J.R. Smith tones down nightlife

Apparently, the party's over for New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith.

Smith is off to one of the best starts of his nine-year NBA career and on Thursday he cited a cutback in nightlife as one of the key reasons for his success.

"I'm not going to lie. The New York City nightlife pretty much got to me. I was going out pretty much every other night and not focused on the task at hand," a candid Smith told reporters in San Antonio after the Knicks' morning shootaround.

Smith said that a new, disciplined approach to practice has helped his performance for the 6-0 Knicks.

Smith had 17 points and five rebounds in the Knicks' 104-100 win over San Antonio on Thursday night. He is averaging 18 points a game to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Smith's hit an eye-popping 72 percent of his three-pointers (13 of 18) and is averaging just one turnover in 33 minutes per night.

It's a small sample size, to be sure, but it's hard not to notice how drastically Smith's improved from this season to last.

In 2011-12, Smith's first year in New York, he scored 12.5 points on 40 percent shooting in 35 games.

""He's so locked in and focused this year," Tyson Chandler said recently. "He's a different player. He's really matured and he's really buying into what coach is preaching, and it's been a big help."

Widely known as a talented, but maddeningly inconsistent player, Smith has said several times this season that he'd taken a more serious approach to his job over the summer. He worked hard to earn a starting spot with the Knicks and was disappointed when coach Mike Woodson declared he'd be the team's sixth man.

But after talking with some of the veteran Knicks, Smith accepted his role -- and has thrived in it.

He's been the best player not named Carmelo Anthony for the undefeated Knicks, who face the Spurs on Thursday night.

Coach Mike Woodson told reporters in San Antonio that Smith has been more professional this year.

Said Smith: "Every day I'm getting into the gym, getting in as much work as I can. A lot of times previously in my career, I had negative energy coming into the gym, not wanting to be there, joking around, goofing off. This year, it's been more serious. I understand every road trip we take is a work trip, not just a play trip. You come and work hard. If I work hard, maybe the next guy will see me work hard."

Smith acknowledged that in the past he's relied solely on his vast talent to succeed.

But he credited the Knicks' coaching staff for helping him take a different approach to his job this season.

"Being around the coaching staff, they're very professional. They've been on me for being professional. They've been on me about being professional since day one I got here," he told reporters in San Antonio.