In recent times, former New York Knicks bench threat J.R. Smith has rebranded himself with the links rather than the layups: the 16-year NBA veteran has made a further name for himself at North Carolina A&T State University on both its golf team and in its classrooms.
Speaking with Complex Sports, Smith hinted that while he’s pleased with the places an Aggie education has taken him, the change in careers may have been necessitated by blackballing.
Asked by host Pierce Simpson if such a theory could be true, Smith declared that he was “100 percent” certain that he was facing relative banishment from the Association.
“Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact,” Smith said when Simpson brought up the concept. Set to turn 37 on Sept. 9, Smith believes that he’s still capable of competing and contributing at an NBA level, leaving his roster prospects wide open. “You got the top three people on those 30 teams and exclude them. Give me the 4th through 15th men, just the four through 15. Name one of them that’s better than me. But I’m sitting here like, bro, like, I’ve worked out with these dudes.”
Smith has gone as far as to claim that general managers responsible for molding those rosters have asked him why he’s “not playing.” He also implied that a similar fate might have befallen NBA contemporaries Jamal Crawford (a fellow former Knick), Joe Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, and Nick Young.
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“I feel that it’s a whole genre that (the phenomenon has) happened to,” he said.
New York hosted some of the finest hours of Smith’s basketball career, as the New Jersey native staged a Sixth Man of the Year effort with the Knicks in 2013. Smith’s 15.1 points and 4.3 rebounds over five Knicks seasons have been his numbers with any of his five teams, the last being the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 (appearing in six regular season games during the team’s run to the NBA Finals in the Walt Disney World bubble).
Alas for Smith, his career has mostly been remembered for a dubious blunder in a previous Finals trip, namely his ill-fated lack of a timeout after earning the rebound in the final regulation stages of a tied opening game between his Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 edition. Since the blooper, which partly led to the Warriors’ four-game sweep, Smith has appeared in only 27 games, including 10 during the Lakers’ Disney World postseason run.
Smith did play a sizable role off the bench during another championship case, serving as the third-leading scorer in the Cavs’ comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to Golden State in the 2016 championship.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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