J.R. Smith Ready To Settle Down, Be ‘A Leader’ For The Knicks

JR Smith
JR Smith
New York Knicks guard JR Smith Joe Camporeale USA TODAY Sports

J.R. Smith has displayed himself to be such a wildcard over the course of his ten-year NBA career, even when the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner expresses a desire to do what’s overwhelmingly viewed as the commendable and professional his coaches are left cringing at the thought of what it all could mean to their overall game plan.

New York Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson and certainly rookie coach Derek Fisher must be breaking out in Garden hives over the thought of the oft suspended and fined gunner imparting his worldly experiences on the impressionable likes of such prized new jacks as Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and Cleanthony Early.

Yet there stood Smith this week, professing to ESPN about how he aspires to “be a leader” this season and how he longs to provide Carmelo Anthony with the kind of consistent and explosive help he will most certainly need in making good on his promise of leading the Knicks back to the Eastern Conference playoffs this year.

“We’ve got so many younger guys around,” he added. “A lot of the older guys left within the last two years. So be more of a leader and help out. Just ‘show instead of say.’ Sheed [Rasheed Wallace] and J Kidd [Jason Kidd], those guys led by example and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”

But trying and doing can at times prove to be polar opposites — and that’s what has Knicks’ brass so concerned. Smith scored favor with the organization this summer by spending added time working with youths who are part of the youth foundation he started some time ago in his native New Jersey. An avid golfer, Smith is hoping to expose more youths to the sport in hopes it can help them in learning to better control their nerves and emotions as it presumably has done for him.

“My goal is just to help kids who have certain talents who don’t really have a chance to be seen,” said Smith. “I just want to show kids a different side of sports. So many play basketball, baseball, football. Once they get around golf, they’ll realize its fun. I just want to open the door to show them they have options.”

As for the Knicks, Smith is also convinced he holds the keys to their potential resurgence. First of all, he insists he’s finally healthy from the off-season knee surgery he underwent last summer.

But even more than that, J.R. Smith insists he’s simply grown up and is ready to be all he can be. If that’s truly the case, all the rest, including making the playoffs, could prove a matter of child’s play for the Knicks.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.