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Friday, October 25, 2013
Opening Tip: Will J.R. finally focus?

By Ian Begley

Carmelo Anthony; J.R. Smith
Carmelo Anthony has implored J.R. Smith to get his act together this season. Will he?
Carmelo Anthony delivered a strong message to J.R. Smith after he heard his New York Knicks teammate had been suspended for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

"The time is now," Anthony said he told Smith. "You've got to want to help yourself. Everybody else wants to help you but if you don't want to help yourself, that defeats the purpose."

Anthony has played with Smith for seven seasons in the NBA. And he knows him well enough to recognize if the message had an impact on the 28-year-old shooting guard.

"It seemed like he took heed to what I was saying," Anthony said. "So we shall see."

The Knicks need Smith to play at a high level in order to reach their goals this season. Need proof? Just look at the tape of last season's Eastern Conference semis loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Playing with consistency has always been an issue for Smith. And some believe that his off-court activities impact his play on it. There were reports that Smith's social life affected his play as recently as the playoffs last spring. But unless you're in Smith's head or his body, that's impossible to say with any certainty.

We do know this, however: Smith will have to miss five games at the beginning of the season for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy.

To be clear, I don't think what Smith does on his own time is anyone's business. If I was rooting for the Knicks, I wouldn't care if Smith were at a club or studying in the library the night before a game as long as he performed on the court.

Smith's off-court activities become an issue only when they affect his ability to produce for the Knicks. And that's what happened in September, when Smith was hit with a five-game suspension.

To those who say, "It's only five games. Who cares?"


1. Every game will matter at the end of the season when teams are battling for playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference.


2. Smith isn't just missing five games. He's also missing an opportunity to get acclimated to the NBA game. After four months off the court, it's going to take Smith several games -- maybe even weeks -- to find the combination of explosiveness and soft touch that he played with last season.


Anthony, for one, is anxiously awaiting Smith's return to the floor -- and to see if the time away impacts his approach to the game.

"He had a long offseason, thinking about what's been going on, trying to get back. Hopefully he turns over that new leaf," Anthony said.

Up now: Smith is expected to make his preseason debut Friday in the newly renovated Madison Square Garden. Anthony hopes Smith has turned "a new leaf" this season in his approach to the game.

Also, Smith said he hopes that the Knicks don't factor in his relationship with his brother when they decide to keep or cut Chris Smith. That decision could come as soon as Friday.

What's next: The Knicks will finish the preseason with a game against the Bobcats.

Question: Do you think Smith will be 100 percent focused on basketball this season following his suspension? Or do you think off-court issues will impact his performance this season?

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