Melo to J.R. Smith: 'Time is now'

NEW YORK -- New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said he had a "heart-to-heart" with longtime teammate J.R. Smith when news surfaced that Smith had been suspended five games for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy.

Anthony delivered a dose of tough love to Smith during the conversation.

"The time is now," Anthony said he told Smith. "You've got to want to help yourself. Everybody else wants to help you, but if you don't want to help yourself, that defeats the purpose."

Smith was suspended in early September for violating the league's anti-drug policy. He is expected to make his preseason debut Friday when the Knicks take on the Charlotte Bobcats.

Smith had been rehabbing from offseason surgery to repair his left patella tendon and a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee.

"We've been looking forward to him coming back all offseason," Anthony said before delivering school supplies to more than 100 New York City teachers and classrooms in what was dubbed a "Tools for Teachers Initiative" on behalf of his foundation and a real estate development company. "I'm pretty sure he's been looking forward to coming back. We're looking forward to it.

"We wish the suspension didn't happen but it happened and we move forward from that. He had a long offseason, thinking about what's been going on, trying to get back. Hopefully he turns over that new leaf."

Smith had a strong regular season in 2012-13. He was named the NBA's Sixth Man Award winner after averaging 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

But he struggled mightily in the playoffs, making just 33 percent of his field goal attempts. A turning point in Smith's postseason seemed to be his one-game suspension for elbowing Jason Terry in Game 3 of the Knicks-Boston Celtics series. He shot 43.5 percent from the field before his Game 4 suspension and 29 percent after that.

Smith re-signed with the Knicks for three years and $18 million shortly before his surgery. His success on the court is vitally important for the Knicks, who have relied on Smith to complement Anthony as the team's secondary scorer.

Earlier in the preseason, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he'd like to see the 28-year-old Smith "grow up and do the right things."

"He's got to do the right thing by J.R., and his teammates and me as a coach in this organization and the fans that support him. That's what it's all about," he said.

Anthony has spent seven seasons with Smith between his time in Denver and New York. He said he hopes his recent message to Smith will sink in.

"It seemed like he took heed to what I was saying," Anthony said. "So we shall see."