There are obvious goals ahead: First the start of training camp, then at the end of October the start of the regular season.
For players such as J.R. Smith who had offseason surgery — to his left patella tendon, and to fix a tear in the lateral meniscus of the same knee — the goal is to be ready by those dates.
But the Knicks the reining Sixth Man of the Year healthy in April, May (and they hope June), not Oct. 30 to take on Milwaukee (the Knicks season opener). So they don’t want to rush him.
Still, Smith wants to be back when the season tips off and hopes he can make it, he told ESPNNewYork.com.
“It’s still too early to tell from what I hear — from the doc and all that,” said Smith, whose current rehab consists of pool workouts and riding the exercise bike. “I hope so. I want to be there opening night. I want to start the training camp off with my team and with my teammates.”
That timetable is on pace with what the doctor said after the surgery.
Remember Smith signed a new three-year, $17 million deal with the Knicks this summer (the surgery was announced days later).
Smith will play through pain — he did it last season, which is why the major knee surgery was needed. Smith started feeling knee pain last training camp but kept playing all season.
“I hate sitting out and I hate to be the guy in the gym watching everybody else play. So I wanted to play through it no matter what,” he said. “The doctors told me to sit out and wait, sit two, three games during the season last year, and I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to play as many games as I could. I ended up playing 80 out of 82, which isn’t so bad.”
The Knicks are going to need a repeat season out of Smith (maybe even more consistent) if they are going to live up to their goals of being a contender in an East that got better around them.