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Is J.R. Smith a “punk” for his takedown of Leandro Barbosa?

Apr 4, 2012, 12:02 PM EDT

J.R. Smith was ejected near the very end of the Knicks’ loss in Indiana on Tuesday, for doing what he did to Leandro Barbosa in the video clip above. The loss was a brutal one for New York, considering the team led by as many as 17 points late in the third quarter, and has a very slim lead over the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The frustration level was understandable, but Smith’s actions on this play, a little less so. Equally puzzling was the fact that a writer for the New York Post took to Twitter following the game to express his displeasure with the play — and seemingly, with Smith as a person.

The tweet that followed seemed to indicate that in person, the takedown was much worse, because Smith was “baiting” Barbosa into the contact all the way down the court.

Barbosa is a high-energy player who can definitely annoy his opponent at times, and it’s especially true in this case, where he’s playing physical, full-court defense with the game having already been decided. I don’t know how much “baiting” was really going on here; Barbosa was just as much to blame for the contact as Smith … at least up until the point where Smith decided to throw him to the ground.

The play by Smith was clearly made out of frustration, and was definitely “unprofessional,” as his head coach Mike Woodson said about it afterward. But let’s be clear: this wasn’t Andrew Bynum laying out a player half his size in mid-air at the end of a playoff sweep. This came at the end of a sequence where two players were hand-fighting all the way down the court, and one player — Smith, obviously — had clearly had enough.

This was Smith’s take on the play, from Berman’s piece on the game.

“It was a tug-of-war,’’ said Smith, who came to the Knicks with a tough-guy rep. “The refs didn’t see it. They only saw the end of it. It happens. It’s just the frustration of the game. Bumping and the grinding, he was going at me, I was going at him. It was going on the whole game. Nobody really paid attention to it. I just got a little fed up with it.’’

The ejection was the right call, and if you’re the Knicks, you definitely don’t want to see one of your players going out like that at the end of a tough loss. But things like this happen. No one was injured, and Barbosa bounced up with glee after the play, knowing he was successful in getting into his opponent’s head.

Smith’s actions were indeed unprofessional. I would argue that the same could be said for a writer who covers the team resorting to very public, and very vague name-calling of one of the players he covers.

The word “punk” is a tricky one — I’m not going to get into all of the possibilities here, but let’s just say it’s more of a personal attack (or worse, the voicing of a personal perception) than is necessary when covering men who play sports. Say the play was dirty, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike, or anything else; this one was all of those things. But it’s the loud-mouthed fan’s place to throw out ambiguous terms aimed at hurting a player who he feels has wronged him or the game in some way — it shouldn’t be the media’s.

I will say this about the situation: Berman is not some faceless coward hiding behind an egg icon on Twitter, lobbing insults at someone whom he will never meet. J.R. Smith saw the comment, and retweeted it late Tuesday.

The Knicks play Thursday night in Orlando. The scene at shootaround when the team meets the media should be very interesting.

UPDATE: Marc Berman tweeted the following apology on Wednesday afternoon, which was great to see.


  1. detroittitan - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    JR smith is a punk in general this just adds to it, i remember hearing a scout saying the year of his draft…. ‘that if he was get his head straight and went to college to mature he would be a top 10 player in the nba’, its really sad how true this is so talented but such a waste, but in saying that hes probably paid for his tattoo artist kids college fund hah

  2. skids003 - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Was he a punk for this? Nah, he was already one.

    • LilTmac2003 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      I agree, but this still was a punk move.

      No class at all.

  3. illegalblues - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    name calling or not, he’s right about Smith. just calling em as he’s seein’ em, i don’t see an issue with that.

  4. urfinished - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    JR Smith is a punk for many reasons…but yes that is one of them.

  5. kxlllxst - Apr 4, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    that’s what barbosa gets for dancing and chirping in smith’s face after the dunk – i mean cmon man, youre a grown ass man, you better be aware that your actions have consequences

  6. fanz928 - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Why would a reporter from NYC even write this , ny lost and they have a dumbass reporter bashing on the team just what they needed

  7. tubal22 - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    He’s a punk, but I didn’t really see anything wrong with this play. I don’t think it deserved an ejection.

    • bowens3181 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:11 PM

      If you don’t think that that play deserved an ejection then JaVale McGee and you must have similart IQs…

      • bowens3181 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:12 PM


  8. cured76 - Apr 4, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Wow JR Smith did something on the court other than jack up another shot. At least he did this himself and not his sister.

    Favorite part: after he was tossed he looks around confused and says “for what?”

