For the New York Knicks to be the most dangerous team they can be, one player has to be on his A-game night in, night out.
No, I’m not talking about Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler or even Amare Stoudemire. The one player that has to be at his best for the Knicks to be at their best is J.R. Smith. You might be thinking to yourself, “what is this guy talking about?” Let me explain.
Sure the Knicks have some star players that may attract more attention and draw more ticket sales but Smith is one of the main keys to their success. When Smith is shooting well, and mentally into the game, the Knicks add another dimension to their offense and it makes them that much harder to gameplan for. Smith has always had that effect on every team that he’s been a part of but his play may not mean any more than it does right now.
Just to put things in perspective, during a two game stretch, spanning from the end of the Boston Celtics game through the entire Philadelphia 76ers game, Smith missed 21 of 24 shots and had just nine points in the two games combined. In those games the Knicks barely squeaked by the Celtics and they got blown out in Philly by 17. Is it just a coincidence that the Knicks struggled in those two games? I think not.
After the 76ers game head coach Mike Woodson called his Smith’s shooting slump a “major concern” and remarked that the Knicks need him to play well or they would struggle.
“J.R. is a big part of what we do on both ends of the floor,” Woodson said. “We’ve got to program him back to playing…. we’re going to need it.”
Smith was able to bounce back in the next game against the Atlanta Hawks with 18 points on 7-15 shooting but went just 1-5 from three-point range, his specialty. In fact, this season Smith is shooting well below his career 3-point average of 37% coming in at just over 31% so far in this year. If Smith can get that part of his game going here before the All-Star break and carry it into the second half of the season the Knicks will be a tough team to beat.
Anthony will get the majority of the publicity in New York but when it comes down to it Smith’s play means just as much, maybe even more.