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Knicks playing it cautious with J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Camby

Marcus Camby sips a beverage after practice. (Oct.

Marcus Camby sips a beverage after practice. (Oct. 1, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- As Mike Woodson was talking about holding Ronnie Brewer out of the contact portion of Knicks practice Wednesday, J.R. Smith emerged from a backroom with his left foot in a walking boot.

Woodson said limiting Brewer in his first practice following September knee surgery and taking the weight off Smith's sore left Achilles were precautionary measures. But there may be reason for concern since Smith missed Saturday's preseason game because of the Achilles and didn't do the contact part of Tuesday's practice.

"We just got to watch it," Woodson said of Smith. "He said it was sore. We told him to back away. We'll let him sleep on it and see how he feels [Thursday]. If he comes to me and says I'm going, he'll go out there and go."

But the Knicks might be more cautious -- and understandably so -- since this is the way they have handled training camp with this veteran-laden group.

Brewer said he thought he could have scrimmaged and wished the training staff was "a little more lenient." He hopes he can go full Thursday and play during the Knicks' three-game preseason trip that opens Friday against Toronto in Montreal.

But Woodson said if Brewer, the Knicks' likely starting shooting guard, has any setbacks from arthroscopic surgery for a meniscus tear and is sore Thursday he may not make the trip.

Woodson already said that Rasheed Wallace (conditioning) and Marcus Camby (strained calf) won't travel with the team. They'll stay back and work out at the facility, although Camby sounded as if he's ready to return.

"I want to play," he said. "They're holding me back some. But I understand they're being cautious. It's a long season. We got aspirations of playing in June. From that aspect I can understand that."

Camby mentioned Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, who was in and out of the lineup last season with a calf injury, and said the Knicks want to avoid that. It's understandable since Camby is 38 and was signed to back up Tyson Chandler.

The Knicks have the big picture in mind. They want to make sure they have as many healthy bodies for the regular-season opener against the Nets as possible. The opener is two weeks from Thursday.

Woodson continues to say the Knicks have time to scrimmage and build chemistry in the days leading up to the first game. They play their preseason finale next Wednesday.

Brewer, the former Bull whom the Knicks signed to a one-year deal, said he had some swelling in his knee over the summer. He didn't want to have surgery, but the Knicks' doctors recommended it.

The surgery was six weeks ago Wednesday, which was how long the Knicks said Brewer would miss. But he thinks he can go all out now.

"Every time they ask me I tell them my knee is great, that it's pain free," Brewer said. "They saw what I can do early in practice. Hopefully they were pretty excited about what they saw. They saw that I was going through it freely without being too cautious about my knee. Hopefully they'll have a little more leniency and let me go full throttle."

Woodson said if Brewer feels all right Thursday he may let him scrimmage and then would determine his status after that.

"We have enough pieces on this team that I don't have to rush Ronnie Brewer back," Woodson said. "The bottom line is he's taking baby steps. He's on the court now. I'm excited about that. Now we have to get him back in good shape to help us win at a high level."

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