On ESPN’s “First Take” today, Knicks wing J.R. Smith admitted he wouldn’t blame the Knicks, or president of basketball ops Phil Jackson, if they decided to trade him this summer. Some Knicks fans are screaming at their computer screens, “But there’s still time!”
Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal first brought Smith’s appearance to our attention (we try to avoid “First Take” at all costs).
J.R. Smith, on First Take, says he wouldnt blame Phil Jackson and the Knicks for trading him after how he behaved/played last year.
— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) July 16, 2014
Smith’s recalcitrant moods and me-first dribbling exhibitions personified New York’s dreadful 2013-14 season, one which saw coach Mike Woodson get let go after Phil Jackson was named the team’s new head of basketball operations.
Smith called the ’13-’14 season the “worst of my career,” and appeared contrite about his play and demeanor. When asked whether he would be upset if he was dealt this summer, he was vehement in response (transcription via the New York Daily News):
“No, absolutely not. The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there, not looking as focused as a person should be in the situation we were in. I wouldn’t blame him at all.”
Smith also talked about the infamous shoelace gate when he untied Shawn Marion‘s shoe during a free throw, then tried it on Greg Monroe later the same week only to suffer a $50K fine as a result of not heeding the NBA’s warning. Even a pastor included Smith’s shoelace antics in a sermon about “growing up.”
“For one, it’s unacceptable, the whole year,” Smith said. “I’m not going to make any excuses for myself, but coming after knee surgery is a tough thing to come back from. I didn’t expect to be at that top tier where I was. … Early on, I put so much pressure on myself to come back — first after the suspension, and after being hurt — to be back to where I was the year before, winning the Sixth Man.
“I put so much pressure on myself, us not starting off well, expecting us to do a lot better than we were doing, to try to take some of the pressure off, just have fun with the game, and that’s where the shoe incident came into play. I just tried to ease the tension a little bit and it wasn’t working. … Unfortunately, it just so happened to be the worst year I believe I’ve had in the NBA, including my rookie year. I’m just looking to bounce back.”
Maybe JR’s comments were the first step in his own attempt to “grow up?” Later, Smith said he was “extremely confident” the Knicks — yes the same team that finished 37-45 while missing out on the playoffs in the awful Eastern Conference — could compete for an Eastern Conference title next season.
The Knicks have signed ‘Melo to a five-year, $124 million not-quite max contract, and Smith is still around, though maybe Jackson is still working on something. New York’s got Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani‘s expiring contracts to dangle in a move, so maybe Phil does have a plan and Smith’s confidence isn’t as crazy as most things JR-related. Then again, maybe that plan still involves moving J.R. Smith, which we now know wouldn’t surprise him.
Should the Knicks trade JR if they can get something in return?
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