When the regular season ended, New York Knicks fans had to feel good about where they were with J.R Smith as a legitimate second scoring option next to Carmelo Anthony.
But that all changed with one selfish elbow to the head of Boston Celtics’ guard Jason Terry.
Smith has struggled in a big way since returning from his one-game suspension and as a result he could be forced to get used to spending some more time on the bench as Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson as said that he wouldn’t hesitate to cut Smith’s minutes beginning with Game 3 of the Knicks second-round series against the Indiana Pacers.
“I’ll gauge J.R. as we go along and if I feel he’s not giving me anything, I could always turn to other guys on that bench,” Woodson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco Show (via ESPN’s Ian Begley).”
“I feel good about the guys that come in off that bench just like I feel good about J.R. But if he’s struggling and I feel the need (that) I’ve got to pull him, then I will do that as the head coach and then other guys have got to come in and step up and play.”
However I doubt that Woodson goes that route however it is interesting that didn’t rule out benching Smith, which goes to show exactly how much he is struggling.
Smith is missing shots and not playing well at all from an offensive standpoint. But Smith does bring a little bit to the table defensively as long as he doesn’t carry his struggles with him to that end of the floor.
To illustrate exactly how bad things have been for the Sixth Man of the Year, consider the fact that Smith averaged 23.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 37.7 percent from behind the arc during the Knicks final 16 regular season. A large part of his success was due to the fact that he was getting to the foul line 6.6 times a night.
Smith is averaging only 14.4 points on 14.7 shot attempts, while only shooting 34 percent from the floor.
Since he came back from his one-game suspension, Smith has been nothing short of brutal.
The Sixth Man of the Year has connected on only 15-of-57 (26.3 percent) shot attempts and only 7-of-24 (29.1 percent) three-point attempts.
When he was going well, Smith averaged only 2.9 long-range attempts the last month of the season. He’s averaged 5.7 during the postseason and 6.0 since coming back from suspension.
During his last five games, Smith has combined to score only 52 points, but has taken a whopping 57 shots.
That alone should result in a lot less minutes for Smith, but he’s also a guy that Woodson likes a lot so I have a hard time seeing him getting much less than the 31.9 minutes per game he is averaging in the postseason.
If Woodson did choose to decrease Smith’s minutes, it’s unclear who would step into his role. He could use Jason Kidd as the first player off his bench or ask Chris Copeland to fill the void. Amar’e Stoudemire is also returning to the lineup Saturday in Game 3 and is expected to get anywhere between 10-15 minutes. Those minutes could come at Smith’s expense.
One thing is for sure though and if Woodson keeps riding Smith and he doesn’t turn things around quickly, Smith will shoot the Knicks right out of the playoffs.
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