JR Smith is, if anything, pretty honest in his post-game self-evaluation: "I don't know what the hell I was doing on defense."— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) December 2, 2013
When I heard that JR Smith had been fairly self-deprecating in his postgame comments for what has to be the 3rd or 4th time this year, a light bulb went off in my head, and I realized: I understand him.
To explain what I mean, I'll have to tell you a bit about myself. This is a story no one other than my parents and grandparents knows the full extent of, but I have no problem telling it here. False internet courage, I guess.
Anyway, I coasted through grade school while doing virtually no work other than assigned homework; I was smart enough to get As, Bs, and, on rare occasions, Cs without trying very hard. However, I was in for a rude awakening when I got to college. I started out as a Biology major, and about a month into my first semester, I had my first test in my Intro to Biology class. I hadn't taken any notes in class or studied for the test, so when I sat down to take the test, I had literally no idea how to answer any of the questions. I bullshitted my way through it, walked out, immediately dropped the course, and switched my major to Math. Math had always been my best subject, so I figured I'd be able to do that easily.
In the Spring semester of my Freshman year, I took two math classes. I was so confident in my ability to do the work that I had skipped close to three quarters of the class meetings, including some mid-semester tests. My (insane) rationale was that I could just get 100% on the finals and still probably get a B or a C in the class. Suffice it to say, I failed both finals and both classes on the whole. My parents were NOT happy, understandably. We had a huge argument in which I admitted to having acted like an idiot and promised to retake the classes. My parents forced me to see a therapist, hoping that would help. The therapist suggested that I needed to be left completely alone (normally, my mom would make sure I stayed on top of my schoolwork, even in college; I'd had a few scares in high school lack-of-effort-wise that made her feel the need to) and my parents agreed to do so.
Things got much worse when I was left to my own devices. In the Fall semester of Sophomore year, I went to virtually none of my classes, except for a general education class I was taking with a friend. To illustrate the ridiculousness: there was a class for which I had trouble finding the room on the first day, so instead of attempting to do something about it, I skipped that class and then every other one the rest of the semester. In the general education class, there was a final paper due that I didn't feel like doing and as such completely skipped. When I handed in the final exam to the teacher, he told me he'd have to fail me for skipping the paper. I failed that class, along with every other one I took that semester, which included the math classes I had "retaken".
Over winter break, I broke down crying during another argument with my parents, telling them I had no idea what my issue was and why I was making such terrible decisions. They told me I had to commute to school (rather than dorm there) in the spring and that they would force me to do the correct work. I had to read ahead in textbooks and take notes on the readings, take copious notes in class, and study for exams. I switched my major to Finance, assuming that a new start was necessary. This plan worked: my GPA, which to that point had fallen below 2.0, was a 3.5 for the semester. Over the next year, my parents slowly began backing off as I learned the correct way to go about studying, and although I was forced to spend an extra year in college, I graduated with a 3.0 GPA and am now going to law school. I'm still lazy from time to time, but I never skip class anymore and when I look back at what I was like when I first entered college, I don't understand what I possibly could've been thinking.
Here's the point: that's JR. He has a ton of natural talent, but doesn't use it correctly as he'd much rather hang out with his friends and party than put in the effort. He makes terrible decisions on the court, and has no idea why he made them once the game ends. I can see where he's coming from. I bet that every time he takes a contested fallaway jumper, he's thinking "Yeah, I could make a different play, but even if this one doesn't go in, I'll just make the next one." Same thing for bad defense. He assumes that he'll be able to make up for present laziness with future effort and results, but once he gets to the next play, he makes the same decision.
Woodson doesn't help in this regard. He assumes that giving JR a ton of free reign without any consequences is the best way to make him realize he's making bad decisions on his own. But it's not. It just exacerbates the problem. If JR's anything like me, and I think he is, Woodson needs to give JR literally no free reign until he's forced into correcting his mistakes. I realize that other coaches have tried to curtail JR and it's backfired, but the difference here is that JR trusts Woody much more than any other coach. The two of them need to sit down together and talk through JR's issues; then Woodson needs to explain that he's going to start sitting JR after every bad decision until he stops making them with such regularity. The main issue here is that since Woodson's a bad coach and the team's underperforming, he's probably not long for the job, but if Dolan's insistent on keeping him, then this is worth a shot. Neither JR nor Woodson has anything to lose. If it worked for me, it can work for JR Smith.