Woodson takes a stand, benches J.R.

NEW YORK -- Mike Woodson's best coaching move Thursday didn't take place at any point during the Knicks' potential season-turning 102-92 win over the defending world champion Miami Heat.

It took place before the upset, when the fed-up Knicks coach benched J.R. Smith.

The NBA can fine Smith all it wants. In fact, the league has docked him a total of $105,000 since he joined the Knicks in 2012. But that's pocket change for an NBA player who signed a three-year, $18 million contract in July.

If you want to get anything through to a shooter whose mentality is to keep shooting and shooting, you have to take the ball away from him. Make him sit out a marquee game and watch LeBron James and the Heat from the pine.

That's exactly what Woodson did, even though the coach and the Knicks never officially announced it as a benching or punishment. For the entire game, Smith sat at the end of the Knicks' bench, not far away from owner James Dolan and actress Katie Holmes.

Holmes' old show "Dawson's Creek" has nothing on the drama and turmoil currently surrounding Smith and the Knicks.

Woodson refused to say if Smith was healthy and available to play, adamantly declining to discuss anything involving the sixth man.

Then, after the Knicks' biggest victory of the season, Smith said his lack of playing time came as a surprise and that Woodson did not talk to him about the move beforehand, leaving him in the dark about the benching and its length.

"There hasn't been any [conversation]," Smith said. "That's the most misleading part of it. I can see if I was told, but there was no conversation about it. But it is what it is. We got the W."

Smith said he is unsure about his future as a Knick.

"Honestly I don't even know," Smith said when asked if his future is in New York. "At one point, I was for sure and now it's rocking the boat. But it is what it is, it's part of the business."

Smith's benching should have come a long time ago. While Woodson and Dolan should be applauded for finally doing what they had to do with Smith, they are also guilty of enabling Smith's behavior until Thursday night. They've often opted to look away after one of Smith's episodes.

Untying Shawn Marion's shoelaces is really nothing in the grand scheme of things. If this had happened in the 1980s or early '90s, it would have probably shown up in one of those old-school NBA blooper videos, complete with cartoon sound effects.

But when J.R. pretended to go at Greg Monroe's shoe while standing beside him ahead of a free throw Tuesday, the NBA had enough and docked Smith $50,000. The NBA warned Smith before that game, but Smith said he didn't think the warning was a stern one.

Problem is, any warning from the NBA is a serious one. Smith got a free pass and he turned around and mocked it.

"The first time it was done, everybody thought it was hilarious," Smith said of his shoelace stunt. "The second time it was done, it wasn't really done. But at the end of the day it is what it is. I'm not going to fight it. If we play hard and we win, I'm happy. If we play hard and we lose, I'd have something to say."

Far worse was the fact that Woodson said before the Detroit game that he would talk with Smith about his unprofessional behavior and how the childish shenanigans needed to stop.

"It was a joke," Smith said of going at Monroe's shoe. "But a joke gone wrong."

Just a classic case of J.R. being J.R. I believe Smith's explanation that he was just trying to have some fun. But at some point, Smith, 28, has to grow up. The Knicks organization and some fans appear to have J.R. fatigue.

This season alone, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year was suspended for the first five games without pay for violating the NBA's drug policy. There was the $25,000 fine from the league over the Twitter beef with Detroit's Brandon Jennings in November. He also underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee days after signing his contract during the summer, admitting the timing "made more sense for my family."

Last season, the NBA hit Smith with a $25,000 fine for posting an inappropriate picture of a woman on Twitter. And the most damaging Smith sin was the playoff suspension for elbowing Jason Terry in the head during last season's series with the Boston Celtics.

This all from the guy who is supposed to be the Knicks' second-best offensive player.

"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 on "The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show" on ESPN New York 98.7 on Wednesday after the shoelace fine. "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."

Woodson said Smith has been "unprofessional about how he's approached this whole thing. Something's gotta be done. It has to stop."

Woodson put his foot down on Thursday. There has to be accountability on every team, and Woodson now is finally trying to enforce that with Smith by taking the ball out of his hands for a night.

Did it work?

"My feelings obviously don't matter so I'm just worried about the team," Smith said.

To Smith's credit, he was seen cheering on his teammates and standing up and applauding the Knicks at the end, when the Madison Square Garden fans gave the team a standing ovation. Smith, though, stood on the fringe of team huddles during timeouts.

Perhaps Smith will learn from this episode. Maybe this might ignite his game, which has been disappointing this season -- Smith is averaging just 11.3 points and shooting 34.8 percent. But it's hard to get into Smith's head.

"Mentally he's good," Carmelo Anthony said. "Probably he's upset today that he didn't play. Mentally he should be good. It's not life or death. Things happen. Situations happen. We move on. I need him Saturday in Philly."

Woodson says he liked what he saw in the rotation he used against Miami. Anthony, though, says he and the Knicks need Smith.

The hope is that at some point on Thursday night, Smith realized he needs the Knicks, too.