Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert battling for the starting shooting guard spot
Providence - Mike Woodson said Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith will compete for the Knicks’ starting shooting guard spot this season.
Woodson said Shumpert has “the jump” because he’s healthy. But he still wants to see more from the third-year guard.
The competition may not come until the end of preseason or into the season as Smith continues his rehab from two offseason surgeries on his left knee.
Woodson hopes Smith can return for the final preseason game Oct. 25. The regular season starts five nights later.
It is somewhat surprising that Woodson would shift his feelings about Smith after being so adamant last season that he would come off the bench.
Woodson started Ronnie Brewer and James White instead of Smith, who was a reserve all 80 games he played and won Sixth Man of the Year.
Also, Smith will be suspended the first five games he can play in the regular season for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug agreement. So there’s a good chance Shumpert will be the starting shooting guard for at least the first five games, but Woodson said he won’t hold Smith’s transgression against him.
“It is going to be a late run for [Smith] because he’s coming back off his injury so realistically Iman has the jump,” Woodson said. “If he stays healthy then Iman has the jump on J.R. So, if that’s the case he can be starting come Opening Night – Iman. If J.R. comes back and is able to take it from him than hey, nothing is set in stone with our team.
“But speaking of J.R and what he’s gone through this summer, I said a couple weeks ago, I’m not going to kick him to the curb. I like to think he’s learned his lesson and hopefully it’s a learning curve for him that he’ll be better for it, I hope. That’s what I’m hoping.”
To Shumpert's credit, he said it doesn't matter if he starts or comes off the bench.
"I don’t really care who I play with," Shumpert said. "As long as we win I'm happy."
Although Woodson continues to talk about wanting to start a bigger shooting guard, he decided to use two point guards against the Celtics in tonight’s preseason opener.
He’s starting Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni in the backcourt with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani up front.
“I don’t think Iman’s had enough reps yet,” Woodson said. “It’s nothing against him. He’ll probably play more minutes than all of them tonight. We’ll gauge the game and how it goes. Eventually I want to get to a big lineup with Iman or J.R. at two spot.”
Shumpert missed two practices and was held out of the contact part of a third with a sore right shoulder.
Woodson said Kenyon Martin, who has been held out of most of the contact parts of practice thus far, probably won’t play on this trip. Woodson wants to take a look at camp invites Cole Aldrich as backup center as well as Ike Diogu and Josh Powell.