Yes, the ongoing J.R. Smith miniseries is funny. The fines, the suspensions, the tweets, the missed shots, the contract, the drama. But with his latest shoelace-related fine and accompanying benching, something of a boiling point appears to have been reached—media has turned hostile and the Knicks would love to see him leave town. Not so funny anymore, is it? Unless you're outside of New York—then it's still hilarious.
The Knicks looked damn good in upsetting the Heat last night for their fourth win in five games, and coincidentally or not, Smith watched the whole thing from the bench. (Probably not a coincidence. Iman Shumpert, getting most of the minutes that would have gone to Smith, scored all of his 12 points in the second half and kept Dwyane Wade in check.) Smith didn't sound happy with his night off, especially the fact that coach Mike Woodson never alerted him to the benching.
"I think that's the most misleading part of it," Smith said. "I could see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it."
J.R.'s latest infraction was bizarre, even by the standards of a man once fined $25,000 for tweeting a photo of "the girl with the biggest ass ever." During free throws in Dallas on Sunday, Smith reached down and untied Shawn Marion's shoe. The NBA warned him not to do it again. So in his very next game, he attempted to untie Greg Monroe's shoe. That was good for a $50K fine. When is a warning maybe not a warning? When it's J.R. Smith who has to process it and act accordingly.
"They warned me, but it wasn't one of those warning where you go 'Oh damn,' it was one of those warnings where you really don't know the outcome of it. You don't even know if it was a warning or what it was."
Shoelaces probably aren't why Smith was benched last night, or at least not the only reason. He's having a historically bad shooting season. He's playing dumb. "It's just got to stop," Woodson said, and you can read the exasperation in his voice. "I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
That was the cue for the writers' knives to come out. The Daily News' Frank Isola, who's long derided Smith's antics, devoted a column to the Knicks' mistake of re-signing him to a three-year deal, and forecasting that the end will come sooner, and it'll be ugly. And Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, who gets fired up like no one else when he decides to go after a player, blasted Smith as a "clown," a "fool," and a "spoiled, suburban kid."
(Woj's column is heavy on the opinion, but there is one new J.R. story in there. It dates from his time in China, one weekend at a hotel when he ordered $3,000 worth of room service "just to see if they would keep bringing it to the room.")
All of this is academic. Smith has always been a headache, but a headache coaches and teammates can deal with when he's effective. He's not playing good ball right now, whether it be lingering effects from offseason surgery or laziness after signing a long-term contract or the flukiness of basketball. But what can the Knicks do? They'd love to trade him, and have reportedly put out feelers, but what other team would give up anything useful for Smith? Still due roughly $15 million through 2016, the Knicks would have to include something of value to move him.
J.R.'s a Knick for the foreseeable future. He'll keep doing dumb shit, his coach will keep trying to get through to him, and it'll be a stressful, amusing sideshow on a team with much bigger problems than its sixth man. The only true unknown is whether he'll discover his shooting touch again. Even when the J.R. Smith drama seems to be about anything but, it all comes back to basketball.