As soon as I begin to converse with you, the fans of New York, news comes across that the Knicks’ orthopedist is flying in from New York City to examine the swelling on Iman Shumpert’s surgically-repaired left knee that flared up three days ago. I really do not know what to assume of this. My optimism tells me that it is a deep contusion, or a minor sprain, but I really am not counting on any shumping tonight, and I say that with a deep sadness.
The Knicks are in a pickle up front. With Shump most likely a no go (my gut feeling), and JR Smith ailing from a flu, a stomach virus, and Rihanna, the one advantage in this series for the Knicks has essentially flipped over to Indiana. There’s no telling what Mike Woodson will resort to tonight, he may just have to suit up Dave Hopla to run off screens and hit some three pointers. Seriously, though, these holes need to be mended for at least one game before the series heads back to New York, hopefully knotted up at two games apiece. Tonight will be a true “gut check,” as Carmelo Anthony called it, and the Knicks can either fight, or retreat with their tails between their legs and begin to find open slots for tee-time.
Woah, wait, let’s take a step back, and breathe.
Usually, I’m not one to view the glass half empty. I will never throw in the towel; and that’s just my tough-gritted New York attitude I was raised with. The Knicks do have a legitimate chance of winning this game tonight, crippled roster or not. It can, should, and ultimately must be done.
Carmelo Anthony was really criticized for not taking enough shots in game three, only 16. I know, the microscope of New Yorker’s is as brutal as a mean little boy pointing a magnifying glass at tiny little ants and watching the shrivel. Anthony knows what it’s going to take tonight, and rightfully so, he’s responded with telling us he will be more aggressive and look for his shot. Soon after, Tyson Chandler was very critical, and said the Knicks need to move the ball more and worry less about one man (Carmelo Anthony cough cough). I am just curious to where Tyson thinks the offense is going to come from. Unless he knows something about his former champion teammate Jason Kidd putting in extra hours behind the three-point line, please, inform us.
That being said, Woodson agreeably said he would cut Kidd’s minutes if his offense continues to diminish. As Woody twiddles his thumbs and ponders where he can find some sort of inside-out threat who can hit an open three pointer and take some pressure off Carmelo, I’ll let everyone know Chris Copeland is still sitting on the bench, waiting… Yearning.
Copeland is only a piece of this puzzle that is game four. If he does not get a chance tonight to implement some offense, I don’t think he’s getting out of the doghouse the rest of the season. His defense can’t really be that horrid, that his sweet stroke has to ride the pine every night, even with the situation we are in tonight, bodies down everywhere.
So, let’s see where we are, rotation wise. Shump most likely (once again, my gut) sitting this one out, I don’t even think JR knows what to expect from JR, and Kidd could see less minutes if he doesn’t produce early. That opens up three rotation slots, maybe about 50 minutes total. Out of that 50, Carmelo will most likely see a raise in a few minutes, and so will Felton, regardless of his play, the back line is just shortened. Then we look down the bench and see Novak, Copeland, and yes, Quentin Richardson. Out of these three, figure Copeland and Novak will see the court tonight, just hopefully not at the same time (defensive suicide). But If Woody really wants to continue his small ball, Copeland will help to spread the floor and pull whoever is guarding him out of the paint, and the same goes for Novak. The Pacer’s front line tonight will need to be adjusted to, heedlessly of who it is, because they have dominated two out of three games this series.
Lets hope there can be some generation of offense from those guys, and Amar’e Stoudemire, who can give the Knicks’ 15 hard minutes. Even if it is without scoring, help grab some rebounds, give us some second chance opportunities. Knicks’ fans appreciate the little things.
If Mike Woodson decides to rock the boat a little tonight, I hope he shuffles the starting lineup. Go Big, or go home. How figurative and literal is that for you? I would go with Prigioni, Felton, Anthony, Martin, and Chandler. Bolster your front line, prevent Anthony from being beat up, and grab some rebounds, please. Also, it would be great to see Pablo be the soul orchestrator while Felton can run off some baseline screens for open shots on the baseline. He’s been very effective at this throughout the season, and for sure it would open up his entire game from the get go, making the defense honor his jump shot and giving him the ability to take it to the hole and create. And that’s really how the Knicks win tonight, rebounding, grit, and scoring. The blueprint seems simple, but it’s going to take a team effort on the offensive end to win, and guys must hit shots. We’ll see where we are in 24 hours.
