New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said he will start J.R. Smith on Wednesday when the Knicks play the Hawks in Atlanta, giving the reigning Sixth Man of the Year only his second start of his career with New York.
According to a report from Newsday Knicks beat reporter Al Iannazzone, Woodson admitted that the Knicks, who rank 25th in the league in points per possession, need more offense early on in games, and by replacing Pablo Prigioni with Smith, the team will have a better shot at getting buckets earlier -- even though the Knicks have been 8.9 points per 100 possessions better with Prigioni on the floor:
"I figured I’d throw J.R. in there. He can hopefully give us both, knowing he won’t play 30-plus minutes. I’m going to try and keep him around 28 minutes or so, between 25 and 28 minutes.”
New York (2-4) is currently trying to find a new identity as it looks to move forward without All-Star center and former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, who was diagnosed last week with a small non-displaced fracture of his right fibula and is expected to miss the next four to six weeks.
Smith's only other game as a starter came March 9, 2012, at Milwaukee, when he finished with just three points. He will start Tuesday in only his second game of the season after serving a five-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy last summer. He said Tuesday that he will try to prevent the Knicks from getting behind in the first quarter, which means the trigger-happy Smith will likely look for his shots early and often Tuesday in Atlanta:
"I’ll just try to bring energy - coming off the bench to starting a game. We’ve been starting the game in a hole and I’ll just try to prevent that."
According to Iannazzone, Woodson will go with a starting lineup of Raymond Felton, Smith, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani, who finished with just one rebound as Chandler's replacement in Sunday's blowout loss at home to the San Antonio Spurs.
Smith, who had knee surgery this summer, finished with just five points on 1-of-9 shooting and four turnovers in his debut. In 33 minutes per game off the bench last season for New York, he averaged 18.1 points on 42 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds. SI WIRE: Knicks reportedly ‘devising a strategy to lure’ Kevin Love in 2015