Well Then…

Today, roughly 3 months and 10,000 jokes too late, the Knicks waived Chris Smith.  Then, this happened:

The hardest part about writing this post is knowing where to start so forgive me if these aren’t in order of importance but here’s what I’ve got:

1) First, there’s nothing fun (for me) about being a gossip columnist and I don’t like speculating about what is in the heads of other people (least of all people like JR Smith whose thought process tends at times to be, shall we say, unconventional) but I’d appreciate if we can all just assume away the possibility that someone or something else “betrayed” our man Earl today and presume that this Instagram post is about what it appears to be about on face.  If it isn’t then obviously all of the following is moot (although there would probably still be a point to make about his sense of timing but, I digress).

2) So, wow.  If J.R. had any concern about the perception that the Knicks’ otherwise inexplicable rostering of Chris Smith was a sort of quid pro quo directly relating to J.R.’s own extension this summer, he seems to have set these concerns aside in favor of a futile social media swipe at his bosses.  Although some have suggested that deals like this are par for the course in the NBA, the fraternal relationship between the two Smiths — and the younger Smith’s utter lack of NBA-level talent — had drawn a big, bold underline under this one from the start and today’s developments make the possibility of impropriety almost impossible to ignore.  It will be interesting to see if the NBA cares enough to make a stink about it or if they decide to join everyone else and just laugh at the fact that even when the Knicks play dirty they can’t seem to help themselves.

3) I doubt there will be any type of formal response from Knicks management here but I’m primarily curious about whether the Prodigal-Son-Returns-ish nature of Smith’s relationship with his coach and the team’s PR staff will survive this one.  Few Knicks in recent memory have invited as much criticism as Smith has through sound bites, social media, and other off-the-court activities but his minutes and role in the team’s rotation have rarely suffered, even at times when his play left much to be desired.  Now, with Carmelo Anthony still battling injuries and after a run of play that suggests Smith may be rounding back into the kind of form we haven’t seen since the early part of last spring, J.R. is as critical as ever to the team’s success.  My guess is that gets him out of this one with pretty mild consequences, even though the Knicks have been known to lash out at their on-court talent for lesser transgressions.

4) Beyond all of that though, how weird is this?  The Knicks essentially handed away a roster spot as a favor to a player they were already overpaying, covered up the fact that this same player had knee surgery in the offseason, shrugged off a 5-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, put up with an almost impossibly bad run of play that stretched from the middle of the Celtics’ series until about a week ago, and refused to allow any of the other headaches that Smith has generated affect either his role on the court or the way he is marketed by the team.  The loyalty would almost be admirable if it wasn’t so misplaced.  And now, shorthanded beyond belief, they made the move that was always coming, that had to come, that essentially adds an extra spot to an active roster that has been ravaged by injuries and age-related minute limitations.  This, in J.R. Smith’s mind, represents betrayal.

5) The most interesting thing, to me, is how closely J.R.’s handling of this situation mirrors his on-court persona.  The frustration fouls, the relentless attempts to shoot his way out of slumps, the mocking indifference to people who doubt his game, the bouts of petulance and selfishness and conviction that no matter how much he’s been given, he deserves more: it’s all right here on display, as surely as if he was getting whistled for a technical at the tail end of a 3-for-14 shooting night.  I don’t know what happened in any meetings between the Knicks and either Smith brother this summer.  I don’t know what was requested, what was promised, what was signed, whose hands were shaken.  I’m almost certain that I’ll never know.  What I do know is this: there are a lot of people that have a right to complain about the lack of respect the Knicks have shown for them and their investment in the franchise.  I’m talking about players, coaches, front office guys, even fans.  I’m not talking about J.R. Smith, who has received superstar treatment for uneven play and who may never learn — on the court or off — how to cut his losses or how to quit when he’s ahead.

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Kevin McElroy

Kevin McElroy watches the Knicks and owns a computer.

