Enigmatic. Mercurial. Undisciplined. Team Cancer. However you wish to describe J.R. Smith’s tenure as a New York Knick, there’s no doubt that he was a media magnet – and helped create some of the best story lines over the past few seasons.
Following the trade Monday that sent Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers (or #TheLand, as the kids call it these days) we decided to take a look at the five most notable narratives of Smith’s tenure in orange-and-blue.
5) J.R. Spliff
Following a career-year in 2012-13, a season in which Smith finally looked to have things figured out on-court, the Knicks had high expectations for J.R. in 2013-14. Alas, J.R. reverted to being J.R.
Smith was already recovering from off-season knee surgery after signing a three-year deal worth $17 million, which included a player option after the second year, when it was revealed that he was to be suspended for five games for failing the league’s and union’s anti-drug program – according to the drug policy, a player is suspended five games after a third positive test for marijuana, a second offense results in a $25,000 fine, while the first positive test calls for the player to enter a program.
His off-court baggage had prevented him from getting a bigger deal in the off-season, and his delayed start to the ’13-14 season cost the Knicks dearly in the long run. He played 74 games and averaged 14.5 points, but he didn’t start looking totally healthy until late in the season.
4) The Hangover
New York’s party scene and J.R. Smith go hand-in-hand like vodka and cranberry. Smith was rumored to be dating pop singer Rihanna way back in 2012 – although her camp never confirmed it – but it wasn’t until the 2013 playoffs that things reached boiling point.
Despite an impressive regular season campaign, Smith struggled to find his shooting rhythm in the post-season leading the Barbadian beauty to call Smith out in response to a comment on her Instagram page from a fan.
Smith denied his clubbing was the cause of his playoff woes: “I’m not worried about Instagram,” Smith had said. “I’m worried about the playoffs.”
But still, people felt that where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.
3) Season 2012-13
There’s no denying that ’12-13 was Smith’s finest year as a basketball player. In 80 appearances he averaged 18.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals in 33.5 minutes per game, helping the Knicks win the Division for the first time since 2000.
Earl hit game winning shots in both Charlotte and Phoenix, and on the night the Knicks clinched their 50th win of the season, Smith scored 22 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder, five of which came in the closing minutes to secure the W.
He was rightly awarded the league’s Sixth Man of the Year trophy for his efforts and it finally looked like Smith had figured it out. That was until the playoffs began and he did this in the first-round against Boston:
He was suspended for Game 4, and a series that should have ended quickly became a six game battle. Smith’s numbers were down for the entire playoffs (14.3 points, 33% from the field) leaving Carmelo Anthony to carry most of the offensive load. Still, overall, it was a great season from Smith in spite of the sour finish, but it only served as a greater tease of what he is truly capable of when fully engaged – and when’s he not.
Season 2012-13 sums up the highs and lows of Smith’s career.
2) Family Above All
It’s no secret that the Smith family is a tight-knit group. Kid bro Chris copped a lot of flak by fans and critics for supposedly only making the Knicks’ roster because he was J.R’s brother. It didn’t help when then Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson admitted that familial ties would play a part in whether the team kept the younger Smith.
“Sure, it does,” Woodson had said. “I look at him just like I look at J.R., though J.R. is the guy who played in a uniform and has been very productive for us. I have a great deal of respect for that family. That’s his brother. I respect that. We’ve got to make some decisions. What those decisions will be, I don’t know.’’
But, hey, J.R. knows the nature of the business and that fans will get vocal, and people have opinions. J.R. drew the line, however, when fellow NBA’er Brandon Jennings publicly criticized junior Smith via Twitter in a post that was quickly deleted.
Smith also took to his Twitter account to fire back and engaged in a back-and-forth with Jennings.
J.R. was eventually fined $25,000 by the NBA for “directing hostile and inappropriate language to another player via his Twitter account.”
1) The Pipe
It was a cold late-January night in 2013 when a female fan decided to DM Smith on Twitter to let him know she was attending his game in Philadelphia that night.
Smith’s response was priceless, and has provided months of entertainment since.