WASHINGTON -- J.R. Smith's disappointment about not being a starter could be the first of many times a Knick is unhappy this season. But to reach their goals, Mike Woodson said the players have to check their egos at the scorer's table.
"Two things this team has got to think about: team and win," Woodson said before the Knicks' 108-101 win in their preseason opener against the Wizards. "Other than that, I'll manage everything else. You just have to think about team and winning games. No matter who plays -- team and winning games."
The Knicks already are the oldest team in NBA history and have several key players banged up, including Amar'e Stoudemire, who missed Thursday night's game with a left knee bruise suffered in practice Wednesday. Age and injuries are two things that could derail the Knicks' hopes for a deep playoff run. Another is team harmony.
Smith, who scored 20 points Thursday night, said Wednesday that "disappointed would be an understatement" when he learned that Woodson wants him to come off the bench again. He had geared himself up to be a starter. He ultimately said he will do whatever Woodson wants, but he clearly was upset. "I'm not going to get into that," Woodson said. "The bottom line is J.R. and I are on the same page."
Woodson could have his work cut out for him in terms of trying to keep his players happy. When Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby return from injuries and Rasheed Wallace works himself into shape, the Knicks are going to have a deep team filled with veterans who have started, been All-Stars and closed games. For example, Jason Kidd -- who said he's fine with backing up Raymond Felton but expects to finish games -- will have a different role.
So managing egos and getting everyone to buy in to his role will be a major part of Woodson's job in his first full season as Knicks coach. "I'm in it for one thing, and that's to win," he said. "We've got to leave the egos at the door. I think our group of guys will do that. We've got a nice group of guys that I like. The only way you're going to win in this league, you've got to manage the ballclub, make sure guys are on the same page with the coach and I'm on the same page with these players. And I think we are."
Woodson didn't sound concerned about Stoudemire's knee. But before his chronic back issues, his knees were always a concern. Stoudemire had microfracture surgery on his left knee when he was in Phoenix.
"He's fine," Woodson said. "He'll be fine. His knee is bruised. If this was a regular- season game, he would play."
Woodson said Stoudemire will be re-evaluated Friday and they'll see if he can play in Saturday's game against the Celtics.
Notes & quotes: Mychel Thompson started at shooting guard. He is on a non-guaranteed deal and was asked if he took it as a good sign for him sticking. "I wouldn't say that," he said. "There's been some injuries. But I think I've played well. It's a little bit of both." . . . Woodson said Brewer is doing some light running and drill work but still is not ready to practice. "We'll have a better feel on him next week," he said.