Man, things are really starting to heat up…
With the Celtics now in the rearview mirror, it’s safe to say, that was more excitement and anxiety than I was expecting out of the Knicks’ first round matchup with Boston. But the green demons that haunt all Knick fans have finally been ousted and placed on the shelf, as we can. For the first time in 13 years, look ahead to the second round, beginning Sunday afternoon at 3:30 est. at Madison Square Garden. Awaiting the Knicks is another old foe, the Indiana Pacers. A team whom New York broke even with at 2 games a piece in the regular season, and this is going to be a VERY interesting series. Knicks’ fans who weren’t too fond of seeing the seasoned rival Celtics that have beaten up on the Knicks the past five years, and notorious villain Paul Pierce for six games, will not feel any friendlier toward Indiana and their relentless style of play, getting under an opponents skin, and long past with New York.
It’s actually been a decade now since the Knicks and Pacers started gaining some momentum in what turned out to be one of the most prevalent enemies of the ‘90s, starting with the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Reggie Miller was a Knicks assassin the next seven years. Though only getting past New York one time in 2000, Reggie had created innumerable moments that sealed the Pacers as a legitimate nemesis.
Ok, so if that didn’t get your blood boiling, check your pulse and read on. It’s 10 years later, but we can expect an equally physical matchup up between these two teams. Critics have ping ponged all year between who’s the favorite between the Knicks and Indy. Of course, the Knicks sub-.500 stretch of basketball during their 20-21 stretch lost among the middle of the season factors in, while the Pacers looked as if they were going to settle into number two and maybe even catch Miami. Until the Heat went nuts on their winning streak. Finally, New York was the last team to make their own run in March/April and silenced all the doubters who had orange and blue dead in the water. While Indiana percolated a little with New York, the Knicks winning ways continued as the Pacers dropped a few games, ultimately rewarding the Knicks with the number two seed, and home court advantage starting Sunday.
Home crowds will factor into the series tremendously. There is a blatant animosity on both ends of this relationship, from fans to players. JR Smith and Lance Stephenson will quickly escalate into something interesting; While Carmelo Anthony and Paul George look to lead their ball clubs to the Eastern Conference Finals. As I look at the matchups in this series, the Knicks’ ability to go big or small at their leisure will be an issue for the Pacers.
The Pacers are a slow paced team, matching the ideal playoff-tempo, and New York likes to push, when possible, but still take their fair share of threes, mostly off missed rotations due to catching a defense offset in transition. However, the Indiana-New York regular season sort of put up opposite numbers from how each team prefers to play. The Knicks were outscored 59-29 in fast break points during the regular season, including one game with zero. Roy Hibbert credits this to submitting to New York’s style of play.
“ We haven’t played the best against New York. We play a different style of play, for some reason, when we’re home against New York.”
The Knicks may have to adjust their play in order to defeat Indiana four times. The Pacers are another team who is tough on the perimeter and will bully you all night. I know people are already murmuring Indiana is going to stomp us inside, but Indiana has actually allowed teams to shoot 52% this year from five feet or closer. It’s more on the offensive end where they are 56% on average. This series is definitely open the door for Marcus Camby and Amar’e Stoudemire. It is going to be very difficult to keep Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin out of foul trouble against a plethora of tough interior defenders. Tyler Hansbrough even goes by the nickname of Crazy T. Well; we’ll see how crazy he is when he has to matchup with crazy K.
Joking aside, Camby had a few warm up minutes against the Celts, I feel this series is the reason Marcus was coveted as a big pick up for New York this last offseason. He should be a perfect compliment when Tyson has to come out. As for Stoudemire…
Let’s hope that doesn’t continue to be an issue when he returns. His post scoring, though, will be a boost. Mike Woodson is now pointing at game three to be Amar’e’s return date. And if Novak is still out for a game or two, the question remains if Chris Copeland will see the floor anytime soon.
