For J.R. Smith, turning into a team player has certainly paid off.
Known throughout his career for being a selfish player, J.R. accepted his role -reluctantly at first – as New York’s sixth man and after an incredibly successful season, he was named the NBA’s 2013 Sixth Man of the Year as well.
“I just wanted to show everybody that I could be a team guy and it’s all about the team,” Smith said at a news conference attended by his family, teammates and coaches, according to ESPN.com.
Smith came off the bench in all 80 of the games he appeared in this season and lead the league in points for a non-starter, averaging 18.1 per game. His production has certainly been an integral part of the Knicks’ overall success this season, as he provided some much-needed backup for the NBA’s 2013 scoring title winner Carmelo Anthony. However, Anthony was more impressed with how his young teammate has matured, rather than the numbers.
“I think there comes a point in time in your life where you’re almost forced to grow up, you’re almost forced to mature. You gotta be willing to want to do those things. I think right now, this season, J.R. has done that,” Anthony said. “I think J.R. was forced to grow up, he was forced to be mature and he was willing to take on that challenge, too.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson was also impressed with the sacrifices Smith had to make this season and was proud of his accomplishment.
“Couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said Woodson. “I’m so proud of him, in terms of buying in to what we wanted him to do earlier in the season. And it started this summer. I wasn’t going to start him, coming into this year, and I knew that. And he bought in. He didn’t like it, but he bought in. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person, because he put in the time and he worked his butt off to get to this point, and he got rewarded for it. I’m happy for him.”
Smith will hope to continue to provide production and leadership off the bench for the Knicks as they continue their first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.