JR Smith will not play tonight. He says his facemask doesn't fit well enough. Needs to get it adjusted. #Knicks— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 12, 2014
Per Begley, Smith was told by doctors that further injury could impact his vision:
JR Smith said that playing without a mask is risky. He said he was told he could suffer blindness if hit again in the cheek. #Knicks— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 12, 2014
If that is true, then Smith is being justifiably cautious.
Wednesday night will mark the Knicks' final game before the All-Star break. New York will not play again until Tuesday, Feb. 18 against the Memphis Grizzlies. According to Begley, Smith expects to play in that game, though he will need to wear the mask for four to five weeks.
What will this mean for the Knicks? Smith's injury comes at a bad time, both for him and for the team. He has been playing his best basketball of the season as of late, averaging 17.6 points on 46.9 percent shooting (43.8 percent from beyond the arc) in February, per Basketball-Reference.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have struggled, losing four of their last five. They would certainly like to go into the All-Star break on a positive note.
Bleacher Report's Dylan Murphy believes that New York could stand to restrict Smith's minutes, if only because the shooting guard doesn't quite know how to integrate himself properly into the team:
If the Knicks want to make the playoffs at all, they'll need to severely limit Smith's minutes. The rest of his teammates, at the very least, understand their roles. Prigioni knows he's a passer. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert know to defend and shoot threes. Martin and Chandler defend, finish at the rim and grab rebounds. Smith has his own niche, too, and can be a devastating player when he relies on his strengths. But until he does, he's hurting his team.
Smith has looked like a player relying on his strengths as of late, but the Knicks and their fans have been fooled by his hot streaks before.
The Kings are a poor defensive team, so perhaps players like Hardaway can capitalize on open looks and score a few more points to pick up the scoring slack and lead New York to a much-needed win.