By Sean Hartnett
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J.R. Smith drove Knicks fans crazy during the opening round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. Smith became a bricklayer as he missed shot after shot against the Miami, going 24-for-76 (31.5 percent) from the field as the submissive Knicks were eliminated by Heat after five games.
You all know the story of J.R. Smith. He’s always been a rough diamond of a player. Infuriating to coaches, he can make fans pull their hair out with his inconsistency. When he’s hot, Smith can shoot the lights out with the best of them.
Always accused of being too trigger happy from behind the arc, Smith was actually instructed by Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson to shoot more this season — and he’s become New York’s second best scoring option behind superstar forward Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks could have easily washed his hands of Smith after his dismal playoff performances, but he’s back and playing a crucial role off the bench as a vital second unit scorer.
Friday night’s performance against the Dallas Mavericks was the latest example of Smith’s consistency. That’s right… I used J.R. Smith and consistency in the same sentence. Shocking, isn’t it?
Smith was ultra-efficient in front of home fans at the Garden on Friday night. He went 8-for-16 (50 percent) from the field and sunk all three of his attempts from three-point range.
It’s not just his offensive game that is blossoming in ninth year in the NBA. Smith ripped four steals against the Mavs and is averaging 2.25 steals per game to go along with his 17.5 points per game and 3.3 assists per game.
He’s finally filling up the stat columns and matching his on-court performances with the talent that everyone knew was underneath the surface.
If there’s any player who symbolizes the Knicks’ metamorphosis from underachievers to the NBA’s lone remaining undefeated team — it’s J.R. Smith.
It would be hard to imagine the Knicks having a 4-0 record without Smith’s all-around contributions and energy off the bench.
Mike Woodson and General Manager Glen Grunwald must feel relieved in their decision not to part ways with Smith. He’s finally developed into a player the Knicks can rely on.
Knicks fans – Are you surprized by J.R. Smith’s contributions off the bench? Can he keep it going? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.