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JR Smith benching leads to best performance of season for Knicks

New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson finally decided that he had enough of JR Smith's antics. The fatherly approach wasn't working with Smith so Woodson decided to punish the NBA's sixth man award winner from last season for making him and the rest of the team look like fools.

With JR Smith benched during Thursday night's game against the Miami Heat, it allowed the New York Knicks to play their most complete team performance of the season with an impressive 102-92 win over the Miami Heat
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Smith was benched on Thursday night in the Knicks’ 102-92 win over the Miami Heat on national TV, punishing the guard for his recent shoelace antics. The benching came twenty four hours after Smith was fined $50,000 by the NBA for recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct. declined to comment on Smith before the game against the Heat and had nothing to say about it afterwards.

“I’m not addressing anything about J.R. Smith,” Woodson said before the game

“I’m not commenting about J.R. Smith,” Woodson said afterward.

It was the first time in his New York career that Smith did not play because of a coach's decision. He arrived at Madison Square Garden expecting to play and never was told by Woodson that he would be glued to the bench for the evening.

"There hasn't been any talk," Smith said. "That's the most misleading part of it. I can see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it. But it is what it is. We got the W."

Smith untied Shawn Marion's shoelaces during the Knicks' 92-80 win Sunday over the Dallas Mavericks. He was warned by the league not to do it again before the Knicks' next game against the Detroit Pistons. Smith then seemed to attempt to untie the shoes of Pistons big man Greg Monroe while lined up at the free throw lane during that game. He was fined $50,000 for his antics, which Smith thought was a bit excessive.

"In my eyes, yeah," he said. "The first time it was done, everybody thought it was hilarious. The second time it was done, it wasn't really done. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. I'm not going to fight it.

"If we play hard and we win, I'm happy. If we play hard and lose, I'd have something to say. As long as we keep winning, I'm fine."

Smith is not certain if he will play tomorrow night when the team travels to Philadelphia to play the Sixers. He is not even sure if his future is with the New York Knicks.

“Honestly I don’t even know,” said Smith. “At one point I was, for sure, and now it’s rocking the boat.”

After the incident in Dallas, the league had warned Smith not to do such stunts like that again. But JR being JR, he didn't think the warning was serious.

“Yeah, pretty much. They warned me, but it wasn’t one of those warning where you go ‘Oh damn,’ it was one of those warnings where you really don’t know the outcome of it," said Smith. "You don’t even know if it was a warning or what it was. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really change anything now. We won. We beat Miami, a championship team, so you can’t complain.”

Woodson had mentioned he had talk with Smith following the incident in Dallas and that Smith said he wouldn't do it. It only took minutes into the game against the Pistons to break that word. Woodson was less than thrilled when the league announced the fine after he tried to untie Monroe's shoe. He called the shooting guard's conduct not acceptable and was very critical of him.

"I'm not happy about this because he was warned, he comes back, and he makes the same mistake, and it's not right," Woodson said. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop.

"It has been unprofessional about how he's approached this whole thing. Something's gotta be done. It has to stop. I'll address it tomorrow when I see him, and then we'll go from there."

Maybe this is the kind of thing that might ignite his game, which has been big disappointment this season. Smith is averaging just 11.3 points and shooting a career low of 34.8% from the field. He is making 62.8 percent of his free throws, down from 76.2 percent last season. Last season, Smith won the NBA's Sixth Man Award after averaging 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 80 games. His performance last season was rewarded by New York by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract in the offseason.

But it seems very obvious that it is quite difficult to get through to Smith's head.

"Mentally he's good," Carmelo Anthony said. "Probably he's upset today that he didn't play. Mentally he should be good. It's not life or death. Things happen. Situations happen. We move on. I need him Saturday in Philly."

The future of JR Smith remains to be seen but it's quite clear that the New York Knicks are tired of his act at the present moment. After Thursday night's win, it looks as if the Smith needs his team more than they need him.

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