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Knicks To Start Smith Against Hawks, Try To Back Up Dolan’s Boasts

Prigioni To Go To Bench As Struggling New York Tries To Get Something Going
J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni of the New York Knicks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni of the New York Knicks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Knicks now have to live up to James Dolan’s expectations. The addition of J.R. Smith to the starting lineup seems to suggest head coach Mike Woodson understands his owner’s sense of urgency.

New York is off to a 2-4 start, including an embarrassing 120-89 loss to San Antonio at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Smith made his season debut in that game after missing the beginning of the season due to recovery from offseason knee surgery and a five-game suspension for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug policy, shooting 1-for-9 from the floor and finishing with 5 points in a little more than 20 minutes.

Some are wondering what sense it makes to put a rusty Smith into the starting lineup and bench Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks are averaging nearly 3 points more per 100 when Prigioni’s on the court compared to when he’s not, according to NBC Sports. The Knicks have cracked triple digits in scoring just twice this season, most recently in a 101-91 win over Charlotte on Friday.

Smith, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award last season, has started just one of his 116 career games with the Knicks. He made 129 starts in 503 games for New Orleans and Denver prior to going to play overseas following the 2010-11 season.

Regardless of who is in the starting lineup, the Knicks have not looked anything like the team that won 54 games last season before being beaten in the second round of the playoffs. Compounding their issues offensively is the fact that center Tyson Chandler, one of the best defensive players in the NBA, is currently out 4-6 weeks with a broken leg.

The fact that the team didn’t do a lot in the offseason to address its many issues, short of acquiring 7-foot shooter Andrea Bargnani and aging role player Metta World Peace, doesn’t seem to matter to Dolan, who has instead turned up the pressure on his club.

Following the blowout defeat to San Antonio, the executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company reportedly met with Woodson.

Dolan called the loss “unacceptable,” but then proceeded to make a guarantee.

Playing a show with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at The Cutting Room in Manhattan on Sunday, Dolan told the audience the following, according to the New York Daily News: “Thanks to the Rangers, who brought me a win. Unfortunately, the basketball (team) couldn’t do it today. We’re going to win the next game, that’s a guarantee.”

The Knicks have won four straight and seven of eight against the Hawks (4-3). Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging 23.2 points this season, has feasted against Atlanta, putting up 36, 39, 42 and 40 points in his past four matchups while shooting 51.4 percent, including 14-of-23 from 3-point range.

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