Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

J.R. Smith doesn’t think it’s too early to hit Knicks’ panic button


It’s too early to hit the panic button with the Knicks. Yes, they are off to an ugly 3-8 start, but it’s too early to panic.

First, they will get Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton back healthy. Second, the offense will come around once those two are back — last season the Knicks had the Felton/Chandler pick-and-roll (surrounded by shooters) as a way to create shots other than just having Carmelo Anthony do it. Third, the defense also will improve with Chandler back.

Most of all the Knicks aren’t really losing much ground — even at 3-8 they are one game out of a playoff spot and one-and-a-half out of first place in the terrible Atlantic. A few wins and the outlook quickly changes.

J.R. Smith isn’t sold — he’s ready to panic he told

“We’re frustrated,” Smith said of where the team is mentally, despite most saying it’s too early to panic. “Like you say, it’s too early to panic, but me, personally, I’m panicking. I don’t like this.

“I don’t want to play 3-8 basketball,” Smith continued, in regard to the Knicks’ record. “I don’t want to play 50-50 basketball. If we’re going to be a championship-caliber team and call ourselves that, then we’ve gotta play like that. It can’t be no other way.”

The Knicks played well enough to win against the Pacers Wednesday — that effort would have beat 25 NBA teams, just not the elite few (and the Pacers qualify right now). There are no moral victories in the NBA, but if there were Wednesday night would have been one for the Knicks.

Keep playing like that and things will start to turn around —and in the East right now it just has to turn around a little for things to look much better.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.