Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

Quote of the Day: J.R. Smith says defense “not my area of expertise”


“That’s really not my area of expertise. I’m more of a scoring-type player. I’ll leave that to those guys. Whatever they want to do, it’s OK with me. Just let me know.’’

—J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks, speaking about the changes Mike Woodson is bringing to the Knicks defense, via the New York Post (hat tip to SLAM).

The Knicks may go to a zone or try some other changes because it is their defense that is holding them back more than anything else right now. Woodson didn’t forget how to coach defense in the past couple years, but right now he can’t get his players to execute it in a consistent and energetic way. And their offense isn’t good enough to just outscore teams.

New York has five straight home games (they lost the first three of the homestand), if they are going to turn this season around now is the time.

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 NBA.com.

“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.