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Chris Smith's anxiety-filled season with Knicks reminds us that players are people

As his older brother stands out as a Cavalier, a closer look back at Chris Smith's time in New York reminds us of the potential impact of our words.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Smith is still training, hoping for another opportunity to play in the NBA. The former Knick had a somewhat infamous tenure in New York, finding himself the target of derision and ridicule as he struggled to meet expectations. Jared Zwerling took another look at Smith's time in the NBA, and the anxiety that threatened to permanently derail his professional dreams. It's a worthwhile look at a man who failed to establish himself in the NBA, and the real impact public criticism can have on players' lives.

The younger of the Smith brothers faced about as much criticism as any Knick during his time with the 2013-2014 roster. He signed as a free agent with the team in September, and in December he was waived. Smith's Knick career: Two minutes played, no points scored, no rebounds bounded, and no assists dished. It's difficult to combat cries of nepotism when Smith wasn't even able to take the court for the team. Was his failure reason enough for the hate that he received?

The NBA is a grind. The season is long, and it's an exclusive club. To make it in, you have to be the one of the most elite players on earth. It's a nonstop hustle to outwork every other talent trying to earn their own NBA contract. For fringe prospects like Chris Smith, who weren't able to impress scouts enough to get drafted, getting into the NBA requires a combination of luck and effort.

Despite, and at times because of his celebrity older brother, Chris faced heavy pressure to stand out as a guard prospect. To be clear, he is a legitimate NBA prospect. Standing 6'2" and weighing a burly 200 pounds, Smith has the ability to shine as a defensive point guard. He tried his best and wasn't able to make an impact on an NBA team. For the crimes of not standing out and of being related to J.R. Smith, Chris endured insults and barbs from fans using him as a punching bag to take out their frustration on the team. It's one of the uglier sides of sports, and it left Smith breathless at night trying to stay focused on his hoop dreams.

It's often said that New York is a tough market to play in because of the media attention. Fans are ravenous and haven't seen a championship NBA parade since 1973. Still, it's worthwhile to consider the impact of our tweets and comments. These players are real people, with real hopes and real fears, and the constant negativity can threaten to break the spirit. On June 25, the Knicks will draft a young man and he will face the heavy expectations that come with his draft status. He may even struggle as he begins his life in the NBA. Through his journey, it will be important to stay positive and focused regardless of those difficulties. It might behoove us as fans to offer support, or at least resist sending out negativity. Chris Smith was always a journeyman prospect, but troubles with anxiety and fear of disappointment affect everyone. His story can still serve as a lesson, and it's one worth considering.