In a curious turn of events, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson decided to bench J.R. Smith against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night after the reigning Sixth Man of the Year played in consecutive games against the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns during the team's five-game winning streak.
Smith was the only Knicks player not to appear in Tuesday night's 108-98 loss, as Jeremy Tyler, Cole Aldrich and the rest of his bench mates all saw minutes in garbage time in the second game of a back-to-back.
Knicks are 0-4 on the road on the second night of back-to-backs this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2014
According to assistant coach Herb Williams, Smith didn't see any action because the team wanted to take advantage of Tim Hardaway Jr.'s hot play:
According to Assistant Coach Herb Williams, J.R. isn’t benched; They were just sticking with the hot hand, Tim Hardaway Jr. Carry on.— Dime Alert (@DimeAlert) January 15, 2014
However, it's worth noting that after sinking his first four shots from the field, Hardaway Jr. went cold, missed his next six, and finished with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting (2-of-6 from three).
For what it's worth, Woodson refused to comment on the situation after the Knicks loss, according to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:
Woodson redux: "I'm not even commenting on JR. I just didn't play him tonight."— Peter Botte (@PeterBotte) January 15, 2014
While Woodson refused to comment, Smith had plenty to say to reporters:
JR: Was not told why he was benched. Learned during game. "I haven't the slightest clue."— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) January 15, 2014
JR says "For [the shoelcace incident] to be the trigger point for all this to happen is ridiculous."— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) January 15, 2014
JR: "Communication from my end is over." <annnd scene>— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) January 15, 2014
J.R. continued: If I’m not helping the team, there’s no point in me being here.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) January 15, 2014
In addition, NorthJersey.com's Steve Popper observed something out of the ordinary in the locker room after the game:
JR packing luggage. Never seen that.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) January 15, 2014
After Smith compiled 14 points against the Sixers and 10 against the Suns on a combined 10-of-19 shooting to help the Knicks capture their fourth and fifth consecutive wins, respectively, it seemed as if the troubled and streaky shooter was starting to turn a corner.
And as The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring notes, the benching comes at an odd time considering Smith's improved play:
Irony of the benching, if its truly abt bball reasons, is that JR coulda been benched forever ago. But he'd finally started playing better.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) January 15, 2014
The good fans of Charlotte attempted to get their money's worth and coax Woodson into playing Smith with a resounding chant, but alas, their efforts were futile.
The Knicks will have a night off before facing the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, when they'll need all the offensive firepower they can get against the league's top-ranked defense.