Despite the New York Knicks capturing their most impressive win of the season Thursday night with a 102-92 defeat over the Miami Heat, most of the media attention went to J.R. Smith. Smith, of course, was Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision for the night. After receiving a $50,000 fine from the NBA for attempting to untie players’ shoes during games, Mike Woodson called Smith’s actions “unacceptable” and “unprofessional,” and many applauded Woodson for finally punishing Smith’s behavior.
However, according to the New York Daily News, the punishment could be coming down from up high. Via Frank Isola:
The Knicks, including Dolan and Woodson, were not pleased that Smith pretended to untie Detroit’s Greg Monroe’s sneakers Tuesday after receiving a warning from the league for untying Shawn Marion’s sneakers in Sunday’s win over Dallas.
Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA for repeated unsportsmanlike offenses.
But according to a source, Smith got on Dolan’s bad side days earlier for his response — both privately and publicly — to the club releasing Smith’s younger brother, Chris. The Smith brothers were called into a meeting with Woodson and team president Steve Mills and informed of the move. The elder Smith did not take the news well and expressed his frustration first behind closed doors and then via Instagram when he referred to being betrayed.
As Isola mentions, given how Smith didn’t seem to have any indication that he’d sit the game out, and how Woodson has remained so mum on the subject, this could be an order from James Dolan himself. Sources indicate that Smith is still unsure where he will play tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers, and Woodson still hasn’t addressed the issue to the media.
If these orders are coming directly from Dolan, it’s one of his first smart moves in a long time. Smith, quite frankly, has become a distraction, and it’s not as if his play has been making up for it. Smith comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.3 points on 12 shot attempts per game, 34.8% shooting from the field, 33.9% shooting from deep. As opposed to last season, when Smith was admittedly better behaved, he at least provided the Knicks with an explosive scoring punch and more disciplined defensive and rebounding effort. This season, those things have been missing.
Reports have also said that the Knicks have threatened to trade Smith, though there are — understandably — no takers around the league. But this is a very real possibility for the Knicks and Smith. Dolan, for all of his faults, is loyal to his head coaches. When Mike D’Antoni was coach, he shipped both Stephon Marbury and Nate Robinson out of town when they began to butt heads with D’Antoni. Woodson loves Smith and his family, but if it becomes a tumultuous relationship, Dolan and the Knicks’ front office might actually try and dump Smith.
Though Smith is sporting a fresh, three-year, $18 million contract, sitting him might actually help the Knicks find an interested team for trading. If Smith is simply wasting away on the Knicks bench — and this could continue to happen if the Knicks keep winning — then desperate teams might start calling. Why let a talented player rot on the bench if the price is low? At this point, almost any return for Smith would be a positive on.
It’s a shame, though, given Smith’s solid year in 2012-13 and how he’s stated that he wants to keep New York as his home. J.R. Smith has a ton of talent, and like many of his critics have said, it’s a shame to see him let it go to waste while he continues to act out.
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