Since they both arrived in the Big Apple, New York Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson has at times been the calming influence on the often out of control J.R. Smith.
Almost being a father figure-type of coach to Smith, J.R. responded to Woodson’s teachings by putting together his best season in the NBA to date, good enough for him to be named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2013.
But then came the playoffs and in one single instant, with one selfish elbow to the head of Boston Celtics’ guard Jason Terry, everything changed.
Since that very moment, Smith has been spinning out of control, both on the floor where his performances were brutal, and off of it where Smith has been going down a rabbit hole filled with one controversial moment after another.
Woodson knows that he may have his hands full with Smith this season and he also knows that keeping Smith in check could be the difference between a lengthy playoff run and another disappointing early exit.
With that in mind, Woodson had some pointed comments directed Smith’s way. Comments that should be sure to get the Sixth man of the Year’s attention.
Woodson decided to tell the Associated Press that he wants his star to “grow up” but he will still support him:
“I’m not going to throw him out to the pasture,” Woodson said. “My job is to coach him and make sure something like what happened doesn’t happen again. That’s what we do as coaches, and I expect his teammates to show him love. But at the end of the day he’s got to do the right thing by J.R. and his teammates, and me as a coach and this organization and the fans that support him. I mean, that’s what it’s all about.
“He’s got to grow up and do the right things.”
My first reaction to those statements was “Thank You Captain Obvious.”
It’s plainly obvious that the Knicks can’t have Smith’s immature behavior, both on and off the court, being a distraction for then this season.
But after getting past the obvious fact that there are children in the world who behave more mature than Smith does, I like the approach that Woodson took.
He had to say something, but at the same time, he couldn’t risk throwing Smith under the bus and risking the chance that there would be resentment on Smith’s part, thus sending him even more out of control.
Woodson needed to send a message not only for Smith’s sake, but for the sake of the Knicks locker room as well. He has to find a way to put a leash on J.R. before it’s too late.
By letting Smith know that he and his teammates still have his back, Woodson is doing the right thing. But he also got enough in thee about Smith having to grow up which should be enough to grab his attention.
Woodson may not be the most media friendly guy when it comes to giving good quotes, but in this case he got his point out through the media and hit a home run with his comments.
It’s something that should have been done a long time ago, but in this case it’s better late than never.
Hopefully for everyone involved it’s not too late.