JR Smith Receives Five-Game Suspension for NBA Substance Abuse Violation

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JR Smith has been suspended five games without pay for the 2013-2014 season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

League sources have disclosed Smith was cited for marijuana, which warrants a five-game minimum.

Smith had a breakout season last year for the Knicks, notching Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. His performance earned him a three-year, 17 million dollar deal with New York earlier this summer.

Smith is expected to miss the first month of the season after undergoing knee surgery in July. The suspension will begin with his first eligible game of the season.

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JR…JR…JR. I guess this should be expected with him having way too much idle time on his hands. I’m not going to flip out about weed, if that’s indeed what he tested positive for, but actually getting caught? JR damn well isn’t the only one in the league that has a recreational puff every now and then, but as a league vet he should know all the tricks to ensure he doesn’t embarrass the team. Leave that fuckery to guys like Michael Beasley.

With that said, I have another concern with whether this is the only drug JR is indulging in. There were rumors in the last few games of the Celtics series, and second round with the Pacers, that it wasn’t just Rihanna’s vagina that had JR playing badly. JR was linked with coke-filled wild parties and that would explain his horrid 33% shooting in the post-season.

What’s done is done. Knicks fans know by now that JR is a knucklehead. But he’s OUR knucklehead, and the man will rightly get a standing ovation at his first home game back.

Panic Time – Knicks Remain Hapless On Offense (And Defense), Now in 3-1 Hole to Pacers

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Carmelo Anthony said before last night’s “must-win” game four that the Knicks would learn a lot about their character. Based on that quote, we’d have to conclude that the Knicks are a bad shooting, whiny,, unfocused and flawed group. Now that is a tad harsh, but Knicks fans the world over are calling for the blood of a bunch of teams members from Coach Woodson on down. After a second abysmal effort, this time resulting in a 93-82 defeat, the Knicks find themselves in a daunting 3-1 deficit  headed back to Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

I won’t sit here and claim to have all the answers, but the glaring concerns I witnessed last night need to be corrected if this team has any shot of extending the series.

 

CAN ANYONE SCORE???: There were omens from the outset that the Knicks were in trouble. Iman Shumpert, trying to help lift the scoring load off Carmelo Anthony, went 1-5 in the first quarter. No one else was in sync and the team was shooting 9% at the seven-minute mark. Our offensive ineptitude negated the six turnovers Indy committed in the opening 12 minutes, allowing them to have a nice 23-16 lead courtesy of a 9-2 run to end the quarter. And while Roy Hibbert wasn’t killing it on offense, he managed to still be a force with 5 rebounds (4 offensive).

 

STOP DOUBLING THE POST: Remember how thrilling the Knicks look when they’re hitting three-pointers? The role has been reversed over the last two games since Coach Woodson has insisted that the Indiana bigs (West, Hibbert) get double-teamed every time they get the ball in the post. They simply pass the ball out, where it’s moved around the perimeter to an open man. For this game, it was George Hill and Lance Stephenson eating off this stupid strategy. Too often we saw the deja vu image of a Knicks guard scrambling to the perimeter too late and the Pacers extending their lead via another open trey.

The Pacer threes, combined with their 30-18 edge in rebounding, allowed them to push their lead to 48-34 at halftime.

Do you think any adjustments were made? Of course not — more doubling in the second half, and more momentum-crushing open threes kept the Knicks subdued for the rest of the game.

 

WHEN OUR FATE WAS SEALED: Despite how bad we looked, the Knicks were able to get within eight early in the fourth behind some much-needed three-point shooting from Chris Copeland. That potential run went to hell when Woody inexplicably benched him to insert Jason Kidd, who literally hasn’t scored a single point in the last month.

So what happened? How about Kidd leaves Lance Stephenson open for a three that pushes the lead back to 11. And on the Pacers next possession, Stephenson makes the driving layup to put the lead at 74-61. You could tell the team’s spirit was broken and the game was essentially over at that point.

 

OFFENSE WOES CONTINUE: JR Smith continued the worst shooting slump of his career, going 1-8 in the first half and 7/22 for the game. Melo had 24 points but on 9/23 shooting and got held scoreless in the fourth before fouling out. Raymond Felton contributed 14 points and did his best to look for his shot.

The team as a whole shot 35% and look demoralized for most of this game. Our three-point shooting, which is essential for this team, was a wretched 8/28 for 28%.

