Thursday, August 21, 2014
J.R.'s goal for the season: 'Be a leader'
By Ian Begley
J.R. Smith, in addition to helping kids, hopes to be a valuable reference for the Knicks in 2014.
J.R. Smith has several goals entering the 2014-15 season.
He wants to help the Knicks make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference. He wants to produce consistently on both ends of the floor.
All of these are normal goals for any NBA player.
But Smith has one goal that may surprise you:
"Be a leader," Smith said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday at his foundation's annual golf fundraiser. "We've got so many younger guys around. A lot of the older guys left within the last two years. So be more of a leader and help out."
Smith is going into his 11th season, so he has the experience to take on a leadership role. But will he be able to transition from a player who has gotten into trouble, both on and off the court, to a player whom the Knicks organization can count on in a leadership role?
That's the goal.
"Just 'show instead of say' and stuff like that," Smith, speaking at his fundraiser for the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation at Eagle Ridge Golf Club, said when asked about his leadership approach. "'Sheed [Rasheed Wallace], J Kidd [Jason Kidd] -- those guys led by example and that's what I'm going to try to do."
Smith was involved in several incidents last season that drew the ire of the Knicks. Whether or not that compromises his ability to lead is a debate we'll leave for fans and members of the organization.
When it comes to on-court matters, Smith said he feels fully healthy coming into the season, which is different from how he was feeling last summer following offseason knee surgery.
The procedure hampered him early in the season and impacted his production. Smith found his form later in the season, hitting 43 percent of his 3-pointers in a starting role in the last six weeks of the season.
Now that he is fully healthy, Smith expects to produce on a more consistent basis this season. He also agrees with teammate and longtime friend Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks will be a playoff team this season after winning just 37 games in 2013-14.
"Absolutely. We should be," Smith said. "We should have been one last year. This year, definitely."
Helping the youth: Through his youth foundation, Smith hopes to help young athletes in and around New Jersey. One of the goals of the foundation is to expose young athletes to golf. Smith is an avid golfer and hopes to show young athletes around his hometown of Lakewood, New Jersey, the benefits of the sport.
"My goal is just to help kids who have certain talents who don't really have a chance to be seen. There are people that can put them in positions they want to be. I just want to help make the extra push to the youth," Smith said. "Especially in this area, we've got a lot of young talent that gets lost in the numbers.
"I just want to show kids a different side of sports. So many people play basketball, baseball, football. Once they get around [golf], they'll realize it's fun. I just want to open the door to show them they have options."