How J.R. Smith Is Proving NY Knicks Right and Everyone Else Wrong
The Houston Rockets later acquired both Jeremy Lin and James Harden.
After one week of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, however, it appears as if another major market team has found themselves with the steal of the offseason. That organization, of course, is the New York Knicks with their suddenly dominant Sixth Man.
Smith opted to re-sign with the Knicks this offseason, agreeing on a two-year deal worth $2.8 million per season (via ESPN New York). Although the second year is not guaranteed, Smith clearly felt his best option was to remain in New York.
As for why, Smith had this to say about his decision.
"I have decided to re-sign with the Knicks. I just felt that, despite my other options, New York is the best situation for me," J.R. Smith said in a statement released to ESPNNewYork.com. "Coach [Mike] Woodson showed a lot of faith and trust in me last season, as did [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan and the organization.
"My teammates are great to play with and New York fans are the best. I can't wait to get started."
Although Smith is a kind man to interview, we must acknowledge the truth about his career. Prior to re-signing with the Knicks, Smith's options were limited as NBA franchises continued to pass on his polarizing ways.
If the first three games are any indication, the 2012-13 campaign has proven to be the year in which J.R. Smith makes the nonbelievers eat their words.
Sparking the Rain
Entering the regular season, many expected the New York Knicks to be led by Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and a surplus of three-point shooters. At the front of that pack would be Steve Novak, who has firmly established himself as the top three-ball artist in the NBA.
Shooting 47.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2011-12 will do that.
Although the money balls have been falling, it's not Novak at the center of this surge. While he has been phenomenal at 46.7 percent shooting, it has been J.R. Smith that is pacing the perimeter scorers through three games.
His average of 16.0 points per game is coming on 61.5 percent shooting from distance. That mark has come on an average of 4.3 attempts per contest, phenomenal.
In turn, Smith can be acknowledged as the man that is directly responsible for the Knicks' early-season offensive outbursts. In other words, Smith is the reason the Knicks are 3-0.
All the Depth They Need
What is the most important aspect of J.R. Smith's early-season brilliance? The fact that he's stepped up when the New York Knicks have needed him most.
Starting shooting guard Iman Shumpert continues to be sidelined by a torn left ACL (via ESPN New York). For those who fail to remember, Smith had this to say in response to Shumpert's injury:
It hurts your spirits when you see your best defensive player go down like that. We have a lot of people and hopefully someone can step up for him.
Someone has stepped up for him this season. The same man who made those very comments: J.R. Smith.
The recently signed Ronnie Brewer, meanwhile, has been limited in availability due to his extensive recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery (via ESPN New York). Yet another void that Smith has filled to an adequate level.
But how is he doing it?
Not only has J.R. Smith been the Knicks' scoring spark, but he has been a key member of the team's smothering defense. Through three games, Smith and the Knicks have allowed an average of 85.3 points per game.
In those games, Smith's respective assignments have shot a collective 34.0 percent from the floor.
This is a reflection on what type of player Mike Woodson has brought out of the mercurial sixth man. Smith has always been one of the most athletically gifted players in the NBA but almost always applied said abilities to the offensive end.
As for defense, Smith was either looking to turn turnovers into points or not participate at all.
Since Woodson took over in early 2012, however, Smith has been a different player. His efforts are focused entirely on the defensive end, which has led to what can only be described as the most productive minutes of his career.
With a solid base, a strong focus on remaining in front of his man and a distinct value placed on positioning, Smith has become one of the better defenders at his position.
He may not be dropping 40 points anymore, but Smith is a direct reason the Knicks are winning games. As long as he maintains this type of defensive mentality, Smith will continue to prove the world wrong for passing up on him this offseason.
Cherish this moment, Knicks fans. It's rare that your management is praised as brilliant.
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