NEW YORK -- If there was one positive for the Knicks to come out of Friday's blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers, J.R. Smith seemed to have rediscovered his offense.
New York Knicks
Smith made 9-of-18 shots and scored a season-high 24 points off the bench in the 109-95 loss. The Knicks desperately need Smith to provide more scoring punch with Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin set to miss at least the next two weeks.
"We need him," said Carmelo Anthony. "We need J.R. Smith, the way he played tonight. I thought he played extremely well and we need him."
Notice how many times Melo used the word "need." Smith is averaging just 11.8 points and 36.8 percent shooting. Smith's season has been full of drama from starting the season with a five-game suspension to shoelace-gate and his recent benchings.
It's why ESPN's Tom Haberstroh ranked Smith fifth on his Least Valuable Player midseason rankings (Insider link).
Here's what Haberstroh wrote about Smith prior to his 24-point outing against the Clippers:
"The issue isn't if the Knicks should bench Smith. The real question is, why didn't it happen sooner? By benching Smith now after juvenile antics, the Knicks are conveniently trying to distract fans from the actual culprit: he can't score.
Among the 98 players with a usage rate north of 20 percent and at least 750 minutes played, Smith ranks dead last in true shooting percentage (45.5 percent). The only thing more poisonous than a player who can't score is one that thinks he can.
With knee issues sapping his mobility, he should be reduced to a catch-and-shoot weapon, but the problem is that he believes he's Steve Nash, not Steve Novak. On-court/off-court data from NBA.com suggests that the Knicks are better off on both ends of the floor without him, confirming what our eyes tell us."
Perhaps Smith is about to bust out of his season-long slump thus far. Melo can only hope so.
"Just hard work, I’m dedicated," Smith said of why he was able to score Friday. "Staying in the gym, focusing on the game. Just taking what the defense is giving."