Smith, Amar'e, Martin make debuts

Updated: October 26, 2013, 4:47 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks appear to be getting whole as the regular season approaches.

J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin made their preseason debuts for the team in Friday night's 85-83 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. All three rotation players had missed the previous six preseason games due to injury.

Smith scored 11 points and had three rebounds in 13 minutes. He also hit a 35-foot jump shot at the third-quarter buzzer.

[+] EnlargeJ.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.R. Smith, left, and Amar'e Stoudemire were happy to return to the court for the Knicks on Friday night.

Stoudemire had six points on 3-of-4 shooting in 12 minutes. Martin had two points and one rebound in eight minutes.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he needed to check with Stoudemire and Martin on Saturday before determining their availability for the Knicks' season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Stoudemire, who underwent a knee procedure this summer -- his third operation in the past 12 months -- said he felt no soreness in his knees after the game and believes he'll be healthy enough to play in the opener.

"I feel strong; I'm sure we'll be ready to go," Stoudemire said.

Smith's return Friday was significant for New York.

The reigning Sixth Man Award winner underwent surgery to repair his patella and a meniscus tear in his left knee in July and had been out since. He also received a five-game suspension in September for violating the league's anti-drug policy, which the NBA has stated he must begin when healthy enough to take the court.

So, by playing Friday night, Smith ensures that his mandatory five-game absence will start Wednesday when the Knicks open the season. He will be eligible to return Nov. 10 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Smith played just 13 minutes Friday, but he doesn't expect to be on a minutes limit in the regular season.

"I told them if I have to be on restrictions, I don't want to play," Smith said.

Stoudemire and Martin won't have the same luxury.

The Knicks plan to have Stoudemire on a strict minutes limit. And neither he nor Martin will play in both games of back-to-back sets.

Martin believes he will play in the Knicks' season opener.

The veteran forward has missed several practices and all of the Knicks' preseason games due to lingering discomfort in his left ankle. The ailment is a concern for the Knicks because Martin first injured his ankle way back in April.

The Stoudemire and Martin injuries are one reason the Knicks decided to keep 6-foot-10 center Cole Aldrich on the roster.

The Knicks released Chris Douglas-Roberts, C.J. Leslie, Jeremy Tyler, Josh Powell and Ike Diogu earlier Friday. For now, Aldrich, Toure' Murry and Chris Smith, the younger brother of J.R., remain.

The Knicks can still waive Chris Smith, Murry and/or Aldrich if they choose. Final regular-season rosters are due Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

New York's decision to keep Chris Smith, for now, is controversial one.

Woodson said earlier this week that Chris Smith's relationship with his older brother will factor into whether the team keeps him on the 15-man roster.

Chris Smith acknowledged Friday that relationship played a role in his career. But he believes he earned a spot on the Knicks' roster because of his work ethic.

"Has it helped me? Of course," Chris Smith said of the relationship. "That's my big brother; people look for us to be together all the time. ... He has helped me a lot. I feel like I earned my position on the team and I'm going to keep on earning my way here."

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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