Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Dennis Smith Jr. says Knicks will make the playoffs
By ADAM ZAGORIA
The Knicks may be 0-2 in Summer League, but Dennis Smith Jr. says the team will make the NBA playoffs next spring.
“I’m looking forward to making the playoffs, that’s my main thing,” Smith Jr. said Sunday night on ESPN in Las Vegas. “People feel like we struck out in the free agency, but I feel like we did a great job. I love the guys that we added to the team, they’re hard-nosed players. So I think they’re great additions, I think we can make the playoffs.”
Smith Jr. was courtside as the Knicks lost their second straight Summer League game, this one to the Spurs despite Iggy Brazdeikis’ 30 points and 8 rebounds and Mitchell Robinson’s 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. R.J. Barrett continued to struggle, going 3-of-15 for 8 points with 10 rebounds and 8 turnovers.
Through two games, Barrett is now 7-of-33 and 2-of-13 from deep, but Smith Jr. loves what the the left-handed Canadian brings.
“I love them, I love R.J.,” Smith Jr. said. “That’s one of my focal points coming into the season is helping him win Rookie of the Year. I love Iggy as well. They’re both two guys who are going to lead us, so I think we’re all going to play well together.”
As for his own game, Smith Jr. has been working with assistant coach Keith Smart on fixing his shot.
“It’s really a mechanical fix,” he said. “This summer I’ve been building it from ground zero. I had a lot of time where I was just stationary, not jumping or anything. Keith Smart has been doing a great job in helping me build it back up to a consistent motion.”
Smith Jr. figures to be in an intense battle with free agent acquisition Elfrid Payton for the starting point guard spot.
“We’re all going to be out in L.A., so we’re going to get some work in together,” he said of the free–agent acquisitions including Payton, Bobby Portisand Julius Randle.
As for the point guard position, he said, “It’s the coach’s decision. I know I’m going to come in, bring my A-game and be the best version of myself, and wherever that sends me is where I’ll go.
“But I’m looking forward to it. There will be a lot of great practice days.”
With Kawhi Leonard having left the Raptors for the Clippers in free agency, the East figures to be more wide open now. The Bucks, Sixers and Celtics figure to be the favorites, but there could be room for the Knicks to slip into a playoff spot if they jell over the season.
“I’m just excited with what the Knicks have,” he said. “We have a great staff from Steve Mills, Scottie P. [Perry], Fizdale [David Fizdale] down to the bottom. I think we’re in a great position to make noise this year.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.