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Knicks' J.R. Smith looking to bounce back this season

J.R. Smith looks on during a game against

J.R. Smith looks on during a game against the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden. (Nov. 14, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

After what he called the worst season of his career, J.R. Smith is surprised he's still with the Knicks.

"I was playing like a person who didn't want to be there, not looking as focused as a person who should be in the situations we were in," Smith said Wednesday morning on ESPN's "First Take."

"I believe it was the worst year I've had in the NBA, including my rookie year."

It was certainly a bizarre one. Before it even began, Smith, who was recovering from left knee surgery, was suspended five games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA anti-drug program. When he returned, he struggled to find his shot, shooting only 32.8 percent in November. In January, the league fined Smith $50,000 after he twice tried to untie an opponent's shoelace during games.

"None of the things I had going on in my mind were working," Smith said, adding that he "absolutely wouldn't have been" surprised if Phil Jackson had traded him. "I wouldn't have blamed [Jackson] at all," Smith said. "I'm just looking to bounce back."

With Carmelo Anthony deciding to re-sign with the Knicks, Smith said the team's chances of winning what many now consider a wide-open Eastern Conference are "extremely realistic."

"Melo is obviously the biggest piece to this puzzle we got going on," Smith said.

"The ship doesn't move without him. He's the captain of the boat, and the other guys, we're just trying to turn the machine."After winning the Atlantic Division and a playoff series in 2013, the Knicks missed the playoffs this past season.

Smith said the team's 37-45 record should not be blamed on former coach Mike Woodson, who was fired. Derek Fisher, who replaced Woodson, however, is now another reason why Smith is optimistic about this season.

"I love Derek. I've known Derek since my rookie year," Smith said. "First day I met him until now, he's been the same person. He's one of the most consistently professional people around this business. I can't wait to play for him."

New York Sports