32 thoughts to “Well Then…”

  1. JR is impossible to root for.

    When he is right, he drives to the bucket, looks to make plays , and actually makes the extra pass… ( Last season he had a tendancy to look for novak on the court and feed him for some bombs.. kind of the opposite of his relationship with amare)

    The problem is, hes in the wrong head most of the time. Shooting with 21 seconds left in the shot clock is not ok. Shooting a dropback long 2 pointer with a man on you with 21 seconds left is just stupid stupid basketball.

    However what pissed me off the most this season , was the game where he started vs the hawks. Was actually one of the better knick wins of the season with prigs running the show. JR got the start and played horrible – 1 for 8 shooting. At the end of the game, the cameras caught Prigs trying to cheer a sulking JR smith on the bench.. AFTER A WIN!

    If this post gets Dolan to realize what kind a personallity JR is and push for a trade, all the better.

  2. How about suspending JR for a game?? I mean Riley suspended Mason and JVG suspended Starks when they were head coaches here. Nah, what am I thinking.

  3. His pay for what we are getting is horrible. His play should actually improve now hopefully this lights a fire under his crack..bad analogy no lighters/no fires i hope he plays better and i think this tweet is just a token show of support, they had to have known this was a possibility. Woodson is getting ready to find out new shitty lineups exploiting all of Tyler’s weaknesses and none of his potential and then calling him out in the press for something. Tyler is getting ready to wow us then get injured.

  4. Murry was great that lowry technical was dumb but he really had me believing we could do this, why did they stop feeding stat i couldn’t believe this fucking guy is a saint for not flipping out he deserved that ball shit was working. he used to be a big time scorer on this team a few years ago, feed him the ball jr smith you nilly.

  5. With regards to point 2 I do think it’s possible that JR could feel that cutting his brother represents a betrayal of him even if his initial rostering had nothing to do with JR’s contract situation. Irregardless of whether the Knicks illegally promised to give JR’s brother a roster spot in exchange for him taking a “below market” extension from the team I don’t think even the Knicks would deny that Chris Smith being JR’s brother had something to do with his receiving a roster spot, right? Simply the fact that they considered the fraternal relationship isn’t against the rules, right? And in a context where they signed him at least partially due to the relationship with JR, then cutting him would represent a betrayal of sorts, even if no explicit promises were made.

    As for the rest, point 5 expresses everything I felt about this immediately upon reading it, only more eloquently than I could have said it. JR is a moron and the fact that he has been given everything by this team and still manages to constantly look and act put upon is a true testament to that. It’s perfect to have this post directly following the “Fire Woodson?” thread because Woodson has been a (the?) chief culprit in the serial enabling of JR.

  6. so…the NBA has already concluded its investigation and decided that everything was legit (or decided to pretend like it is because the crime is its own punishment). They won’t do anything to the franchise at this point, right? I mean, if they pluck away the 2015 and 2017 picks, even the most diehard optimists would have to walk away (or continue watching for the same reason that an 8-year old watches Wile E. Coyote).

  7. And there he is, forever etched in statistical immortality, Chris Smith and his 2 NBA minutes. He’s like the Moonlight Graham of the 2010’s.

  8. “And there he is, forever etched in statistical immortality, Chris Smith and his 2 NBA minutes. He’s like the Moonlight Graham of the 2010?s.”

    And his brother, Clueless Joe Jackson?

  9. It definitely looks like the NBA is just waving their hands at this.

    I don’t think they are “waving their hands” as much as they are “pointing and snickering.”

  10. It definitely looks like the NBA is just waving their hands at this.

    I don’t think they are “waving their hands” as much as they are “pointing and snickering.”

    I doubt any other owners are worried about our ability to sign a secretly injured JR Smith for more money/years than anyone else was likely to offer for the low price of 2 roster spots and an extra 3 million from guitar Jimmy.

