Opening tip: Woody to 'rein' in J.R.?

Mike Woodson says there’s a chance J.R. Smith may not play tonight against the Nets. But Smith says he will play. The question is, how much will Woodson play him?

Woodson admitted on “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show” Wednesday that he may have to rein in Smith a bit more with the shooter’s recent struggles.

“That’s true,” Woodson said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. “He has had his struggles based on his injuries and not going to camp as well. We are trying to get him back going. He struggled the other night and there is no doubt about that and maybe Iman [Shumpert] should have been on the floor.

Listen to the complete interview:

Play“I've got to evaluate that a little closely because he has been slow the last couple of days of practice based on his knee, his injury,” Woodson continued. “So we probably are going to have to rein him back and not give him so many other minutes.”

Woodson said that “opens the door” for rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. to play more and Shumpert to see more consistent minutes perhaps.

The Knicks have lost nine-straight games, and they need Smith to rediscover his shot. Smith missed 7-of-11 shots and scored 12 points but had four fouls and three turnovers in a loss to the Pelicans on Sunday. He played 34 minutes, while Shumpert logged just 21 minutes.

Shumpert did not play in the final 17:51 as Woodson went with Smith and Hardaway. Coincidentally, Shumpert did not play after appearing agitated with Carmelo Anthony during a timeout following a defensive breakdown.

“Had nothing to do with it,” Woodson said of the incident and Shumpert sitting in the fourth. “It was strictly Melo’s fault in that instance. No, that had nothing to do with it at all.”

“That is what I elected to do,” Woodson explained of Shumpert not playing the fourth. “My job is not to explain it to you why I do things. I don’t mean that in a smart way. That is the way I elected to go and it just didn’t work out that way.”

Smith is averaging 11.7 points but just 33 percent shooting overall and only 29.6 percent shooting from behind the arc in 31.7 minutes a game. Smith says he still experiences some swelling in his surgically-repaired knee but that he is trying to manage it so he can play.

Woodson was asked if Smith has been a disappointment thus far.

“I don’t know if disappointment is the word to use,” Woodson said. “Here is a player who was a big part of what we did last year and I know what he is going through because I am on the inside. Yes do we need J.R. to play at a high level, well we need Melo and Iman, Raymond [Felton], when Tyson [Chandler] gets back, we need everybody to play at a high level like we were winning last year. It is not just JR. It is a total team effort, total coaching effort.”

Up now: Carmelo thinks the Knicks have been the laughingstock of the league so far this season. And he wants to stop giving people a reason to laugh at the Knicks, starting tonight in Brooklyn.

Woodson doesn’t think any of the Knicks have quit, despite a nine-game losing streak.

For those hoping Jeff Van Gundy might eventually return to save the Knicks, think again. JVG says the Knicks already have an outstanding coach, and he defended Woodson.

Johnette Howard writes that in tonight's East River rivalry, we'll see who stinks more: Knicks or Nets.

What’s next: It’s a big one, but not because it’s a showdown between two good teams. The Knicks make the short trip to Brooklyn for a clash between two over-hyped and underachieving teams tonight at 7 p.m.

If the Knicks lose, they’ll drop their 10th straight game, and there’s plenty of speculation swirling around Woodson’s job status if the Knicks can’t find a way to beat the struggling Nets, who have plenty of their own issues. James Dolan might lose it if the Knicks lose. But we should see the Knicks come out as the more desperate team against a Nets team that could be without Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko due to injuries.

Question of the day: What do you think Woodson should do with his shooting guard rotation? Should he keep riding Smith or play Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. more?