 

CAN WE TURN IT AROUND: The Knicks certainly have the right mix of veterans to come back, but I don’t think they have confidence that they can beat the Pacers. As has been the story all year, the team deflates when faced with tough, physical defenses. With Melo and JR being the only ones who can consistently create their own shots, the Pacers can opt to zero in on them with double teams when they enter the paint, and remain confident they can be contained with man to man defense anywhere else. The other Knicks rarely cut to basket or move off screens, making our offense very predictable when the three-point shot is taken away.

Woody’s stubborn rotations, coupled with bad court leadership from our team captains, has brought us to the brink of elimination. To at least go down fighting, Pablo Prigioni needs to get Kidd’s minutes. Chris Copeland and Steve Novak are defensive liabilities, but at this point our scoring drough is more dire. Play them to space the floor. Dust off Camby and see how he does guarding Hibbert. At the very least, he knows how to box out and block a shot. 

Judgement day is tomorrow, guys. Now it’s really a must-win.

Knicks Blow 26 Point Lead in 4th, Hold Off Celtics to Take Series

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Nothing comes easy in the playoffs, and the Knicks found that out in spades over the course of six games against the Boston Celtics. It was smooth sailing in the first three games until New York found themselves in an absolute dogfight from games 4-6. As nerve-wracking as these battles were for Knicks fans, the adversity the team had to endure can only help them since this round to the championship will not get any easier.

 

THREE QUARTER FOCUS: For the game’s first 36 minutes, the Knicks played like a squad determined to make amends for their putrid effort in game 5. The defense was absolutely stifling in the first half, causing the Celtics commit 11 turnovers off 6 blocks and 8 steals. While Carmelo Anthony was still struggling to shoot the ball, he was getting mostly good shots and not forcing the issue as others stepped up. Pablo Prigioni was the first half X-factor in nailing three treys. At one point, the Knicks lead 21-5. After one, it was a 24-10 cushion in favor of NY.

There was a 5-minute scoring drought in the second that allowed the Celtics to pull within nine, but a Melo three-point play off a pullup bank shot pushed the lead back to 39-27 at halftime.

The third quarter was a clinic with the Knicks hitting five three-pointers. The catalyst here was Iman Shumpert, who swished two of them and helped the ball movement immensely with his scoring. He did an appropriate “jet taunt” aimed at Jason Terry following the last one that pushed the lead to 67-47. Outside of a Raymond Felton tech for complaining, it was a near-flawless 12 minutes.

 

THE NEAR-COLLAPSE: The fourth quarter was one of the most absurd things I’ve seen all year from the Knicks. They continued attacking the rim and got the lead up to 75-49 off a Shumpert putback dunk just a few minutes in the quarter. You’d think it was a wrap on but once again, the Knicks showed a complete lack of killer instinct and let Boston go on a completely inexcusable 20-0 run (yes, you read that right), that allowed them to get within four points (77-73). Not only did the Knicks commit four sloppy turnovers, but they weren’t getting set on defense and shying away from the big moments on the offensive end. Felton and JR appeared unsure of themselves and everything went back to Melo isolations. To our superstar’s credit, Melo was able to hit some clutch free throws and a pullup jumper to get the lead back to six (81-75). However, putting Iman Shumpert back into the starting lineup is what stopped the bleeding as he got another steal taht lead to a fast break layup.

Melo’s three-pointer, followed by a block on Paul Pierce and JR three-point play, finally iced the game with a little under two minutes remaining.

 

THE POSITIVES: Iman Shumpert was the MVP of this game as far as the Knicks are concerned. He was all over Paul Pierce (4/18, 14 points), and contributed 17 points on 6/9 shooting. Shump was two-way player last night and never got flustered during that 20-0 run. Tyson Chandler’s been hurting the whole series, but he’s made gradual progress returning to form and did well on the rebounding and defensive front (9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks). He got his team a few needed offensive rebounds down the stretch, and did a good job on Kevin Garnett (15 points, 10 rebounds) late in the fourth despite being burned on post moves a few times.

Felton didn’t have a monster game (11 points on 5/14 shooting), but he was very consistent in moving the ball (7 assists) and driving to the lane. My only issue with him was the complaining. He runs this offensive ship and has to stay focused with the game of the line.

