There are plenty of reasons a team may choose to bench J.R. Smith: his poor shot selection messing with the offense, his lack of defense, a wide range of off the court antics.
The Knicks benched Smith for the second time in four games Tuesday night, this one an eventual Knicks loss to the Bobcats where New York seemed flat and in need of a spark. The kind Smith brings when he is on.
What was odd was the timing — the Knicks already benched him one game for the shoe-untying incident, but he had come back and played in two games since them (playing more than 50 combined minutes and scoring 24 points). Then it was back to the bench Tuesday.
After the game coach Mike Woodson refused to talk about it, saying only he just didn’t play him.
“I stopped being surprised after the Miami game,” Smith said, adding Woodson gave him “no reason” for his latest benching and didn’t tell him he wouldn’t play before the game began. “I haven’t the slightest clue (what’s going on). . . . If I’m not helping the team, there’s no point in me being here….
Asked about the recent shoelace incidents, Smith said “for that to be the trigger point for all of this to happen is ridiculous.”
Smith has a point here. First, the shoelace thing is in the past and you suspended him for it, then brought him back. Maybe there was another incident. More than likely that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but then why play him the past two games? Why bench him again now?
Smith can officially be traded on Wednesday (because he signed a contract this summer he couldn’t be moved before Jan. 15) so some saw this benching as precautionary measure. Except, there is no trade market for Smith — he is owed $12.3 million for the two seasons after this one, his play is declining, plus there are all the off-the-court distractions he brings.
Whatever the reason, this is just another distraction and sideshow for the Knicks. Exactly what they need.