J.R. Smith came to the Knicks last spring to play with Carmelo Anthony, but this summer he was afraid of losing his favorite teammate to free agency.
“We were so nervous and scared that we weren’t going to be on the same team anymore," Smith said.
His concern was not about parting ways with Melo, but the potential departure of Steve Novak.
Yes, Steve Novak.
"People asked me who I texted the most this summer," Novak told me recently. "When I tell them J.R., they're like, 'Yeah, right.' But it's true. We talked all the time. He's a great guy."
This is some serious Felix and Oscar stuff, which is why I've gotten to call them “The Odd Couple” on MSG Network.
"We got so close in that little time that I got here at the end of the season last year, we had a little joke going," Smith told MSG's Tina Cervasio.
"Whenever he’s open, I’m on the bench or wherever I’m at yelling ‘Find him! Find him! Find him!’ Before you know it, they’re finding him and he’s hitting six or seven threes a game. I think it helped his confidence."
Novak marveled at Smith's unselfishness, especially considering the reputation that preceded him.
"He draws defenses so a lot of attention so when teams do decide to go double, or he makes someone help, he passes the ball so well to me," Novak told Cervasio. "I think the fact that we’re both perimeter threats makes us hard to guard on the floor at the same time ... I think we definitely complement each other well.”
Novak saw the departure of a few teammates he grew close with, Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields andJared Jeffries, and both he and Smith went back and forth about their own free agency situations. Eventually Novak signed a four-year deal and Smith took a two-year deal to stay together as teammates in New York.
They couldn't be more opposite off the court; modest family man from Wisconsin meets fun-loving tattooed baller from New Jersey. It's easily a better sitcom format than Two Broke Girls.
But despite the amusing diametric, they formed a bond that went beyond stereotypes.
"I don’t think he understood that I was like that before I got there," Smith said. "I didn’t think people knew how close we were going to get. But just the relationship we had, Steve is so ... he likes to talk, I like to talk, I mean, it makes it great for us. Especially as shooters. We do shooting drills every day after practice. It helps us on the team aspect, too.”
It creates a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch of the bench, as well. Smith may not be completely satisfied with being a reserve, but he is happy to be reunited with his favorite wingman.
The two got right back to business providing offense off the bench in the preseason opener, as Smith had 20 points and six assists and Novak had 21 points with a sizzling 7-for-7 from three-point range.
“It’s good to know,” Novak said, “I still got it.”
And Novak has more guards to find him and his golden shooting touch, with the additions ofRaymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni. But while you list the passers around him, Novak won’t let you forget his favorite.
“Even guys like J.R.,” Novak added. “I mean, honest to God, he has point-guard vision.”
We get it, Felix. We get it.