 

THE GAUNTLET ONLY GETS WORSE: If the Knicks thought the defense of the Celtics was rough, they’re in for absolute hell when they take on the Indiana Pacers tomorrow. Roy Hibbert and David West will be all over anyone that comes into the lane. The Knicks, specifically Carmelo Anthony, need to ready themselves mentally for the pounding and inevitable missed calls inside. The whining only turns the refs against them, so that needs to be hammered home by Coach Woodson.

The Knicks also need to realize that no lead is safe. Every tem that’s made it this far in the season is dangerous. When you get in position to have your foot on someone’s neck in a game, you don’t let up — you break it. Death blows kill confidence and prevent 20-0 runs.

 

MELO: This is the one player I’m worried about in this Indiana series. Melo’s nursing a shoulder injury and since this Celtics series wasn’t wrapped up quickly, the Knicks get right back into a dogfight tomorrow. Along with the physical issues, Melo’s been struggling with his shot over the last three games. If the Knicks have any hope of getting off to a good start, they need their leading scorer to at the very least have a decent game.

With all that said, the Knicks have accomplished another season goal of getting out of the first round of the playoffs. After a 13-year drought, that’s cause enough celebration (and relief).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaNIYfZpmek&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Rasheed Wallace Announces Second Retirement

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After suffering another setback with his left foot injury on Monday, Rasheed Wallace has announced a second retirement.

In his 21 games this year, the 38-year-old Wallace was an instrumental part of the Knicks early season defense and three-point shooting success. However, he hasn’t played a game since mid-December due to a stress fracture on his left foot.

Wallace underwent surgery and attempted a return on Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats. After 3 minutes he was forced to sit after re-aggravating the injury.

“Rasheed has given this team everything he had,” said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said in a statement. “He is a winner, true professional and leader on and off the court. Due to his injury, he will not be available to play for us during the playoffs.”

Wallace averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds during his Knicks tenure. His retirement opened a roster spot which the Knicks have already filled with former Wizards players Earl Barron.

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Sad news but not surprising. I wasn’t expecting Wallace to come in and be a big contributor with so much time off. The fact that he couldn’t even go five minutes made this an easy decision. Still, you have to salute Sheedfor making the move quickly to allow the Knicks a chance to work in a new player.

As has been for the last three years, Knicks fans are left to wonder what this team could have accomplishedwith everyone healthy for a full season.

Knicks Resign Quentin Richardson for Rest of Season

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After waiving center Solomon Jones on Monday following two subpar games, the Knicks announced yesterday the surprise resigning of 12-year veteran Quentin Richardson.

Richardson has been out of the NBA this season, but spent 4 years with the Knicks from 2005-2009. During that span, he averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds.

In his last NBA stint in 2011, he averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds over 48 games for the Orlando Magic.

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The Knicks made it clear after Jones got dropped that they were looking for another wing player. That made most Knicks fans believe all our bigs were set to go. Then after Rasheed Wallace had to leave Monday’s Bobcats games early because of a sore left foot, the talk went back to possibly signing another backup big.

No one saw Quentin Richardson returning to the Garden. I admit, I have bad memories of those dark seasons. However, Q-Rich has always been a no-nonsense guy who as a Knick had several confrontations with Celtics players. At the very least, he’ll be physical. Now we don’t need him being as physical as we see below, but I wouldn’t mind him popping Garnett one time. Welcome back, Quentin!

[Video] Steve Novak’s Funny Message to Nate “Little Nathan” Robinson

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It was another bad loss last night to the Bulls, but Steve Novak gave Knicks fans something to smile about. As most know, Nate Robinson likes to run his mouth and in recent years seems to get off in beating his original NY team. After hitting a three-pointer last night, he mocked Novak’s Discount Double Check belt celebration. When asked about it after the game, Novak gave the below classic response. JR Smith is really rubbing off on our three-point specialist. I love it!

[Poll] Charlotte or Phoenix – Which JR Smith Game Winner Was Better?

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JR Smith has activated his “clutch gene” this year courtesy of two dramatic game-winners over the Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns within the last month. Both shots were made under pressure from tight defense, but which jumper was the better shot? Personally, I give the Charlotte one more style points because of JR’s smug pose afterward while being mobbed by his team mates. But when you look at the difficulty of the Phoenix shot coupled with just a second left and the need for Jason Kidd to deliver a perfect pass, I’m going with JR’s dagger to the Suns. What really made both shots great was the Knicks fans being deep on the road and making the reactions look like Madison Square Garden.

