So what's been keeping Smith out of the action? Apparently, his request to see more of it.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has the details behind Smith's latest DNP:
J.R. Smith's benching in Charlotte Tuesday night may have been a direct result of Smith sitting most of the overtime in Monday’s win over Phoenix.
According to a source, Smith was vocal with coach Mike Woodson about not starting the extra session against Phoenix after missing what would have been a game-winning shot at the end of regulation.
All of that for a crunch-time failure?
Who was there to bench Woodson when the coach failed to call a timeout during the final seconds of a crushing home loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 16? Where was the punishment for what ESPN New York deemed that "fireable offense"?
Well, there may have been more to this story. After spilling some more bad blood on Monday, Smith reportedly got a tardy start to his Tuesday:
In addition to his Monday night tiff with Woodson, as reported by the NYDN, J.R. Smith was also late to a team meeting Tuesday, sources say.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 15, 2014
And he's allegedly still stewing over the very defensible, but assuredly awkward release of his brother Chris:
Sources say J.R. Smith is still very upset that the #Knicks chose to release his brother, Chris. He'd hinted at his displeasure on Instagram— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 15, 2014
Woodson declined comment on the latest benching, but an assistant said it had more to do with Smith's teammates than the reigning Sixth Man of the Year himself:
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
That almost sounds believable. But Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 4-of-10, 12-point performance doesn't exactly qualify as a hot hand even on this punch-less offense.
But, as is seemingly the case with everything around this franchise, this might be bigger than basketball. Smith's on-court work is bad (11.4 points on 35.7 percent shooting), but he seems even more lost away from the hardwood:
Woodson, on ESPN radio, "I'm not gonna get into JR stuff... But it's a privilege to wear and NBA inform... And I'll leave it at that."— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 15, 2014
"We need JR to play, but he's got to grow up and improve his play... Nobody is bigger than the team." - Woodson— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 15, 2014
"We are all in JR's corner. I've been his biggest supporter. But it's all about team." -Woodson— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) January 15, 2014
As for Smith, well, he's not saying much:
JR: "Communication from my end is over." <annnd scene>— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) January 15, 2014
Other than the fact that he, like the rest of us, has no idea what's going on inside this organization:
J.R. continued: If I’m not helping the team, there’s no point in me being here.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) January 15, 2014
There is no easy fix for this relationship. Between Smith's reputation, declining production, recent contract extension and offseason knee surgery, he's New York's problem to figure out.
So stories like this, bizarre as they may seem, are likely to be the norm for the Knicks. This has potential to get a lot worse before it ever gets any better.