J.R. Smith has been called many things. Some say he's immature. Some say he's a wild-child. Others say he's a pure scorer. Most agree he's an enigma. However, it's his experiences playing for the Denver Nuggets and in China that led him to signing with the New York Knicks where he found a coach whom he could look up to. Upon signing with the Knicks Mike Woodson was an assistant coach. He then became the head coach of the Knicks and Smith found a father figure he could look up to and learn from. As a result, Smith has become a more reliable teammate and professional basketball player.
J.R. Smith was born Earl Joseph Smith III but most know him as one of the best sixth-men in the NBA. Smith is a 6'6", 220 pound combo guard mostly known for his shooting guard skills. He was drafted 18th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets. He played for the Hornets from 2004-06, the Denver Nuggets from 2006-11, the Zhejiang Golden Bulls in China from 2011-12 and signed with the New York Knicks in 2012 where he remains to this day.
Smith is 27 years old and entering his prime as a player. Despite not getting his wish of becoming a starter this season Smith is thriving in his customary role as a scorer off the bench. The difference is, he's now playing defense at a high level and passing the ball with great court vision. Something has changed.
It's not like he did anything special or crazy. Smith finally realized that he could feel and play better when they get regular sleep. He's eating more healthy and generally taking better care of himself. He's finally become a professional.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reports Smith has finally decided to take his career seriously and take his talents to a new level.
"My thing is, being professional 24 hours a day – 24 hours a day, seven days a week,'' Smith said at the shootaround this morning. "I can’t let myself slip as well as my teammates slip. In order for me to hold them accountable, I have to hold myself accountable. I go out here and there. I definitely have to choose my spots. Definitely not before games. I’ve been smart about it.’’
Of course, his twitter followers know he still is no angel based on his wee-hour tweets from clubs, but he has toned it down and you can credit Woodson, whose aim was to make him more professional when he took over last season. Carmelo also said it was "night and day.''
Smith has put himself in a position to be trusted and relied upon by his teammates. He's prioritized taking his game to a higher level and has finally concentrated on team goals instead of individual ones. Smith, like the rest of his New York Knicks teammates, has a championship on his mind. He wants a ring.
As a result, he's taking better care of himself. He's not partying all night and trying to help his body recover. He's paid to not only play basketball but also work out and remain in shape. Since prioritizing his career he's seen a huge difference.
Everyone in the NBA is stilled. Even the players that the average fan looks at and laughs off as a bum could show up to your local gym and look like Michael Jordan. One of the main things that separate NBA players of equal skill from one another and from a marginal player to a major competitor is mind set. it appears as if Smith has finally mentally gotten himself focused on his job.
While it is doubtful that Smith will keep shooting 72 percent from three-point land, and will go through his customary ups and downs during the season, it is good to see him take his craft seriously. It is maturity like this that has the Knicks off to a 8-2 start and thinking about competing for an NBA championship.
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