Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
LAS VEGAS - Dennis Smith Jr. is entering his first full season as a Knick and his third in the NBA. He sees it as an important year for him.
"I think it is. I honestly felt like I was supposed to be (drafted No. 1 overall). Probably like everybody else in the class. I feel like this is the perfect time to come out and prove why I feel that way," Smith said on Saturday after the Knicks practice in Las Vegas.
Smith said he's been working on his shot extensively with Knicks top assistant coach Keith Smart and that he feels fully healthy after he was hampered by a back injury late last season. He also likes the Knicks' new additions, feels ready to compete with free agent point guard Elfrid Payton for the starting job, and isn't worried about the Brooklyn Nets' big haul.
Here are some highlights of Smith Jr.'s chat with reporters:
On playing with/competing for minutes with Elfrid Payton: "I'm excited. I'm excited. It's more competition in practice. He's a competitor so I'm looking forward to being on the same team with him…. I'm coming to practice with my hard hat on. Earn as many minutes as possible. I don't want anything to be given to me anyway. I'm sure he's like that. From what I've heard he's super competitive. So like I said he's a great addition to the team."
The current plan is for Payton to have 'every opportunity' to win the starting point guard job. What that means for Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina is yet to be determined. But the Knicks have always tried to foster a competitive environment in training camp. There are plenty of positional battles in camp, including at shooting guard where R.J. Barrett, Damyean Dotson, whose team option will be exercised, and others will compete for minutes.
On working on his shot with top assistant Keith Smart: "Summer time is the perfect time if you want to change your shot, so that's what we've been doing from the start of it. So now it's coming around. I'm feeling good, I'm confident with it. It's a consistent motion…. it's a big difference. I can't give it a percent. And I can feel it. Everybody can see it from my pops and my friends. So adding that into my game, getting consistent with it, is going to open up the floor not only for me but everybody else and make my reads a lot easier. So it's major for me."
In his first two seasons, Smith Jr. has shot 41 percent from the field (on 13.7 attempts per game) and 31 percent from beyond the arc.
Fizdale said he'd like to see Smith Jr. improve his shooting and conditioning this offseason. If that comes to fruition, Smith Jr. will present a challenge for opposing defenses.
On playoff expectations for this season: "I think we can hit the playoffs. Everybody does a lot of talking and things like that. I've never really been one to feed into it on social media and things like that. But I think we have a really good team, and especially with the way I've been working this summer, I think I'm going to take my game to the next level and it's going to put us in the playoffs."
On the Nets' additions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: "Honestly I wasn't surprised. Because people in the league talk anyway. They just keep it private. People in the league talk. They're great players but I like what we have, to be honest with you. I know there are a lot of hecklers out there and talking this, that, and the third. But I like what we have and I'm not really concerned with what's going on in Brooklyn."
On the Knicks additions: I love them. We've got a lot of guys. They're hard-nosed. They bring a lot of toughness to the game. Whenever you've got those kinds of players we're always going to be competitive. I love Julius Randle. I played him when he was with the Lakers. I don't think I've ever seen him not have 30, if I'm being honest. I hope he can 30 again with the Knicks. I watched (Barrett) (on Friday) and I watched him in practice (Saturday). He's super competitive as well. I think the biggest thing he brings is his will to win. He wants to win games. That's kind of a big focus for me is to do whatever I can to help him win Rookie of the Year, and I think that will make our team a lot better."