J.R. Smith streaked from one end of the court to the other with relative ease and finished the fast break by punishing a double-clutch two-handed dunk at Tuesday’s practice session.
This was an exciting development for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year after undergoing patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee in mid July.
“I feel good. I mean, I still feel it a little bit, when I’m running some of the trainers are saying I’m kind of babying it a little bit but I couldn’t really tell just off of running. Overall, I feel pretty good,” Smith reacted.
The Knicks explosive scorer did not participate in contact drills and has yet to participate in a preseason game but the progress could lead to a game appearance in the near future.
"I think that’s what we’re looking at is the last preseason game but I’m not going to put the pressure on myself if I don’t feel like I’m ready, I’m not going to play,” Smith explained.
New York’s head coach Mike Woodson has opened the competition for the starting job on the wing between third-year man Iman Shumpert and Smith. Shumpert recovered from knee surgery last season, returning in February for a game in London. Smith will miss five games due to suspension when he eventually returns to the court.
“Honestly, I don’t have a thought about it,” Smith answered when questioned about the starting job. “I’m so busy working on my rehabilitation, trying to get right to where I can even get a chance to step on the court. As for as now, there’s no telling who the starter will be and when he decides to make that choice, we both have to live with it between myself and Shump. It’s a competition at this point and he’s winning. He’s healthy and able to play and when I’m back ready, I’ll be ready.”
Woodson owns a variety of attractive options for his starting five and second unit group. He can opt for the two-point-guard lineup that enjoyed great success last season or place the prolific Smith next to Raymond Felton, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler. Last year, Woodson utilized Smith in late game situations and he buried two game winners while Anthony was sidelined due to injury.
“I’ve always wanted to start, everybody knows that,” Smith stated. “Everybody knows how I feel about that. I won the Sixth Man last year, so I feel there is nothing there to prove at the Sixth man spot but at the same time if that’s what my team needs to do, that’s what I’ll do. If coach wants me to be the Sixth man, I’ll be the Sixth man, if he wants me to start, I’ll start. It’s up to him.”
The Knicks are also monitoring the status of Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Stoudemire has not scrimmaged during training camp this year and Martin is waiting for his first opportunity to play in a preseason game. Martin has practiced with the squad, scrimmaged, and traveled to three preseason games.