Smith (knee) eyes Friday return to Knicks
As long as he doesn't have any pain in his surgically repaired left knee before tipoff, J.R. Smith will make his preseason debut on Friday night.
Smith did not scrimmage in Thursday's practice, but both he and coach Mike Woodson are optimistic he will take the court against the Charlotte Bobcats in the Knicks' preseason finale.
"He's ready to go. I thought he proved that the other day in Toronto when he had his first serious contact. Today was the same," Woodson said.
The coach added that he doesn't plan on playing Smith "big minutes" if he is cleared for Friday.
Stoudemire went through contact drills on Thursday but did not scrimmage, according to the Knicks. The six-time All-Star scrimmaged for the first time Tuesday and said his oft-injured knees felt strong.
Martin did not go through contact drills on Thursday, according to the team, but he scrimmaged along with Stoudemire and Smith on Tuesday.
The veteran forward has missed all six of the Knicks' preseason games thanks to lingering discomfort in his left ankle. The ailment is a concern for the Knicks because Martin first injured his ankle in April.
Woodson has said that neither Stoudemire nor Martin will play in both games of a back-to-back set during the regular season. The Knicks also will be cautious with both players when they play sets of four games in five nights or five games in seven nights.
"If they feel OK, there's a chance they could suit up tomorrow," Woodson said. "We'll gauge everything based on how they feel."
The NBA has stated that Smith's five-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy will begin when he is healthy enough to take the court.
So if Smith plays on Friday night, his five-game suspension can start Wednesday when the Knicks open the season. In that scenario, Smith would be eligible to return on Nov. 10 against San Antonio.
If Smith doesn't play Friday, he will need to be cleared by an independent doctor from the NBA before he can begin serving the suspension.
"I'm just so antsy to get back out there," Smith said. " ... And to have my impact back on the game."
Smith said he's "in a good place mentally" after a grueling rehab that lasted nearly four months. He underwent surgery in July to repair his left patella tendon and a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee. Smith, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man Award winner, signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Knicks shortly before his surgery.
Once he hits the floor, the 28-year-old Smith will compete with Iman Shumpert for the starting shooting guard spot.
Smith said his explosiveness and athleticism haven't returned yet, but he's pleased with his progress.
"My quickness, moving around, backpedaling, lateral movement -- I feel great with all of that stuff," he said.
Woodson also expects point guard Raymond Felton to play Friday after he missed the last two preseason games with a hamstring injury.
Woodson hopes to play his starters 30 to 35 minutes against the Bobcats. He has had a healthy starting five just once in the preseason.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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