J.R. Smith said hitting Glen Rice Jr. in the groin Tuesday night was unintentional, but he wasn't surprised the NBA suspended him and believes his bad-boy reputation played a role.
"Yeah, I don't think it's something that anybody seen that was deliberate about it," Smith said. "They did. Just got to take it for what it is."
Smith, who served his one-game ban in Wednesday's 98-95 loss at Detroit, returned Friday night against the Nets.
It was the third time the NBA has suspended Smith since he signed with the Knicks in 2011. He was banned one game for elbowing Jason Terry in the 2013 playoffs and suspended five games for violating the league's anti-drug policy last season.
"At this stage of my career with all the suspensions and stuff like that, once I knew I had to make the phone call, something was going to come down from it," Smith said.
Smith contends he did nothing wrong and didn't know what happened to Rice, who was down on the floor for a while. A foul was called on Rice on the play.
"I was trying to clear space to get as close to the basket as I could to get the shot off," Smith said. "It definitely wasn't anything intentional.
"I seen him on the floor. I was trying to figure out what happened. Was he bleeding or something or what? The ref didn't call it. The ref called a foul on him. I didn't really see what happened."
NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn told The Associated Press that Smith's reputation had nothing to do with his suspension. The Players Association will file an appeal for lost wages.
Pablo Prigioni (sprained right ankle) sat out and won't be in Atlanta for Saturday night's game. He hopes to return Monday against the Hawks at the Garden . . . Without Prigioni and Jose Calderon (calf), Derek Fisher slid Iman Shumpert over to point guard and brought Shane Larkin off the bench to balance the rotations. It was the Knicks' fourth different starting lineup in four games.