There’s a lot wrong with the Knicks this season. But on the offensive end of the floor, the drop-off in production from J.R. Smith has to be near the top of the list.
Smith was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year a season ago, and averaged 18.1 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting. This year, Smith is off to a much slower start. In the 10 games he’s played, his minutes are similar, but he’s scoring 11.7 points per game while shooting just 32.8 percent.
After receiving a free agent contract in the offseason, Smith underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He missed the first five games of the season serving a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, but has appeared in every game since, mostly with below average results.
Smith admitted after Friday’s loss in Denver — New York’s eighth straight — that the knee has been bothering him.
“My jumper just hasn’t been there,” Smith said. “That’s situations where I got to make my teammates better, get guys open shots and keep driving to the hole. But one thing, I’m not going to stop shooting.”
Asked if his surgically repaired left knee has affected his shooting stroke and his overall play, Smith admitted: “Somewhat, but it’s all right, I’m still playing…It’s taking time. I’m not one to make excuses, but I got to play better. If it’s hurting that bad, then I shouldn’t be playing. I’m out there and I’m going to try to give it all I got.”
The loss of veteran leadership in the locker room has been a factor, as has the loss of the team’s defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler due to injury. But the Knicks need any help they can get to improve an offense that ranks 24th in the league this year, after being third in the league last season. Whether or not Smith is able to regain something similar to last year’s form will go a long way in determining just how much progress can be made.