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The NBA is investigating the Twitter feud between New York's J.R. Smith and Detroit's Brandon Jennings over the presence of Smith's brother, Chris, on the Knicks' roster, sources close to the process told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
The teams meet Tuesday in Detroit, but the league office is expected to rule before then whether anything said between the two can be deemed threatening.
On Wednesday, Jennings sent out the following tweet, which was later deleted: "Wait wait wait JR smith brother is in the NBA but @PoohJeter & @BBROWNLAU isn't. Call me hater but not Rollin!!!"
Shortly after the Knicks' win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, J.R. Smith responded with a tweet appearing to threaten to send his "street homies" to Detroit, presumably to confront Jennings.
Smith also wrote that he had "no respect" for Jennings.
No respect for these lil kids who pop at the mouth on twitter an then want to delete they tweets! #GrowUp! #ManUp! @TheOnlyCSmith0 #Facts!— JR Smith (@TheRealJRSmith) November 14, 2013
J.R. Smith said on Thursday night that he didn't mean to threaten Jennings with his tweet.
"Threaten? No. There's a way to threaten somebody, and that's not the way to publicly threaten somebody," Smith said before tipoff of the Knicks-Rockets game Thursday night.
He added that he and Jennings are friendly and have played basketball together during the offseason in Los Angeles.
"It's not that serious. I go to L.A. in the summertime and see him all the time ... I don't know how it got this blow out of proportion," Smith said.
Smith was angry about Jennings' critique of his younger brother when he sent out the tweet.
"I was definitely frustrated because you get tired of people trying to pick on your little brother, so it's my little brother, I'm going to step up for him, good bad or ugly," he said. "So it's not just to Brandon. It's to anybody who says anything about him."
Chris Smith has said in the past that he's the target of heavy criticism by Twitter users.
"It happens every day," J.R. Smith said. "People criticize him, talk about what he deserves and what he doesn't deserve. I think he works hard for what he does. And whoever doesn't like it, they don't like it."
J.R. Smith has gotten in trouble on Twitter in the past. In March 2012, he was fined $25,000 by the NBA for posting "inappropriate pictures" of a semi-nude woman on his Twitter account.
"I'm always in trouble with Twitter. I don't know what it is. I'm trying to shake it," said Smith, who added he's considering taking a hiatus from Twitter.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson addressed the issue with Smith prior to Thursday's game.
"My whole thing with that is if you're going to tweet, tweet something positive," Woodson said.
Woodson said he may require his players to stop using social media in-season.
"It might come to that," he said.
Chris Smith's inclusion on the Knicks' roster has stirred strong emotions among the team's fan base and, apparently, opposing players.
Woodson acknowledged that Chris Smith's ties to his brother influenced the team's decision to keep the 26-year-old guard. Chris Smith also acknowledged that his relationship with his brother has helped his career.
|J.R. Smith, right, took offense to Brandon Jennings questioning whether his brother Chris, left, deserved to be on an NBA roster.|
Beyond that, Chris Smith is represented by Creative Artists Agency, which is an added layer to the Knicks' decision to keep him. CAA represents the Smith brothers and has close ties to the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Woodson, assistant GM Allan Houston and front-office member Mark Warkentien are also represented by the agency.
Some rival agents believe Chris Smith's roster spot with the Knicks was locked in as a package deal when J.R. Smith re-signed with the team in July.
Chris Smith signed a nonguaranteed contract worth $490,180. According to league sources with knowledge of the contract, his deal became fully guaranteed once he made the roster.
Smith has been inactive for the Knicks' first seven games. He is expected to play the majority of the season in the D-League with the Knicks' affiliate, the Erie BayHawks.
His inclusion on the roster has affected recent personnel decisions.
The Knicks decided recently that they would not add a big man to help fill the void left by injured center Tyson Chandler, who is out four to six weeks with a fractured right fibula.
They would have to cut a player if they wanted to sign someone to make room on the 15-man roster. Many view Chris Smith as an obvious candidate to be cut, in part because of his subpar play in the preseason (1-for-7 shooting in 20 minutes).
Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor Ian Begley was used in this report.