One of J.R. Smith’s biggest supporters has been Mike Woodson and that hasn’t changed even after the mercurial guard was suspended five games for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug policy.
Woodson considered starting Smith today when he makes his season debut against the Spurs and probably will in the near future. Woodson said he trusts Smith and won’t punish him further.
But Woodson, who has been critical of Smith and has used a tough-love approach with him, is disappointed in him. Woodson said Smith needs to think less about himself and more about others, including his two daughters.
“He’s got to grow up, man,” Woodson said. “It’s not about J.R. He’s got to understand that. He’s got kids, it’s about his family. It’s not about J.R. per se. You’re living the life and that’s a good life that we all live. You have to take some responsibility for people you got to raise, like your kids.”
Smith admitted he put off his knee surgery until signing his new three-year, $17.9 million contract because he was looking out for his family. The Knicks have invested a lot of money and faith in Smith -- whose brother Chris is on the team -- and are looking for big returns now.
Woodson said being J.R.’s brother weighed in the decision to keep Chris, who has yet to play and is expected to be sent to the D-League to develop. Perhaps the Knicks kept Chris hoping it would help keep J.R. happy and in-line.
Smith’s value to the Knicks can’t be understated.
He was the Knicks’ second-best player behind Carmelo Anthony and a major reason they won 54 games. Smith averaged 18.1 points and won the Sixth Man of the Year last year before a disappointing postseason that went south for him -- and really the Knicks -- after he was suspended a game for throwing an elbow at then-Celtics guard Jason Terry.
Smith never regained his shooting touch and rumors were rampant that he was enjoying the New York nightlife again.
Now, after everything that’s happened, Woodson expects more from Smith this season -- in production and in professionalism.
“I hope so,” Woodson said. “I hope he’s grown. I just want him to grow. We’re going to need him to do that. If he can do that and really take his game to another level, really become that second go-to guy… we utilized him last year in first situations as well too. I’m hoping he’s more advanced than he was a year ago.
“[What happened] was disappointing because I think any player, not just J.R, when a player goes down like that that you coach that’s tough. That’s under your watch. You’re trying to do all the things necessary for these players to do the right things by the fans, on and off the court. What he did wasn’t right. I just hope he learned from it.”