May 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) during the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers in game 5 of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffsat Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 85-75. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Ten days after the New York Knicks re-signed JR Smith to a three-year $17.95 million contract, the reigning Sixth Man of the Yaer underwent patella tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee. He was expected to miss three to four months which would mean possibly missing some games at the beginning of season. But according to a tweet by Ian Begley, sportswriter for ESPN New York, “JR Smith says he hopes to be back by opening night.”
So if JR was ready to return on opening night or maybe a game or two later, would it make sense? Should he be rushed back?
I think a very logical answer here would be definitely not. Here are the reasons why.
1. Gives other players a chance
The Knicks were very busy this offseason receiving Andrea Bargnani from the Raptors, signing Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, and drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. Not having JR Smith take up 30 minutes of playing of time allows these guys to get some more minutes. It also allows Mike Woodson to play around with the rotations and the two point guard lineups of Raymond Felton, Pablo Priggy, and Udrih. But most importantly, it gives Tim Hardaway Jr. a chance to shine at the 2 position and fill in the role of JR Smith’s scoring off the bench.
2. Don’t want a setback
The Knicks medical staff has a history of bringing back players too early as recent as last season with Amare Stoudemire. After missing half the season with a knee injury, STAT comes back and is rusty at the start but then stats to get back in the groove. And then out of nowhere we read a report that Stoudemire is going to be out for months with another knee injury. We don’t want to see this happen again with another Knicks player so I see no reason to rush Smith back if the chances for a setback are higher. We want him playing at 100% healthy.
3. Weak schedule at the beginning
In the first two weeks the Knicks play a total of 7 games. 3 of those games are against teams that missed the playoffs (2 games against the Charlotte Bobcats and 1 game against Minnesota Timberwolves), and 1 game against the Bucks who will be a lottery team this year. The other three games are against the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, and the Atlanta Hawks, all teams that the Knicks play pretty well against. So the Knicks could easily start off the year winning at least 5 of their first 7 games without JR Smith.
Overall, with a deep team that the Knicks have, bringing JR Smith back as fast as possible just doesn’t make sense. Let’s let him slowly get adjusted to his new teammates so that he plays well with them for the rest of the season. Smith is definitely going to be a little rusty when he comes back and won’t receive as many minutes as usual but he will find his way back into the 6th man role before you know it.