New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York

J.R. Smith blames postseason struggles on his upsetting of ‘the NBA gods’


J.R. Smith has had a rough go of things, on and off the court, ever since a single boneheaded decision he made during Game 3 of the Knicks’ first round playoff series against the Celtics.

With his team leading by 19 points at the time and well on their way to a 3-0 lead in the series, Smith maliciously elbowed Jason Terry, which resulted in a one-game suspension.

His shooting percentage plummeted from then on, and Smith was never able to make better than 38.5 percent of his shots in any of his remaining eight postseason appearances.

Smith traces his struggles directly to that elbow he threw at Terry, which he says upset the basketball gods.

From Ian Begley of ESPN New York:

Why did J.R. Smith struggle so mightily in the postseason last spring?

Smith himself has an answer for you.

“I call it ‘pissing the NBA gods off,’ ” Smith said. “You’re making, making, making a lot of shots — and you mess with the basketball game and the game gets you back. And it definitely got me back.”

Smith also underwent knee surgery over the summer (but only after he made sure to sign his new contract), and will serve a five-game suspension whenever he’s healthy enough to return due to violating the league’s drug policy.

It would seem that the basketball gods have punished Smith plenty for his transgression. But as Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said recently, it may be time for him to grow up a bit and start taking some personal responsibility.

Report: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.

Report: Hawks co-owner made more money by exposing Danny Ferry’s Luol Deng comments

Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson
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A terribly kept secret: Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wanted to get rid of general manager Danny Ferry.

Many believe that’s why Gearon made such a big deal about Ferry’s pejorative “African” comment about Luol Deng – that Gearon was more concerned about ousting Ferry than showing real concern over racism.

Gearon had another, no less sinister, reason to raise concern over Ferry’s remarks.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

While Gearon felt that Ferry, as he wrote in the June 2014 email to Levenson, “put the entire franchise in jeopardy,” Gearon also figured to benefit financially from a Sterling-esque fallout.

In the spring of 2014, Gearon was in the process of selling more of his interest in the team to Levenson and the partners he had sold to in September. The agreed-upon price for roughly a third of Gearon’s remaining shares valued the Hawks at approximately $450 million, according to reports from sources.

“We accept your offer to buy the remaining 31 million,” Gearon wrote in an email to Levenson on April 17, 2014. “Let me know next steps so we can keep this simple as you suggested without a bunch of lawyers and bankers.”

Approximately five weeks later — just a little more than a week before the fateful conference call — Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Clippers, a record-smashing price that completely changed the assessed value of NBA franchises. Gearon firmly maintains he was acting out of the sincerity of his convictions to safeguard the franchise from the Sterling stench, but such a spectacle also allowed him to wiggle out of selling his shares at far below market value.

Gearon and his legal team later challenged the notion that the sell-down was bound by any sort of contractual obligation and that any papers were signed. Once the organization became involved in the investigation, the sale of the shares was postponed.

Arnovitz and Windhorst did an incredible amount of reporting here. I suggest you read the full piece, which includes much more background on the Gearon-Ferry rift.

Considering the Hawks sold for $850 million, Gearon definitely made more money than if he’d sold his shares at a $450 million valuation.

Did that motivate him? Probably, though it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Most likely, his actions were derived from at least three desires – making more money, ousting Ferry and combating racism. Parsing how much each contributed is much more difficult.

What Ferry said was racist, whether or not he was looking at more racism on the sheet of paper in front of him. His comments deserved punishment.

But if Gearon didn’t have incentive to use them for his own benefit, would we even know about them? How many other teams, with more functional front offices, would have kept similar remarks under wraps or just ignored them?