It’s normally not an accustomed practice for one to compare a situation from real life to a video game, but I believe it’s suitable when trying to convey my feelings about J.R. Smith. As the artificially intelligent super-computer antagonist (see below) in the final scene of the game ‘Portal 2’ said to the protagonist:
“The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one. And I’ll be honest – killing you – is hard.”
To be clear, I have no desire to off J.R. Smith. I would be quite pleased, however, if he chose to take his talents elsewhere. As an individual, it’s easy to see why people fall for J.R.’s charms, 2 A.M. bike rides with fans, zipping about New York City and, of course, hilariously candid use of social media. His game however, is a mind-boggling, irritating, vast sea of inconsistency. But Smith has always played like this, so we shouldn’t have expected anything different, right?
After joining the team midway through last season, Smith, in large part due to the bond he shared with interim head coach Mike Woodson, was allowed to keep chucking during many a slump. He received ample encouragement from his coach that he was far too talented to be known as simply a streaky shooter. To some degree, it worked. Even in his darkest offensive hours, Smith was battling hard on the boards and putting forth a plus effort on defense. After resigning for a meager contract plus a player option, many fans hoped he’d improve and gain consistency in 2012-13 .
After a splendid start and equally un-splendid slump for 40-odd games, down the stretch, Smith finally took it upon himself to get to the rack as frequently as possible. In January, just under 25% of Smith’s field goal attempts were right near the rim, and he shot 36% from the field while getting to the free throw line merely 3.4 times a night. In comparison, in March, Smith sported a 44% shooting percentage and 6 trips to the stripe per game, with 33% of his field goal attempts coming close to the basket. In a related story, the Knicks’ best stretches occurred when Smith was at his peak and their worst when J.R. was ‘Bad J.R.”
Alas, all this vanished when the clock struck Playoffs, Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was downright dreadful. Smith had more field goal attempts than points, 163 to 157 and shot just 33% from the field and his REB% dipped from a regular-season mark of 9.3% to 8.9%. Oh, and (depending how much credence you put into celebrity Instagram accounts as a valid news source), Smith apparently thought the key to escaping this spate of dreadful play could either be found at the bottom of a bottle of booze, brought directly to his table at one of the city’s/Nap Town’s finer night clubs or was located somewhere in Jason Terry’s bridgework.
Smith’s 27-years old and entering his 10th professional season. There’s little precedent that a player–even one as admittedly talented as J.R. is–is going to put it all together, such that one can say with confidence, “J.R. is going to check in tonight and do this, and this, and this for us.” Just the fact that this team is reliant on such a random entity troubles me greatly. That said, the easy and best solution is not cross digits and hope he finally fulfills his potential. I believe trying to mold J.R. Smith’s game at this point is an utter lost cause. He is what he is…Isn’t that right, artificially intelligent super-computer antagonist?
“I had a pretty good life. And then you showed up. You dangerous, mute, lunatic. So you know what? Just go. It’s been fun, don’t come back.”
Good point, AI. J.R. Smith is certainly far from mute, but can he be described as dangerous and/or a lunatic? Literally, no. Of course he isn’t. But he is a threat to whatever aspirations this team may have, championship-wise. J.R.’s hard-wired to take bad shots and he’s got a coach that only encourages some of his worst instincts. Why keep him around when it only enables Woodson to ride him on nights when he shot 7-of-22 and played extremely poor defense.
Now to the latter portion of that sentence. As much as I’d like to see J.R. ply his trade elsewhere, odds are, the Knicks will bring him back on some variation of a 4 yr/5+million dollar deal, unless Phoenix or Atlanta thrusts bucketfuls of cash J.R.’s way. I’ll admit it’s been fun, watching Smith bury 40-footers at the buzzer and dazzle us all with remarkable flushes at the rim. At the end of the day, I like winning more than I get a bang out of the occasional ESPN-y highlight or x-rated Tweet. There a good amount of minimum or mini mid-level players I’d take over him that are available in free agency, such as:
- Chase Budinger
- Dorrell Wright
- Randy Foye
- Martell Webster
Do they have J.R.’s talent/’potential?” No, but they are far more consistent performers. And that’s what the Knicks needed versus Indiana. Right, my sentient mechanical friend?
“Goodbye my only friend. Oh, did you think I meant you? That would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.”
Indeed. Goodbye, my favorite Knickerbocker of 2013. What? Not you J.R.! I was talking to Pablo. Going to miss you Prigs.