Phil Jackson Calls Out J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert


Phil Jackson has made a name for himself in the NBA and today he added to it by calling out former New York Knicks players J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. in and article on ESPN. He goes lighter on Hardaway, now a member of the Atlanta Hawks, than he does the two guys he traded to the Cavs. The article is very interesting, here is what he said about J.R. first:

"“J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether,” Jackson says. “Also, Shump and Tim [Hardaway Jr.] were regressing, so I decided to meet with them separately and try to find out what, if anything, was bothering them.”"

So the word delinquent is pretty strong but missing meetings or even being late are a problem. He separates JR from the other two players, that they were just regressing. With Smith’s history, missing meetings is a huge red flag as he has had problems with his behavior surrounding the game of basketball. Jackson didn’t stop there though:

"Smith was first on the list. “We talked about his statement to the press that our shooting guard depth was going to be the team’s asset, but so far it hadn’t worked out that way,” Jackson says. “He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit and he wasn’t doing the job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn’t really respond. He’s a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal.”"

Smith was supposed to carry the scoring load for a second unit that was full of borderline NBA players. Not exactly easy for a 6th man who isn’t skilled like a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Smith plays best off the ball, as we saw in the Regular Season. Smith being an emotional guy is well known. Having trouble with significant other is something many people face, and can greatly impact their performance. Not an excuse but the emotional Smith may really have been dealing with some things that were tough.

Seems obvious that J.R. just wasn’t a Phil Jackson kind of guy.

"“I asked Fish what players were the biggest distractions. He said that although J.R. never talked back to him, he always walked around under a dark cloud. Derek was worried that negative energy was contagious.”"

The inner workings of professional sports teams are so interesting. The amount of relationships on a 12 – 15 man roster is huge. That JR never talked back to his coach, Derek Fisher, seems like a positive but the idea of a dark cloud could be explained by the losing team, with a President that didn’t believe in him and a problem with his significant other. Again no excuses but obviously Fisher and Smith didn’t gel very well either.

Interestingly, Jackson also seems to believe he wanted to trade Shump instead of the common belief that Shumpert was the bait that allowed him to deal JR. Here is what he had to say about Iman:

"Shumpert was next in line. “After he suffered a hip injury in Dallas, his game went rapidly downhill. Did he have any other issues to explain his decline? He said, ‘No. I don’t know what has gone wrong with my game.’ As with J. R., nothing got resolved.”"

This seems like a question for the coaching staff. You have a player who isn’t producing, who wants to produce. If there weren’t any attitude issues, none are noted that should impact his game, or health issues, the shoulder injury was soon to come, it is up to the coaches to make things work. Similar to Jackson’s other complaint about Shumpert:

"Shumpert was another problem. “I like Shump,” says Jackson, “but he has a very loud, big personality. It was difficult for most of the other guys to deal with, especially if things don’t go well for him or the team.”"

A young NBA player is “loud” and has a “big personality.” Heck, any professional athlete that is young is very likely to be loud and have a big personality. Again this seems like a coaching, culture issue, and maybe a generational one as well. Fisher and Jackson both present as no non-sense, wear your hard hat to work kind of people. Jackson’s Triangle Offense, which mostly goes against analytics, seems behind the times as well.

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Have to wonder how the Knicks will find players who are young and talented when they expect those players to behave in a more “stodgy” “old fashioned” way.

Either way, everything from Jackson revolves around making himself look good for the decisions he made. He traded all 3 of these players and later went on about Samuel Dalembert who he got rid of as well. If Jackson thought this would make Knicks fans happy or explain his decisions to players and agents, he got it wrong.

J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert may not be perfect but Phil Jackson just wrote another footnote in his career as an executive. It is not a good one.

What do you think about Phil Jackson’s statements about his former players?

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