J.R.'s benching ends against 76ers

PHILADELPHIA -- J.R. Smith returned to the court on Saturday in Philly after a benching that lasted five quarters.

Smith made a difference immediately, scoring 11 points, handing out four assists and grabbing two rebounds in the second quarter.

The Knicks outscored the Sixers by 20 with him on the floor.

Prior to the game, Smith said he wasn't sure if he'd play Saturday night. He was benched for Thursday's win over the Heat as the organization punished him for his pattern of flouting the rules. The most recent example was Smith's attempts to untie the shoelaces of two opponents' shoes.

Smith was fined $50,000 for the stunt and drew the ire of the organization.

On Saturday morning, Smith said he's been pulling his shoelace stunt for several years and questioned the sense of humor of those who don't consider it a joke.

"Honestly, I've been doing it for four to five years and I've only seen it from a joking side. And it is what it is. I guess some people don't have a sense of humor that others have," Smith said.

When Smith entered the game Saturday, the Knicks were down eight. He had three quick assists and hit two 3s to help New York climb back.

Smith admitted before the game that he was "frustrated" that the shoelace stunt has spiraled into a national story.

"Yeah, I see it as frustrating and a distraction to our team. A distraction to what we're trying to do. I'm not pleased with it," he said. He also said he could see why some would consider it a serious matter, "because I really don't have a choice."

Coach Mike Woodson has been silent on Smith's antics for the past couple of days. But he blasted Smith on Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Stephen A. Smith Show." Woodson called Smith "unprofessional" and said that the shooting guard needed to "grow up."

It will be interesting to hear what Woodson has to say about it after the game.

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