- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- Could J.R. Smith, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man Award winner, be spending more time on the bench?
New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn't rule out the possibility of cutting Smith's minutes in light of Smith's recent shooting struggles.
"I'll gauge J.R. as we go along and if I feel he's not giving me anything, I could always turn to other guys on that bench," Woodson said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Stephen A. Smith & Ryan Ruocco Show."
"I feel good about the guys that come in off that bench just like I feel good about J.R. But if he's struggling and I feel the need (that) I've got to pull him, then I will do that as the head coach and then other guys have got to come in and step up and play."
It doesn't appear as if a reduction in Smith's playing time is imminent.
But the fact that Woodson didn't rule out benching Smith indicates how badly the Knicks' sixth man has struggled. He shot 3-for-15 and scored just eight points in Tuesday's Game 2 win over the Indiana Pacers after missing 11-of-15 shots in the series opener.
"He's missing shots and he's not playing well from an offensive standpoint," Woodson said of Smith, who is averaging 31.9 minutes per game in the playoffs. "I think he's giving us a lot defensively. And that's why he's staying out there on the floor because he's holding his own defensively and he's rebounding some for us at his position.
"But he is and has struggled offensively. And it's my job as the coach and my staff and his teammates, we've got to get him out of this funk and get him back to playing like we know he's capable he's playing."
Smith has struggled since coming back from a one-game suspension for elbowing Boston's Jason Terry in Game 3 of the Knicks' series with the Celtics. In the four games since the suspension, Smith is averaging 13 points on just 26 percent shooting and has missed 18 of his 25 3-point attempts.
In three playoff contests before the suspension, Smith scored 16.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting and hit 31 percent of his 3-pointers.
Woodson was asked if he would hesitate to cut Smith's playing time because he has a close relationship with the player.
"It wouldn't be tough because if he's committed as a player ... he's got to understand, it's coaching and he'll get another shot," Woodson said. "And if he's about team, he'll understand and he'll sit and wait his turn again. And when he gets back in there, hopefully he'll do his thing. We've got a lot of confidence in J.R."
Smith was an integral part of the Knicks' regular-season success. He averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists to help lift the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division title in 13 years.
"I'm not going to kick him to the curb," Woodson cautioned. "He's a big part of what we've done this season.
"The wonderful thing about J.R. and the beauty about his play this year, even when he has struggled, he's always been able to come through in clutch situations and that says a lot. He's not scared to take the big shot. He's won games for us this year. So I'm not throwing J.R. to the curb by any means."
If Woodson did choose to decrease Smith's minutes, it's unclear who would step into his role. He could use Jason Kidd as the first player off his bench or ask Chris Copeland to fill the void. Amar'e Stoudemire also is expected to return to the lineup Saturday in Game 3.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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