  11. What I don’t get is that waiving Chris Smith is meaningless to Chris Smith. He gets his money already. His contract became guaranteed a while ago. He wasn’t going to get NBA PT anyway, so all he had to look forward to was playing in the D League, which I’m sure he could still do. His numbers were fine with the Bayhawks, which is where he would have returned as soon as Prigioni or Felton got healthy. Nothing at all changes for Smith except for the pride aspect of being able to call himself an “NBA player,” which wasn’t fooling anyone anyway. If Smith wanted to have an NBA career, he wouldn’t want to sit on the Knicks’ bench. He would want to go get game experience wherever he could and try to get better.

    It’s just all so incredibly stupid.

  12. Well, I imagine he’d like to maintain the fiction that we were only an injury to Murry away from Smith-sanity.

  13. The weird thing is that we’re still probably in a better situation than Brooklyn.
    They might have a few more draft picks than us, but they don’t really have any young players that have any promise unlike us (except if you squint, Plumlee makes a nice backup C) and their coach might be even worse than Woody.
    And they are in cap hell with Lopez/Johnson/Williams longer than we are.

  14. Sarcasm aside, the league is right not to punish the knicks for nepotism in this case. For one thing, signing Chris Smith hurt the Knicks, not other teams, so there’s no aggrieved party who would complain. In addition, I am sure there are other players from other teams who got drafted, signed and turned out not to be NBA material and ended up playing average d league ball. And he did get called up recently with the hopes he could actually help the Knicks, which probably means he is better than an average d league player. So there just not enough of a case for the NBA to proceed

  15. JR Smith pays his brother’s bills. Therefore, any money that goes to Chris Smith is effectively extra payment under the table to JR Smith beyond his actual salary. And this is a guy who believes that taking the MLE was giving the Knicks a “discount” (it was not), so that extra payment was clearly important to JR.

    But yes, it does seem to come down to whether Chris Smith was enough of a prospect for an NBA team to hire him. The NBA has ruled that he is. I’d differ, but eh, they made their ruling so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

  16. “The punishment is it’s own crime”

    Love that.

    And Max, agree 100% with your comment. He’s getting paid. What the eff is the difference if they cut him?

    Kevin – Great post

  17. The problem with the “enough of a prospect for an NBA team to hire him” is that enough NBA teams make glaringly obvious mistakes that this standard is a very low bar. Anyway, do Knick fans really want their team punished for this, which might mean even less financial flexibility or even fewer remaining draft picks? I dont , and I hated the Chris Smith signing and am sure it was nepotism.

  18. Oh, I don’t want them punished, I just think that it likely was punishable behavior. ephus has made the case in the past, and I agree with him. However, like I told him then and what apparently has happened, I just think that the NBA doesn’t care enough to get involved, even though it is a clear case of cap circumnavigation.

  19. The only thing that could make this situation more Knicks is if Chris Smith latches on somewhere and goes on to have a great career. In all seriousness though, this is just absurd. The Knicks gave Chris Smith the same amount of money the average American makes in a decade. This is money he had no chance of getting otherwise. So JR’s preference would really be to have him rot on the bench for a full season? I guess he thought that at some point Chris would magically become an NBA player. It’s all just so…Knicks.

  20. It’s easy to understand why Chris Smith would want to be on the roster, and why J.R. would, too. Being an active NBA player means being treated like royalty by pretty much everyone in every arena around the country.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I like being able to say that I’m employed in the competitive position that I am. The money is more important, ultimately, but it’s a social thing.

  21. Yeah there’s no way that the NBA would win if they punished the Knicks and the Knicks appealed it to a real arbitrator. Even though by all accounts Chris Smith sucks and isn’t an NBA player, he was an important player on a team that went to the Final Four, and he didn’t embarrass himself in a few games in the D-League this year. And there’s just no solid proof of anything unless they get transcripts of Dolan or Grunwald making this under-the-table deal.

    Honestly, I don’t even care at this point. My main issue with Chris being on the team is that I was worried it would ultimately cost us Jeremy Tyler, who looks like he has a chance to be a legitimate player in this league. Now that Tyler’s in the fold, no harm no foul. The only issue really is that nepotism speaks to a problem in the underlying process in this organization. BUT — as I wrote yesterday, we’ve suddenly stopped trading draft picks, and now rather than dumping a possibly useful player in Cole Aldrich, we’ve dropped the guy who didn’t deserve a roster spot in the first place. It’s a start. Baby steps, but a start nonetheless.

