J.R. Smith has been a very good player for the New York Knicks since joining the team in 2012 and debuting against the Dallas Mavericks, but has caused distractions off the court. The most recent problem is that he failed a drug test and will now be suspended five games (once he is fit).
This will have a real impact on the Knicks, also considering that Smith is coming off of knee surgery. The suspension doesn’t go into effect until after he returns from his surgery.
When Smith is out, the Knicks will look to find a replacement that could score off the bench and be the second scoring option that J.R. usually is.
Some options are Tim Hardaway, Jr., who will begin his rookie season this year and has a great chance to transition into that spot. A big problem with Hardaway is that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson doesn’t like to give rookies too many minutes (as he showed with Iman Shumpert two seasons ago).
Another way they could go is with a two point guard lineup and have Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni both scoring, which worked for the Knicks at the end of last season. They could also go with a guy that is on the training camp roster that could make the team, such as Chris Douglas-Roberts, who has proven to be a good scorer in the NBA.
If Smith comes back completely healthy for the season, which he has been trying to do, and only misses the five games he is suspended for, then that will not be a huge problem. The Knicks open the season at home against Milwaukee, a team that the Knicks can get by without Smith.
The next day, however, is a game that they would have needed Smith for, which is against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. That will be the hardest game for the Knicks without J.R., though, as the Knicks then play the Minnesota Timberwolves, and have two games against the Bobcats.
Barring any aggravation to the knee, Smith should be back against the San Antonio Spurs, which will be a competitive game for both teams.
While Smith has played his hardest while being a Knick, he can also make some dumb decisions. During last season’s playoffs, he played awful and even though it may have been because he was playing hurt, it was rumored that he was partying on nights before games and that may have been a factor in why he did not play well in the playoffs last season.
Even Woodson recently said that Smith needs to “grow up”. I couldn’t agree more. I love watching J.R. as a player but he needs to get real. He needs to have better judgment and know that the league is cracking down. He needs to focus on the team and bringing a championship to New York.
The Knicks will miss Smith’s presence while he is out but as the optimistic Knick fan I am, I still think the Knicks will get by because they have a lot of players who can score and step up in his absence. I do not think they will go 5-0, but I still think they will win most of the games.
By the end of the season, this will not even be a concern because it’s only five games. Hopefully, his injury does not linger throughout the season and he can help Carmelo Anthony lead the team to a great season.