Adam ZagoriaJ.R. Smith has watched the Knicks’ first three games from home and is champing at the bit to make his season-debut Sunday against the reigning Western Conference champions San Antonio Spurs.
“I’m ready,” Smith said Monday. “Whenever coach calls my name on Sunday, I’ll be ready. I wanted to play Game 1, but unfortunately I had to sit it out. Whenever they need me, I’m ready.”
With Smith serving the first three games of a five-game drug suspension, the Knicks are off to a 1-2 start following Sunday’s 109-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“I definitely see how much they miss me, but I’m just one person,” said Smith. “It’s a collective team effort every time we go out there on the court.”
Like everyone else associated with the Knicks, Smith pointed to the team’s 16 turnovers as the main culprit against Kevin Love and the Wolves. That, and the fact they got behind 40-19 after the first period.
“I think we just turned the ball over to much,” Smith said. “When we cut down on the turnovers, we’re a better team 100 percent.”
Smith is involved in an open competition with Iman Shumpert for the starting shooting guard spot but was limited in training camp after having knee surgery over the summer. Shumpert has started all three games so far.
The positive aspect of the drug suspension is that Smith has had more time to rehab his knee.
“It’s worked out kind of good,” Smith said. “I’m able to get healthy, able to get my mechanics down, focus on my knee and getting to 100 percent as much as I can. I’m just trying to look at it as a positive way to practice and prepare.”
Without Smith, teammate Carmelo Anthony has struggled, shooting just 38 percent overall and 27 percent from the arc.
“Yeah, we all miss J.R.,” Anthony said. “We all know what he brings to our team. We all know the spark that he brings to our team. We miss that from him.”
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.