Earl is a Knick and he is here to stay, that’s a fact. The day that he signed here from China I was a happy camper. Although his signing made me smile at the time, the last 2 years I have moved the needle on Smith from smile to frustration to joy and back again. His boneheaded plays along with his boneheaded off the court issues make me wonder what is going on in his head. I can look past stupid twitter comments and even the marijuana issue, but what I cannot look past is his unbelievably inconsistent play on the court.
Smith’s silky smooth jumper is a beautiful thing to watch, but what drives me crazy is his horrible shot selection. This is nothing new, as he has always driven coaches and fans crazy with that, but after last years career All-Star caliber play in the latter part of the season (at least what I thought was career changing at the time) I truly believed J.R. turned the corner in his career and was about to become and All-Star. Wow was I wrong. Not only did J.R. come back to planet earth but he also crashed and burned on orbital re-entry. I have never seen a player crumble the way Smith did. His horrible play was the biggest reason the Knicks bowed out of the 2nd round of playoffs last year.
I am not pointing the finger solely at Smith, but let’s be honest he is not a 2nd option, and Woody viewed him as just that…a second option. That was the main problem.
This year they are back at it again. J.R. has returned to the team on a long-term lucrative deal and he again has the admiration of a coach in Mike Woodson. The question is will Woody live and die with J.R. again or will he pull the plug when he needs to and go to Shumpert or Hardaway Jr. when he has to?
Coach Woodson has a stubborn side. We all know that by now. If coach wants to get out of the 2nd round this year and battle the much-improved Nets team (on paper at least) he will need to let go of his stubbornness and look down the bench when players on the court are slumping (J.R.) or just not playing well. When we call Woody stubborn the name J.R. comes along with it. If you stick with J.R. more than 30+ a game and you do not harness and monitor his minutes he will sink the Knicks again like last year.
I am not saying Smith should not play, so let’s not get that twisted in the wind, but what I am saying is that Smith needs to have his minutes watched very closely; treat him like the 6th man that he is and NOT a 2nd option to a hopeful championship caliber team.
These little decisions can turn into big ones that affect the outcome of the season.