J.R. Smith hasn't been the same player since he was suspended in the heart of the first-round series against the Boston Celtics, and Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Wednesday that the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year could see a reduced role, according to ESPN New York.
"I feel good about the guys that come in off that bench, just like I feel good about J.R.," Woodson added. "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."
Smith missed a Game 4 opportunity to sweep Boston after elbowing Celtics guard Jason Terry in the face. He returned with a 3-for-14 shooting performance and has shot 26 percent in the four games since. Only once did Smith shoot better than 27 percent; that 5-for-13 performance to close out Boston could hardly be called efficient.
Woodson did say Smith is contributing with redeeming defense and rebounding for the undersized Knicks. Add in the fact that Smith has shown the ability to hit big shots in clutch situations -- even during bad games -- and it's unlikely Smith's minutes dip a large amount from the 31.9 minutes per game during the 2013 postseason.
After a 3-for-15 shooting outing during the Knicks' Game 2 win against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, it remains unclear whether Woodson feels pressured to find answers elsewhere. He said he wouldn't "kick him to the curb," and the only options behind Smith include the injury-hampered Steve Novak, stretch forward Chris Copeland or lateseason signee Quentin Richardson.
With the potential for forward Amare Stoudemire to return from a knee surgery in Game 3 on Saturday, the Knicks could theoretically look to play bigger, which might be another avenue in pulling down Smith's minutes.