Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

J.R. Laces Them Up and Soars

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

J.R. Laces Them Up and Soars

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- J.R. Smith was still on the outskirts of the Knicks' huddle, leaning in with warm-ups on between the first and second quarter, no idea of when the limbo he was in would end. And then he got the call from Mike Woodson.

The isolation game the Knicks had played on Smith, benching him for the entire game Thursday and the first quarter Saturday ended, and he entered the game for the first time since the Knicks had taken away the only thing that seemed to matter -- minutes.

Whether the message came from Woodson, from his teammates or from a heart-to-heart with his father, Smith came out with none of the goofy lightheartedness that usually accompanies his arrival to the game, instead playing with a fire that turned the game around and led the Knicks to a 102-92 win over the Sixers.

Smith never apologized publicly, meeting with the Knicks' coach Friday and trying to explain himself. But on the court, he found the best way to endear himself to Woodson -- playing seriously, unselfishly and electrically. The performance -- along with all of the Sixers' laces remaining untouched by Smith's wandering hands -- was enough to ease tensions.

"I stopped wondering [Friday]," Smith said. "I can't really control it. So I just take care of what I can control, preparing the right way, paying attention to detail and keep working.

"It's the worst feeling in the world. Somebody literally just takes the game away from you, especially something you love and you've been doing it your whole life. This is all you know, you know nothing else. It's the worst feeling in the world."

If that sounds like a lesson learned, maybe it is. But the Knicks and even Smith are hardly sure.

"I'm still trying to find myself, trying to find the right way to be a professional, stuff like that," Smith said. "I'll worry about me later. It's a short span that we get to play this game. I can't be selfish with it. I have to think team first."

The Knicks trailed, 28-20, when Smith entered. By the time he scored the last of his 11 points in the quarter (on 4-of-4 shooting) the Knicks had outscored the Sixers, 29-10, and were coasting with a double-digit lead.

The Knicks were led by Amar'e Stoudemire, who scored 21 points in 23 minutes. …

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