When the New York Knicks signed J.R. Smith on Friday, February 17, 2012, as a free agent after he played for Zhejiang of the Chinese Basketball League during the NBA Lockout, I immediately said it was a bad move for the team. Even though many other media members covering the Knicks and fans of the team disagreed with me, I wrote a story about it on the Razz and Jazz Sports Blog on Wednesday, February 20, 2012. (http://razzandjazzsports.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/the-good-and-bad-of-j-r-smith/)
In the 10 games since the Knicks signed Smith, who began the season as a career .428 shooter, including .371 from three-point range. the team is 3-7. He has yet to shoot above 50% in any of those 10 games, and is 33-89 (37%), including 12-42 (29%) from three, on 8.9 shots per game, for 9.2 points per game. Add to this his sulking on the bench, not entering the huddle in the second half of a 119-114 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, and his poor decision to send a picture of a bottomless model named Tahiry on Twitter the same day, which earned him a $25,000 fine from the NBA, and the reasons I was against the trade have surfaced quickly.
Smith is a bad shot taker, and, sometimes, a bad shot maker, but in this shortened NBA season, he is missing more than 60% of his shot attempts, and more than 70% from three-point range, while taking just below 9 shots per game. On a team that already struggles to find shots for stars like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, this was not the way to go.
Moreover, the addition of Smith takes away shot attempts and minutes from two young players at the same position, second-year shooting guard Landry Fields and rookie guard Iman Shumpert. Fields compliments players like rookie point guard Jeremy Lin, Stoudemire and Anthony better than Smith, and Shumpert brings a defensive intensity to the team off the bench that is a shot in the arm, as he is in the top five in the NBA in steals. At his best, Smith can do that as well, but we haven’t seen his best, and why interupt the development of young talent?
Sports Director of Radio Station WBAI Samori Benjamin was skeptical at first, but was impressed with Smith’s first appearance as a Knick on Sunday, February 19, 2012, against the Dallas Mavericks, when he hit three three-pointers and sparked the team on a 17-0 run when he entered the game in the first quarter. He was concerned about Smith’s “shaky on and off the court past” and with good reason.
With 25 games left in the season, I hope that Smith rebounds to have some of the best games of his NBA career. I hope that he can spark the team, not just for a quarter, but for weeks, and can do the same in the playoffs. I don’t anticipate this happening, however, which is why I’ve said all along that signing JR Smith was not a good move.