Take the Night off, Melo — Knicks Stomp the Heat… Again 112-92

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Y’all should’ve listened to Chris Bosh over the summer. When he was asked what team he thought would be their toughest challenge in the East, he mentioned the Knicks as being very underrated. Now everyone else sees what he meant, as the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony completely destroyed the Heat in Miami for their second consecutive blowout. It was a beautiful night for Knicks fans and a wake-up call to the so-called observers out there that who comes out in the East is not a foregone conclusion. Onto my thoughts.

Live by the 3 and Murder the Heat With It: For the second game, the Knicks took over 40 three-pointers (44). NY hit 18 of them (41%). No, the Knicks weren’t just jacking them up most of the time. They were open shots from ball movement — the Knicks did a great job with spacing (Miami Coach Spoelstra even called Tyson Chandler’s lob threat “vertical spacing”), preventing the Heat from just staying home on any particular three-pointer shooter. And the Knicks had them in abundance — Steve Novak dropped 18 points (4-9 from downtown) and Raymond Felton was 6-10 from behind the arc.

Felton Is Fearless: What more can be said about Raymond Felton? It’s an amazing story considering where he was last year with Portland. The man was drawing ohhs  and ahhs from how he was crossing over Miami guards and big men alike to get into the lane and sink jumpers. Felton’s stat line was 27 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and just 3 turnovers. He rose to the challenge of picking up Melo’s scoring hole but also kept the rest of the team involved. By the middle of the third quarter, Felton was walking with a definite swagger in his step.

The Heat Was Beat Into Submission: A Mike Miller buzzing-beating three to end the first gave Miami a 26-23 lead after one. From then on it was all Knicks. It got really ugly in the second half with the Knicks outscoring Miami 37-27 in the third and 22-12 in the fourth. The threes and the defense just flat-out killed Miami’s spirit. LeBron became discouraged and the rest of the team followed suit. A defining moment came in the fourth when Chandler cut to the basket and the Miami bigs didn’t even both trying to contest, just walked to the bench while Tyson slammed home another dunk.

American Airlines Arena Became MSG South: The Knicks fans got louder and louder as the game progressed. It was a beautiful sight to hear the arena completely taken over for by the fourth quarter.

Let’s Not Rest On Our Laurels: Yes, we’ve embarrassed the Heat twice. Yes, NY has the best record in the Eastern Conference. It’s just December, and we still have a lot of basketball left to the play. There will be bad games, but the effort need to be there every night. We don’t play Miami again until March, but beyond that we know there’s a good chance we’ll be matched up with them at some point in the playoffs. Let’s be ready to meet the challenge.

Tomorrow night we head to Chicago to face off against the defensive-minded Bulls. Hope NY stays on the mental high from this win.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjRqKSJ4sn8&feature=youtube_gdata_player]

Amar’e Stoudemire Is Willing to Come Off the Bench… But Should He?

Big news came out of NY this morning courtesy of ESPN New York, who’s reporting from close “sources” that Amar’e Stoudemire will have absolutely no problem accepting a bench role if asked by coach Mike Woodson.

“All he cares about right now is helping the team and winning,” said one source, who has been around Stoudemire regularly in recent weeks. “He’d be fine with coming off the bench if that’s what they want.”

“He just wants to win,” the source says. “He sees how well they’re playing and just wants to help. He’ll be fine with whatever they want to do.”

There’s been a strong contingent of Knicks fans that are convinced our frontcourt of Melo, Stat and Chandler cannot work togather, citing spacing issues and the losing record Stat and Melo have together thus far. While that is a fair point, you can easily counter that by stating the majority of that losing record came under Mike D’Antoni. Under Woodson, the pair have a winning record together. So the question becomes does Stat automatically lose his starting job next month? Or do we give this team, who over the last two years has never been at full strength for any significant period of time, a final chance to make it work?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but from my perspective the middle ground is the best solution. With his mobility severely hampered by the surgery, throwing Stat right back in the starting lineup when he’s nowhere near game shape would be unwise. One look at the Lakers and Dwight Howard’s struggles to get back on track since his back surgery should be a good indicator of the arduous process ahead. And we saw last year with Amar’e’s back that it took him until after the All-Star break to get any semblance of a rhythm.