Chris Copeland dropped 20 points in the final meeting of the regular season against Indiana during his April Rookie of the Month campaign, helping the Knicks clinch the two seed. Copeland presents issues for Indiana with a bigger lineup. His quick, basic first step breaks down the Pacers, while his three point shooting spaces the floor.
The emergence of Iman Shumpert against the Celtics was a sight for sore eyes. Shump’s defense dictated bits and pieces of the series, and that’s what the Knicks need to keep this push going. Shumpert will have his hands full with Paul George, but has a chance to change this whole series if he can keep George’s activity level low. Iman averaged 1.8 steals against the Celtics, but showed a significant difference in activity from game three and on.
Carmelo Anthony will be number one on the Pacers hit list. He will be matched up with David West in what is sure to be a physical matchup. Anthony will need to exploit this by running more pick and rolls with Felton. West won’t be comfortable on the perimeter with Anthony, just as Melo will not have fun banging with West on the other end of the ball. But Anthony should be able to roll with the punches as long as his temper stays under control. Anthony is coming into this series second in the playoffs in scoring with 29 points per game.
The Pacers showed at times against Atlanta that they get caught in dry spells when George and Hibbert are taken out of the game. Something the Knicks should look to exploit by trying to go up early in games. This will not be a high scoring series, nor will it be a pretty one. The Knicks are going to have to fight tooth and nail to earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t know how many games this series goes, but I am confident the Knicks take it. They overcame Boston and learned a great deal about what it takes to win, so they should be all braun and business. 12 more wins Knicks fans.
With their backs against the wall tonight in Boston, the Knicks, essentially, have no one to blame but themselves for the pressure that is now on them to win game six. This is going to be the third try to close out Boston, a team running off emotion, heart, and fuel added to the fire by none other than a Knicks team with disappointing comments and actions coming from a team who hasn’t advanced out of the first round in 13 years. Knicks fans have began pointing fingers anxiously in search of the reason why they cannot overcome one more win and the mental aspect of beating the Celtics. The Knicks should win tonight. The pressure is on Carmelo Anthony to deliver. But Boston is not ready to turnover and call it quits. There are a few things the Knicks can do to produce a positive outcome and avoid playing a game seven on Sunday, and there are also some things they must avoid.
Where else is there to start than with the man most of the pressure falls on? Carmelo Anthony has taken a nosedive in production the last two games, and ultimately stagnated the team’s efficiency and production with a lack of ball movement, and too much isolation. Anthony has only six assists in the 208 minutes he has played this series, and 137 attempted shots. We DON’T need any more isolation. Anthony can’t single handedly beat the Celts, but he can leave a significant mark on this game in other aspects besides scoring. Melo, you will get the ball back, your teammates know you are the first option and won’t look to force anything they don’t have. Something the Knicks also DO need is more quick cuts and flashes from Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert on the weak side of the ball looking for layups. Worst case scenario for this, Anthony draws his cutting teammate’s defender and can effectively pass out of a double team, although Anthony’s lack of production has led to less double teaming, which is hurting the rest of the team.
I think it’s safe to say Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert have been two of the best players in the later half of this series. Felton has completely exposed the Celtic’s biggest hole at the guard position, and taken advantage of the opportunity. I believe that the Knicks DO need to run their offense through Felton tonight, and not Anthony. Felton’s 21 points in game six all came from inside the arc. He has also orchestrated some beautiful pick and rolls with Tyson Chandler, which is where the Celtics have a hard time defending the Knicks. The pick and roll is the only way to soften the tight grip of Boston’s perimeter defense on the Knicks, because the defense has no choice but to collapse when there is the threat of a lob to Chandler, or Felton taking it himself. This is when Felton also finds Shumpert in the corner, where Iman has to knock down open threes. We will give Shump a pass, though, for his superior defense in game five. That was probably Shumpert’s most impressive defensive game all year, and we really see his athleticism, at least on defense, back at almost full force, which is a huge boost for the Knicks who will need to take players like Jason Terry out of the game tonight, and win the sixth man battle.
The Knicks’ sixth man will need to show up tonight if they want any chance of ending this series. JR Smith did not hit a shot until the fourth quarter in game six, and was 0-10 at one point. After all the comments made about Jason Terry, we all would of thought Smith was going to come out of the gates blazing, but he just seemed a little too excited and trigger happy. Smith has to get back to the way he was playing in game’s one and two, taking it to the basket and not settling. Credit some of this to Boston’s defense, but ball movement can easily beat their rotations and break down their defense, which JR has been such a catalyst of.
