In Charley Rosen's latest ESPN piece in a series about the 2014-15 New York Knicks season, team president Phil Jackson spoke candidly about what was going wrong with the team early in the year. Here's an excerpt on J.R. Smith, whose Knicks tenure ended in early January with a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers:
"J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether," Jackson says. "Also, Shump and Tim [Hardaway Jr.] were regressing, so I decided to meet with them separately and try to find out what, if anything, was bothering them."
Smith was first on the list. "We talked about his statement to the press that our shooting guard depth was going to be the team's asset, but so far it hadn't worked out that way," Jackson says. "He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit and he wasn't doing the job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn't really respond. He's a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal."
Also of note: Jackson said that head coach Derek Fisher had told him that Smith "always walked around under a dark cloud." Iman Shumpert's big personality was an issue in the locker room, according to Jackson, and Samuel Dalembert apparently fell asleep in the locker room pregame. His conversation with Rosen took place on Jan. 10, just a few days after New York cut ties with Smith, Shumpert and Dalembert, who was waived.
"Delinquent behavior," though? Wow. It's not often you hear an executive use that kind of term so openly, but Jackson is not your average executive. To Smith's credit, he seemed to turn things around with the Cavaliers before his disappointing NBA Finals performance.
It's not great for this kind of thing to come out while Smith remains unsigned. He and Cleveland are reportedly in limbo, with the team wanting him to bring him back on a cheapo one-year deal.
And that's why he's still a FA and will probably have to sign for the minimum.