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!