Knicks' J.R. Smith unsure about option, but likes area

Knicks guard J.R. Smith talks to the media Knicks guard J.R. Smith talks to the media as the team cleans out its lockers the day after being eliminated from the playoffs by Miami. (May 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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NEWARK -- J.R. Smith looked at the calendar Wednesday and realized he had 20 days to decide whether to pick up his $2.44-million option to play for the Knicks next season. The Knicks' sixth man and New Jersey native isn't sure what he will do, but Smith likes being close to home.

"I'm getting kind of spoiled right now, going up and down the Turnpike," Smith said. "My mom's right there. She's cooking. She's coming up to New York and cleaning my place.

"After having that, I think it's going to be harder off the court than it will be on the court [to leave]. On the court basketball is basketball everywhere. But you got your family and friends and everybody, so it will be tough."

His family and some Knicks, including Jared Jeffries and assistant coaches Herb Williams and Jim Todd, supported Smith Wednesday when his foundation teamed with The First Tee to kick off their golf youth program at Weequahic Park Golf Course.

If Smith opts out by the June 26 deadline, the Knicks can give him 120 percent of last year's salary or $2.8 million. But they would have to dip into their midlevel exception for Smith and that money could go to Jeremy Lin or other free agents.

The Knicks hope the players union wins next Wednesday's appeal to get Lin and Steve Novak "Early Bird Rights," which would allow them to re-sign both players without using any of their exceptions. The outcome should be known by the time Smith decides what to do.

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"I want to be here so I'm not really putting too much emphasis on it," he said. "I got money now. It's all about winning, and whatever is the best situation and the best fit really.

"If all things are equal, I'm staying."

Smith, who played in China before joining the Knicks in February, averaged 12.5 points in 35 games. He struggled in the playoffs, hitting just 31.6 percent from the field, including 18 percent from three. In his exit meeting, coach Mike Woodson told Smith to work on his midrange game.

"Not so much a jump shooter, but get to the basket more, which is something I definitely have to work on, without a doubt," Smith said. "Get to the free-throw line. To be athletic and having the talent that I have and not get to the free-throw line, it's tough."

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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