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J.R. Smith doesn’t want to come off the bench anymore

Jun 10, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

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J.R. Smith started a majority of his games as a rookie, but ever since – with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks – he’s been pigeonholed as an off-the-bench scorer. The role has suited him well. He won Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13, and he’s received a vote for the award in seven seasons.

The only problem: Smith wants to start – and has for a while.

Before the 2012-13 season, Smith explained his frustrations with being labeled a bench player. That year, Mike Woodson started 15 (!) players but brought Smith off the bench in all 80 of his games.

Again before the 2013-14 season, Smith reiterated his desire to start. Woodson acquiesced a bit and started Smith 37 games of his 74 games, including a very effective stretch. But that’s still 37 games off the bench, probably more than Smith would have preferred

With Woodson out, Smith sees his opening.

The problem is Smith’s production really dipped most of this season. If Smith continues to regress at anywhere near that same rate, it won’t be a choice about balancing the rotation. He’ll no longer be worthy of starting on an average team.

The good news for Smith? The Knicks are not an average team.

They have just four guards with guaranteed contracts for next season: Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Felton is facing felony gun charges, and Phil Jackson might trade him. Either factor could lead to Prigioni playing more point guard rather than as a secondary ball-handler – if the 37-year-old can handle it. If Carmelo Anthony leaves, Shumpert would probably play more small forward. Hardaway is promising and might soon be better than Smith if he isn’t already, but it would be easy to build a case Smith remains the better player. (And if Hardaway is better, maybe Smith will start for the same reason he came off the bench all those years – so the rotation is balanced.)

All things considered, the path to Smith starting at shooting guard is pretty clear.

If he can stay out of his own way.

Smith got away with quite a bit under Woodson, and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher might not be so forgiving.

Fisher’s top assignment is selling Melo on the Knicks’ future, but handling a locker room full of veterans – many of whom, including Smith, are highly paid – will be another challenge. Maybe Smith begrudgingly accepts a bench role, as he did for Woodson. Maybe Smith makes Fisher’s life a little more difficult than that. With Smith, it really could go either way.

Welcome to New York, Fish. The players are already testing you.

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  1. mcjon22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Bench players come off of the bench J.R.

    • lacolem1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      lol Best, most succinct explanation yet.

  2. unxpexted1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Looks like JR is grabbing Fish’s balls.

    • lethalweapon4 - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      JR WILL FIND OUT THAT COACH FISHER IS NOT A SUCKER!HE SHOULD JUST ASK PHIL TO TRADE HIM NOW!I WANTED TO TRADE IMAN BUT NOW I CHANGED MY MIND!JR.SMITH YOU GOTTA GO!TOO MUCH YOU AND NOT ENOUGH TEAM!

      • bball242322 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:20 PM

        You don’t have to yell about it

      • 00maltliquor - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:45 PM

        YES HE DOES!

  3. jhb64 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    I want a lot of things. Smith has to earn it. Le is a big baby !

  4. loubearkane - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    JR if you come off the bench we’ll give your brother a contract

  5. campcouch - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Felton is facing FELONY gun charges and Jackson might trade him.

    …….I’ll bite…..what team out there thinks that sounds good. Trade for a guy that goes to jail for 2 years.

    • bougin89 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      Even without the gun charges(which I agree are a gigantic red flag), does anyone really want Felton? They certainly wouldn’t give up any value for him.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        Sad thing is for the Knicks is that J.R. Smith isn’t all that much better than Felton…

        Felton Career PER 14.3

        JR Smith Career PER 15.4

        But Felton is an even worse shooter than Smith (somehow).

  6. jcmeyer10 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    Is there a chance Philbert had a discussion with Fish about his plans and that included starting Smith and is there a chance that leaked to him?

  7. duhwighthoward - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    This guy is a few too many tattoos removed from reality

    • paleihe - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      This made me LOL.

  8. johnnyg1021 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    THIS TEAM IS THE BEAT. ITS GOING TO BE JUST LIKE THE 70’S IN NO TIME.

    • jcmeyer10 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      The louder you yell, the more likely it is to happen.

  9. biggredbird76 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    AINT NO ONE PAYIN JR “IM SHOOTIN THIS” SMITH TO START

  10. nykfanwakemeupin2015 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    I wonder if he does these things to keep himself from being traded

  11. alexb1234 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    SHUTUP JR!!!

  12. papichulo55 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Nothing wrong with JR, or any player, wanting to start. Hopefully, Coach Fisher lets the players know, at the first team meeting, that minutes, and game starts, must be earned. Let JR know that there is a new sheriff in town, and that his gameplay is the only thing that will determine his role.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      nope, starting doesn’t mean much…

      it’s the min’s played that matter…

      the more JR Smith plays, the more shots he misses though…

      So treat JR like Kendrick Perkins of the Thunder.

      Kendrick started EVERY game he played in this year…

      YET he played LESS than 20 min’s per game average…

      That’s the only way I’d start JR Smith…

  13. cantonbound13 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    I highly doubt Smith & Felton are on the team after the trade deadline.

  14. tuucamaron - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Really?

  15. jlaws007 - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    As far as Melo leaving, as was mentioned above; I am SO sick of people talking about it !! I DO NOT believe Melo is going anywhere !! We will be a playoff team next year, and with the talent we have coupled with the influx we will get I see a DEEP run !!

  16. scoochpooch - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    This just in, JR Smith is out of the NBA. Bon voyage.

  17. mazblast - Jun 10, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Smith wants to start in the NBA. So do I, so do most people here. The questions are those of abilities, suitability, and performance.

    Smith should be smart enough to know that he has a darned good gig as a sixth man–but he isn’t that smart.

  18. cscamp20 - Jun 11, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    Can you tell me a player who doesn’t want to come off the bench? JR always runs his mouth! He just wants attention

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