The P&T staff will preview the 2014-2015 with a series of questions. We made a list of 2,015 Qs (actually 2,000,015 before we narrowed it down) and will open them up for discussion one by one until the season starts. First: Should J.R. start? - Seth
Oh hey, you have a valid opinion about JR Smith? Well thats just fantastic, because don't we all! Just hold on to it for a minute and- oh, ok. yes, fine. skip to the comments. i'm sure you'll crush it. Thankfully our opinions won't hold much accord with the fine folks making decisions at Camp Knicks. They will have to wonder, though-- after ten years in the league, is JR finally ready or ever going to be ready for a starting gig? He's never had a coach willing to grant him that extra bump in dignity for a whole season. Maybe the new regime is willing to make that philosophical distinction for him.
In fairness to JR, he's had his sights set on being a starter for a while, and has never really whined about not truly getting the nod. Which should be commended. He's always powered through, and been the best teammate he could be, even if that was a maddeningly inconsistent one. Last season Swish started 37 games, the second most of his career. The only time he bested that, he was as a 19-year-old rookie for the New Orleans Hornets playing in front of NBA stalwarts like Dan Dickau, Speedy Claxton, Boki Nachbar, Casey Jacobsen and the one and only Lee Nailon. He miraculously pilfered 56 starts from those mopes out of 76 total games played. He's significantly better (and more consistent) now than then. I'll happily leave it at that.
Last season, J.R.'s slow start was leveled out, statistically speaking, by season's end. He was getting spot starts in the early going, but closed out the final month and change as a full time starter. Although the Knicks were a bad team, they were still pressing to make the playoffs late in the year, so his last month's stats and starts shouldn't be wholly dismissed. It was, however, a viscerally disinterested team. While Carmelo cooked out, Pablo Prigioni operated, Tyson Chandler was completely checked out, Raymond Felton's putrid play oppressed, Iman Shumpert's cautious calamities orbited, Mike Woodson's pathetic parenting odiously planted polymers of piss-pain obliterating the pass posse offense... and so on. I guess what I'm trying to say is: the sense of togetherness we saw in the 2012-13 season totally evaporated.
This year is a semi-contract year for Earl. He has a $6.4m player option for 2015-16, when he'll be 30 years old. Its a reasonable deal for both sides. Put together a good season this year, and maybe he commands more money on the open market. If he opts out, the cap space will only help the team's ability to posture for a fancier free agent. If he opts in, we have a second and conclusive contract year to work with. At that point he should still have plenty of miles left on his legs, because he actually plays pretty close to the ground. Certainly JR can fly, but he really uses unorthodox pivoting, spins and hesitations to get where he wants to go. He also reads pin-downs pretty well, knowing when to curl or fade and how to attract a second defender. Young Swish is also one of the most aggressive hot-hand-feeders in the NBA. That should translate really nicely to old-man ball as he loses some of his loping explosiveness.
So now is the time on Posting & Toasting when we discuss the triangle. Not X's and O's specifically, but the philosophy, mental preparation and focus it requires to be made successful. When the triangle is lauded for its success, the teams are Confident, Omnipresent, Naturally Sentient Teammates. Exterminating Leviathans, Leaving Atmospheres Terrifically Insurrectional. Only Needing Selflessness. When the triangle a-she's a-no good, you stinka up-a the coach-a job, and how you say: develop rifts. No one can operate fluidly under those circumstances, and I do mean cook.
Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and staff will need to instill confidence in individuals and let it radiate onto the whole team, and there needs to be a symbiosis going in every direction. JR is notoriously hard to reach, but undeniably talented (or perfectly average) in basically every facet of the game. Now he's also talking about taking an interesting next step as a player, and thats becoming a leader in his own way. Not a vocal leader, but one to be followed by example.
If his example is that of a player who works hard clearing the possession on defense, and involving his teammates on offense, we should be in store for some good times. If getting the starter's job gives him the confidence, focus and motivation to be driven, and prove he can handle the responsibilities, why have so many coaches hesitated to make the call? Has his time finally come?
Here's a player comparison you might want to take a gander at. Of those three players, you have to assume at least one will be a starter. So what if I told you there can only be one? Do you start as much defense and rebounding as you can (Shumpert), and bring a boatload of gun-tacular offense off the bench (Smith and Tim Hardaway)? Or would you rather start out with your most leveled player and substitute for that push your team needs? Hardaway is far and away the fartiest party dog among our consulate of wings. Shump is dumping out the starch on defense, but humping and gumping on offense. Swish, as the elder statesman among them, is dishing out that pu pu platter.
Is it time to don JR, son of Earl, a starter for the New York Knicks? I certainly think so, it just seems right. What do you think? Shout it out in the comments!