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J.R. Smith: Knicks are "Marquee Team" in New York

by Photo of Scott Davis

At his charity’s golf outing yesterday, J.R. Smith made some bold proclamations about the Knicks

J.R. Smith: Knicks are

The NBA's offseason means limited availability to the players, who usually drop off the radar when basketball is no longer being played. J.R. Smith, who entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, hasn't been heard from much since he re-signed with the New York Knicks and later underwent knee surgery that could force him to miss the beginning of the season. However, at the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation's 7th Annual Golf Classic yesterday in Lakewood, NJ, Smith gave reporters a bit of insight into his offseason, his free agent process, and how the Knicks will stack up against an improved Eastern Conference.

Smith began by giving an update on his rehab process from knee surgery. He said it's too early to set a timetable for a return, but he remains hopeful for the start of the season, which will be October 30 for the Knicks. At his doctor's request, Smith didn't participate in any golf during yesterday's event. Smith also went on to say that while his knee hurt in the playoffs, it was no excuse for his poor play versus the Indiana Pacers.

"I hate sitting out and I hate to be the guy in the gym watching everybody else play. So I wanted to play through it no matter what.... My motivation is still high just off of how bad I played last year." Smith addressed the improved Eastern Conference: "I've seen the moves [the Eastern Conference teams] made and stuff like that, but it doesn't really affect us unless I play well. So if I don't play well, unfortunately we don't win."

When the Brooklyn Nets came into the conversation, however, Smith did take a minute to acknowledge their team.

"It's an unbelievable move for [coach Jason Kidd] to have a team like that to start off with in his first year." Kidd, of course, played with the Knicks last year and was a major presence on the floor and in the locker room, helping guide his teammates through the season. Smith said the Nets have a shot at the Finals next season, but stated, "I think [the Knicks] are still the marquee team in New York."

This comes on the same day that Paul Pierce -- the new Net -- said that his distaste for the Knicks has grown this summer and that it's time for the Nets to run New York.

Part of Smith's reasoning for believing the Knicks are still the top team in New York comes from a seemingly genuine approval of their offseason moves. He addressed Andrea Bargnani's versatile offensive skills and called him one of the most "underrated" players in the league. He called Metta World Peace a "warrior" and a defensively versatile player who loves the big moments and big shots. On Beno Udrih, who the Knicks signed to a one-year deal yesterday, Smith gave his thumbs-up, saying Udrih is a great point guard who will fit in well because of his unselfishness and ability to hit the open shot.

And, of course, there's Smith, who could have bolted to another team for more money, but in his mind, that wasn't an option.

"For me, it was easy. I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Knick. I still want to be a Knick until I retire, so it wasn't really a long, drawn-out process." And the Knicks are lucky to have him back. Flaws and all, Smith produced a career-high 18 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists while shooting 35% from three-point range. Though he fizzled out in the playoffs, the Knicks will need another strong season from J.R. Smith if they wish to remain the best team in New York.

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