    And regarding JR – I get what he’s feeling although I think he’s dumb for putting it out there. Even if there wasn’t an explicit under-the-table deal, he probably was told “this is a family” and yada yada yada. And honestly if we were 21-9 and not 9-21, no one would even care a little. But this team needs help, as in real, live bodies that can help win basketball games. So while he might feel bad that his brother got cut, it’s completely/totally unprofessional to complain about it when your team is struggling this badly. And that’s my main issue with JR — he sulks when we win because he didn’t play well. He complains when we make a transaction that can help the team. It’s like he has zero idea about priorities — which is so obvious when you watch him play.

  22. The funniest thing about JR’s response is that it is the total opposite of Chris’s response. Chris handled the whole thing like a real pro. He tweeted a message in which he thanked the Knicks organization for a great opportunity and for their support. My respect for Chris has increased dramatically and I actually feel bad that he got cut (even though it was the right basketball move).

  23. This idea has been floated around before (not by me, but by several others) that this was always the plan after Tyler got hurt. They’d put Tyler on their D-League team to heal and gets some playing time under his belt, and give Chris Smith an NBA spot as some form of ludicrous payment to JR so his brother could pretend he was an NBA player for a few weeks. Then, once Tyler got healthy and had a few D-League games under his belt to shake the rust off, Chris would be cut (as he has) and Tyler would be picked back up.

  24. Also unmentioned so far, but it’s pretty damn funny to me that the point at which we finally decided to make the exceedingly obvious move to cut Chris Smith was at the point where he was closest to actually being used.

    I mean if we ignore the fact that Chris is awful and in no way an NBA player, on the surface it makes no sense to be cutting a PG for a big right now, right? We’re relatively healthy up front for the first time and we already have a bench big sitting there completely unused, and unless Ray is ready to go on Thursday (and even if he is, his health and conditioning moving forward seems to be at least a little dubious) the third string PG right now is…Shump I guess? Or JR? I mean if Beno pulls a hammy or gets two quick fouls we’re going to be in a bit of a bind, right?

  25. Five thoughts on the end of the Chris Smith era:

    1. It appears that the only harm to the Knicks was financial. Knicks clearly wanted Tyler to be on the roster, but decided to carry Chris Smith during the time that Tyler was going to be out hurt and rehabbing. And I do not cry for James Dolan losing money.

    2. If the NBA does not look further into the Chris Smith signing, I hope that does not encourage James Dolan to do other similarly stupid things. The only possible upside here was to make JR Smith happy, which should have been accomplished by JR Smith’s contract. If this had gone badly, the Knicks could have lost their 2015 first round pick.

    3. Between last season ($490k for IR) and this season ($490k for a roster spot that could have been left open or given to Tyler), the Smith family received almost $1 million for Chris Smith’s contributions. James Dolan has paid over $4.75 million (counting tax).

    4. Because I think so little of James Dolan’s humanity, I would not be surprised if he held a grudge against JR Smith forhis petulant tweet. I can see Dolan hiring his version of Howie Spira (who should not be too hard to find near JR Smith) to dig out the dirt. Remember that marijuana suspensions increase by 5 games (10 next time), but “Drug of Abuse” violations caught by probable cause testing (as opposed to voluntary disclosure) lead to a permanent ban (which can be appealed after 2 years) and his contract is voided. I have no idea whether JR Smith has vulnerability here.

    5. If I’m Chris Smith, I try to get back into the D-League or Euro ball as soon as possible. He does not have NBA skills, but every day spent playing organized ball makes it more likely that he finds a way to stay near the game.

  26. Did I read somewhere that Tyler signed a 2year deal — so, if he turns out to be good he can’t get signed out from under the Knick’s noses this off-season?

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