GREENBURGH, N.Y. — On Saturday, J.R. Smith was one of the key reasons the Knicks beat the Celtics in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. On Monday, Smith won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for his troubles.
It wasn’t always easy, as the Knicks had to get the shooting guard, in his ninth year in the league, to buy into the role off the bench. But he has done so in his two seasons in New York, and has become a key offensive force.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “I’m so proud of him, in terms of buying into what we wanted him to do earlier in the season, and it started this summer.
“I wasn’t going to start him coming into this year, and I knew that, and he bought in. He didn’t like it, but he bought in.”
The Knicks have set up a press conference for 2:30 p.m., and Smith is expected to receive the award then.
Smith had 15 points in 31 minutes off the bench in Game 1, and was the team’s second-leading scorer behind Carmelo Anthony, who had 36 points. He added 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
“He bought in,” Woodson said. “Didn’t like it at first, but he accepted his role and he walks away with the Sixth Man Award. So it all worked out.”
Woodson said that guard Pablo Prigioni, who missed Game 1 with a sprained right ankle, “looked good” as he aims to play in Game 2 Tuesday. If Prigioni is able to play, said Woodson, he will start.