Stay intense of the defense, MOVE THE BALL, and please, stop trash talking. The Celtics have been here before. This Knicks’ team collectively has no playoff resumé and does not yet hold the right to talk until they win a round. I think the whole funereal thing really taught this team a lesson, and put them back in their place. Tonight is going to be a huge test of character, and pride. Will the Knicks lay another egg in Boston and have to play probably the most microscopic game of their season in a do-or-die game seven? Or finish this tonight, and play the way we saw them play all of March and April, like they aren’t scared of anything. Depends on which team shows up. Just finish this tonight, Knicks. We will be rooting for you.
The last time New York was up three games to nothing in a playoff series, a series only consisted of five games back in 2000, against the Toronto Raptors. New York has displayed stellar defense throughout the series, including tonight with a 90-76 victory over the Boston Celtics.
As soon as it seemed to begin going in New York’s favor, the foot remained on the petal for the rest of the first half, holding the Celtics to 31 points after two quarters of basketball. Pablo Prigioni gave the starting lineup an enormous lift out of the gate and has a definite impact on the game now that he is healthy, which has been displayed all throughout April. Prigs hit three three-pointers in the first half finishing the game with nine points, while preventing the ball from sticking on anyone for too long.
Boston opened the game with momentum, as expected, but the Knicks didn’t let the Celtics hang around for long leading by five after the first, and 47-31 by halftime. Anthony did struggle starting the game, but not for long going 7-12 in the second half after 5-13 in the first. Paul Pierce has steadily disappeared throughout the series, and continued to be invisible tonight, shooting 40% from the field. If you ask me, tonight was the nail in the coffin of the big Pierce-Garnett era in Boston.
Kevin Garnett quietly grabbed 17 rebounds in 34 minutes, way more of an impact than he’s had in the first two games. But Boston hasn’t been able to get any consistency out of any of their players in the same game. 17 turnovers also didn’t help out an offensive-depleted Celtics team that surrendered 11 fast break points. JR Smith was ejected on a flagrant two foul five minutes into the fourth quarter for elbowing Jason Terry in the head. Smith finished with 15 points in 24 minutes. Steve Novak looked like he finally learned how to hit a shot in playoff basketball with two difficult three pointers; we even got the see the Discount Triple Check in a playoff game! When reserves like Novak are able to contribute, the Knicks are extremely difficult to beat.
The Knicks will look to complete their first sweep since 2000 Sunday afternoon. A sweep of the Boston Celtics would mark the beginning of a new era in the Atlantic Division. Boston’s core is aged, while the rest of their team is covered by inexperienced youth. It would also give a HUGE momentum boost to New York heading into a probable second round matchup vs. Indiana. The practice time and rest between a quick round could be the perfect time to implement Amar’e Stoudemire into the rotation for the second round, assuming he stands where he tells us he is health-wise. I’m sure the Knicks aren’t even looking that far ahead from what they’ve displayed this year.
J.R. Smith has just been announced as the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year. Congratulations to J.R. on his accomplishment. Now, let’s honor him… in GIF form.
It’s been more than a year to remember for the Knicks, who patiently await their first round matchup with Boston and look to finally slay the dragon with a first round win. I have no complaints about this season, as it was probably the most exciting season, from start to finish, since the early 2000’s. I have compiled the top 10 moments, in my opinion, from the Knicks’ great regular season. With the help from a few fans in the Twitter community, these moments have been ranked 1-10. Thanks to my buddy CJ (@CeeJeyEff) for helping me run down a few key moments this season that made it onto the list.
10. Amar’e Stoudemire’s season debut
Before a second knee debridement, STAT was one of the top performing post-presences in the league, shooting insane clips from the field, and being an offensive juggernaut for the Knicks. His season debut (vs. Portland) was highly anticipated and one of the warmest receptions the MSG faithful have given out all year.
9. JR Smith cleared for take off
Looking back, I’m still wondering how it was physically possible to catch the lob smith caught and get the ball above the rim all while facing the other way. Smith’s monster alley-oop is definitely in contention for alley-oop of the year, if there is such an award.
