Opening Tip: Should J.R. start?
October, 4, 2013
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Will it be J.R. Smith (8) or Iman Shumpert (21) starting alongside Carmelo Anthony this season?There are two starting spots up for grabs at New York Knicks training camp: forward and shooting guard.
Coach Mike Woodson is going to use the next few weeks to determine whom to play alongside Carmelo Anthony at the forward spot.
The logical candidates are Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani.
At shooting guard, Woodson said Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith are candidates to start.
"He’s in the mix, too," Woodson said Thursday of Smith, last season's Sixth Man Award winner. "If things turn out well for him coming back, he could possibly slip in. At this point, I don’t know. I’m going to use this month to evaluate and see where I am when we start the regular season."
This could, of course, be posturing by Woodson.
The guess here is that Woodson doesn't want to commit to a starting lineup this early in camp, so he decided to include Smith -- who's coming off of knee surgery -- in the competition for a starting spot.
Remember, Woodson had plenty of opportunity last season to start Smith due to injuries in the backcourt. But he chose not to.
If Woodson is actually serious about starting Smith once he is healthy enough to take the floor and has served his five-game suspension for violating the NBA's substance-abuse policy, there are a couple of factors to consider:
A VOID ON 'D'? If Smith starts, that means Shumpert will be coming off the bench and, presumably, playing fewer minutes. Woodson likes to play Shumpert, one of the team's top defenders, on the opponent's best guard/wing scorer. If Smith is in the starting lineup, that means the Knicks will have one of their top perimeter defenders on the bench in the opening minutes of each game. For a team with several regulars who struggle on the defensive end, you have to wonder if it's wise to not maximize Shumpert's minutes. Smith is an incredible athlete who can disrupt passing lanes and bother an opponent on the dribble, but hasn't proved to be as consistent as Shumpert.
THE COMFORT LEVEL: Playoffs aside, Smith had a strong season for the Knicks last year in his role as first off the bench. Could shifting him to the starting lineup hurt those numbers? Over his career, Smith has shot 2 percent higher as a reserve (43 percent) than a starter (41 percent). Same goes for shots from beyond the arc (37 percent as a reserve; 35 percent as a starter).
We’ll revisit this topic in the question of the day -- read on.
UP NOW: World Peace had a few interesting things to say on Thursday. For one, he thinks Knicks fans should stop dreaming about the team going back to the mid-1990s days of bruising defense. He also compared Woodson to 13-time NBA champion Phil Jackson (worth noting: World Peace has played under Woodson for just four days).
In non-Metta news, Woodson admitted that he played Jason Kidd for too many minutes last season and talked about how that lesson will affect his approach this year. Shumpert suffered a "minor" shoulder injury. Lastly, a healthy Tyson Chandler talked about adding a jump shot this year, and we wonder whether Woodson should play Anthony at small forward or power forward this season.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will practice on Friday afternoon. Be sure to check out the blog for updates on Shumpert and anything else that comes up throughout the day. In the afternoon, we'll have a look at the Knicks' hopes for Shumpert this season, which include the third-year guard taking a more assertive role.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think Woodson should seriously consider starting J.R. Smith? Or is he better served as the Knicks' Sixth Man?
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