Something’s clicked for J.R. Smith over the past 10-games. Simply, guess he got his swagger back. Truth. Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year winner had struggled mightily during the first half of the season – so much so, that the usual indiscretions that are associated with the mercurial guard were viewed as detrimental, rather than as just J.R. Smith being J.R. Smith. If the Knicks were to break out of the funk the team found itself in, it would need consistent scoring from the guy supposed to be it’s No. 2 guy in that department.
Guess what, Smith has answered the bell over the last 10-games. During this current stretch Smith, who began the season suspended for a failed drug test and followed it up by making headlines for untying shoelaces rather than his play on-court, has found the offensive rhythm that was absent early. He’s averaging 17.6 points on 45.9 percent shooting from the field, and also shooting at a high clip from distance (47.5 percent) – a key aspect of the Knicks’ offense.
This is easily his best stretch of the season. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, Smith has become the most consistent Knickerbocker; a far cry from being benched by coach Mike Woodson in mid-January.
Perhaps Smith is finally healthy? After all, he did have major knee surgery this past summer and began playing immediately after his drug suspension was over. Smith says his recent good shooting, and attack-the-basket minded offense is all mental.
“Mentally, more than anything,” said Smith following the Knicks 117-90 win over the Nuggets on Friday night. “Having a focus and believing that nobody can stay in front of me to get to the paint and make other guys draw to me so I can dish off to the bigs [or the guards] to kick out for threes. It’s just a mind game I’m playing with myself right now, fortunately I’m winning.”
The next question the Knicks may have to face is: Should they start Smith? His play would suggest yes, and doing so would add more offense to a starting unit that is lacking it at the moment, Carmelo Anthony being the exception. Iman Shumpert, currently the team’s starting small forward, has not been the consistent help on the offensive end that New York had hoped. Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr has proven he is capable of shouldering the load off the bench so giving him more of Smith’s minutes from the second group is a plausible option.
Mike Woodson has a decision to make, that’s if he’s around to see out the season after reports indicated he may be fired by the All-Star break. Smith, who Woodson has been a staunch supporter of since he became head coach, said on Friday night that he still feels like the locker room is united in it’s support of the coach.
“Yeah, I believe so,” stated Smith. “I think guys really care about him. Guys really care about this team. For what we accomplished last year [and] for it not to happen this year is frustrating. You can’t just point the finger at one person.”
Whatever the team decides to do moving forward with the coach is still up in the air, but as long as Smith continues his recent good form, the Knicks’ chances of reaching the playoffs drastically improve.