8. Knicks beat Miami IN Miami WITHOUT Melo
Most critics put an asterisk next to the Knicks first win of the season against Miami due to super storm Sandy and the Heat not having the “mindset” to play basketball. There was no excuse when the Knicks traveled to South Beach in early December for a rematch against the defending champs. The Heat were beaten by 20 points for the second time in both meetings so far and could not contain another 3pt barrage, giving up 18 three pointers on their home floor.
7.JR Smith salsas after game winning buzzer-beater vs. Charlotte
Smith took a page from Victor Cruz on a night where the spotlight was solely his. Carmelo Anthony missed this game with a lacerated finger, which almost led to a loss to a sub-par opponent. But Smith stole the show in the final seconds, something that was sort of a trend this season.
6. Melo scores 50 in Miami
Yes, there was no LeBron James. Or Dwayne Wade. But there also was not one Heat player able of containing Carmelo Anthony and his hot hand. Anthony’s 50 points led to a scoring rampage over the next few weeks.
5. Smith beats the buzzer, AGAIN
Just when we thought we had saw enough salsa-ing, JR was at it again. Ironically, without Anthony again, Smith lifted the depleted Knicks to a big road win against Phoenix in the final seconds.
4. Knicks win in San Antonio
For the first time in 10 years, the Knicks won a game in San Antonio, and this one was a barnburner. Behind Felton’s 25points and two huge go-ahead threes from Jason Kidd and JR Smith, the Knicks picked up a huge road win early in the season that got a lot of people talking about the Knicks being a serious threat.
3. Anthony makes history with 30 straight 20-point games
Anthony broke Richie Guerin’s former regular season record of 29 straight games with 20 points or more against the Orlando Magic on exactly 20 points.
2. Kurt Thomas ignites a 13-game winning streak
With all the euphoria the Knicks brought along with 13 straight, including a biggie against Oklahoma City, let it be known that Kurt Thomas’ 26 minutes against Utah after a terrible road trip was the spark that lit the fire under the Knicks, and who’s injury resurrected Kenyon Martin. Props to you, Mr. Kurt, no one expected him to play 20+ minutes at all this season, and when his number was called with all other big men absent, he answered, like the true professional he is.
1. Knicks win the Atlantic division for the first time since ’93-‘94
It took the Knicks 19 years to regain supremacy in their division, and how sweet it was. This was the first goal out of the gate that Mike Woodson had set for the Knicks, and it was great seeing them accomplish a team goal reiterated all season long.
The Knicks are 10 games into the best stretch of basketball we’ve seen all season, and it doesn’t look like they are going to take their foot off the accelerator any time soon. Yes, there is lots of credit due to many players. Kurt, you of course, get the upmost respect from all of us Knicks fans for literally kick starting us (no pun intended on his foot injury) from the bottom to where we are now. I hope you feature in a coming re-make of Drake’s “Started from the bottom” anthem that really can explain the heroics you have contributed to this winning streak being where it is now.
Elsewhere, there is Kenyon Martin, who, like Lazarus, has risen from the abyss of the NBA onto the biggest stage of them all. Then there is Carmelo Anthony, who has just been insanely bonkers the past two games, scoring 90 points and only missing 20 shots. What about the last eight games before Anthony seemingly took the rim and made it two feet wider in front of our own eyes?
Ladies and gents, Raymond Felton and JR Smith.
Truly Carmelo’s backing of sorts through this 10 game tear of almost effortless basketball. Going back 17 days all the way to Salt Lake City, Felton and Smith have averaged a combined 17 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, enough to back a powerful first option in Anthony to 10 straight. Felton’s defensive prowess has also seen a rebirth, along with the rest of the Knicks. Over 10 games, he has about two steals per, and deferring just enough where it evens out with him also being able to find his own shot when called upon at an efficient 52% clip. It’s no shocker that Felton piled up nine assists against Miami, mostly to Anthony, which was his high over the winning streak. In about 33 minutes per game, Felton has not really had any terrible games and has been a crucial piece in New York’s winning ways.
