Knicks’ Grunwald calls knee surgery J.R. Smith’s decision

J.R. Smith couldn't carry the Knicks to a win in Portland. Credit: Getty Images
Glen Grunwald said the decision to have surgery was Smith’s, though the team supported him.
Credit: Getty Images

The Knicks formally made the announcement Tuesday afternoon that J.R. Smith underwent patella tendon surgery and an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus in his left knee and will be out at least 12-16 weeks.

Smith wasn’t available for comment during Tuesday’s conference call, but team president Glen Grunwald was around to answer the queries as to why the flighty shooting guard decided to have the procedures now, knowing the recovery time will put him right up against the start of training camp.

Grunwald insisted that “the decision was J.R.’s” but added the team fully supported the player’s decision, no matter how ill-timed it seemed to just about everyone else.

“We’re hopeful he’ll be around once the season comes around. He’s a good worker. We’ve discussed it at length with J.R. and our medical staff,” Grunwald said. “We’re pretty comfortable that this is fixable and won’t cause any more problems over the next four years.”

The reason why four years is important is because the Knicks just gave Smith a new four-year, $24.7 million deal once the NBA’s moratorium ended on July 10. Smith, who reportedly fielded more lucrative offers elsewhere during the free-agent process, decided against possible greener pastures and returned to the team that helped him go from erratic journeyman to a key cog in a 54-win team last season.

Such loyalty wasn’t lost on either side, admitted Grunwald, who noted Smith gave his all to the franchise since the day the team signed him midseason in 2012 following Smith’s time in a Chinese league.

“J.R. had this problem all of last season, even before training camp, and to his credit he battled it all year and was a warrior for us,” said Grunwald. “At the end of the season we knew it was likely he’d have surgery, but we wanted to see what happens if he had rest instead. But as it turned out it was the best for him and us to have the surgery now. … He’s committed to starting the rehab as soon as possible and be ready by the time the regular season rolls around.”

Grunwald further went on to marvel at Smith’s fortitude, all while effectively evading the question as to why the team decided to offer four years to a player with a bad knee, and why the player repaid such generosity by waiting until mid-July to have a procedure that usually takes three-to-four months to function properly.

All Grunwald cared about was espousing the virtues to Smith’s toughness.

“It got worse over the course of the season, [particularly] the patella tendon, but obviously the cartilage was an issue, too. A lot of players wouldn’t have been able to play through that pain,” said Grunwald. “It didn’t get any worse, but it didn’t get any better. … We owed it to him to see if he’d eventually need surgery. We wanted to give him a chance to get better and heal with treatment and it never got better.”

Knicks notes …

» Grunwald also didn’t want to talk about Carmelo Anthony’s pending opt-out clause at the end of next season.

“It’s premature to talk about [Anthony opting out next summer], but we love Melo,” said Grunwald. “He’s great for New York and he’s great for it. We foresee a long partnership with him, but right now we’re only focusing on this upcoming season.”

» The point guard depth is also murky for the Knicks, but Grunwald insisted that anyone on their Summer League roster or in training camp will get a fair shot — even J.R. Smith’s younger brother, Chris, who failed to make the roster last season.

“Chris Smith, it’s premature to say [whether he’s the answer at the third point guard spot], but he is playing fairly well in the Summer League,” said Grunwald.

» It doesn’t sound like former Knicks guard Nate Robinson will be the answer.

“Nate had a great year in Chicago and they wouldn’t have had such a good season without Nate,” said Grunwald. “But right now, we’re still exploring alternatives on finding a third combo guard, so there’s nothing new to report.”

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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