The J.R. Smith saga may have reached a breaking point following the New York Knicks 108-98 loss to Charlotte on Tuesday night.
Following a $50,000 fine last week for untying opponents’ shoelaces, and head coach Mike Woodson questioning his maturity and motivation, Smith has become a pariah in the Knicks rotation. Now it’s believed the talented but erratic shooting guard’s days in New York are numbered.
The 15-23 Knicks had won five straight before falling to the Bobcats, and seemed ready to go on a run and play like the conference contender many expected before the season began, but Smith and Woodson’s head-butting has taken center stage at Madison Square Garden.
According to the New York Daily News, the latest drama started after Smith was angered by Woodson’s benching of him in the overtime victory over Phoenix on Monday. Smith had missed what would have been the game-winning shot in regulation, and Woodson didn’t start him in the extra period.
The two exchanged words, and Smith was benched for the second time in four games against Charlotte on Tuesday night. Smith hasn’t been alerted before the game by Woodson, either time he’s been benched.
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“Communication from my end is over,” said Smith.
He also added that he’d like to fix the problem, but is unsure as to what it is.
The past week of minor infractions is nothing new for Smith, who was suspended for the first five games of the season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy and made ominous threats to Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings in a minor feud on Twitter.
New York would have had a much easier time unloading Smith last year, before the two sides agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract, and before the 28-year-old with nine-years of pro experience underwent knee surgery this past summer. Smith hasn’t recovered well from the operation, shooting 35.7 percent from the field and his 11.4 points per game is Smith’s lowest output since his second-year in the league.
Smith is owed $5.9 million next year, and holds a $6.3 million player option in the final year of the deal, a clause he’ll likely exercise since he’s won’t get equal compensation on the free agent market.
One of the names tied to frequent trade rumors of late is Denver veteran point guard Andre Miller, who would be an excellent locker room presence for the Knicks and provide depth and insurance for when Raymond Felton returns from injury. However, SI’s Chris Mannix squashed any chance the Nuggets make a move for Smith.
Lowry, Hinrich Still On Block
Along with Miller, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich remain two of the most sought after floor generals on the market.
Before completing a three-team deal with Boston and Miami that netted them Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks on Wednesday, Golden State was very high on Lowry, but according to Ric Bucher the team was concerned about how well the 27-year-old would gel with the Warriors unselfish locker room.
The Raptors were also reportedly asking for more in return for Lowry, who has played at an All-Star level over the past few months with his contract set to expire at the conclusion of the season. Lowry has previously caught the eyes of teams like the Lakers, Nets, and Knicks.
Hinrich’s $4 million contract also expires this summer, but his career-low 34 percent shooting this season could actually prove more costly to contenders looking for veterans for a postseason run.
Chicago won’t make any deal that requires them to take on any huge contracts. With Derrick Rose out once again, the Bulls are plotting their future and it likely involves better positioning for free agency. As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bulls are hoping to meet with possible free agents LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Consolation plans involve stealing guard Lance Stephenson from Indiana.