J.R. a product of Knicks' environment

It sure can't be because Smith is shooting 36 percent from the floor, a career low.

"Nobody's bigger than the team," Woodson said.

Except the coach has placed Smith above the team at almost every turn. After J.R.'s elbow nearly cost the Knicks the Boston series, and surely cost them the rest they desperately needed before the Indiana series, Woodson "punished" him by trumpeting his potential promotion into the starting lineup at Shumpert's expense, this while Smith was waiting to serve his five-game drug suspension (as if that alone wasn't reason enough to keep him with the second string).

On Twitter, Smith has told Knicks fans he doesn't care what they think, and that he might leave for another team. He's threatened an opposing player, tweeted an inappropriate picture of a girlfriend, and suggested the Knicks betrayed him by cutting his brother Chris, in whom the team invested a guaranteed $2.1 million (luxury taxes included) as a favor to -- you guessed it -- J.R. Smith.

Off Twitter, Smith has engaged in heated exchanges with his coach, partied too hard in the playoffs (according to Rihanna, of all partiers), untied opponents' sneakers, staged an in-game boycott by refusing to shoot, and followed a second benching by showing up late to a team meeting. Smith is said to still be furious about the dispatching of Chris and his D-League skill set, which has to make Woodson feel pretty silly for saying in the preseason he might keep Chris on the roster because he had "a great deal of respect for that family."

And yet Woodson still says his team needs Smith, and will nurture him forevermore. On the day J.R. became eligible to be traded, it would be logical to think the Knicks were just trying to persuade someone, anyone, to take this radioactive reserve off their hands.

But the Knicks have a logic all their own, and they likely believe Smith is still a cause worth saving. The entire episode speaks to a lack of leadership that doesn't end with Woodson, who wouldn't even publicly rebuke Amar'e Stoudemire after he rammed his hand through a glass fire extinguisher case during the Miami playoff series.

Mills and the Knicks' owner, Jim Dolan, had to sign off on initially keeping Chris Smith, neglecting the fact that every roster spot is precious in a league with an ever-growing injury list. "And it's not just about the possibility of another Jeremy Lin being at the end of your bench," said a league source with ties to the Knicks. "Those players help set a tone in practice. You can't just give one of those spots away as a favor."

You can't just enable a disruptive force in the locker room, either. Back in a time when the Knicks considered anything short of a trip to the conference finals as an epic fail, Dave Checketts, Garden president, stormed into the locker room and blasted Charlie Ward and Allan Houston for embarrassing the franchise with anti-Semitic remarks attributed to them in a magazine piece.

Has Mills, or Dolan, or Houston for that matter ever gotten in Smith's face to loudly remind him of his obligations to the team and the brand? Or has it been soft love all the way?

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