J.R. Smith is having a career year for the Knicks. He’s averaging career-highs with 16.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and has not only merited All-Star consideration, but also conversation to be the Sixth Man of the Year for the first time in his career.
“That was the whole idea of coming into this season is putting him in that position as a guy coming off the bench that could lead the league and score a lot of points off the bench,” head coach Mike Woodson said. “I think he’s starting to step up. He’s being more patient about his play and he’s trying to do it on both ends of the floor. That’s what’s so nice about it.”
Even more impressive than Smith’s season averages has been his production following Raymond Felton’s injury.
For the first time in Smith’s career, he has scored 20 points or more in five straight games. He also has hit two game-winning shots, and has been operating the pick-and-roll in Felton’s absence at an efficient rate. He also has been able to show his dunking ability.
Around the NBA, Smith has always been known as a player who could defend and score in isolation and pick-and-roll situations, but until this season he lacked efficiency and consistency.
The difference for Smith this year is due to offseason training with renowned trainer Idan Ravin and being able to compete with Anthony, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin every day.
Working with Ravin not only affected Smith on the court, but also with his social life. Ravin convinced Smith to cut back on his partying and instead focus on his image, so he could help shed the underachiever tag that had been placed on him.
“I truly believe J.R. Smith is an Eastern Conference All-Star,” Ravin said. “He’s a great shooter, he’s a great athlete, he can put the ball on the floor, he can defend, he can win. He can do everything. I’ve told him this for a long time.”
“J.R.’s been playing extremely well the past 10 to 15 games. He seems locked in, focused,” Anthony said. “I’ve been with J.R. for seven and a half, eight years. I’ve seen the potential. He’s getting better and better.”