J.R. Smith was a starter as a rookie. Since then he's made a living coming off the bench. He's thrived. He even won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2013. However, he was named a starter last season and would prefer to remain a starter from now on.
At 6'6", 220 pound shooting guard/small forward J.R. Smith is an explosive scorer but he's also very volatile. Most around the league have viewed him best in a reserve scoring role. In fact, he's only made 167 starts in 692 games played over his decade in the NBA.
“It gets frustrating after a while,’’ Smith said. “People saying, “he’s a sixth man, sixth man, sixth man’’ when you believe you’re a starter…"
Smith doesn't just want to be the scoring punch off the bench. He's wanted to be a starter for a long time and finally was given that chance under Mike Woodson. He's now hoping newly named New York Knicks' head coach Derek Fisher will view him as more than a reserve scorer.
About 17 hours later Smith made it clear that he'd talked to Fisher and heard good things.
That doesn't mean that Fisher necessarily views Smith as a starter. Perhaps Fisher will view Smith as best used in the same role Fisher played for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season when he led the second unit and often was on the floor to close games.
That being said, in 2013, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork reported that Smith believed his Sixth Man of the Year award showed he had nothing left to prove as a reserve.
"I've always wanted to start. Everybody knows that," Smith said. "I won the Sixth Man [Award] last year, so I felt as though there's nothing left to prove at the sixth-man spot…"
Obviously the number one player Fisher will need to deal with is Carmelo Anthony. That is, as long as he decides to stick around. However, Smith is an important player to juggle on the Knicks roster. He needs to be handled with care.
Smith is one of those players that given too much freedom can derail. He can also thrive under the right supervision. Hopefully Smith will get along with Fisher very well. He'll need the support of veterans like Smith while transitioning into his new coaching role.
Besides, Smith is not only signed for next season but also has a player option for the 2015-16 season. He's said in the past he'd like to retire with the Knicks. If he gets his way he and Fisher could be together for years to come.
That being said, if Smith wants to be a starter he'll have to buy into the triangle offense and play his role. He'll also have to prove that he can play more like the player who he looked like towards the end of this season and not the one who struggled through the first part of the season.
Smith will need to show that his struggles were more tied to his knee surgery and recover and not his transition to a starting role. How that works out is anyones guess. However, it's clear that Smith wants to be a starter. It's also clear that the decision is in the hands of Fisher. Only time will tell if Smith keeps liking what he hears from Fisher.