Is Mike Woodson losing faith in J.R. Smith? It sure sounds like it.
The Knicks coach called Smith's recent shoelace stunts "unprofessional" and "unacceptable" in an interview Wednesday on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show."
The NBA fined Smith $50,000r on Wednesday for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct" after he untied -- or jokingly attempted to untie -- an opponent's shoelace in each of the Knicks' last two games.
"I'm not happy about this because he was warned, he comes back, and he makes the same mistake, and it's not right," Woodson said, sounding like an angry parent. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
The coach added that Smith has been "unprofessional about how he's approached this whole thing. Something's gotta be done. It has to stop. I'll address it tomorrow when I see him, and then we'll go from there."
Just what will J.R.'s punishment entail?
Woodson, as you know, has been a staunch Smith defender throughout his Knicks' tenure.
Smith has accrued more than $100,000 in fines since he signed with the 'Bockers in 2011. But his head coach has stayed loyal through every misdeed and mishap.
This season, Woodson is playing Smith 32.3 minutes per game, sticking with him despite some awful shooting numbers (34.8 percent). According to Chris Herring from the Wall Street Journal, Smith is on pace to become the first player since 1960 to average more than 30 minutes per game and shoot under 35 percent from the floor.
So if Woodson wants to take a stand, maybe he should start with cutting Smith's minutes. Both Iman Shumpert (in the last four games) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (for most of the season) have shown that they can provide what the Knicks need at shooting guard.
Does that make Smith expendable?
The Knicks, according to sources, are fed up with Smith's transgressions. They have started to explore the trade market for Smith. The 28-year-old has been slowed by lingering soreness in his surgically-repaired knee. But surgery or not, Smith is playing well below expectations for a player who signed a three-year $18 million contract in the offseason.
Woodson seemed to recognize Smith's poor season -- both on and off the court -- when he said that the reigning Sixth Man Award winner has "done a lot of things this year that put him in a bad position and our team in a bad position. Somehow we've got to clean that up. He was a big, major part of what we did last season. There's no doubt about that. We need him to be that J.R."
Woodson also wants to see Smith "grow up" -- a message he also delivered earlier this year after Smith was suspended for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
And the coach says he's not the only one who can tell Smith he needs to get his act together.
"It can come from Carmelo, it can come from his teammates, it can come from his coaching staff, it can come from me being there, it can come from the GM, the owner," Woodson said. "At the end of the day, he's got to grow up. And how come it can't come from J.R. Smith? And that's kind of how I look at it. After a while, these things have got to stop. It's just got to stop."
Question: If you were Woodson, what would you do to get your message across to Smith?
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.