Will Thursday Be J.R. Smith's Last Game as a Knick? | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / August 8.
  • Will Thursday Be J.R. Smith’s Last Game as a Knick?

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    GREENBURGH, N.Y. — J.R. Smith was backed into a corner of the gym and surrounded by about 20 media members during an interview at the Knicks’ practice facility Wednesday.

    Then Knicks’ assistant Darrell Walker walked out of a nearby door, noticed the situation and said to Smith, “Got you backed in a corner, huh young fella? You know what happens when they back a dog in the corner?”

    “I know,” Smith answered with a smile, “we gonna find out.”

    The situation was a perfect metaphor for the Knicks, who are down 3-1 to the Indiana Pacers and face a must-win situation in Game 5 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

    If the Knicks don’t win that game, they will be on summer vacation and facing a baggy day here on Friday.

    “I’m very disappointed to be in the position that we’re in but we’re still not out,” said Smith, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year who is struggling mightily in this series, shooting 28 percent and averaging 13.3 points per game.

    He is not alone in his shooting struggles. Jason Kidd hasn’t scored since April 23, a stretch of eight games. Iman Shumpert and Kenyon Martin also both went scoreless in Game 4.

    Carmelo Anthony went 9-for-23 in Game 4 and failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter.

    “We’re still in a good position to where we can still make some noise,” Smith added. “We just gotta take it game-by-game. We can’t look ┬áno further than one game because if you lose you go home so it’s a unique position to be in but we’re still in a position [to advance].”

    Since taking a 3-0 lead on the Celtics in the first round, the Knicks have lost five of their last seven games.

    If they lose again in Game 5, it could turn out to be Smith’s final game in a Knicks uniform. He holds a player option for next year and is expected to test the free agent market, as my colleague Moke Hamilton wrote in this column.

    “No, I’m not even worried about that,” Smith said when asked if that possibility had occurred to him.. “I’m so worried about playing well and having my teammates play well that that’s the last thing on my mind.”

    Smith — and his teammates — need to turn it around quickly in order to keep their season alive.

    Despite coming off a fever of 102 degrees, Smith went 7-for-22 in Game 4 for 19 points. He was 3-for-10 from the arc.

    After the game, he took the heat, saying the Knicks’ predicament is all his fault.

    “Because I haven’t played the basketball that I’m accustomed to,” he said by way of elaboration. “I haven’t been getting to the basket, getting to the free throw line, making shots. Make a conscious effort to rebound and do all the things you’re supposed to do as the quote-unquote Sixth Man, the player that my teammates need me to be.”

    Smith acknowledged there was a “fine line” between trying to shoot his way out of his funk, and trying to get his teammates more involved.

    “It’s definitely a fine line because knowing you need to score [you] can end up missing guys who [have] a better opportunity to score than you,” Smith said. “It’s not all about scoring.”

    Yet when asked if he needed to change his approach or simply make more shots, Smith seemed inclined to go with the latter.

    “I┬ábelieve doing what we do better because what we’ve done as a team got us to that second seed,” he said. “What I’ve done as a player has got me where am I am, where my team is. It’s just a matter of us doing what we doing better.”

    Only eight NBA teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, and the Knicks are 0-12 in such scenarios.

    But Smith said he and his teammates can’t even afford to think about the big picture right now.

    They need to win one game on Thursday and then hope to bring the series back to Indianapolis.

    “The big picture right now is so at the end of the tunnel you just gotta chip away,” Smith said. “We’re behind the eight ball and we’re just going to have to get it down to that corner pocket.”

    And if they can’t, J.R. Smith could be playing his last game in a Knicks uniform.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.