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Opening Tip: J.R. more than just a scorer?

12/12/2012

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: Have we overlooked J.R. Smith's versatility?

Turns out, Mike Woodson was dead right.

Woodson said before Tuesday's game he wanted J.R. Smith, who had made just 26 percent of his field goal attempts in the previous five games, to "keep shooting" to get out of his slump.

There's no doubt his response drew an eye-roll or two. Smith, of course, isn't a guy who needs to be told to keep shooting.

So Smith came out firing on Tuesday night, following his coach's orders, and ended up playing a pivotal role in the Knicks' win.

Smith had 16 points off the bench, hitting 7-for-15 from the floor and pulling down four rebounds. He also came up with several big stops on defense after tweaking his back, presumably during a fourth-quarter collision with Gerald Wallace.

"He showed a lot of guts, a lot of character," Knicks center Tyson Chandler said. "He was having back spasms and … for him to come up with the stops and make big shots on top of that, it shows a lot of courage."

Despite his recent shooting struggles, Smith has found different ways to impact games.

He had nine rebounds in the Knicks' win over the Nuggets on Sunday, a number that was overshadowed by his 5-for-19 night from the floor. He had six rebounds and four assists and played strong defense in the Knicks' upset of Miami this past Thursday. The previous night, when he hit the game-winner against Charlotte, Smith shot 6-for-16 but had four assists and two blocks.

"He's going to have to do that," Woodson was saying earlier Tuesday. "When guys are struggling to shoot, especially when you play big minutes, you've got to do other things."

So far this season, Smith has found a way to do the "other things" on a consistent basis for the Knicks.

Question: With Smith contributing in ways other than scoring, is it time to recognize him for his versatility as well as scoring?

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