By Aaron Kopperl
After taking a 3-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics, the Knicks dropped game 4 in Boston in an overtime thriller that the Knicks could have easily won. The main reason behind the demise was the fact that New York allowed Boston to command a 20 point lead with approximately 8 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Luckily for the Knicks, Boston has proven to be a one half team throughout the postseason and the Knicks were able to take a 2 point lead with several minutes left in the 4th quarter. If not for 2 huge free throw misses by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks may have been able to complete the sweep. Carmelo Anthony’s horrible shooting night doomed the Knicks from the start. If not for the heroics of Raymond Felton, New York might have never erased the 20 point deficit. But for all of the Melo haters out there, Carmelo had 1 dreadful shooting night. That happens to shooters all the time. If it wasn’t for him, the Knicks wouldn’t be in the position they’re in right now, up 3-1 in the 1st round against a division rival with home court in the 2nd round and a serious chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the deficit and off day from Melo were not the only reasons why the Knicks came up short Sunday afternoon. Newly awarded 6th Man of the Year and the Knicks’ #2 scoring option, J.R. Smith, was not allowed in the TD Garden since he was serving a 1 game suspension for elbowing declining sharpshooter Jason Terry in the chin. Although the elbow did not appear intentional, it was still a bonehead play by Smith for throwing an elbow at a defender he has a clear size advantage against. With J.R. in game 4, the Knicks probably would have come away with a victory. Melo wouldn’t have had so much pressure to score the ball on a bad shooting day and Mike Woodson would’ve been able to leave Quentin Richardson on the bench.
Drawing a suspension at such a crucial time of the year, and a year which Smith is about to enter free agency, may ultimately hurt his value. Opposing GM’s may view this incident as a reason to believe that deep down Smith is still the same bonehead who made his former coaches and teammates miserable. While we Knick fans know that Smith has truly undergone a transformation this season as a player and person, other teams may not share our point of view. Before the incident, some experts were saying that Smith could warrant an offer as high as $50 million. As of now, I very much doubt that a low talent, losing record team looking for a cornerstone to build their franchise around will offer a wild card like Smith such a large sum.
Smith’s transformation has been largely due to his veteran teammates and his father-son relationship with Head Coach Mike Woodson, so it is no guarantee Smith will display this same maturity on a team with a bunch of young guys and a coach he may or may not get along with. Since J.R. is almost certain to turn down his measly $2.9 million player option, while the Knicks hold his Early Bird Rights, Glen Grunwald can offer Smith a contract of 4 years at 24 million. The 24 million is a starting salary of 5.2 that escalates upward over the 4 years of the contract, averaging out at 24 million over the life of the contract.
Although I am pretty confident Smith will take less money to rejoin the Knicks like he did last year, the elbow incident will most likely lower his value and make it easier for him to return to New York since he would not be turning down such a handsome sum.
With the Knicks up 3-1 on Boston, Smith may have picked the right time to execute a random act of stupidity that we see from him every so often. A loss in Boston also brings the series back to New York. For the Knicks, winning their 1st playoff series in about 10 years would be so much sweeter at home than on the road anyway. Furthermore, based on the Celtics’ consistent poor play, we should be confident that the Knicks will wrap up the series on Wednesday at MSG with our 6th man back in the rotation.
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