New York Knicks News: JR Smith's Father Taught Him Not to Care About Defense
In a wonderful profile on Grantland today, Jonathan Abrams (one of the finest feature writers in sports today) wrote in-depth about the volatile Knicks shooting guard JR Smith -- his life, his career, and how he came to be. While we highly recommend you read the entire thing, here's a cliff notes version for those of you without the time or the attention span to read old-school longform features.
JR Smith has long been known for being a highly-skilled offensive player but not much of a defender -- although being on a team with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, that allowed him to fit right in -- and Abrams revealed that Smith's lack of passion on the defensive end actually goes all the way back to childhood.
"Defense was the last thing I taught them," Earl Smith, JR Smith's father, explained to Grantland, "because you can make it without defense."
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The elder Smith himself was a skilled basketball player in his heyday, and, like Smith, he was a bit of troubled young man, falling out with high school coaches and known for something of a black hole. Still, young Earl could light it up, and he held steady gigs throughout the 80s playing for various minor league teams. It's no surprise he taught his sons what he knew: Shoot first, shoot second, shoot third, ask questions later. Defense doesn't matter.
In fact, even after JR Smith made the NBA, father kept telling son the same advice. In 2007, when Smith was with the Denver Nuggets and had a bit of a falling out with coach George Karl, Earl pulled JR aside and told him this:
"Every time you get in, shoot it. He's going to take you out anyway. So you might as well shoot it."
Nuggets fans, now you know whom to blame for Smith's sometime ridiculous shot-selection.
Meanwhile, the younger Smith believed Karl singled him out not because of his questionable shot selection, but because of his role in the infamous brawl at Madison Square Garden between the Nuggets and the Knicks (that's the incident in which Anthony sucker-punched Mardy Collins and then back-pedaled 50 feet from 5'7 Nate Robinson).
Smith, of course, re-signed with the Knicks this offseason and will probably continue to provide both thrilling highlights and impact scoring off the bench and frustrating defensive lapses and ill-timed shot attempts.
For fans of JR Smith, he is who he is. Love it or leave it.
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