Before the past two games, the man running the show was JR Smith, who has been playing some of the best basketball in his career since Utah. Swish is averaging 23 points and five rebounds over the past 10 games. Oh, and he’s shooting 48%. Who would of ever thought we’d see the day where Smith actually attempts fewer than five three pointers in a single game? It has paid off dramatically, seeing an increase of free throws and penetration, which spaces out the whole floor for the Knicks and really gives shooters opportunities to knock down shots at a higher rate. Although he has slightly veered off path from his three games when he scored 32, 35, and 37, shooting over 50% in all three, it is still extremely gratifying watching Smith play at the level he is playing at. A level that must be maintained heading into the playoffs for the Knicks to really silence a great deal of doubters.
Smith and Felton both have justifiably been a shoulder for Anthony and company to lean on as of late, and it has transmitted into win after win. It’s going to be a sight for sore eyes seeing the Knicks keep their level of intensity up for the rest of the year, and peaking at the best time possible with their supporting cast taking a step up. Lets just remember, we are here because of Kurt Thomas.
Stats from NBA.com.
Is J.R. Smith starting to live up to the hype he has generated this season?
There is a segment of NBA analysts and fans that think Smith is deserving of being in the discussion for the 6th man of the year award. He isn’t worthy of this praise, but if the way Earl has played during the Knicks’ current five-game winning streak got extrapolated over 82 games, he would have a legitimate argument.
Here is J.R’s shot chart for the season:
Here is James Harden’s shot chart:
When just going by the percentages, obviously there are a couple areas that each are better in, but on the whole, they are quite similar. The major difference is Harden’s locations of shots are concentrated at the rim and behind the three-point line, while Smith incorporates more mid-range jumpers. Harden is the optimal shot distribution of a wing player with the ability to get to the basket and a quality three point shot. Smith isn’t as good as Harden, but if he were to simulate Harden’s shot selection he would improve as a player.
This is what we have seen the past five games. Smith has averaged 22.6 points on 15 shots, while shooting 50% from the field. He has also attempted seven free throws per game. Through the entire season, J.R. is averaging 17.1 points on 15 shots, while shooting 40% from the field. The free throw attempts come in at 3.5 per game. Needless to say, his efficiency is significantly up.
This has a big part to do with where he is taking his shots.
Last 5 Games:
In 69 games, Smith has taken 36% of his shots from midrange, 18% at the rim, and 36% from three.
In the last five games, Smith has taken 29% of his shots from midrange, 36% at the rim and 22% from three.
J.R. is taking 7 percentage points fewer shots from midrange, 18 percentage points more at the rim and 14 percentage points less from three. This transfer isn’t perfect, but it is getting better. I would still like to see Smith move some of his mid range jumpers to threes. I don’t agree with him taking less three pointers, as Smith is an extremely efficient catch and shoot player from behind the arc and these opportunities should not be diluted.
It will be interesting to see if this is just a phase for J.R. or it is an adjustment to his game that will continue to progress through the rest of this season and to a further extent his career.
I love JR Smith.
Possibly too much. Okay, no, entirely too much.
I know this because he drives me so morbidly insane that it borders on outright lunacy. Yet, once he drills a catch-and-shoot from the nether regions of 30 Feet and Beyond or a patented step-back J over the outstretched arm of his defender or an acrobatic layup so impossible made all the more amazing by the swerving dance he employed to get it off in the first place, that lunacy quickly evaporates into the freshest breeze of air this Knicks fan has ever felt.
Never since the days of my favorite Knick Mr. John Levell Starks have I experienced such momentous highs and debilitating lows as I have with one Earl Joseph Smith the Third.
Therein lies the ever-maddening essence of JR Smith. That unknown. That “who are we going to get today? Good JR or bad JR?” That longing for something amazing to happen but truly not knowing if he might punch a cameraman after clotheslining Lance Stephenson. That looming feeling you get as you pray for him to focus, only to see him try to get some run in the kids’ pickup game during halftime. That face-palm you hit yourself with upon seeing him tweet a picture of Tahiry’s you-know-what while dead-smack in the middle of what turned into a Knicks 6-game losing streak.
“Does he take the game seriously? Does he care? Has he ever cared? Why does he not care? Please make him care. Someone. Anyone.”
