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Injured J.R. Smith getting close to returning to Knicks lineup

Knicks guard J.R. Smith looks for a shot

Knicks guard J.R. Smith looks for a shot during a game against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - For J.R. Smith, it's been the nightmare before Christmas.

Between a nagging foot injury and the Knicks getting off to the worst start in franchise history, Smith was asked what this season has been like.

"It's been a nightmare," he said Tuesday after practice. "We just got to wake up from it."

Smith has missed the last seven games with a small tear in his plantar fascia and is unsure if he will return Thursday for the Knicks' Christmas Day matinee against the Wizards.

Smith said the pain in his foot, which he experienced even when simply walking, has been improving. He added that he has been wearing a boot the last two days, which has helped the healing process and allowed him to do more things on the court.

"It was at a stage where it wasn't getting better," said Smith, who didn't practice Tuesday. "It wasn't getting worse, it was just staying at the same level. So now it's gradually getting better."

Smith, who is averaging 10.3 points (his lowest since 2005-06) and shooting 41 percent, has struggled to adapt to the triangle offense. He has a shoot-first mentality in a ball movement-fueled system, and his skill set, which includes creating on isolations and shooting off the dribble, isn't fully suited for the triangle.

But already without Iman Shumpert, who is recovering from a dislocated left shoulder, the Knicks could use Smith. His Christmas Day availability -- along with that of Amar'e Stoudemire, who sat out the previous two games to rest -- likely will be determined after practice Wednesday.

"They're both feeling pretty good, recovering well," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "But I think to define it isn't fair to him. So we'll see where they're at tomorrow and we'll probably have a better feel for how Thursday will look."

Smith couldn't explain what the Knicks have been missing this season but acknowledged the close games which they have lost. The Knicks are 3-16 in games when the score has been within five points or fewer with five minutes remaining. That's a sign of poor late-game execution.

"It looks like it's so many things, but at the same time, it's got to be something real small to change it because we are still in most games," Smith said. "If we knew, I think our record would definitely show it."

But as of now, their record shows that Knicks president Phil Jackson can count on one hand, a ring on each finger, to find the number of wins they have this season.

"To be 5-25, we had a lot of expectations coming in here," Smith said. "So to be in the situation we're in, it's a nightmare for me, anyway."

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