J.R. Smith said he let his Knicks coaches and teammates down. (Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)
In the course of his nine years in the NBA, J.R. Smith has developed a reputation as a talented, but troubled player and personality. On Wednesday, Knicks coach Mike Woodson had a message for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year.
Woodson said Smith needs to "grow up and do the right things," after the 28-year-old player was suspended five games by the NBA for violating the anti-drug policy.
While Woodson said he was disappointed in Smith's actions, he insisted that he also has Smith's back and would continue to support him:
From the Associated Press:
"I'm not going to throw him out to the pasture," Woodson said. "My job is to coach him and make sure something like what happened doesn't happen again. That's what we do as coaches, and I expect his teammates to show him love. But at the end of the day he's got to do the right thing by J.R. and his teammates, and me as a coach and this organization and the fans that support him. I mean, that's what it's all about.
"He's got to grow up and do the right things."
Smith displayed maturity last season while winning the Sixth Man of the Year award, only to earn a one-game suspension in the playoffs for elbowing Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry in the face.
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Smith said on Monday that he let his Knicks teammates and coaches down. He was asked on Wednesday if he thought he had something to prove after being the source of so many negative offseason headlines.
"I think every day I step into the gym I have something to prove, not to anybody else but to myself," he said. "I feel I can always get better. I have so much room for improvement, and I just want to be the best player I can be. Right now I'm not at the elite level yet."
One positive note in Smith's off-season was his signing of a three-year, $18-million contract with the Knicks. Smith said on Monday that he delayed having surgery on his knee until after agreeing to the new deal because it was best for his family.
Between Smith's five-game suspension and the rehabbing of his knee, Woodson doesn't know when he'll get the player back on the court. He hopes Smith will use the time as a learning experience.
"You talk about missing the first five games, I'm not happy about it," Woodson said. "But hey, we know what we're facing and we've got to get through it, and we've got to make sure that he understands it's something that can't happen again."