The New York Knicks gotta let J.R. be J.R.
Of course, that may seem like an incredibly frustrating concept at the present, as not even volume has been able to help the volume scorer: Over his past four games, Smith is a meager 15-of-57 from the field.
He's setting records that you don't want to be set (via HOOPSWORLD's Alex Kennedy):
And he's taking to social media in ways that aren't exactly winning him over with the Knicks fanbase:
We've always known that you have to weigh out the bad with the good when it comes to J.R. Smith, but right now, the bad is the size of King Kong and the good is a tiny little baby monkey—only not nearly as adorable.
As such, head coach Mike Woodson is entertaining the idea of giving one of the NBA's elite bench players some more time on the bench (via ESPN's Ian Begley):
"I'll gauge J.R. as we go along and if I feel he's not giving me anything, I could always turn to other guys on that bench," Woodson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco Show."
I'm going to go ahead and say the same thing that I always tell my teammates when I'm piling up bricks at my local gym: Shooters gotta keep shooting.
And Smith, in every possible imagination of the word, is a shooter. You must let him keep shooting.
During the regular season, he jacked up 16.8 shots per 36 minutes, good enough for 15th in the NBA among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes. You hear the saying a lot, but he has literally never seen a shot he didn't like.
But while that's what makes Smith so polarizing, it's also what made him the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year.
His role is to come off the bench, look for opportunities to score and provide instant offense. He is to shoot first, shoot second, shoot third and think about it fourth.
In a role like that, there will understandably be peaks and valleys in his shooting percentages. In December, he shot 43.8 percent from the field. Then in the following months, he shot 39.5, 36.6, 43.0, 44.2 and a scorching 48.3 during the regular season in April.
There will be NBA Jam-like hot streaks and frustrating slumps. When the latter comes about, you need to let him shoot out of it—not sulk on the bench and worsen his already questionable attitude.
While "shooting out of it" may seem like a painful approach, take a look at the New York Knicks' eight most-used five-man lineups during the postseason (courtesy of NBA.com):
|Lineup||GP||Total Min.||Off. Rating||Def. Rating||Net Rating|
Even during a time when he has struggled so immensely with his shot, Smith has been on the court when the Knicks have been most productive offensively—which is crucial against the defensively stout Indiana Pacers—and when they've outscored opponents the most.
Does the ball movement slow down when Smith is in? Undoubtedly. But the Knicks were dead last in the NBA in assist percentage during the regular season and still won 54 games.
Their style, while not always easy on the eyes of basketball purists, works.
And it works in part because J.R. Smith is one of the most dangerous isolation scorers in the league.
He just needs to be off the bench and let loose for that to happen.