-- The J.R. Smith saga appeared to be over, but it's not, as he is back in the doghouse again and says he doesn't know why.
Smith sat at the end of the bench and never entered the Knicks' 108-98 loss Tuesday night to Charlotte that snapped their season-high five-game winning streak. It was the second time in four games that coach Mike Woodson benched Smith.
Afterward, Smith went to work out since he did very little during the game.
He said he's focused on "trying to fix what's going on here." But then Smith questioned again whether his future is with the Knicks after being asked what needed to be fixed.
"Honestly, I don't know," Smith said. "Take it every day, day by day and figure out what I can do to help the team. If I'm not helping the team, there's no point in me being here."
Smith is eligible to be traded as of Wednesday, but it's hard to imagine there is a team looking to acquire an underperforming player who continues to get in trouble with his team and the NBA.
Still, the Knicks benching Smith was a puzzling move since he had played effectively and relatively efficient the previous two games after he was initially benched last week against the Heat.
Every healthy Knick played except for Smith. There were loud chants of "J.R. Smith" at Time Warner Cable Arena twice in the second half. But Woodson ignored them and offered no answers for why Smith never got in the game.
"I'm not even commenting on J.R.," Woodson said. "I just didn't play him tonight. I didn't play him."
Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA last week for untying opponent's sneakers and benched the next day. But it seems there is more to this than that episode.
"I don't know," Smith said. "For that to be the trigger point for all of this to happen is ridiculous."
Smith hasn't been a model citizen this season. Just before Christmas, after he learned his brother Chris was being waived, J.R. posted an Instagram that read: "You know the sad thing about betrayal? It never comes from an enemy."
He also was suspended five games for failing a drug test and fined $25,000 by the NBA for a threatening tweet directed at Pistons guard Brandon Jennings.
After he showered, Smith laid his suitcase out in front of him and packed, which is not a common sight in an NBA locker room. Even some of his teammates were looking at him with surprise.
The Knicks flew to Indiana, where they will play the Pacers Thursday. Smith presumably went with them. But when he was asked if he would talk to Woodson or the coaching staff about what's happening, he said no.
"The communication from my end is over," he said. "I'm going to show by my effort."
Effort was something the Knicks, who beat the Suns in overtime Monday, lacked for most of the game.
The return of Tyson Chandler from a four-game absence due to bronchitis didn't have an impact. He couldn't slow Al Jefferson, but no Knick could. Smith might have been able to provide a spark, though.
Amar'e Stoudemire helped energize the Knicks in the second half as they cut an 11-point deficit to 81-77 early in the fourth. But a 12-3 Charlotte run ended the Knicks' hopes of extending their streak to six and they fell to 15-23.
Jefferson shot 14-for-20 and finished with 35 points and eight rebounds. Kemba Walker scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Carmelo Anthony had 20 points, but never really got going. He shot 9-for-22 and 0-for-4 from three-point range. Stoudemire scored 17 points, 13 of them in the second half. Raymond Felton added 13 before fouling out. Chandler had five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Anthony hopes Smith is back in the rotation Thursday night.
"Of course we miss him," Anthony said. "He's a big part of our team. Sometimes the way he goes, we go. So we miss him tonight. Hopefully, this will be it."
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