GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Meet J.R. Smith, the new Dennis Rodman?
So says the Hall of Famer himself.
In a tweet from his verified account this week, Rodman said: "Sending love to the zen master @PhilJackson11 and the @nyknicks for this season. Good luck to @therealjrsmith who is the new Dennis Rodman."
Smith smiled Friday after Knicks practice when he was asked about Rodman's impromptu comparison. "I think it's a great thing," Smith said.
He guessed that his reputation for finding controversy is what made Rodman see some of himself in Smith. Last season, for example, Smith was suspended for five games for violating the league's drug policy and fined $25,000 for sending a threatening tweet to the Pistons' Brandon Jennings and $50,000 for repeatedly trying to untie opponents' shoes.
But perhaps there's something more to Rodman's comparison than that, considering that Smith is now trying to adapt his game to Jackson's famously successful offensive system. Just as Rodman did 19 years ago.
Say what you want about Rodman's off-the-court antics, but this much is certain: He had three very productive seasons as part of Jackson's triangle offense. If the same goes for Smith, the Knicks could make some noise in the Eastern Conference sooner than some might think.
"He's trying his best not to force a lot and let the game come to him," coach Derek Fisher said of Smith. "That's hard to do for scorers and he's a really, really good scorer."
It's easy to forget now, in the wake of the Knicks' all-around struggles last season, just how important Smith was to the Knicks' success in 2012-13.
Playing the role of Robin to Carmelo Anthony's Batman, Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year Award and was an integral piece in so many Knicks victories. When Smith scored at least 15 points that season, the Knicks were 41-17. When he didn't hit that figure, they were 13-11.
But for Smith to have the same positive on-court impact this season, he has to adjust his game. Certainly he won't have the same freedom to shoot at will in the triangle as he did in Mike Woodson's system, which allowed for more one-on-one play.
Fisher said he's been pleased with how "engaged" Smith has been trying to find his place in the system. "He's a smart player and he continues to figure out ways to be effective within what we're doing," Fisher said.
The Knicks' rookie coach, no stranger to succeeding in the triangle, insists Smith still will get plenty of shots -- as long as he stays patient and doesn't go off on his own.
"It's going to take some time for guys to get their chances, but it will come for him," Fisher said, "and he's doing exactly what we're asking him to do."
After less than three weeks of practices and a handful of preseason games, Smith believes he's got a good enough grasp of the ins and outs of the triangle. He half-jokingly suggested Jackson might disagree.
The only answer that matters will be his play, starting in the season opener Oct. 29.
Added Fisher, "He wants to get this right."