Stat should be coming off the bench, at least initially, until he gets back into condition. His offense is less erratic than JR Smith’s (who’s currently our needed but streaky spark for the second unit). With our nice trio f point guards (Kidd, Felton, Prigioni), there’s many different lineup choice the Knicks can go with. Not to mention, the majority of the teams out there would struggle with finding backups able to containing Amar’e. That either forces their starters to come in early, or Stat helps maintain or build leads. And in crunch time, Stat can still be out there as an extra weapon.

Now what happens if Amar’e, using his own favorite word, does “”phenomenally,” ala a James Harden in OKC, off the bench? Do we keep him there or see if he does even better in the starting lineup? If… and it’s a big if, Melo can hold up to the pounding he’s been taking at power foward, then NY probably shouldn’t tinker with what’s working great (and I don’t think Woodson would). However, when we are meeting big frontcourts like Grizzlies, then Stat should be in the starting lineup without question.

One thing’s for sure is that this team needs Stat. Last year, in what was arguably his worst season, the man still averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds. How we handle Amar’e’s comeback will have immense significance on how this season will turn out. Get well soon, Stat…

We Woke Up Eventually: 4th Quarter Knicks D Overcomes Magic 99-89

What the hell is going on?! That phrase had to be going through the minds of most Knicks fans watching the first three quarters last night of the game against the Magic, the first of a three-game road trip. The Knickstape was being out hustled by rookies, whining to refs, not closing out on shooters and letting guys get easy drives to the basket. But then a light switch went off in the fourth, spurred by pivotal plays from Jason Kidd, that lead to the Knicks allowing only 12 points in the quarter in route to a 99-89 win to keep their undefeated streak alive at 5-0.

As with the Mavericks, the Knicks started slow in the first but ended the quarter strong with a 15-8 run to go up 27-23. Then the Knicks had their worst quarter of the season in the second, launching too many bricked threes (Melo, Wallace) and showing poor interior defense. JJ Reddick found the outside range with his jumper, and the Knicks became statues of defense, having an outrageous moment of letting Glenn Davis ignite a one-man fast break beating Melo and Felton to the hole. What made matters more frustrating is this collapse happened right after a Novak three had put them up 10. Magic rookie Maurice  Harkless had NY looking bad with his hustle plays and defense on Melo. The 19-year-old had 10 points and six rebounds at halftime, a major reason for the Magic holding a 53-49 lead at intermission. Adding on to the woes was the Magic holding a rebounding edge of 25-16.

The third was better; guys like Raymond Felton and JR Smith made sure to drive into the lane for buckets. JR continued to have the sweet touch, dropping a three-pointer to tie things early at 63. Still, the Knicks were not meeting the energy of the Magic and continued giving up their own three-pointers due to bad rotations. Melo got no calls inside and visibly frustrated. Thankfully JR’s play, capped by a nice alley oop to Tyson Chandler, helped the Knicks take a slim lead of 77-76 into the fourth.

The Magic had been shooting 54%, but that ceased when it counted. After some back and forth baskets early on, Jason Kidd made a three-pointer to take an 82-80 lead and tied up Aaron Afflalo to force a jump ball. Kidd later hit a floater in the lane after a Magic put back miss. Melo then got focused on defense, getting a steal that lead to a JR Smith step-back jumper to cap a 7-0 run. The better close-out defense on the Magic shooters forced contested misses, and Melo put his stamp on the game late with a turnaround jumper in the post and a three-pointer. Felton got Chandler back in on the action with another alley oop, and before you knew it, a JR Smith jumper had pushed the lead to 97-84 with just a few minutes remaining.

The Knicks ended with three guys dropping over 20 points: Melo (25), Smith (21) and Felton (21). Knicks fans can take solace in the fact this would have unquestionably been a game we would’ve lost at this time last season. The necessary adjustments  were made and the talent level of our team showed its class in the last quarter.

Now for the bad. I understand Melo’s frustration when he’s hacked inside to dead whistles. But that’s no excuse to not get back on defense and allow easy baskets. He’s the leader of our team and everyone will take their queue’s from his attitude. If you noticed, Chandler started complaining not long after Melo and seemed disinterested. While it’s great we still have that “0” in the loss column, that will quickly change if we come out for Thursday’s game against San Antonio like this. We have to click on all cylinders as that team’s confidence will by sky-high following that game-winning three-pointer Danny Green delivered over Kobe Bryant to down the Lakers last night.

Until next time, Knicks faithful.