While the comparisons to John Starks certainly hold weight on the court – the 3-point heaves, the aerial displays, the passing up of good shots for worse ones – I can’t agree that they’re anything similar off of it, unless Starks did host a 2 AM bike ride through the city and I just missed it.
By many, if not all, accounts, Starks was a warrior who clawed his way to his eventual apex of NBA stardom. Unheralded. Under-appreciated. Under-utilized. We can all agree that JR Smith is none of these words. Instead, he’s been highly-touted for his abilities for quite some time. And yet, here we are, comparing a former 18th overall draft pick to someone who wasn’t even drafted after bagging groceries while hooping in junior college.
When Starks tossed up a 30-foot bomb, it felt like he genuinely wanted to prove to you that he could drain it. When JR flings one up, it feels like he’s just doing it for fun. For the crowd. For the cheers. For that lively mob of booty models and aspiring musicians he’ll see at Apt 78 later. And again, that’s what flares you up so vigorously about him. That’s what makes you smack yourself with the liquor bottle you hold nearby during every Knicks telecast just in case he turns it into one of those games. It’s what sends you into a drunken Twitter rage as a potpourri of Heat, Nets, Bulls, Lakers, Celtics, etc. fans ridicule and mock your team’s misfortunes. As a fan, It’s tough to defend. Hell, it’s tough to even comprehend.
Why, JR? Why do you treat me this way? Why do you act as if nothing matters? Why don’t you listen to me when I tell you to shoot off the catch and drive the lane more often? Why don’t you listen to me when I tell you to run the pick-and-roll with Tyson instead of taking a spin-fadeaway-whatever-it-is-that-you-do? Helloooo? Are you even listening to me? Wait, no, no, no! JR, nonononoooo…
OH MY GAWD I LOVE YOU JR I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU
*lets out huge sigh of relief*
MAN, did you see that shot? It makes you quickly forget that JR went 6-16 from the field in that game, jacking up 9 threes and missing EIGHT of them. The Knicks won. As many people love to remind you, the checkmark on the win column is the only stat that matters.
During the Great Melo Drama that put the 2010-11 season in an arrogant headlock all the way up to the very last moon phase before the trade deadline, I pined for JR.
“You know, I wouldn’t be upset if the Knicks took back JR Smith in this Carmelo deal,” I repeatedly told family, friends, work associates, and the stuffed monkey embroidered in Knicks-colored stitchings sitting on my desk.
“He could be great as a 6th man on this team. Carmelo and STAT would be our one-two punch in the starting lineup, and JR could come in and torch defenders if they let up once the Knicks go to the bench. It’d be perfect.”
(As we all know, the Knicks did not end up snagging JR in that deal, instead being forced to take Chauncey Billups’ brain tissue and Anthony Carter’s aging corpse.)
“Sure, he’s a loose cannon. Sure, he drives coaches crazy with his shot selection. But, doesn’t D’Antoni like shooters anyway? Doesn’t his system require shooters like JR to space the floor for the pick-and-roll? And better yet, JR is a capable enough playmaker to run the PnR at times. He’s also athletic enough to play the role of off-ball slasher. How can this not work?”
Someone (at a bar) once told me that all fears stem from a fear of the unknown. Is that what this is? Am I constantly in fear of what JR is going to do next? But if that’s true, what exactly am I scared of? Am I scared he’s going to hoist up a 40-foot heat check? Or am I scared I’m going to love him if the shot falls? I don’t know. What kind of question is that anyway? Anyone who throws up a 40-footer in ANY situation where the shot/game clock is >= 2 seconds should be tarred and feathered, much less loved. So, what makes JR so polarizing in this sense?
On a team riddled with fashionistas, artists, “stars”, and what appears to be a human doing his best bulldog impression, all under the guidance of a death stare so powerful, it manifested the most perfect beard known to man, JR seems to be perfectly comfortable with making those mistakes. He appears to be unperturbed with taking an ill-advised shot, trotting over to the bench, receiving an earful from Woodson, then galloping back out and hurling another step-back three. Win or lose, JR is still going to do it. And win or lose, you best believe he’s not going to let his Twitter mentions dissuade him from doing it again in the next game.
