RENO, Nev. -- J.R. Smith's recent hijinks with shoelaces didn't help, but league sources told CBSSports.com that the Knicks began exploring possible trade options for the mercurial guard several days or perhaps as long as two weeks prior to his latest episode of mindlessness.
And given his reputation -- not to mention his lack of production -- the Knicks so far are getting nowhere fast in this challenging endeavor.
"Good luck with that," one rival executive said of the Knicks' predicament.
Smith landed himself in coach Mike Woodson's doghouse -- a circumstance that thus far as generated few, if any consequences -- by ignoring a league warning and attempting to repeat the hoax of unlacing an opponent's shoes during a game. Smith successfully untied Shawn Marion's shoe in a 92-80 victory over Dallas on Sunday and received a warning from the league. In an 89-85 victory over Detroit on Tuesday night, Smith attempted the same trick on Greg Monroe -- unsuccessfully, but it was enough to draw a $50,000 fine from the NBA.
Rod Thorn, the NBA's director of basketball operations, referred to Smith's behavior as "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct."
Woodson has been under fire for coddling Smith during a season in which the 28-year-old guard is shooting 35 percent from the field with a scoring average of only 11.3 points -- down nearly seven points from his 18.3 scoring average last season, when he was voted the league's sixth man of the year.
From sixth man to persona non grata -- that's how quickly Smith has fallen out of favor with the Knicks. In a radio interview on Wednesday, Woodson called Smith's latest actions "unacceptable" and said, "It's just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it's got to stop."
Smith's downfall began in October, when he publicly admitted delaying offseason knee surgery until after he signed a three-year, $17.95 million extension. Still, given his track record as a volume scorer (and shooter) who can provide instant offense, that contract isn't onerous. Smith makes $5.57 million this season, $5.98 million next season and $6.4 million in the final year of the deal.
But given Smith's struggles this season -- not to mention his lack of focus and seriousness -- the Knicks' attempts to trade him are proving even more difficult than the task of climbing out of their 12-22 hole.
"I hear Shanghai has a spot," one rival GM said Wednesday when polled about potential takers for Smith.
Another executive, when asked about teams that might be interested, texted, "Erie?"
Coincidentally, Smith's brother, Chris, had just finished an 0-for-3 performance with one rebound in nine minutes in the Erie Bayhawks' 97-90 victory over Idaho. The Knicks' decision to give Chris Smith a guaranteed contract that was viewed as a sweetener for J.R.'s extension was another unfortunate episode in this drama. The Knicks subsequently released Chris Smith to create a roster spot for Jeremy Tyler.