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Friday, September 6, 2013
Reaction: J.R. Smith suspended five games

By Ian Begley

NEW YORK -- Late last month, injured Knicks guard J.R. Smith held out hope that he'd be ready for the season opener.

Now, that's not going to happen. The NBA announced on Friday that Smith will be suspended five games for violating the league's drug policy. The suspension begins as soon as Smith is physically cleared to play.

Here's what J.R.'s ban means for the Knicks:

MORE TIM HARDAWAY JR.: In Smith's absence, the Knicks will likely turn to first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. to fill the perimeter scoring void off the bench.

Will Hardaway Jr. be ready for that role? He's said he's confident he can help fill the void.

Smith could miss all of training camp and the first two weeks of the regular season following patellar tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee.

As soon as he's physically ready to play, Smith will serve his five-game ban (assuming he doesn't appeal).

STALE J.R.? In the grand scheme of an 82-game season, five games seems like a drop in the bucket. But here's where Smith's suspension hurts the Knicks: When a player undergoes major surgery and spends significant time away from the court, it takes several games for that player to knock of the rust and find his form.

This is particularly true with knee injuries. So if Smith's suspension keeps him out of the first five games of the season, it delays the point at which Smith starts to feel like the same player we saw in 2012-13.

STAKES ARE HIGH: No pun intended here. The stakes really are high for Smith after this suspension. This is based on the assumption that Smith faced a ban for failing a third marijuana test, which is the sole scenario in which a five-game ban is administered.

According to the NBA's Anti-Drug Agreement, a player who fails a marijuana test after being suspended for five games gets banned for "five games longer than the player's immediately-preceding marijuana suspension."

So that means, in theory, that Smith could get banned for ten games if he fails another test for marijuana.

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