Woodson, J.R. get into heated exchange day before Smith’s one-shot night vs. Celtics

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Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

News learns that J.R. Smith’s shot selection has begun to wear on Mike Woodson, who has been among guard’s biggest advocates in the past.

J.R. Smith’s self-imposed freeze-out during Friday’s loss to the Boston Celtics came one day after Smith and head coach Mike Woodson exchanged heated words following Wednesday’s win over the Chicago Bulls, the Daily News has learned.

According to a team source, Woodson admonished Smith for poor shot selection during the Bulls game and then became upset over something Smith said on the bench. Woodson waited until afterward to express his disappointment with Smith’s attitude and reminded the volatile shooting guard that he’s been his strongest advocate for the past two seasons.

“Mike said that after all I’ve done for you I can’t have you talking back to me like that,” the source claimed. The same source added that Smith made a lewd comment that angered Woodson.

During Thursday’s practice, Woodson used the game film from the win over the Bulls to demonstrate moments when Smith forced shots when he could have passed. Smith’s response to Woodson’s coaching lesson was to attempt one shot in 27 minutes against the Boston Celtics.

Prior to Friday, Smith was averaging 11.6 shots per game over 16 games. Smith’s first and only shot attempt came in the fourth quarter when the Knicks were outscored 22-13. Smith, the Knicks’ third-leading scorer, finished with just three points.

When asked about Smith taking just one shot, Woodson told reporters, “I don’t know what that’s about.”

For his part, Smith insisted that he was trying to be a playmaker, not a troublemaker. In fact, Smith made it sound as if he was simply following Woodson’s orders.

On Saturday, J.R. Smith only scores two points against the Hawks.

Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

On Saturday, J.R. Smith only scores two points against the Hawks.

“I was going into the game trying to make opportunities for my teammates to excel,” he said. “We need playmakers, more than just scorers. My job is to get my teammates the easiest buckets we can and we’re not getting those, so I take it upon myself to sacrifice my shot to get the other guys going. And it might not be the right way, it might be the right way, I don’t know.”

Smith acknowledged that it’s uncommon for him to take just one shot. When asked if that had ever happened before, Smith replied: “Uh… nah. I don’t think so.”

Smith, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, has yet to regain his form after having knee surgery in July. He was also suspended the first five games for violating the NBA’s drug policy. Physically, Smith isn’t close to being where he was last season and his frustration revealed itself on Wednesday.

RELATED: MELO GOES OFF WHILE J.R. SEES BENCH IN KNICKS’ WIN OVER HAWKS

Smith and Woodson have had a love-hate relationship similar to the one Jeff Van Gundy shared with John Starks. Van Gundy would be brutally honest with Starks, who normally responded to Van Gundy’s demands by cursing under his breath and leaving everything he had on the floor. Under Van Gundy, Starks was named Sixth Man of the Year in 1996-97.

Smith became Woodson’s pet project two years ago, starting with the head coach demanding that Smith not wear sagging pants to work. This year, their relationship is being tested amid all the losing and the prospect of Woodson being in danger of being replaced.

Two weeks ago, Woodson responded to Smith’s claim that it’s time to push the panic button by joking that he needed to punch Smith in the mouth. Behind the scenes, Woodson was not happy with Smith’s “panic button” comment, which may be the reason Smith conveniently repeated the line after Friday’s loss.

When asked about J.R. Smith taking just one shot against C's, Mike Woodson tells reporters, 'I don’t know what that’s about.'

Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

When asked about J.R. Smith taking just one shot against C’s, Mike Woodson tells reporters, ‘I don’t know what that’s about.’

“My panic button has been on,” Smith said.

There is a feeling that Smith’s relationship with Woodson changed in October when the head coach admitted to reporters that Chris Smith’s chances of making the roster were enhanced by being J.R.’s younger brother.

Woodson wanted to add an established veteran to the roster as opposed to the younger Smith, who is currently on the Knicks roster but playing for Erie of the D-League.

Woodson’s comments only fueled the notion that J.R. Smith’s decision to re-sign last summer included a handshake agreement that Chris would also make the team. It also put Chris Smith in an awkward position of defending his place on the team to fans, media and even opposing players.

J.R. Smith seems to have been affected the most by the departures of veterans Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby. Last month, he cited the Knicks’ lack of leadership as a troubling issue.

Knicks president Steve Mills was hired after the team was put together and now has the unenviable task of trying to upgrade the talent without many assets to trade. Mills, who ran the Garden when the Knicks last reached the NBA Finals in 1999, is no doubt thinking the club needs to get better players and better characters.

Getting Tyson Chandler back from a broken leg will help in several areas. Meanwhile, the Knicks are in talks with the Toronto Raptors about acquiring point guard Kyle Lowry but are opposed to including a 2018 first-round pick in any deal. They also don’t want to include Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr. However, if they want Lowry and want Toronto to take back Raymond Felton and Metta World Peace, the Knicks have to include either Shumpert, Hardaway or a future first-round pick.

The feeling is that Mills is against trading away future draft picks since Garden chairman James Dolan included picks in the deal for Carmelo Anthony and Glen Grunwald included picks in last June’s trade for Andrea Bargnani.


Daily News – Sports

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