After a warning proved insufficient, the NBA fined Knicks guard J.R. Smith $50,000 on Wednesday for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct" after he twice tried to untie an opponent's shoelace during games this week.
Smith successfully untied the shoelace of Mavericks forward Shawn Marion during New York's 92-80 victory over Dallas on Saturday. The NBA then warned Smith not to repeat the action, but he attempted to untie the shoelace of Pistons forward Greg Monroe during New York's 89-85 victory over Detroit on Tuesday.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson spoke directly about Smith's antics on ESPN New York 98.7 FM on Wednesday.
"I've always said I don't condone things that I know you shouldn't do," Woodson said. "No, I'm not happy about this. He was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, it's not right. I just got the information, I'm going to address it [Thursday] when he comes in here for work. It's unacceptable. It really is. It's unprofessional. That's the only word I can use. ... You can't do that. You just cannot do it. ... At the end of the day, he's got to grow up. These things have got to stop."
Smith issued an apology on Wednesday afternoon.
"Huge apologies to my team, to the league [and] most of all you the fans," Smith wrote on Twitter.
The first untying incident occurred when Dirk Nowitzki stepped to the foul line during the second quarter. Smith, who had just checked into the game, lined up alongside Marion, occupying the third stall on the right side of the paint. As Nowitzki went into his free throw routine, Smith bent down as if to check his shoes before reaching over to untie the laces on Marion's left shoe. Marion looked down, apparently catching Smith in the act, but by that point it was time to jockey for rebounding position and there was nothing he could do. Nowitzki buried the free throw, though.
On New York's next possession, Marion could be seen tying his shoe after Andrea Bargnani hit a short jumper near the free-throw line.
On Monday, Smith suggested on Twitter that this wasn't the first time he has untied an opponent's shoe, writing that he does it "every game." Then, on Tuesday, Smith attempted to untie Monroe's shoe during a free throw. Smith reached down with his right hand and contacted Monroe's left foot, but he did not succeed in untying the shoe as Monroe moved his foot.
As The Point Forward noted after the first incident, taking the court with the knowledge that one's uniform is free from tampering by an opponent should be an inalienable right in the NBA. That Smith so blatantly thumbed his nose at the league's establishment by repeating his action made a fine inevitable.
The 2013 Sixth Man Award winner has run afoul of the NBA on numerous occasions. In November, Smith was fined $25,000 for "directing hostile and inappropriate language" toward Pistons guard Brandon Jennings on Twitter. He also missed the first five games of the season because he was serving a suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug program.
Before this season, Smith's suspensions included 10 games in 2006 for his role in an on-court fight and seven games in 2009 in response to a guilty plea in a reckless driving incident. He was also suspended for three games by the Nuggets in 2007 for his role in an incident at a Denver nightclub.
In addition, Smith drew a $5,000 fine from the NBA for flopping during the 2013 playoffs and a $25,000 fine in 2012 for posting an inappropriate photograph of a woman to his Twitter account. New York is 12-22 this season, including three victories in its last four games. Smith is averaging 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and three assists. He is shooting a career-low 34.8 percent in the first season of a three-year, $17.9 million contract.