LAKEWOOD, N.J. - During the offseason, J.R. Smith re-signed with the Knicks, underwent knee surgery and temporarily dyed his hair blond.
The NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year was expected to miss three to four months after having surgery on his left knee in July to repair the patella tendon and fix a torn meniscus. He walked without a brace Thursday -- his hair now a very dark shade of red -- but said he's uncertain if he'll be ready for the beginning of the season.
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"It's still too early to tell from what I hear from the doc and all that, but I hope so," he said before The J.R. Smith Youth Foundation golf tournament at Eagle Ridge Golf Club. "I want to be there opening night. I want to start training camp off with my team and my new teammates."
Smith, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, re-signed with the Knicks in July for three years and roughly $18 million. Just days later, it was revealed that he would require knee surgery.
Smith said he played through pain last season although doctors recommended he sit out two or three games. "I hate to be the guy in the gym watching everyone else play," he said. "I wanted to play through it no matter what."
He didn't want to use the knee as an excuse for his struggles in the Knicks' loss to the Pacers in the playoffs, a series in which he shot only 29 percent from the floor and averaged 13.5 points in six games.
Smith said he thought the knee would feel better with time off this summer, but when there was no sign of improvement, he and his doctor decided that surgery was the best option.
Smith said his rehab currently includes pool workouts and riding a bike, but there's no timetable for when he'll be able to join his teammates on the court.
He praised the Knicks' newest acquisitions, calling Andrea Bargnani "one of the most underrated players in the league" and Metta World Peace "a warrior."
Asked how he thinks the Knicks stack up against the contenders in the Eastern Conference, Smith said: "If I play well and we win, then we don't have to worry about anybody else."
As for his thoughts on those new-look Nets across town?
"They've got a great chance to compete for a title," he said, "but I think we're still the marquee team in New York."