Knicks Reportedly "Closing In" on Deal With J.R. Smith

Former Nugget is on his way back from China

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    There could be another new addition to the Knicks mix.

    Carmelo Anthony might be seeing another familiar face around the Knick locker room in the near future.

    Frank Isola of the Daily News reports that the Knicks are "closing in" on a deal with free agent guard J.R. Smith to join the team for the remainder of the season. Per Isola, Smith's agent, who is also Anthony's agent, met with Knicks owner James Dolan after Wednesday night's game to hammer out the details of the contract.

    Smith went to play in China during the lockout and was barred from returning to the NBA until his Chinese team was finished for the season. He's expected to sign for the Knicks' $2.5 million cap exception, although the actual number will be lower because the deal will be pro-rated for what's left of the season.

    Smith and Anthony played together in Denver for the last five seasons where Smith filled the role of bench scorer for the Nuggets. He's probably best known for Knicks fans for his role in the wild melee at Madison Square Garden in 2006 that started when former Knick Mardy Collins fouled Smith hard, allegedly at the behest of then-coach Isiah Thomas, from behind toward the end of a Nuggets blowout win.

    Smith's acquisition would mean that every player suspended for their role in the brawl would have spent time as property of the Knicks. Anthony, Collins, Smith, Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James and Nene, drafted and immediately traded by the Knicks, were those punished for their roles in the fisticuffs.

    Other than that auspicious moment, Smith is familiar to basketball fans for never having met a shot that he didn't want to take. Deep threes, contested layups and everything in between are green lights for Smith.

    That makes him both a good and a bad fit for the Knicks. The good fit comes because the team could use a better three-point shooter at off-guard than Landry Fields and their bench could certainly use a player tasked with putting the ball in the basket for 20-odd minutes a night. 

    The player currently filling that role is Mike Bibby, who appears to be more mummy than man on most evenings. Bibby would almost certainly be the player released to make room for Smith and it is hard to argue that Smith isn't an upgrade.

    But the bad side of that is that Smith's almost total focus on his own shot could come at the expense of the uptick in team ball that the Knicks have seen over the two weeks since Linsanity became part of the national lexicon. On top of that, he's not much for the defensive end and his decision-making ability makes Billy Walker seem like the smartest player in the history of the game.

    The potential positives probably outweigh the negatives when you're talking about a player who will be coming off the bench. As wonderful as the last seven games have been, it's worth remembering that the Knicks aren't a particularly deep club and Smith will give them more options over the rest of the condensed, taxing regular season schedule.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.