WASHINGTON -- If you’re looking for another reason to explain why the New York Knicks have been so bad this season, take a look at what ex-Knick J.R. Smith had to say before his first game with the Cavaliers:
“Everybody in the building was pretty much walking on eggshells, so it’s kind of hard to prosper that way, especially when you’re not accustomed to it," Smith said before going scoreless in 18 minutes in Cleveland's loss to Houston. "But I’m sure they’ll get it right.”
Knicks president Phil Jackson dealt Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland as part of a three-team deal on Monday that allowed New York rid itself of Smith’s $6.4 million player option for 2015-16.
Smith admittedly had a tough time adapting to the Knicks’ triangle offense this season. He averaged 10.9 points on 40 percent shooting in 24 games.
"I mean, it’s just difficult learning a new system, a new way to play. The whole culture over there pretty much changed,” Smith said. “I mean, a lot of guys have certain routines when they get on the court, when they don’t get on the court, and all of that was so flip-flopped and it kind of caught everybody off guard.”
The Knicks showed on Wednesday that they can be just as bad without Smith as they were with him. They set the franchise record for consecutive losses by dropping their 13th straight -- a 101-91 loss to the Washington Wizards.
At 5-33, New York has the worst record in the NBA and is on track to finish with the worst record in franchise history.
For what it's worth, Derek Fisher said he didn’t have a problem with what Smith said about the atmosphere around the team.
“I think we’ve been very frank about the fact that everyone was learning how to work together and become a team and become a group. Whether that’s eggshells or whether that’s just getting to learn how to win just depends on the person that you’re talking to,” Fisher said. “J.R. might say one thing, and that’s fine; what he said, I understand. And these guys in the locker room may say the same or something else. But it still just comes back to becoming a team, and that takes time.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. was also asked about Smith’s “eggshell” remark.
“I don’t know. Everybody has their own opinion,” Hardaway Jr. said. “I played in the system in summer league -- some of the other guys, as well. We’re definitely going to finish the season out as strong as we can with the guys that we have, and we’re going to continue to use the system and make it work.”
Information from ESPN's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.