The New York Knicks won on Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks, moving their record to a mere 7-16 for the 2013-2014 NBA season. They were carried by big performances from Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani, who contributed 35 and 23 points in the contest, respectively.
However, the Knicks were once again let down by the play of reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith. Against Atlanta, Smith managed just two points and four assists in 24 minutes on the floor while shooting 1-8 from the field and 0-1 from three. He was clearly outshined by rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. off of the bench, who finished with 13 points, four boards, two assists and three steals in 27 minutes while shooting 5-10 from the floor and 1-3 from long-range.
Smith’s struggles this season have been widely noted. In 17 games played, Smith has averaged only 10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and one steal while shooting only 34.2 percent from the floor. Sure, Smith has been killed for his inefficient shooting before, but 34.2 percent from the field and only 33.3 percent from three is far more extreme than we’ve ever seen.
There’s no telling what the deal is with Smith. The Knicks have tried to mix it up here and there by making him the starter, but that hasn’t helped either. What I do think the Knicks need to do to help remedy the problem, though, is to put Hardaway Jr. in the starting lineup in lieu of Smith.
I understand that Hardaway is young and unproven, but he’s been solid for New York this season and has been much better than Smith. Moreover, even if Smith is struggling, we’ve seen previously that he’s more comfortable coming in as a reserve.
Starting Hardaway instead of Smith, which they’ve done recently, may not be the cure-all for the Knicks, but it’s a step in the right direction. New York has started to show signs of life lately and this move could be something to really kick them into gear and, hopefully, kick Smith into gear as well.