other players ‘suggesting” they “get it” right away, check for your wallet.

    The hope for Knicks fans should be that they “jell” later in the year, still have a chance at the playoffs and potentially do some damage there.

  3. I’ve always been in a situation to score

    five guys on him and under his own basket? Pull up jumper!

  4. Really enjoyed this. One of the funnier things posted on here in a while (and it wasn’t all because of JR). I also think it got at a fundamental truth about Phil and the triangle, particularly when you say “100% of these things were also true before this season but if the triangle construct actually helps Phil get through to him on this point then more power to him and all the more reason it’s a great hire.” I think Phil has always viewed the triangle as as a way to instill a set of values as much as it is a system to get the best shot on offense.

    When the Knicks signed Jackson, Zach Lowe wrote “The triangle isn’t just a system to him. It is the on-court representation of his philosophical ideals — companionship, teamwork, compassion for others, and the elevation of the whole over the individual. He speaks of the triangle in spiritual terms.” So as absurd as it sounds on the surface for JR to act like “the triangle offense” means things like “trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring”, that’s not just the way he thinks, it’s also the way Phil thinks. JR may be clueless enough to say these things out loud, but a lot of professional basketball players have fundamentally selfish motivations (and I don’t mean that in a particularly negative way – valuing yourself over your co-workers or your company is hardly an unnatural state of being (the irony of posting such a comment from work is not lost on me)) and making a true team out of them isn’t as easy as putting on the same uniform. It seems meaningful to me that despite playing 10 years in the league JR says he never even felt that he was supposed to put his team above himself, but now he does.

  5. Coach got his suitgame in midseason form. I think I saw a lavender pocket square.

    Shame Clyde didn’t want to go to Canada. Wally is such a moron.

  6. I love the effort by JR trying to understand the O but he’s gotta take those open catch and shoot shots. He’s thinking a little too much. Hopefully he finds that balance

  7. I get that the Knicks’ have a deeply flawed roster and that there’s a ceiling to how good they can really be, but I don’t think their rotations are all that tricky. *Don’t* play STAT and Hardaway together. *Do* play Aldrich or Dalembert at all time times, unless the opposition goes small. Thoughts?

  8. Holy shit Shump just defended the crap out of Derozan on that possession. Make that 2 possessions in a row.

  9. Doesn’t seem like there’s much of a drop off from 2013-14 Tyson Chandler to 2014-2015 Samuel Dalembert

  10. Doesn’t seem like there’s much of a drop off from 2013-14 Tyson Chandler to 2014-2015 Samuel Dalembert

    Besides efficient scoring, he’s not very different.

  11. Fisher is gonna have a helluva time trying to put together lineup combinations with this roster. Such a delicate balance.

  12. I tend to agree with you, BBA, but if he’s not going to throw some Cole into the pot the gumbo isn’t going to be tasty.

  13. Colebe assist.

    Cole comes in. Knicks start winning. Correlation, causation, what’s the difference?

  14. Cole starts shooting hooks left and right and the lead vanquishes :-)

    Looks like Fish doesnt care much about winning this game since Melo appears to be done for the night and will get 0 mins in the 4th. Also sticking with JR this quarter is a sign he doesnt care about winning tonight lol.

  15. i can’t watcht the game, but I am curious who were the starters? Does it foretell our opening day line up?

  16. Starters were Larkin-Shump-Melo-Jason Smith-Dalembert. According to tweets from the writers before the game Fish said that will most likely be the starting lineup on opening day with Calderon in for Larkin obviously.

  17. While Larkin does have potential, Prigs (especially this more offensively aggressive version) is better on both ends of the floor right now- hopefully he sees the majority of the pg minutes off of the bench. And while I’m not particularly crazy about either guy, I suppose I’d rather see Acy start than J Smith who was just awful on both ends tonight.

  18. If the Knicks consistently play Amare at the 5, they’re going to get murdered. I like Acy OK (still not convinced he belongs in the rotation), but you can’t pair him with STAT — they’re just going to get devoured in the paint. Why can seemingly no Knick coach see what Cole Alrich gives them?

  19. Nicos,

    I hope Prigs gets the nod as backup guard too. He did get more minutes than Larkin tonight, which I hope is a good sign. Maybe Fisher is trying to play Prigioni in his usual role coming off the bench so he plays with the people he will normally play with in the season.

    I don’t know about Smith over Acy . This seems like another case of a coach playing a shooter over a defender. I hope that it works.

  20. Some thoughts-

    1) JR looks completely lost in the triangle. I know he needs more time to feel comfortable in the offense but honestly – he doesn’t deserve minutes right now when both Hardaway and Shump are playing much better than he is (and neither are playing that well!). The last 5 preseason games JR is shooting 26.7% from the field (on 14 shots per 36!) and even worse than that, he hijacks the offense so the whole team looks terrible. This vaguely has the feeling of when Amare would come back from injuries and they would let him play 20 minutes+ per game to feel his way back into shape even though it was absolutely killing the team in games that actually counted.

    2) I’m hoping all the minutes Larkin is getting are just to get him some run in the games that don’t count. He’s definitely played better the last 2 games and I guess now I see the talent there, but Pablo is just a better team player on both ends of the court right now. Calderon should get 28-30 minutes per game, Pablo should get 15, and Larkin should get some minutes here or there IMHO.

    3) Agree Cole needs more minutes. The Amare/Acy combo makes some sort of sense to me in that Acy does a lot of the dirty work that Amare doesn’t do, but 10 shots for Acy in 27 minutes last night is exactly what any opponent would want, and opponents are clearly choosing to let him shoot long 2’s to his heart’s content. To put it in perspective – this preseason Acy is averaging about 8 shots per 36 and shooting 41% from the field on those shots. Tyson Chandler averaged only 7 shots per 36 last year.

    4) Early needs to go to the D-League. He is totally lost, and a chucker to boot. he had one of the most inexplicable stepback/contested 3’s last night with, I don’t know, 14 seconds left on the shot clock. That alone should put him on the bench.

    5) interesting to see Fish leave Melo (and Shump) on the bench for the whole 4th quarter. I guess he wanted to see what the team could do without…

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