J.R. Smith is confident the Knicks can win the Eastern Conference this season, but is he confident he'll be a part of the team?
Smith appeared on ESPN2’s "First Take" on Wednesday, talked about the Knicks’ glut at shooting guard and said he "wouldn’t blame" team president Phil Jackson and the Knicks if the team had decided to trade him last season.
"No. Absolutely not. The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there," Smith said. "Not looking as focused as a person should be in that situation that we were, in the trenches. I wouldn’t blame them at all."
Of course, the Knicks didn’t deal Smith by last season’s trade deadline, but the Knicks this season are a bit overstocked at shooting guard with Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert on the roster.
Hardaway Jr. and Shumpert were mentioned in recent trade discussions between the Knicks and other teams that were centered around Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, according to sources.
Smith said on Wednesday that he’s "cognizant" one of the shooting guards on the roster could be traded before the start of the season.
"Yeah, because that’s just the way the numbers work, honestly," he said. "When you have so many people at that same position and you’re trying to juggle between 'Well, he’s got to play 20 minutes, he’s got to play 30 minutes, he’s got to play 25 minutes,' it’s tough to do. That’s why whenever I’m in the gym I try to do the best. [I’m] not worried about those guys [the other shooting guards], but [I want] to make sure I’m evolving my game so I can play multiple positions and keep my talent on the floor."
Smith also touched on several other subjects on "First Take."
On how strongly he believes the Knicks, coming off a 37-win season, will win the Eastern Conference:
"Extremely. I’m confident. I don’t play to lose."
On what went wrong last season:
"For one, it was unacceptable the whole year. I’m not going to make any excuses for myself. Coming back from knee surgery is a tough thing to come back from. I didn’t expect to be at that top tier, where I was. We had a lot of confusion going on [regarding] what we were going to do as far as schemes and stuff like that. And some people didn’t agree with it. And it just caused confusion, and, before you know it, some people were doing what they want to do and other people were doing what they want to do and there was just a lot of confusion. We just didn’t agree. We agreed to disagree a lot of the times.
"And everybody knows in order for five guys to be on the same page, like the Spurs were everybody has to be on the same page, and we weren’t."
On whether focus was an issue for him:
"I put so much pressure on myself to come back, especially after [the] suspension and being hurt, to be back [to] where I was the year before, winning the sixth man [award]. But after that I put so much pressure on myself [I tried] to try to take some of the pressure off and just have fun with the game. That’s where the shoe incident came into play and just [wanted to] try to ease the tension a little bit and it wasn’t working. None of the things that I had going on in my mind was working. And, unfortunately, it just so happened, I believe, to be the worst year I’ve had in the NBA, including my rookie year. So I’m just looking to bounce back."
On playing for Derek Fisher:
"I love Derek. I’ve known Derek since my rookie year when I played out in Long Beach. It seems like so long ago. Ever since the first day I met him to now, he’s been the same person. He’s probably one of the most consistent, professional people I’ve ever met in this business, and I can’t wait to play for him."
Question: If the Knicks deal one of their three shooting guards, who should they move?
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