J.R. Smith of the Knicks was suspended five games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, a length that indicates Smith was popped for recreational drug use. Marijuana, likely.
Smith has been a solid sixth man for the Knicks but also a worry away form the court. Nobody enjoys being an athlete in New York quite like Smith, and that’s not always a good thing, depending on the athlete. Derek Jeter manages life in the big city quite well. Smith, well, it’s always an adventure. He made league history by being fined for posting a picture on the Internet of a woman’s ample and mostly bare behind. He partied with Rihanna last spring, and then this was posted on the singer’s Instagram: “His ass be hungover from clubbing every night during the playoffs.”
Smith would hardly be the first New York athlete to enjoy himself a little too much, and anyway, Joe Namath broke the mold. Still, the Knicks just invested $18 million over the next three years in Smith, and his maturity remains a work in progress. Remember, Smith popped Jason Terry with an elbow in the Knicks-Celtics series last spring and earned a one-game suspension. Three months earlier, he was ejected from a game with the Pacers. With Smith, a potential issue or controversy is never too far behind.
Before the drug suspension was announced, the Knicks were still woozy from Smith being diagnosed with knee issues, just days after signing his contract, that would require surgery that would bench him the next three to four months.
Despite all the drama, the Knicks find themselves in the semi-uncomfortable position of needing Smith. Not only did he win Sixth Man of the Year, he’s the most consistent scorer the Knicks have after Carmelo Anthony and maybe the only one besides Anthony who can change a game. Big things are expected this season in New York basketball circles, with the Nets having beefed themselves up at the expense of the Celtics and the Knicks trying to maintain a measure of respectability. Actually, just recently Smith talked up that matchup, saying Paul Pierce would have “to pay” for anti-Knicks comments since arriving in Brooklyn. That and other comments led David Stern to call a meeting between Knicks and Nets owners to basically say, chill.
That word isn’t exactly in Smith’s dictionary. But with a five-game suspension looming to start the season, he won’t have any choice.