Is that it? That “#SoWhat” attitude he so visibly wears on his (tatted up) sleeve? That “bad guy” I wish I could be? Because I really do wish I could post a picture on Instagram of my boss donning a polka-dot shirt, label it as one of the “top 5 worst shirts” I ever laid eyes upon, and still have my boss show enough confidence to let me take the lead at the next project meeting.
Alas, I’m not JR. And I can’t @-reply my mentor’s daughter as freely as JR does. So when JR does nail that three point attempt that drives me up and down the wall of convention, I do cheer. I cheer my damn head off. I chuck a sneaker and do a backflip off my couch. I take a shot of Ketel vodka and chase it down with a Red Stripe. I yell so loud, I hope it wakes the neighbors. I do it because I can, and if you don’t like it, #SoWhat.
Having endured basketball’s equivalent of Dante’s Inferno for nearly 13 years, I routinely look for a Knick to rattle me the way those 90s Knicks did. Someone who will make this season fun in luie of putting up with yet another disappointing campaign. Someone to stir some emotion into an otherwise emotionless Dolan-mandated PR parade. It’s why I consider a John Starks, an Anthony Mason, a Charles Oakley all-time greats, when other basketball fans would laugh at the notion.
Why? Because EFF YOU. That’s why.
And no one on this Knicks team embodies that more than JR Smith. In this city, that rugged disregard for seemingly anything goes a long way.
Go ahead, #Starer. You heave that bomb and I’ll try my best not to hate you for it, even though I probably will.
But, don’t worry. Deep down inside, I know that I love you.
The Knicks appeared to have won the game by 24 points, as J.R. Smith slowly dribbled the clock out, but just before the official buzzer went off, J.R. looked around him to make sure no one was there and went up for the “fuck you,” layup. The Knicks ended up winning the game by 26, while J.R. contributed 25.
The second and final meeting between New York and Utah is tonight at Energy Solutions Arena. The Knicks have ran into a whole heap of issues on their five game trip. Between injury, rotational issues, and questioning of the teams mere will to win games, it’s time for the Knicks to put up or shut up, and steal a game to avoid coming home to a rude awaking from the MSG faithful.
This has been one of the most painful road trips in recent memory. The Knicks have lost by at least 13 points in each game (per ESPN) and are downright depleted on the front line. On the contrary, New York’s last win came nine days ago against Utah, also without Carmelo Anthony manning the frontcourt. Tyson Chandler, though, was available that game, and is questionable for tonight; he also missed the morning shootaround to receive treatment. The Knicks are now making it known that there is now more of an issue with Tyson’s neck, rather than his knee (UGH). With or without Chandler, the Knicks are running out of excuses, and breathing room. Luckily, Brooklyn dropped one to Atlanta last night helping New York in a big way to maintain their one game lead in the Atlantic Division.
Utah does have the revenge factor on their side. Also, picking up two of their last three, Utah needs wins more desperately than New York to stay within the tight playoff race in the west. Two Friday’s ago; New York put a whopping on Utah, scoring 113 points without Anthony. The Jazz had went 0-4 on their east coast trip when they visited New York, and will be looking to spoil the final game of the Knicks’ trip if no one rises to the occasion. JR Smith will need to duplicate his success against Utah (24 points) if New York wants to have any chance of pulling out at least one win. Novak rose from the dead that game, also, lighting up the floor with 20 points.
Furthermore, lets see a stable rotation, Woody. If it works, don’t try to fix it. Whoever produces offense tonight, I’m leaving them on the floor. Yesterday’s effort against the Clippers was not terrible for a team without their three best players. The defense turned up mid-late third quarter- but by then it was too late to trade baskets and play a game of runs.
If any game on this trip was, or is going to be winnable, it’s tonight. If New York wants to show everyone they are still serious contenders, there is no better time to do so. I’m beginning to get sick and tired of staying up into the twilight of the night to see my Knicks lose, and lose ugly. It’s gotten to a point where I will turn my TV off and go to sleep if the game is entirely ugly by the 4th quarter. I’d rather count my sheep than count the times the Knicks make a poor decision or bad rotation on defense. Optimistically, I see the Knicks winning a close one tonight, one that will do wonders for their confidence. Right now, that seems to be something they desperately need. #Knicks.