On Sunday, February 17, 2012, the New York Knicks acquired shooting guard J.R. Smith when they signed him as a free agent. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Smith returns to the National Basketball Association after signing and playing for Zhejiang of the Chinese Basketball League during the NBA Lockout. Smith is a career .428 shooter, including .371 from three-point range.
Smith made his Knick debut on Sunday, February 19, 2012, against the Dallas Mavericks when he checked into the game at the 5:43 mark and quickly got a steal, hit three three-pointers, grabbed a rebound, but, more importantly, sparked the team on a 17-0 run against the defending champions. Smith finished the quarter 3-6 from the field for nine points with a steal, assist and rebound.
Smith would go 3-10 the rest of the game, and finished the game 6-16 from the field, including 3-9 from three, good for 15 points, to go along with three rebounds and two assists. In one game, his debut for the New York Knicks, you were able to see the good and the bad in signing J.R. Smith.
Does Smith improve the talent of the team? Absolutely. But his career statistics show that he is overrated as a shoot. He is also a high volume shooter, taking 16 shots to score 15 points yesterday. If Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni can figure out when to play him when he is hot, and when to sit him when he is not, combined with him not becoming a problem on the bench when he is not playing, this could be a good move.
The acquisition of Smith will have an adverse effect on Landry Fields as well. In Sunday’s game, Fields was 6-12 with 13 points, four steals, four rebounds and two assists, but only played 27 minutes, all in the first three quarters, as he didn’t play in the fourth quarter at all. Smith, meanwhile, played the entire fourth quarter.
Possible diminishing returns for Landry Fields, poor shot selection, low shooting percentage, and bad decisions off the court, are the reasons I didn’t like the signing of J.R. Smith as a New York Knick. His talent, and ability to spark the team in short stretches like he did yesterday, are the reasons he was coveted by other teams and eventually signed by the Knicks. Fans hope that we see more of the good, and a lot less of the bad. Only time will determine whether we see more of the good or the bad of J.R. Smith.