Anyone not see this coming?
J.R. Smith has real strengths as a player — he can get hot from deep, he can attack the basket, and he is one of the best in the game at making contested shots. It’s a skill set that won him Sixth Man of the Year just a couple seasons ago. But he is an unconscious, unrepentant gunner who looks for his shot and has never had much interest in whatever team concept the coach was preaching.
Now in comes Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher and they are putting in the triangle — an offense that asks its players to be aware of the defensive movements and make specific plays based on them, a very team-first system that needs all the players (particularly the role players) on the same page to get the proper floor spacing.
Smith admits he is struggling with that. Shocking. Here is what he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Smith said when asked if he has had to make a conscious effort to play differently. “I mean, believe it or not, being the type of player I’ve been, it’s a struggle. I’m not going to lie.
“Trying to think about the rest of the team over myself or my scoring is something that I never really had to do before,” Smith continued. “I’ve always been in a situation to score, [now I’m] in position to take my time and let the game come and let my teammates succeed more than myself, I think that’s the ultimate win.”
Well, the first step to recovery is acceptance…. but I seriously doubt Smith is going to change his ways. Jackson said before that Smith has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot, is that really going to happen in his 11th season?
“It’s not that complicated. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes it’s hard for players to understand exactly how (they) fit into this sequence of events. But that’s what we’re trying to do as a staff is to give them the idea (that) there’s an orderly way to play this game and when you do that it’s logical, there’s good shots. You play defense from it. You have second chance opportunities. You limit the turnovers and the transition by your opponents and it puts you in position to win.”
Part of the challenge for Jackson coming in was this roster was just not triangle friendly with the players it had. Carmelo Anthony can be a great fit, guys like Jose Calderon and Tim Hardaway Jr. can fit, but aside that there needs to be heavy roster turnover the next couple years to get the right role players in (and another star or two, but that’s a separate matter).
Smith has a player option for $6.4 million next season. He said he wants to retire a Knick, but if the cap jumps this summer to help smooth in the coming flood of TV money it will be tough for him not to jump into those waters.