Knicks announce J.R. Smith signing

Updated: February 18, 2012, 12:28 PM ET
ESPNNewYork.com

A short time ago, the New York Knicks had a lot of question marks. Now it appears they're building a juggernaut.

Shooting guard J.R. Smith tweeted Friday that he has decided to join Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and phenom Jeremy Lin in New York, a move the team officially announced Friday night.

"New York Knicks It Is!" he posted on his Twitter account.

Smith, who played last season with the Denver Nuggets, had listed the Knicks, Clippers, Lakers, Magic, Bulls and Pacers as teams he was considering joining after a stint in China that started during the NBA lockout.

Smith was ineligible to return to the NBA from China until his team's season was finished there. The Knicks couldn't reach a deal with him until his return was cleared by FIBA, basketball's international governing body.

Contract terms were not available, but the Knicks were able to offer Smith a pro-rated share of their $2.5 million mini mid-level exception and a player option for a second year.

"We just felt that it was an opportunity to acquire a very good basketball player and to help us in a way that I think we're in need of," interim general manager Glen Grunwald said. "He's a talented offensive player, shoot the ball, he can get to the rim, he can run the floor, so we just felt it was the right fit for what sort of we'd be facing the rest of this year."

To clear a roster spot for Smith, the Knicks released seldom-used forward Renaldo Balkman.

On his Twitter account, Balkman tweeted: "New york was great love da big apple #imout."

This was Balkman's second stint with the Knicks. He was originally a first-round pick of New York in 2006 and was traded to the Nuggets in 2008. He came back in the deal for Anthony last season.

The Knicks expect Smith to report Saturday night, not in time for practice. Coach Mike D'Antoni said he wouldn't play Smith before he practiced with the team, so Smith is not expected to make his on-court debut Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.

The New York Daily News had reported Thursday that the two sides were closing in on a deal. Smith's agent, Leon Rose, met with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan after Wednesday's Knicks game, the newspaper reported.

The Clippers, meanwhile, could offer Smith only the veteran's minimum for the rest of this season.

J.R. Smith
Smith

Smith is a former teammate of Anthony's in Denver. He averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2010-11, shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. He has averaged 12.5 points per game during his seven-year career.

D'Antoni said he hadn't yet considered how to find minutes for Smith on a Knicks team with Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert getting significant playing time at shooting guard.

"We'll see, but that'll be a hurdle we'll get over," D'Antoni said after Friday's shootaround. "Obviously, he's a talented basketball player and you can always use talent. But basically it's not going to change up a whole lot what we're doing."

The coach confirmed that Fields would continue to start at shooting guard "for right now."

The Knicks have struggled with perimeter shooting for much of the season. They enter play Friday ranked 20th in field goal percentage (43 percent) and 26th in 3-point field goal percentage (30 percent).

They're hoping that Smith, a career 37 percent 3-point shooter, will help.

Grunwald said Smith shot around 50 percent from 3-point range while playing for Zhejiang of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Smith started his career straight out of high school, getting drafted by the Hornets in 2004. In 2006, he was traded, along with P.J. Brown, to the Bulls for current Knicks center Tyson Chandler.

The Bulls, though, shipped him to Denver six days later for Howard Eisley and draft picks.

There have been concerns about Smith's attitude. In December 2006, he was involved in a brawl between the Knicks and Nuggets at the Garden. It was the worst fight in the NBA since the infamous melee in Detroit between the Pistons and Pacers two years before.

For their parts in the Garden brawl, Smith and Anthony were suspended 10 and 15 games, respectively.

"We had people that had, let's say, inside personal experience with J.R. and they all came out in favor of this move," said Grunwald, mentioning director of pro player personnel Mark Warkentien, Denver's former general manager. "We talked to a lot of people, we are comfortable with the decision we made and we're hopeful that it's all going to work out for the best."

In June 2007, Smith was involved in a car accident in which his friend Andre Bell was killed. Smith received a 90-day jail sentence but only had to serve 30. He also received a seven-game suspension from the NBA in 2009-10 after his guilty plea.

In October 2007, Smith was involved in a nightclub incident in Denver and was suspended for the first three games of that season.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne, ESPN.com senior writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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