The @NYKnicks' @TheRealJRSmith named 2013 @Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year! #KiaSixth http://t.co/7UZ0wmhVwb4/22/2013, 6:49:11 PM
When telling the story of the 2012-13 New York Knicks season, it's impossible not to mention the redemption of Smith.
For nearly the entire first eight years of his career, Smith was an enigma—an erratic, me-first malcontent more concerned with jacking up contested 30-footers than winning. He burned bridges with two teams prior to arriving in New York and had to take two humbling contracts to stick around.
This season, his ninth, Smith completely shed that reputation.
During a year that saw the Knicks ravaged by injuries to nearly every player on the roster, Smith was the one constant. He was New York's second-leading scorer, averaging 18.1 points per game while appearing in 80 of 82 games, sitting in only two contests after the team had already secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Smith dwarfed his career high in win shares at 6.7, and New York was nearly three points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, per NBA.com.
While Smith's work has been exemplary for the entire 2012-13 season, many will look back at the season's final two months as when he clinched the award.
With the Knicks' season in at a crossroad, having gone below .500 for a half-season stretch from mid-December through mid-March, Smith was a driving force behind their ascent.
Over the final two months of the season, Smith averaged 22.1 points per game. That was second behind Carmelo Anthony on the team and would rank eighth in the league for the season.
Even more important was Smith's efficiency. Seemingly gone was the player who cared more about individual accolades than team-wide success. In his place was the version of Smith everyone had hoped for—a mature player who bought into coach Mike Woodson's system, curtailed his poor shot selection and even morphed into an average defender.
There were still remnants of the old Smith and there likely always will be. But the star sixth man was truly invested in the Knicks' championship effort, which makes it a little ironic that this is the season his individual excellence will be honored.