J.R. Smith returned from his benching on Saturday evening to inspire the New York Knicks to a 102-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Smith admitted that he has learned from his mistakes and that his brief suspension has turned him into a better player. The Knicks guard was previously benched for their match against Miami, which lead him to question whether his future actually belonged with the team.
However, against Philadelphia Smith put in a sterling performance. He scored 14 points and also provided six assists too.
After the game Smith discussed the lessons that he has learnt from his previous errors. He told ESPN, "Don't goof around, I guess. Be serious. Be a professional. And just don't take this opportunity here you have for granted. There's a lot of people in this world that want our jobs. You can't take it for granted. It can be taken away just that fast."
Carmelo Anthony, who plays alongside Smith, admitted that he was proud of his teammate's efforts. "I thought he was a real pro tonight, man, despite everything that's going on," he admitted. "For him to bounce back the way he did today and obviously put that stuff behind him and move forward, that was big-time for him as a person."
Anthony continued, "This is a situation that really opened his eyes up, he looked himself in the mirror and hopefully he wants to change, he's got to change. It's up to him now."
Discussing what it's like being benched, Smith admitted, "It's the worst feeling in the world.Somebody literally just takes the game away from you, especially something you love and you've been doing it your whole life. This is all you know, you know nothing else. It's the worst feeling in the world."
Mike Woodson, Smith's boss and the New York Knicks' coach, previously called the player "unprofessional," before adding that he needed to "grow up."
Smith revealed that he doesn't know if he will actually be able to follow Woodson's advice though, stating, "He's been telling me that since I got here. Honestly, 'growing up,' I don't know if I really understand the true meaning of it."
Smith was banned on January 8 for attempting to untie an opponent's shoe, while he was also fined $50,000 for his indiscretion too. However, despite the furore that it created, Smith exclaimed that he was surprised by the reaction to the recent shoe-untying incident.
He confided, "Honestly, I've been doing it for four, five years, and I've only seen it from the joking side. It is what is. I guess some people don't have the sense of humor that others have."