Last night the Knicks benched their controversial clown of a sidekick J.R. Smith in a win over the title favorite Heat. Just one year ago, Smith took home the Sixth Man of the Year award, helping lead the Knicks to the second best record in the East. With an expiring contract though, just about every common fan could foresee the Knicks overpaying Smith. To the Knicks’ credit, they did not award him the type of 5 yr/$50 million type deal that many expected. They kept him in a Knick uniform for a price of $18 million over three years. By all statistical measures though, Smith is still one of the most overpaid players in the league. He’s followed up his career year in true J.R. fashion, shooting 42% from the field and 35% from behind the arc. Statistically speaking, Smith is one of the worst players in the league this year. His PER is below 10 at the moment (9.91 to be exact), when around 13 is average for the league.
Anyone who remembers watching the 2004 McDonald’s All American game remembers seeing their first glimpse of J.R Smith doing crazy things and putting up 25 points on 10-16 shooting, in just 20 minutes. He took home the MVP honors from the McDonald’s game. Smith had the look of a young Vince Carter, a freak athlete, but he also had a filthy range that most players don’t develop until they’ve been in the NBA awhile. It looked like a matter of time before Smith was a young franchise player for a lucky NBA team. This would be the first time Smith would leave scouts salivating at his potential. Smith would go on to tease, frustrate, and enrage fans and coaches during the next seven years leading up to his arrival in New York. He’d continue to do J.R. Smith things time and time again. But for every posterizing dunk, every game where he’d knock in 11 three’s, he’d get fined, or say something he shouldn’t have said.
A simple search of J.R. Smith on Deadspin yields far more results than most athletes. He has proven adept at making consistently bad, or least strongly questionable decisions. For many fans, that is what actually pulls them to him. When fans tune in to watch Smith, they expect something crazy to happen– whether that be a dunk from the foul line, a double-teamed fadeaway three with 20 seconds left on the shot-clock, or untying an opposing player’s shoelaces, fans now know to expect insanity from Smith.
It’s impossible to rank all of Smith’s amazingly absurd stories over the years. The latest “story” involving him untying Shawn Marion’s shoelaces at the foul line, then subsequently disobeying the league and his coach’s warnings by attempting to pull the same trick the next night barely scratches the surface of absurdity. Smith has been an avid user of Twitter over the past few years, for his own detriment and everyone else’s entertainment. Two years ago, his Twitter followers got an up close look at “The Girl with the Biggest Ass Ever.” Last year, Smith offered “the pipe” to a supposedly underage girl on Twitter. We’ve seen hilarity on his Twitter feed:
We’ve seen him apparently threaten entire cities via Twitter as well. At this point, we know who J.R. smith is. We know he is one of the biggest clowns in the league, who also happens to have some of the most physical talent in the league as well. He should be a perennial All Star, but instead he doesn’t even start. He will get fined. He will do things that people didn’t know were even humanely possible.
Smith will continue to underachieve so long as he plays for a player’s coach like Mike Woodson. The only way that Smith would ever reach the fringe of his potential would require him to go to a team like the Spurs. A team with a stable of respected veterans and a no-nonsense coach could possibly keep him under wraps. But until that day comes (and spoiler alert: it won’t), Smith will continue to put up shot charts that even the most artistic pre-schoolers would never dream of re-creating. All we can do is sit down and appreciate the absurdity that is J.R. Smith.