New York Knicks Would Be Admitting Massive Mistake with J.R. Smith Trade

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks sinks a basket against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2013 in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Bulls 83-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

No one's perfect, least of all the New York Knicks and J.R. Smith.

Mistakes are made in New York all the time. And I mean all the time. Rarely are those follies acknowledged. The Knicks seem to have this tacit agreement within the organization that any internal mishap must be swallowed, ignored and stomached. 

That's all about to change. Maybe. 

Writing for ESPN New York, Ian Begley and Marc Stein bring word that the Knicks have started gauging Smith's trade value: 

While they acknowledge that a trade may be difficult to pull off, the New York Knicks in recent days began exploring the potential market for guard J.R. Smith, has learned.

Sources close to the situation said Wednesday that the organization has become increasingly frustrated with Smith's on- and off-the-court transgressions and may feel that a fresh start would be best for all parties.

This news comes after Smith was fined $50,000 for "recurrent instances of unsportsmanlike conduct," per Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, stemming from his decision to show Shawn Marion and Greg Monroe why Velcro is safer than shoelaces.

But while Smith's latest gaffe appears to have infuriated the Knicks organization, the Knicks were over him long ago.

CBS Sport's Ken Berger was told they began "exploring possible trade options for the mercurial guard several days or perhaps as long as two weeks prior to his latest episode of mindlessness," suggesting the Knicks were ready to admit their mistake well before Smith's most recent blunder. And who can blame them?

Last year's Sixth Man of the Year has been a walking disaster this season after signing a three-year contract worth roughly $18 million over the summer. Smith is averaging 11.3 points on 34.8 percent shooting, numbers that pale in comparison to his 18.1 points on 42.2 percent shooting from 2012-13.

Despite Smith's struggles and obtuse behavior, the Knicks—and head coach Mike Woodson, specifically have stuck by "their guy" through and through, never once wavering in support.

Inappropriate pictures on Twitter? No problem. Egregious social media come-ons? Perfectly fine. Suspended for violating the league's anti-drug policy? Whatever. Essentially threatening Brandon Jennings? Silly boy.

Untie, and attempt to untie, some shoes? HOLD UP. Maybe something's wrong here.

Are the Knicks done with Smith?
Are the Knicks done with Smith?Glenn James/Getty Images

"This has got to stop," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, per Hoopsworld's Tommy Beer. "I keep saying it each time, but this has to stop. Something has gotta be done. It has to stop."

Sound familiar? Because it should.

That's been New York's party line since Smith came to town. Woodson told him to grow up when he was suspended for the season's first five games, and he's doing so again now. Difference is, the Knicks finally seem prepared to take action.

They haven't been the ones punishing Smith. He's still playing late in games, receiving minutes over rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., making a mockery of conventional logic with each missed shot and every off-court obliquity.

Nearly $1 million worth of fines and immeasurable amounts of pain. That's how long it's taken the Knicks to get here. That's how long it's taken them to admit they're wrong.

Smith doesn't even need to be traded for us to take New York's retraction to heart. Merely exploring trade possibilities is enough because of how ridiculously difficult, if not impossible, it will be to move him.


Forgive my shameless self-promotion, but that's how absurd the Knicks' current endeavor figures to be. 

"I hear Shanghai has a spot," one rival general manager told Berger of potential trade destinations.

While not overwhelming in theory, Smith's contract has quickly became one of the league's worst. No one wants to pay him $6 million annually on average. Not when he's on course to become the fifth player in NBA history—and the first since 2001-02—to average more than 30 minutes and take at least 12 shots but convert under 35 percent of them for fewer than 12 points per game.

Smith has seen better days. Much better days.
Smith has seen better days. Much better days.Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Not when he's an off-court liability and repeatedly self-destructive.

Not when he's followed up his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with recurring displays of immaturity and historically bad performances. 

This was always a bad investment. Investing $18 million in habitual wild cards always is. But the Knicks, along with many fans, were sold on the idea they had no other choice.

Smith was Sixth Man of the Year. Their second-leading scorer. The closest Carmelo Anthony had to a No. 2. It had to be done. He had to come back. They couldn't spend that money elsewhere anyway. What choice did they have?

So he came back.

Looking past a knee injury that required (conveniently scheduled) surgery and a checkered past that puts Charlie Sheen's to shame, the Knicks gave him money. Faith. They kept his younger brother, Chris, who had no business being in the NBA, on their roster for nearly half the season.

They game him everything.

Now they're done. 

"Good luck with that," a rival executive sarcastically told Berger of New York's attempt to deal Smith.

Good luck to the Knicks, indeed. Good luck to us all.

The Knicks, who have been more tolerant and forgiving of Swish than anyone else, are done. Ready to admit they were wrong. 

Prepared to move on from the mistake they coddled, nurtured and hand-carried into a potentially inescapable disaster.

*All salary information courtesy of ShamSports.


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