  9. mr9teen - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    punk 1 (pngk)
    1. Slang
    a. A young person, especially a member of a rebellious counterculture group.
    b. An inexperienced young man.
    2. Music
    a. Punk rock.
    b. A punk rocker.
    a. Slang A young man who is the sexual partner of an older man.
    b. Archaic A prostitute.

    No I am trying to understand where his actions last night fall in with ANY of these definitions. I am a Knicks fan and I WATCHED the game. I didn’t see anything punk like in his actions. He was being held from the moment the shot went up. He tried to disengage repeatedly and was not able to. Barbabosa got pushed down to the ground and Smith is the punk? If you were being held and were trying to disengage yourself would you refer to yourself as a punk? Berman and others and myself even may not like how many shots Smith puts up, his attitude on playing the game, his tattoos or him as a person but don’t make it personal. Berman put his feelings into the situation. Even the commentators courtside saw that he was being held tightly and was trying to get free. However Joey Crawford who was right in front of the play didn’t notice that tidbit. He even went back to the replay to check that the correct time had run off and failed to see it. I would love to see what you guys consider a foul. Berman should look at things through an objective eye.

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 5, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      I think the common understanding of the word punk would define it as someone disrespectful of authority and rules, which is how many would define JR.

  10. kxlllxst - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    i love how the media and public like to laugh at what happened with jr’s sister in china and act as if she was an out of control maniac – the racist crap she had to hear from those crowds would be enough to drive any one of us to the same reaction

    • eugenesaxe - Apr 4, 2012 at 4:35 PM

      She didn’t have to hear it, she could’ve stayed away.

      • kxlllxst - Apr 4, 2012 at 8:31 PM

        LMAO at this comment. Is that what they said in the south in the 50’s? thumbs down x100

  11. thebigkahuna23 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Definitely worth the ejection. But I see absolutely nothing wrong with what smith did. Barbosa must have picked up some tricks watching soccer because clearly he’s the instigator here. He starting the hand fighting down the court and Barbosa was fouling smith by holding his arm.

    Everybody seemed to miss that this was Barbosa trying to prevent Smith, who had better position, from possibly getting a rebound.

  12. rob0527 - Apr 4, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    He was a punk before, why do u think all the teams let him take his talent to Europe. They didn’t want to put up with this non-sense. The Knicks were able to get him at a bargain basement price and now they realize why he came so cheap.

    • kxlllxst - Apr 5, 2012 at 4:16 AM

      how does this statement have 9 thumbs up? JR Smith took his talents to CHINA, not Europe and he did so bc the NBA was LOCKED OUT, not because teams were passing on him

  13. anhdazman - Apr 4, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    The call was correct, but this is over blown, two guys locked up for positioning and JR Smith lost his cool. There wasn’t anything malicious or dangerous, just a guy losing his cool and getting tossed out of the game. Seen it before, you’ll see it again.
    The hit from New Orlean’s Smith on Blake Griffin was much, much worst.

  14. sellahh - Apr 4, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    I read this news while at work and one guy that doesnt follow basketball watched it with me. His reaction? “What happened really?” Seriously players shove each other every single goddamn time on boxouts and this was just an overzelaous and a little angry boxout, but that’s it. Nothing more.
    Flagrant 2? Are you kidding me?
    I wasn’t around when the game was played without all these Sternish rules so I can’t exactly say i miss the old days of the NBA but man… Flagrant 2?
    And you guys saying this play wasn’t half as bad as Jason Smith’s shove on Griffin… god, let’s not even go there, Blake is a ballerina and neither of those plays were even close to bad.

    • mr9teen - Apr 4, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Flagrant 2 no. I don’t even see it as being much of a foul. The game is called all different types of ways at different times. 5 minutes before that Chandler was clearly fouled by Amundsen and HE was called for the foul. The refs are craaaaazy!

  15. numba1recx19 - Apr 4, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    Who cares, frustration happens, it’s natural. “Punk” lol. J.R has always been one. Who cares, at least he’ll dunk on you errrday

  16. djlexluger - Apr 4, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Barbosa is a bitch he fought him the whole way up the floor.

  17. dysraw1 - Apr 5, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    bad timing is bad timing regardless JR. was pissed because the team blew a big lead and Barbosa played him .we dont got time for the petty crap. we have to stay focused and try to win as many of these 12 games as possible.

  18. 1historian - Apr 5, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Top 2 reasons I don’t watch the NBA any more:

    1) J.R. Smith for being a thug, and all the others who are like him – they seem to be the majority of the players.

    2) The major8ity of the posts here

    Prediction – One day Blake Griffin will get this same treatment, but it’ll be much worse.


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