The maturation of J.R. Smith was the popular story line last season, but it was way premature.
In the last nine months, Smith has been fined $80,000 by the NBA, was suspended for six games, including five for what was believed to be failing a drug test, and got benched by Mike Woodson in Thursday's win over the Heat. That move was long overdue.
Untying or trying to untie an opponent's sneaker is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, or in comparison to Smith's body of work. But it was the latest misstep that showed he doesn't respect authority, does what he wants and doesn't put his team or coaches before himself.
Smith, 28, is in his 10th NBA season. When will he get the message? Will he ever get the message?
No coach has given Smith more leeway than Woodson. No team has given Smith more leeway than the Knicks. That's why Smith wondering if his future is in New York and talk of the Knicks looking to trade him are comical.
Smith has underperformed this season and continues to be a headache -- and this is with getting the minutes, the shots and the contract he wanted. What team would want him?
Last season's narrative was that Smith gave up the New York nightlife and didn't want to disappoint Woodson or the Knicks. The result: He was the best sixth man in the league.
But things changed in the playoffs when he threw an elbow at Jason Terry and pop star Rihanna tweeted about Smith enjoying the Manhattan scene on nights before games.
Still, the Knicks gave J.R. a three-year, $17.9-million contract in July and his brother Chris a fully guaranteed deal if he made the opening-night roster. (He did.)
Two months later, Smith violated the league's anti-drug policy. In November, he was fined for "directing hostile and inappropriate language'' at Brandon Jennings in a tweet. A few weeks later, he staged what seemed to be a protest when he took only one shot in a loss to Boston.
After the Knicks waived his brother last month, J.R. posted an Instagram that read: "You know the sad thing about betrayal? It never comes from an enemy.'' In the Knicks' next game, Smith was a no-show on both ends of the floor until the fourth quarter.
The next night, Smith didn't know the score was tied and hoisted a three-pointer instead of holding for the last shot in what became a two-point Knicks loss.
(Side note: Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace helped keep Smith focused last season.)
The laces were the last straw. It was harmless, but it was more than that. Smith was warned by the league, was warned by the Knicks -- and still tried to do it again Tuesday night.
It's time for Smith to grow up and put his team first. It's time to start repaying Woodson and the Knicks for all they've done for him and given him. That also is long overdue.
Good to see you
Carmelo Anthony turned to Pistons assistant coach Rasheed Wallace and had a staring contest with him Tuesday night after knocking down a three-pointer and tapping his head three times. Wallace just smiled.
Wallace started that last season -- only Anthony still does "three to the dome'' now -- and provided major leadership for the Knicks' 54-win team. "Sheed was talking to me,'' Anthony said. "That's my guy, man.''
Also on the Pistons' bench was former Knick Chauncey Billups, who was the Denver point guard when Anthony reached his only conference finals.
"I've learned a lot from Rasheed as well as Chauncey,'' Anthony said. "Those guys are guys that I talk to a lot. They help me out throughout the course of the season, so it was just fun going back and forth with him out there.''D'An still a Lin fan
Jeremy Lin became an NBA sensation with the Knicks and under Mike D'Antoni, and according to the Rockets guard, they remain close.
Lin said they text "throughout the season'' and that D'Antoni attended the Hollywood premiere of the documentary "Linsanity.''
Said Lin, "I think we'll always have a special bond just because of everything that happened.''
- One of the best offseason signings was the Spurs' Marco Bellinelli. A playmaker and big-shot maker, Bellinelli is averaging 10.8 points. Chicago shouldn't have let him get away.
- Ray Allen said he and filmmaker Spike Lee have been discussing a sequel to "He Got Game.''