ALL BALL NERVE CENTER – As if it wasn’t tough enough for Knicks fans to have to watch the Knicks struggle through their Game 4 loss last night to the Pacers, falling behind 3-1, a new Twitter account popped up to provide some gallows humor.
The account is named @DidJRSmithMiss, and it is as exactly self-explanatory as you might think. Do you need to know whether or not JR Smith missed that last tough jumper he squeezed off? This account will let you know. Since Smith was suspended for Game 4 in Round One against the Celtics, he has struggled mightily — he’s gone a combined 26 for 91 from the floor — so this account might just be rubbing salt in the wound for Knicks fans. But with the entire Knicks team in a rut, it might be worth a follow if only to keep things lighthearted.
This self-confidence runs especially deep in J.R. Smith, the Knicks’ recently crowned Kia Sixth Man of the Year, who embodies the “I’m-a-shooter-so-I’ll-keep-shooting” archetype. Since serving a one-game suspension in the first round against Boston, Smith has hit a cold spell, shooting a combined 12-42 in his last three games. (Even though he went 4-15 against Indiana, he did get to the free throw line 10 times and finished with 17 points.)
Regardless of how things are going, J.R. is going to play his game, and the Knicks are going to play their game. If you don’t like this, you can jump off the Knicks’ bandwagon.
And just in case you’re one of the ones jumping off, Smith tweeted a few tips yesterday evening so that you won’t injure yourself.
Reminder: Please fill out all paperwork in triplicate and make sure you leave no answers blank. Thanks!
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER – New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson‘s goatee doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Perfectly trimmed, densely populated, nearly symmetric, Mike Woodson’s goatee might be the NBA’s most wholly realized facial hair. And in order to fully explore Coach Woodson’s facial hair, the Knicks recently sent their “Kid Reporters” Ryan and Jaylah out to interview several Knicks players, to try and get to the bottom of the existential riddle that is Coach Woodson’s goatee.
Is Woodson’s goatee, as Carmelo Anthony suggests, completely detachable?
Does Coach Woodson dye it, Steve Novak wonders?
Is Mike Woodson actually 70 years old, as JR Smith asks?
Who knew when the season started that J.R. Smith would have more game-winning buzzer-beaters than Carmelo Anthony by 2013?
In the Valley of the Sun, Smith made another step in his transformation from streaky gunner to clutch leader by ending the Suns’ hopes with another last-second shot. Before the game-winner, he nailed a tough turnaround jump shot at the top of the key to tie the game at 97 with 10.6 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Sebastian Telfair accidentally stepped out of bounds to give Knicks the rock with one second left.
Cue the Knickerbocker heroics … and the demise of the Suns, who were already reeling from another Smith blow. Just before halftime, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic got out on the break when a streaking Smith ran by and clipped his right leg. Dragic fell in pain, left the game and didn’t return.
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?), and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?), and gives it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Smith’s shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s take a look.
With one second left, Jason Kidd dished Smith an inbounds pass on the baseline. In a singular motion, J.R. turned right, launched a 21-foot left fallaway leaner over the outstretched arms of P.J. Tucker. The pass was on the money enough to give Smith just a sliver of daylight to get his shot off. The only thing Phoenix could have done is send a taller defender at him. Easier said than done, because then that taller defender would’ve had to keep up with Smith prior to the pass. Considering the elusive quickness of Smith, that’s a lot to ask for. In short, this was a tremendous shot.
Game knotted at 97 in regulation. A miss puts the game in overtime.
Playing without Anthony and Raymond Felton on the road and coming off a Christmas Day loss to the Lakers, the Knicks were faced with a test. A win over the Suns would not only notch their first win of the road trip, but establish the Knicks as a team that can get it done in sticky spots.
With the game close down the stretch, Smith made play after play to keep his team close. He tied the game at 97, then ended it with two more points. In the absence of ‘Melo, the Knicks have called on Smith twice at the end of games. Twice, their faith has been rewarded. Twice, on the road.
Steve Novak sees the ball drop in the net in front of him and jets to a jacked-up Smith. Beating his teammates there, he wraps his arms around Smith as Tyson Chandler and Kidd comes jumping over the top. James White joins, then Marcus Camby flies out of nowhere to mob his heroic teammate. More arrive as they slowly walk toward midcourt. Genuine brotherly happiness.
