SAN ANTONIO -- J.R. Smith took full advantage of living and playing in the city that never sleeps last season. But he admits he lived harder than he played.
"I'm not going to lie, New York City nightlife last year pretty much got to me," Smith said Thursday before the Knicks played the Spurs. "I was going out pretty much every other night, just not focused on the task at hand. This year is definitely different."
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Smith said he's staying in more and focusing more on basketball. He has matured, he said, because he doesn't want to embarrass his family and wants to be more dependable.
The Knicks are the beneficiary of Smith's more professional approach. After being disappointed that he wasn't made a starter, Smith, 27, has embraced his sixth-man role. He went into Thursday's game averaging 18.2 points and was a league-best 13-for-18 from three-point range (72.2 percent).
"I approach every day differently now," the nine-year veteran said. "Every day I think of it as a positive: Get into the gym with these guys, try to get the best work as you can.
"A lot of times previously in my career, I've had negative energy coming into the gym. Just not wanting to be there, jumping around, goofing off. This year it's been more serious, understanding every road trip we take is a work trip, not just a play trip. Come here, working hard, understanding and knowing that if I work hard, maybe the next guy will see me working hard and it will push him."
Last season, Mike Woodson said he wanted to get Smith, who was fined $25,000 by the NBA for tweeting an inappropriate photo of a woman, to act more professionally. Woodson mentioned the way Smith dressed at the time. Woodson pointed out that Smith now wears suits to games.
"He looks very professional," Woodson said. "That's not to say he doesn't wear jeans and do some of the things he was doing. But that's a start. I like everything about him, and I liked him last year. There's something there that I like and I'm going to try to make sure he's successful."
"My thing is be a professional 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Smith said. "So I can't let myself slip as well as let my teammates slip. In order for me to hold them accountable, I have to hold myself accountable."
Smith credits his coaches for the change in him, but there's another reason. "Just trying to make my parents proud," he said. "Just being a proud son.''
Carmelo Anthony spent 4½ seasons with Smith with the Nuggets and sees a much different person.
"It's night and day," he said. "It's definitely night and day off the court. Just maturing and growing up and willing to lock in and focus in, I think that carries over to the basketball court.''
Smith isn't altogether different. He still tweets at all hours of the night and he still enjoys the New York nightlife -- but in moderation, he says.
"I go out here and there," Smith said. "I definitely got to pick and choose my spots. Definitely not before games. I've got to be smart about it."