By Max Marcilla
On July 10th, 2012, J.R. Smith re-signed with the New York Knicks. The details of the contract stated that Smith would be in orange and blue for two years, the second year was a player option, paying him $2.8 Million. Now his first season is up, and with Smith very likely to opt out of the second year of his contract, the Knicks have a huge decision to make, do they sign Smith or let the 27-year-old test free agency?
This year, J.R. Smith turned his career around. Guided by Coach Mike Woodson, Smith became a key part to the Knicks 54-win regular season on and off the court. A player, who had struggled with the law and chemistry with coaches, as well teammates, was now a leader. This showed in his performance for the majority of the season.
The 2012-13 season was by far the best year of Smith’s career. J.R. won the 6th Man of the Year award, averaging 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, both the best marks of his career. But what made him so good was his ability to drive to the basket late in the year during that winning streak.
In the early stages of the season, J.R. was an inconsistent player as usual. He could have nights like November 13th in Orlando when he scored 21 points in 31 minutes on 9/14 shooting, but he could also have nights like November 26th in Brooklyn when against the rival Nets, Smith scored 5 points on 2/7 shooting in a losing effort. Most of his damage early in the season was off of jump shooting and three-pointers.
On March 18th, the Knicks were struggling. They had just lost their fourth straight game on the west coast and were banged up in every way. Carmelo Anthony had knee issues, Amar’e Stoudemire was recovering from knee surgery and Tyson Chandler was recently injured with a bulging disc in his neck. However help was in the form of J.R. Smith. J.R. helped turn the season around. Smith played extraordinarily well in Utah on the 18th, and with the absence of all three of the Knicks “stars” Smith, along with Kurt Thomas, led the team to a win, the biggest and most needed win of the year.
But it wasn’t all “butter” for Smith that game. The first half was dreadful, as his jumpers weren’t falling. At halftime, he made adjustments that he continued for the next 12-½ games (all wins) and the rest of the regular season: He drove to the basket. Smith finished with 20 points (18 in the second half) as he had a new style of play.
After playing incredibly well in the final months of the season, Smith got ejected and suspended one game in the post-season for an elbow to the face of Jason Terry. After that, the “old J.R.” st showed up on the scene. Smith shot under 29% in the Conference Semifinals against the Pacers, and averaged nearly 5 points less in the series then he did in the regular season.
Not only was his performance poor on the court, but in two separate occasions during the post-season, J.R. was seen at nightclubs the night before a game, once watching a boxing match, and once spotted with Rihanna.
A player who looked changed in the regular season went back to his own ways helping the Knicks exit much sooner then they wanted too.
After the Game 6 loss, the last game of the Knicks season, Smith was asked about his future. He said “”I want to retire a Knick; I don’t want to go anywhere else. I love it. I love my teammates. I love my coaches. I was sitting in the locker room looking at my jersey after the game just knowing I don’t want to be anywhere else except for in the orange and blue. So we’ll see.”
What do you think Knicks fans? Can the Knicks rely on J.R. Smith to be a consistent second scoring option for Melo, and re-sign him, or should the Knicks let the reigning 6th Man of the Year test free agency, and maybe not retire a Knick?