Smith: Knicks still 'marquee team' in NY

LAKEWOOD, N.J. -- While the New York Knicks made respectable acquisitions in Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, the Brooklyn Nets shook up the summer by adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

That prompts many to say that the Nets -- who already have Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and solid depth at each position -- are better positioned heading into the season.

J.R. Smith doesn't agree with that assessment. He believes the Knicks are still the team to beat in New York.

"It's an unbelievable move for [coach Jason Kidd] to have a team like that to start off with in his first year," Smith said Thursday at his golf tournament to benefit his youth foundation. "[The Nets] have a great chance to compete for a title, but I think we're still the marquee team in New York.

"A lot of people are still counting us out just like they did last year, and we've got a lot to prove. I think we're going to come out with a lot of edge and hopefully put it to positive use on the court."

Smith said the Knicks are "getting better" with their offseason moves.

"Bargnani is a 7-foot guy who can shoot and post up. I think he's one of the most underrated guys in this league so far, because he really hasn't been able to show his talent the way he's going to be able to in New York. That's going to help us," Smith said.

"Beno is an unbelievable point guard. He played great against us last year in Milwaukee. He's definitely going to help ... because he's a pass-first point guard and he can definitely make the open shot.

"And Metta is just an all-out warrior. He can guard 1 through 5. He makes the big shots. We definitely needed somebody like that on the team."

Of course, the Knicks will only go as far as Smith's contributions. While he won the Sixth Man Award last season, averaging 18.1 points per game, his game fizzled in the playoffs. He shot only 33.1 percent from the field and the Knicks lost to the Pacers in the second round.

Smith's end-of-the-season drop-off is clearly on his mind heading into next season.

"My motivation is still high just off of how bad I played last year," said Smith, who is recovering from mid-July knee surgery. "I've seen the moves [the Eastern Conference teams] made and stuff like that, but it doesn't really affect us unless I play well. So if I don't play well, unfortunately we don't win."

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