Friday night wasn’t the best night for the New York Knicks as they lost to the Houston Rockets 102-100. What made matters worse, it wasn’t the best night for J.R. Smith. If there are any positives to be taken from any loss, it’s best to start with Smith’s attitude.
Friday night, after a missed shot with the game tied, Tyson Chandler passed the ball out to Beno Udrih.Udrih, being the point guard, should have dribbled it out and called the time out. Instead he passed the ball to Smith, whose shot hit the back of the rim.Smith did what he does: he shoots. However, with 22 seconds remaining and the shot clock off, the chance for the Knicks to hold the ball for the final shot, it wasn’t a smart decision by Smith.
Smith, whose off court and on court antics have often gotten him in trouble, was honest and sincere after the game. He didn’t point fingers, he didn’t hide from reporters, he took full responsibility. Most reporters who never played the game will be quick to criticize a man when he is down.Many players would have fled the locker room — not Smith. When questioned, he responded, “Honestly, I thought we were down 2 when I shot the ball,’’ Smith said. “I started hearing Tyson say, ‘Noooo, don’t take the shot.’ Just a good shot, bad timing. I realized right after. Bad basketball IQ by me.
“We should’ve won the game. I got to hold the ball for the last shot and do what he does and get the ball to Anthony and let him do what he does. It didn’t happen.’’
These words are the words of a mature man. A man taking responsibility for his actions. I believe he will learn for this and be a better player from this.
Smith has done a lot of bad things recently. After being named6th Man of the Year and signing a new, four-year contract, he declared he wanted to start this year. But how did he start his year after signing his contract? He had surgery, he smoked pot, he was suspended for the drug usage, he felt betrayed when his brother was cut. He acted immature. However, is Smith 100% to blame? I don’t think so.
In life, you can treat the symptom, or correct the cause. Smith has been spoiled, plain and simple. He was never held accountable.He had a License To Thrill.In Woodson’s eyes no shot was a bad shot.
With approximately 20 seconds left on the clock, he did what Coach Woodson has always wanted him to do:Shoot when you are open.Woodson has never disciplined Smith as a player.He’d rather ride Iman Shumpert than upset Smith.Smith only did what he does, he shoots. Friday night, Smith played 31 minutes, he shot 3-13. He was 1 of 7 from three point land prior to that shot and he was a minus 11 in a close game. You have to ask why was he even on the floor. Or, when will Woodson say, ‘if you’re not on, either go to the basket, or pass the ball’? Smith cannot be blamed for his lack of discipline when for his entire Knick tenure, he was never forced to be disciplined.
This was an ugly loss. It would have changed the Knicks momentum to win in both San Antonio and Houston. However, it was not their first loss of this nature. This is an undisciplined team.Woodson had all of preseason, over a quarter of this season to teach what to do at games end.The same Woodson who coached with Bob Knight and coached with Larry Brown. This would never happen on either of their teams. They would have been prepared, especially since this was not the first but around the 5th loss of close games due to poor end game preparation.
After Chandler’s rebound, he passed the ball to Beno Udrih, Woodson should have been screaming to his players then to call a time out. Udrih, being a point guard should have dribbled it out, not passed the ball to an open undisciplined Smith. The same Smith that was 1-7 from the 3 point line. He should have been on the bench. So do I blame Smith? Yes, but I also blame Udrih and Woodson. To compound Smith’s miss was the foul by Udrih. Now, I admire his hustle, but basketball 101 teaches you not to foul at the end of the game.
So today the reporters can pick on Smith, he is an easy target. But last night he showed he is a man and I respect him.
Yes, Smith had a great year last year and was clutch all last year. But this year is this year. He has not had a great year and has not shot well.What has hurt both Woodson and Smith this year is not having Jason Kidd on the floor. Last year this would have never happened, Kidd would not have allowed it. Kidd oversaw Woodson’s weakness as a coach and controlled games during the final minutes. His absence has hasbeen apparent this year.
This Knicks team lacks pure leadership, whether it be the coach, the point guard, the star.I reported in my past article Carmelo Anthony was 1-16 from the field to tie or win a game. Now is this Anthony’s fault? Not entirely, when you are double or triple-teamed, it is not easy to score.Anthony is aware of these statistics; Friday night he passed the ball to the open man. Both Shumpert and Udrih missed open shots. The team looked frazzled and confused on their last opportunity to tie the game.This was not Smith’s fault alone, their execution at the end of games this year has been Ugly.
Smith will get better, the Knicks will get better. They are talented team.It is now time for Woodson to do what he stated when he took the job. Make players accountable. He has not done this year and for the Knicks to win he must start assuming the blame and grow with the team.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Bestselling author www.5minutemotivator.com
Follow him on Twitter. @drekaplan