Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
Knicks to start J.R. Smith tonight
ATLANTA - Seven games into the season and the Knicks already will use their third different starting lineup.
Looking for a spark and a way to get the Knicks off to a better start, Mike Woodson has decided to insert J.R. Smith into the starting five. It will be Raymond Felton, Smith, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani tonight when the Knicks play the Hawks.
“I’m looking for some defense early and some offense early as well,” Woodson said at the morning shootaround. “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.”
Smith’s minutes are somewhat limited because of off-season surgery on his left knee. But it’s critical that Woodson continue to play Pablo Prigioni, who was moved to the bench, his normal minutes.
Prigioni continues to be the Knicks’ smartest player and best playmaker. Raymond Felton, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury, hasn’t played as well as he did at the start of the last season. No returning Knick has really, which is why they’re 2-4 heading into this game.
“I’ll just try to bring energy - coming off the bench to starting a game,” Smith, the Reigning Sixth Man of the Year, said. “We’ve been starting the game in a hole and I’ll just try to prevent that.”
Smith, who was suspended the first five games of the season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, was predictably rusty in his debut Sunday. He shot 1-of-9 with five points and four turnovers.
Smith has started only one other game in his Knicks’ career – March 9, 2012 at Milwaukee. He had just three points. That was also the trip where he Tweeted an inappropriate photo of a woman and was fined $25,000 by the NBA.