GREENBURGH, N.Y. - J.R. Smith hopes to make his season debut Nov. 10 against the Spurs and preferably as a starter.
The latter might not be realistic since Smith hasn't been cleared for contact following two procedures on his left knee in July. Right now, Iman Shumpert is ahead of Smith for the starting shooting guard spot, and it might stay that way.
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"I've always wanted to start," Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "Everybody knows that. Everybody knows how I feel about that. I won the Sixth Man last year, so I felt as though there's nothing left to prove at the sixth man spot. But at the same time, if that's what my team needs me to do, that's what I'll do. If coach wants me to be a sixth man, I'll be a sixth man. If he wants me to start, I'll start. That's up to him."
Smith ran full speed Tuesday at practice for the first time since the surgeries and had a few dunks. Yet, he said the trainers told him he was "babying" his left leg.
Smith hopes to play in the Knicks' final preseason game Oct. 25 at the Garden and to be cleared for the Oct. 30 opener. Of course he has to miss the first five games he's physically able to play as he serves a suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
"Hopefully, [I'll] be playing soon," Smith said. "Get these five games out of the way so I can finally be out there with my teammates and get active."
Smith gave the Knicks much-needed offense off the bench last season, averaging 18.1 points. Shumpert, who will start at shooting guard Thursday against the Wizards, is a much better defender with a developing offensive game. Coach Mike Woodson has said it will be an open competition but sounded Tuesday as if it's Shumpert's job to lose.
"I've always said I wanted to go this year with a bigger [shooting guard]," Woodson said. "Unfortunately, J.R. hasn't been in camp to fight for it and right now, Iman's ahead of schedule, so he's going to be the guy who's going to end up being in there."
Smith said things could change, though.
"It's a competition at this point he's winning," Smith said. "He's healthy, he's able to play. When I'm back ready, I'll be back ready . . . No telling what will happen with the starting five. That's not to say it'll be final for the whole year."
Notes & quotes: Woodson said Kenyon Martin was pulled out of practice for precautionary reasons. He said Martin's ankle, which he injured late last season, "nagged him throughout the summer," so the Knicks are "being cautious."