4 1/2 Horrys. Some of you are thinking “whoa…easy now.” Four-and-a-half Horrys seems like a lot. The team wasn’t down. It was only the Suns. And he at least had a little room to get the shot off. All true. But so is this:
a) The Knicks were playing without their best player and starting point guard. b) This was on the road. Road games are road games … whether the opponent is the Heat or Bobcats. c) Smith led team down stretch, tying game on arguably a tougher shot than the coup de gras itself. d) This was second time this season — this month — that Smith finished off team when his number was called. e) The celebration unfolded organically; euphoric enough to play up the moment, cool enough to keep it in perspective.
From ‘c’ and ‘d’ alone, this was enough to elevate his standing.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Horry Scale has gotten more crowded.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks traveled to Charlotte to face the hard-playing Bobcats. With 3.4 seconds left, J.R. Smith took the inbounds pass at the top of the key and made his move left. He steps back and — with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all over the shot — nails another chance of a Bobcats upset this season.
For those that are new around these parts, the Horry scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?), and celebration, and gives it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, who is kind of the patron saint of last-second daggers.
How does Mr. Smith’s shot Wednesday night stack up? Let’s take a look.
By J.R. Smith’s standards, this wasn’t that difficult of a shot. This isn’t to say it was an easy shot, but anybody who has seen Smith play has seen him hit more improbable shots. Rookie Kidd-Gilchrist did everything he could to send the game into overtime, coming this close to getting a finger on the shot. Perhaps the most taxing part of the play for Smith was his statline prior. Anytime a player is shooting 5-15 and you ask him to nail a game-winner on the road and he does it, a tremendous amount of focus was used. No matter who was guarding him.
Game knotted at 98. 3.4 seconds remaining. A miss simply sends the game into overtime.
What a difference a season makes, for the Knicks and J.R. Smith. The Knicks boast the best record in the East, with a showdown against the Heat tomorrow. Smith has similarly undergone a metamorphosis of sorts, crediting a more hermit-like off-court existence for his improved play. Case in point: Smith passed up a chance to put Knicks up by dribbling the ball back out on a 2-on-1 fastbreak after a steal. If this was a season ago, it’s a good chance Smith goes for the win here. But this is a new season. New York promptly called a timeout to set up the final shot.
Why was J.R. taking this shot instead of Carmelo Anthony? ‘Melo sat out the final two minutes because of an injured right hand (after diving for a loose ball). Smith stepped into the primary playmaker role and executed, despite a terrible shooting game (1-9 from 3-point land).
A stone-faced Smith stood erect on the sideline as teammates came mobbing. He didn’t break stare. It was a mild enough celebration that evoked memories of Barry Sanders immediately giving the ref the football after a 27-yard TD run. In many ways, the celebration encapsulates the Knicks season so far: gritty and focused. Even Rasheed Wallace got in on the act.
3 Horrys. This was an early season matchup between the Bobcats and Knicks (a game that just screams marquee matchup). However, it was an entertaining affair, with a charging ‘Cats team itching to build a rep and a high-profile New York team looking to prove they are more than hype.
J.R. Smith knocked down a shot (the stepback) that he’s made a living on for nine NBA seasons, but this is the first time the shot went in with game-winning implications. The biggest takeaway was his calm and total disregard of early-game shooting woes. As Horry would appreciate, the mental fortitude needed to step up like this on the road can’t be ignored. It’s another indication of improving times for the mercurial guard.
There are many things that are probably pretty awesome about being a professional athlete. One of those things is definitely getting to be in a video game. If that’s not a “Look ma, I made it!” kind of moment, I don’t know what is. And even though it’s probably an honor just to be included, it’s still pretty hilarious when the video game makers differ in their assessment of a player’s abilities than the player himself.
Enter the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith.
Unhappy with his rating, especially in comparison to some of his peers, Smith voiced his frustration the way the kids do nowadays, over Twitter:
Smith goes on to call out Jared Dudley and Mike Miller as two players with perhaps undeservedly higher ratings than his, which to be honest, he’s probably right about.
Whenever this subject comes up (as it inevitably does when the game comes out each year), I can’t help but think of my favorite Madden commercial ever, where Packers’ WR Robert Brooks is shown playing as himself in the game and getting tackled from behind by a 49er, to which he responds, “Come on man – that don’t show my breakaway speed!”*
*I have scoured the internet and cannot find a link to this commercial – what gives Youtube?