Valentines Day may have come and gone but J.R. Smith was busy ripping out the hearts of 2.5(Clippers only have half an arena) NBA fanbases. "Who Signs JR?" was the biggest cliffhanger since the iconic Dallas season finale. You've got to give him credit for efficiency though. What took Lebron an hour-long special, took Smith five words and 23 characters. Now let's spend 600 words explaining it.
Smith has spent the last few months playing the Chinese Basketball Association after getting locked into a contract which stipulated he would have to play out his deal even after the NBA lockout concluded. According to Smith, the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers,Orlando Magic and the Clippers were originally in the running before he wittled it down to semi-contenders Knicks, Clippers and Lakers.
I read The Da Vinci Code last year and played Clue growing up so I fancy myself an amateur Alex Cross(props to Morgan Freeman). Because he announced his decision via Twitter, let’s follow the trail of 140 character clues that led to JR Smith signing with the Knicks.
It's unclear why Smith and other big-time free agents-to-be have spurned the Bulls in recent years. The addition of a two-guard like Smith would have gone a long way towards relieving the scoring load Derrick Rose is burdened with in the Bulls one-dimensional offense. However, this tweet might be a clue why Smith passed on being Rose's back court mate.
That was the last we heard of the Chicago Bulls but more importantly he mentioned a Laker fan in response. The Lakers also worked out Gilbert Arenas but it’s unlikely they would sign either considering their pressing need for a true point guard. Plus, Smith and Kobe have huge egos and two years ago Smith ripped Kobe over Twitter. Mamba don't forget. Plus, the Lakers can only offer Smith the veterans minimum because they spent their mini-midlevel exception on Josh McRoberts.
I honestly thought Smith would sign with the Clippers after Retweeting Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who introduced new Clipper Kenyon Martin to Twitter. He's even had an ongoing online conversation with Clipper Darrell and as late as last night was watching Chris Paul score 13 fourth quarter points to overcome an 18 point third quarter deficit against the Portland Trailblazers.
After reading those tweets last night, it seemed inevitable that Smith would sign with the Clippers. He played with @ CP3 aka Chris Paul in New Orleans for two seasons (was actually traded for Tyson Chandler) and started alongsideChauncey Billups and Martin with the Clippers. So what went wrong?
Smith also played with Carmelo Anthony in Denver and surely took notice of Lin’s impact.
Signing with New York used to mean taking advantage of the world’s largest media market while playing in front of the most passionate fans in the NBA. Not anymore. China is the new frontier. It’s why Derrick Rose’s shoe contract with Adidas now eclipses Lebron’s. China loves winners and apparently they love Jeremy Lin as well. Even before he became an overnight sensation, Yao Ming wanted Lin to suit up for his Shanghai Sharks.
After leaving Asia, Smith ultimately signed with the Knicks and hitched his wagon to Lin’s.You’re crazy if you think Smith didn’t hear Lin’s name every second in basketball circles over in China over the past two weeks. Basketball-wise, D'Antoni's offense is going to give him the offensive freedom he would have lacked with the Clippers, Lakers or Bulls. For all the speculation about Lin and Smith's impact in the global market, it doesn’t hurt that he grew up nearby in New Jersey.