GREENBURGH, N.Y. — J.R. Smith is recovering from knee surgery, then faces an NBA suspension when he returns.
Amare Stoudemire is recovering from knee surgery — yes, that's three in the last year — and faces a restriction on his minutes when he returns.
The New York Knicks have the NBA's leading scorer in Carmelo Anthony, but after that there are questions about who's going to put the ball in the basket until their second- and third-leading scorers get back.
They downplayed those concerns Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) after their first practice of the season.
"We've just got to be patient until we get those guys back, and then when they get back, they're going to fit right in," coach Mike Woodson said.
Smith was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year last season after averaging a career-best 18.1 points. Though he apparently experienced knee pain since early in the season, he waited until well after it was finished to have patella tendon surgery and an arthroscopy on his left knee to repair a tear in the lateral meniscus. He said Monday the delay until mid-July was in part family related, that he felt it was more important to focus on getting his new contract done first.
The Knicks said at the time the expected recovery time was 12-16 weeks, and along the way five more games have been tacked on to his absence when the NBA suspended him for violating the anti-drug program. He'll sit out the first five games he's physically able to play.
The Knicks already planned to be cautious with Stoudemire this season after he played in just 29 games last season because of a pair of surgeries, one on each knee. Then he underwent another procedure on his left knee this summer, and though he was able to do some shooting Tuesday, the Knicks don't know when he'll be ready for game action. Woodson said the former All-Star will play very limited minutes at the start, and it's doubtful he'll play more than about 25 a game at any point.
Add the 14.2 points he averaged, and the Knicks are missing 32 per game from their top two reserves on last season's 54-win team.
"I think guys just have to do their part, making shots, and when their time comes just contribute everything that they have," Anthony said. "We'll see what happens. Until J.R. gets back, until Amare gets back, we have enough guys that can score the basketball."
He mentioned Andrea Bargnani, the former No. 1 overall pick the Knicks acquired from Toronto in July. But the Italian forward-center played in just 66 games the last two seasons, his scoring nose-diving from a career-high 21.4 points per game in 2010-11 to just 12.7 last season.
The Knicks think he'll regain his form and provide outside shooting that will keep double-teams away from Anthony.
"The main thing is winning, because in Toronto we didn't go to the playoffs for five straight years so I'm starving for winning and get back to the playoffs," Bargnani said. "So it's all about the team. I can score the ball, that's what I do, so I hope my scoring skills can help the team."
New York also signed Metta World Peace, but he hadn't even averaged in double figures for two straight seasons before rebounding with 12.4 points per game last season.
Still, Woodson thinks this team has enough options that it can be more balanced than the 2012-13 squad that set an NBA record with 891 3-pointers but often became stagnant when the outside shots weren't falling. He said Anthony, Bargnani, World Peace and eventually Stoudemire can all play in the post.
"It gives us a better threat this year," Woodson said, "where we don't have to always live on the perimeter and be able to explore mismatches, which is kind of nice."