Friday, July 12, 2013
Chris Smith's future starts in Las Vegas
By Jared Zwerling
LAS VEGAS -- During Thursday's conference call to introduce center Andrea Bargnani, GM Glen Grunwald said the Knicks would look to add at least one more point guard this offseason.
Could it be Chris Smith, who will be the most-watched point guard on the Knicks' summer league team?
"If the opportunity comes, I'm willing to step up and hopefully fill that role [next season]," Smith said Friday. "I'm definitely very confident in myself right now. My leg feels great, better than it's ever felt, and I just want to focus on getting better and staying humble."
Chris Smith is back for a second summer league with the Knicks.
It's been a full year since Smith, younger brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith, has competed in an NBA-sanctioned game. Undrafted out of Louisville in 2012, Smith played on the Knicks' summer league team last July but underwent patella tendon surgery in October.
"I knew I would miss the whole season," said Smith, who worked with the Knicks' training staff to rehabilitate his left knee.
Smith, 25, didn't start playing in 5-on-5 scrimmages again until about four weeks ago, when he joined his brother and Kemba Walker in pickup games at Manhattan College. Some have speculated recently that Smith's switch to J.R.'s agent, Leon Rose, meant both would be on the Knicks' roster next season. But Smith confirmed he has no guarantees of a contract.
"Right now, [the team and I are] just going step by step," he said. "We're worried about summer league first, and If I can get over the hump in summer league and stay healthy, everything will fall into place."
After summer league, Smith said he'll evaluate all options.
"My goal right now is to make a team, whether it's with the Knicks," he said. "No matter who it is, I really want to make a team, and I feel like my chances are getting better and better the more healthy I get."
Smith will have competition this summer -- namely from Toure Murry, who was one of the top point guards in the D-League this past season. The Knicks, in fact, expressed interest in him during free agency, according to a player source.
Smith looks forward to sharing the same backcourt with Shumpert on defense.
"When you got two guys pressuring the ball in the backcourt, it's going to be tough for other teams to score," Smith said. "I feel like defense will give me an opportunity to get a lot of minutes for coach [Mike] Woodson next season."
Two keys for Smith this summer are making his jump shot off the dribble and taking his pick-and-roll game to the next level. At Louisville, he ran limited pick-and-roll sets. But last season, being present at Knicks practices, he learned from future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, who Smith said "gave me a lot of tips."
"I've really just been working on my pick-and-roll skills," Smith said. "If I can get the pick-and-roll down, I feel like I could be one of the better guards."
Reflecting on the past year, Smith said, "It hasn't been an easy road to fully recover." He said golfing with J.R. helped him build better patience.
"My brother has helped me stay with it the whole time," he said.
Now, Smith is ready to prove he deserves his first permanent NBA contract.
"This is what I've really been waiting for," he said.