Smith brothers carry competition to course

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Smith received the devastating news last week: Out three to six months with a left patella tendon injury.

The Knicks' rookie point guard was visibly down and hobbling on crutches at the team's practice facility on Friday, one day after surgery. But he had reason to smile when asked about his second sporting love, golf, as he thought about teeing it up once again with his older brother, J.R. Smith.

The brothers are as competitive on the course as they are on the court.

"We actually go at each other," Chris told ESPNNewYork.com. "It's not like a buddy-buddy thing. We go at each other expecting nothing but the best from each other."

"It's fun," J.R. added. "It's a drive that we have between one another to be the best that we can be."

While Chris started playing golf as a kid, J.R. didn't pick up a club until 2008, with Moses Malone at a charity event in Houston.

"It was kind of crazy because the first time I played was with a Hall of Famer," J.R. said. "He was like, 'Get your a-- out of the (golf) cart and play.' I'm like, 'Nah, I don't want to play.' I'm 22, 23 years old and I'm like, 'I don't want to play golf.' But he really got me into it. I hit the ball once and it went straight. He told me to hit the ball again and it went dead right. After that, I was hooked."

Neither brother has taken lessons, but they both claim 10 handicaps.

"I try to learn the right way, but I taught myself," J.R. said. "It's fun, but it's very serious, too. Me and my brother play competitively all the time and try to beat each other."

This offseason, J.R. and Chris played courses in New York and New Jersey, including Hudson National, Liberty National and Trump National. Another Jersey course they visit, Eagle Ridge, is where J.R. hosted his sixth-annual golf classic in late August to benefit his youth foundation. Their next stop is Charleston Springs in South Jersey, where their mother lives.

They also frequented links in Los Angeles, where the brothers spent time during the summer working out with Carmelo Anthony's trainer, Idan Ravin.

Chris said he enjoys golf because it's relaxing.

"It takes your mind off things and it's competitive at the same time," he said. "It just gives you a different mindset from basketball."

J.R. said the sport helps him improve his hand-eye coordination, which directly translates to the hardwood.

"Without a doubt," he said. "In golf, you really have to have the same swing every time, and in basketball, you really want to shoot the ball the same way every time. It gives you focus and the drive to try to be repetitive over and over and over."

While the Smith brothers miss going at each other in camp, Chris said, "There's no down moment. We have a good time everywhere we go."

He's especially happy that J.R. is nearby so they can rekindle their competition soon on the course, and eventually on the court.

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