Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith ran at full speed on the practice floor on Tuesday for the first time since having offseason knee surgery in July.
Smith, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, did not scrimmage with the team but was able do fullcourt drills with the rest of his teammates. He has yet to face any contact since training camp began. Coach Mike Woodson hopes to have Smith back on the court by the end of next week, and is targeting the October 25th preseason finale against the Charlotte Bobcats at Madison Square Garden as his possible season debut.
“I think that’s where we’re looking at, trying to play that last preseason game,” Smith said. “But I’m not going to put the pressure on myself to where if I don’t feel like I’m ready I’m not going to play."
Whenever Smith is healthy and ready to go, he is expected to battle Iman Shumpert for the starting shooting guard spot when the Knicks open the season on October 30th against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Smith has made it no secret that he wants to start despite his excellence off the bench. He feels he has nothing to more to prove as the NBA's top Sixth Man.
"I've always wanted to start. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows how I feel about that," said Smith. "I won the Sixth Man last year so I feel there’s nothing left to prove at the Sixth Man spot, but at the same time if that’s what my team needs me to do that’s what I’ll do."
Woodson admitted that Shumpert has a leg up on Smith over the starting shooting guard spot because of the injury to Smith. The Knicks' coach announced yesterday that Shumpert will be the starting shooting guard on Thursday when they play the Wizards.
"Honestly, I don't really have a thought about it. I'm so busy working on my rehabilitation and trying to get right to where I can even get a chance to step on the court. As far as now, no telling who the starter will be," Smith said. "When coach decides to make the choice, we both have to live with it, between myself and Shump. It's a competition at this point, and he's winning. He's healthy, he's able to play. When I'm back ready, I'll be back ready."
Another factor that favors Shumpert is that when Smith is cleared to return to the court, he must serve a five game suspension to begin the season after violating the NBA's drug policy.
"Overall, I felt pretty good," Smith said. "Hopefully I'll be playing soon. Get these five games out of the way, so I can finally be out there with my teammates and get active."
Woodson sounds optimistic about Smith returning to scrimmage with the team before the regular season begins.
"He's on pace. As long as there's no setbacks and he continues to stay on the right track, that's a strong possibility. A lot will depend on Wednesday and see how he feels. We'll see."