Mike Woodson would like J.R. Smith to be more professional.
After Smith's ejection in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' 112-104 loss against the Pacers on Tuesday, Coach Mike Woodson told reporters that he had a one-on-one chat with the enigmatic scorer after Wednesday's practice.
From the New York Post, here's Woodson on his talk with Smith:
“I’m not going to air that,’’ Woodson said of his lecture to Smith. “My job as head coach is to make sure guys are on the same page and [are being] very professional in how they play. That’s not why I was sitting with J.R. There’s a lot of other things. He just got to be more professional on how he handles things. My job as coach is for him to get there. I don’t want him to get caught up in the moment. [Just ] be a professional basketball player and have fun.’’
Does Woodson know anything about Smith? While Smith absolutely needs to learn how and when to rein himself in, I don't think having fun is the problem. He probably has too much fun on the floor, if anything. How could you not when you've given yourself the green light to let the shots fly?
I've been one of the people who has believed in Smith and all of his talent for years. All I wanted for Smith was for him to end up in San Antonio with Gregg Popovich. It's kind of ridiculous how much faith I have in Popovich to turn players around and help them make their careers, but when you have Stephen Jackson's respect and make him want to play by the rules, that'll happen.
Obviously, Smith to San Antonio isn't happening any time soon. He is in New York and with Mike D'Antoni out of the picture, Woodson will be the guy trying to lead him forward. Does Woodson have what it takes to help Smith put the pieces together?
He believes in him, which certainly helps. He also made a smart move by electing to remain positive with reporters while discussing Smith.
“I’ve seen him play enough in past years, it’s hard to take him out. He’s got to be really playing bad,’’ Woodson said of Smith. “He makes big shots, and he’s not scared to take them. Now that we got him playing defense, it fits into who I am as a coach."
It is hard to take Smith out of the game. He's a scorer and he makes it look beautifully effortless when he's on. It's getting him to recognize the difference and realize the other ways he can help his team when the shot isn't falling. All of this is within Smith's power. If he wants to take that step, he can. Does he want to revamp his game in his eighth season? I hope so. His reaction to the conversation with Woodson was positive and that's about the best you can ask for.
“Coach gives me a lot of leeway to be able to do what I do,’’ Smith said. “He trusts me out on the court to hit those ghosts and that’s the confidence I need. It means a lot when you have the head coach backing you. To be able to play with confidence from the head guy, it makes it easier to play basketball.’’
We'll go ahead and assume that "ghosts" is actually a typo for "shots" and everything makes sense. Smith needs someone who believes in him, but also someone that he trusts. Woodson has handled this situation right so far. Where does it go from here? Wherever Smith wants it to. When you're blessed with copious amounts of talent, you get to be as good as you want to be.