While Smith said on on Friday that he would prefer to be in that position after the past five seasons mostly coming off the bench in Denver and New York, head coach Mike Woodson said on Tuesday after practice that he has not made up his mind.
"I'll evaluate tomorrow. We'll walk through some things and then I'll make that decision," he said. "Right now, James White is out and Ronnie Brewer is out. I kind of like J.R. where he is in terms of coming off the bench. But he can start, too. You just never know. At this point, I haven't made that decision yet."
Woodson said that he's leaning toward using Smith as his sixth man, like last year, to balance out on the offense. With Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, the Knicks will have three go-to scorers to start the game, and Brewer and Tyson Chandler can focus on defense and intangibles.
Then in the second unit, Smith would have more opportunities to score from the perimeter, which will especially be needed with Iman Shumpert out until likely January. Smith's biggest contribution to the starting five would be his consistent off-the-ball 3-point shooting, which is one of Brewer's main weaknesses. But overall, Woodson believes Smith can be the best in the business in that bench role.
"I told J.R. if he comes off, hey, there's nothing wrong with that," Woodson said. "He can be the best player coming off the bench in this league, and perhaps win the Sixth Man Award. Hopefully that parlays us into a lot of wins and getting us to a championship round because at the end of the day, that's what we're in it for."
When asked if he had shared that vision with Smith, Woodson said yes -- and Smith, who recognizes it's more important to finish games, understood the coach's likely game plan.
"Absolutely," Woody said. "J.R.'s about winning, and I have no other reasons not to expect that. I mean, J.R. and I are on the same page because I'm on the coach and he's the player, and we'll figure it out as we go along."
Anthony also said that Smith, now his teammate for the seventh straight season, will embrace whatever opportunity comes his way.
"At the end of the day, J.R.'s got to be ready, whether he's a starter or whether he's the sixth man," he said. "If Coach Woody wants him to start, he'll start. If not, he'll come off the bench."
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