Having a big personality is usually a favorable quality to have in playing professional basketball in a massive media market, but New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith may be wearing out his welcome.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein on Wednesday, Jan. 8, the organization has begun to seek trade options for the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year:
Story going online now from @IanBegley & I: ESPN sources say Knicks, challenging as it sounds, have begun exploring J.R. Smith trade options— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 8, 2014
But according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Knicks are merely sending a message to Smith:
Knicks trying to scare J.R. Smith straight with public, but empty trade talk. Of course, they understand there's no market for him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 9, 2014
Adam Zagoria of NBA.com and SNY.tv later reported a statement reaction from an NBA executive:
“Is it April Fool’s Day?” one rival executive asked SNY.tv.
The executive added that “everybody” has heard the Knicks want to deal Smith.
“Of course [they want to trade him], but only an idiot would take him. Can Steve Mills trade him to himself?”
Smith has seen his scoring average drop by nearly seven points in the 2013-14 NBA season after his career year last season, and he's shooting a meager 34.8 percent from the field for the struggling Knicks.
What should the Knicks do with J.R. Smith?
Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reported Wednesday that Smith had been fined $50,000 for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct" because he had been repeatedly untying opponents' shoes.
It came to a head in Tuesday's 89-85 win over Detroit, when Smith picked at the laces of Pistons star Greg Monroe while he was at the free-throw line.
Head coach Mike Woodson was not pleased and discussed how Smith is harming his reputation while also being a negative force for the squad as a whole, per Begley:
There's no question he's done a lot of things this year that put him in a bad position and our team in a bad position. Somehow we've got to clean that up. He was a big, major part of what we did last season. There's no doubt about that. We need him to be that J.R.
What a difference a season makes. The Knicks have fallen to 12-22 and are still in the playoff hunt thanks to the weakness of the Eastern Conference, but this is a shell of the team that captured the Atlantic Division title in 2012-13—and the same goes for Smith.
There's no denying that Smith has explosive scoring ability and can be a major asset to another team seeking a spark off the bench.
However, the market for him may not be favorable—he is in the first year of a three-year contract worth just under $18 million, per Spotrac.com. If New York can't move him, there may be a lot of sour grapes going on between Woodson, Smith and the entire organization.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN wondered what had taken so long for the Knicks' front office to inquire about a prospective Smith trade:
Both sides seem to desire a fresh start. It's just not guaranteed to happen with the combination of how Smith has played this season and his repeated detrimental conduct.