J.R. Smith is on target to make his season debut Sunday and Mike Woodson said last season's Sixth Man of the Year could start against the Spurs.
"Could be," Woodson said Tuesday night. "He possibly could be, absolutely."
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Iman Shumpert started every game he played last year and all four this season, but he likely would be brought off the bench if Smith starts when he returns from his five-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
Shumpert is a better defender than Smith, but Woodson hasn't committed to him being a full-time starter this season.
It's possible the Knicks could trade Shumpert in the right deal. He has value and the Knicks have backcourt depth.
"When [Smith] comes back, we'll just play it out," Woodson said. "Bottom line is I'm going to have to make a decision and we're going to have to live with it and hopefully that decision will work. And if not, I think I have enough pieces to juggle and do what I need to do."
After practice Monday, Smith said he's "ready" to play and found a "positive" in his suspension. He had additional time to get his surgically repaired left knee stronger and work on his shot.
"It's worked out kind of good," Smith said. "I've been able to get healthy, been able to get my mechanics down, focus on my knee and get to 100 percent as much as I can."
Woodson started the big frontcourt of Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler for the third straight game against the Bobcats.
"If things go according to plan, my ultimate goal was to get to a big lineup," Woodson said.
But Chandler's injury could change things.
The Knicks' D-League team, the Erie BayHawks, acquired 6-10 Jeremy Tyler to keep a close watch on his rehab and development. The Knicks waived Tyler, who had foot surgery in September, in favor of Chris Smith and Cole Aldrich. "If he comes along nicely," Woodson said, "who knows, he could be wearing a Knicks' uniform.". . . The Knicks were outrebounded 51-33.