NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – J.R. Smith is off to a fantastic start for the undefeated Knicks, providing an invaluable scoring punch off the bench.
So what has changed from one year to the next?
To put it simply, the 27-year-old has matured.
After Knicks coach Mike Woodson acknowledged that the 27-year-old has become “more professional” this season, the New Jersey native admitted that he has toned down his partying as compared to last season.
“I’m not going to lie,” Smith said in regard to his routine last season. “The New York City nightlife pretty much got to me. I was going out pretty much every other night and not focused on the task at hand.”
Smith averaged 12.5 points in 27.6 minutes over 35 games for New York last season. In five games thus far in 2012, the shooting guard is averaging 18.2 points, 3.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 33.6 minutes per game.
“Every day I’m getting into the gym, getting in as much work as I can,’’ Smith said. “A lot of times, previously in my career, I had negative energy coming into the gym — not wanting to be there, joking around, goofing off. This year, it’s been more serious. I understand every road trip we take is a work trip, not just a play trip. You come and work hard. If I work hard, maybe the next guy will see me work hard. ”
It’s quite a turnaround in philosophy for the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder. According to Woodson, the former first-round pick of the New Orleans Hornets is wearing suits to games as opposed to sagging jeans.
And more importantly, he’s realizing that it takes more than talent to succeed at the highest level.
“I thought I could get by on talent a lot more than I thought,” Smith said. “I’m trying to think the game, taking my time, slowing it down. So far it’s been working. I’m trying to stick with it as much as I can.’’
Smith was disappointed prior to the season when he found out that he would be Woodson’s sixth man. But it seems that the professionalism of his coaching stuff has rubbed of on him, and he’s willing and ready to do whatever is asked.
“Being around the coaching staff, they’re very professional,” Smith said. “They’ve been on me for being professional. They’ve been on me about being professional since Day 1 when I got here.’’
Does Smith’s admission bother you, or do you give him credit for owning up to his behavior and changing his routine? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…