As a sideshow, Knicks guard J.R. Smith has excelled this season. But meanwhile, he has gone from one of basketball's top gunners to something of a loose cannon. From having a hot hand to offering a version of the hot foot.
As soon as he entered Tuesday night's eventual 89-85 Knicks victory over the Detroit Pistons barely seven minutes into the game, Smith appeared to reach to untie the shoelace of Detroit's Greg Monroe as they stood side-by-side along the free-throw lane.
Monroe quickly jerked his left foot away and a video of the moment immediately was posted on the Internet. Evidence that Smith clearly was being watched closely after his prank on Sunday in Dallas, when he furtively loosened the lace of the Mavericks' Shawn Marion as they awaited Dirk Nowitzki's free-throw attempt.
A league source Tuesday confirmed that Smith was warned, though not fined, for the Dallas incident. Asked after Tuesday night's game if he had spoken to league officials, Smith mumbled, "Yes and no. Not really supposed to talk about it."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson acknowledged that Smith "shouldn't be doing stuff like that. I'm going to talk to him a little bit more about it. His focus should be on just playing basketball."
When it was suggested that Smith's shoelace attack was akin to a playground move, Woodson said, "I've never seen it done in an NBA game, put it that way, in all the years that I've been around."
Smith's play this season has not approached his 2012-13 performance, when he was named the league's Sixth Man of the Year, and Tuesday night was no exception. In 29 minutes, he made two of his six field-goal attempts -- 1 of 4 from three-point range -- and finished with six points, two assists and two turnovers.
Until Carmelo Anthony began to fill the basket in the third period, in fact, the entire Knicks roster was shooting a cold 33 percent (not factoring in the wind chill). All season, Smith has made only 34 percent of his field-goal attempts while the team has bumbled to a 12-22 record.
"You can point the finger at a lot of things," Woodson said. "But when you look at how successful we were last season, [Smith] was a big part of that. And somehow we've got to get him back to playing at that level.
"I know he's capable of making the big shot. He's not scared. He won't run away from it. I trust J.R."
But the $25,000 Smith was fined earlier in the season for some Twitter exchanges with Detroit's Brandon Jennings, and Sunday's shoelace silliness, have not been helpful while Woodson struggles to get the Knicks' house in order.