GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Dennis Smith Jr. remained on the practice court long after most of his teammates, having already joined his teammate in contact workouts for the first time in weeks and now going through shooting lessons with Allan Houston.
Smith has missed the last six games since suffering a back injury that he revealed Wednesday was, according to an MRI, two discs out of alignment causing inflammation. He is listed as questionable for the Knicks game against the Raptors Thursday at Madison Square Garden, but said that if he feels ready he is anxious to return.
“Just taking it day by day right now,” Smith said. “That’s it. Today was good. Going to go and do some treatment and then see how I feel tomorrow and go from there.
“I’m still locked in. I’m engaged with everything they’ve got going on. I’ll be back out there eventually.”
With the Knicks running down the final eight games of a 14-60 season he was asked if he’d given any thought to shutting it down rather than try to get back for games that are meaningless in the standings.
“Nah, not from me,” he said. “I’ve been doing all my rehab. I’m doing extra. I’m doing extra stuff to try to help me get back. I want to be healthy of course but I definitely want to play as soon as I can.”
There is a cautionary example in front of him with Frank Ntilikina's return after missing 24 games with a groin strain. He came back last week to play one game, was in just seven minutes of the next and was shut down again. Ntilikina won't play Thursday and is being re-evaluated to see if his season is over.
“I mean, that was unfortunate but stuff like that happens,” Smith said. “It’s a freak accident. It’s just unfortunate. I’m worried about me though. I feel like I know my body.”
The Knicks have spoken often of wanting to see the combination of 2017 lottery picks, Smith and Ntilikina, on the floor together. But Ntilikina was hurt when the Knicks traded for Smith and then Smith was sidelined for the brief return from Ntilikina.
“That’d be lovely,” Smith said. “We talked about that like two days before he started back playing. We were both in the gym late one night and we just chopped it up about that, so hopefully we’ll be able to. I don’t want him to get hurt and I don’t want to be hurt myself. But if we can do that it’s definitely something we’ll aim for.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world if it doesn’t happen, but I’d really like to see it,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “That’s what I was really hopeful for with Frank coming back is once Dennis got healthy, we could take a look at that. So hopefully in the last games here we could get him out there but if it’s not, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll get him a great summer of work, get him better and get him on the court next year.
Notes & quotes: After an injury update, Noah Vonleh was determined to have a sprained right ankle and bone bruise. He will be re-evaluated next week.