May 19, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
J.R. Smith had an incredible regular season for the Knicks, and was every bit deserving of the Sixth Man of the Year honor he was given for that performance.
He also was brutal in the postseason, struggling to find his shot ever since he was suspended for Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics.
Smith’s field goal percentage dropped from 42.2 to 33.1 from the regular season to the playoffs, and his three-point shooting went from 35.6 percent to 27.3. Because he couldn’t hit shots at the rate he was accustomed to, his scoring was down nearly four points per game in the postseason.
The Knicks couldn’t afford this much of a dip in production from someone who was relied upon all season long to turn in big shooting performances to support Carmelo Anthony offensively. There is plenty of blame to go around for New York’s elimination in Game 6 at the hands of the Pacers — head coach Mike Woodson’s questionable rotations, along with the disappearance of Tyson Chandler and ineffectiveness of Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire all played their parts.
Smith’s disappearance might have been the most glaring, though, considering how great he was in a sustained effort over the course of the season. And it couldn’t have helped his standing around the league as he’s likely to enter free agency this summer.
Smith has a player option for next season for just under $3 million, but is expected to opt out of that for a multi-year deal at a higher per-year salary. How much higher is the question, as the Knicks don’t have much in the way of cap space they can spend on Smith in free agency — even though he says he wants to play for New York until he retires.
“I want to retire a Knick. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Smith said. “I love my teammates, I love my coaches. I was standing in the locker room looking at my jersey after the game and just knowing that I don’t want to be anywhere else except in the orange and blue. We’ll see.”
Still, when asked if he’d be willing to take less money to remain in New York, Smith hedged and added, “I haven’t even thought about all that, that far. I still have to talk to (agent) Leon (Rose) and see where we’re at.”
If he means what he says, a lot of it will be up to Smith in terms of dollars he might be willing to leave on the table to stay in New York for the next few seasons, because he’s certain to get at least a couple of teams to offer him more than the Knicks can pay.
Interestingly enough, Smith may have unwittingly helped his cause to remain in New York by his poor postseason performance, which has to have lowered his value on the free agent market.
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