After a couple weeks of speculation, it appears as though the New York Knicks are on the verge of signing free-agent shooting guard J.R. Smith. The prolific bench scorer spent the early part of the season with a Chinese team but became eligible to return to the NBA on Wednesday.
Update: Friday, February 17th at 6:53 p.m. EST
According to the Knicks' official Twitter page, New York has signed J.R. Smith.
According to Smith's official Twitter feed, he chose the Knicks in a deal that will be announced later today. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers were considered top candidates to land Smith as well, but he ultimately chose to reunite with former Denver Nuggets teammate Carmelo Anthony.
Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that Smith will be in attendance for the Knicks' game against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, but he won't make his debut until Sunday. In order to make room for Smith on the roster the Knicks are expected to cut forward Renaldo Balkman. Guard Toney Douglas may also be bought out.
What It Means
The Knicks have been red-hot, winning their past seven games thanks to the ascension of point guard Jeremy Lin. It appears as though the Knicks are about to get even better, though, as Smith gives them a huge scoring threat off the bench, and Carmelo is very close to returning from a groin injury.
New York suffered early in the season from an inability to make open shots, so the signing of Smith will help that immensely. Smith has made at least two three-pointers per game in four of his past five NBA seasons, and he shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc last year, making him an ideal fit for head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense.
What Happens Next
The Knicks will now need to integrate Smith into the offense and get Anthony back involved as well. There has been plenty of talk that Anthony's return will curtail the Knicks' recent run of success because he can be "selfish" with the ball at times.
Similar things have been said about Smith, but he is precisely the type of spot-up shooter that New York sorely lacks with the exception of Steve Novak. Smith figures to slide into a sixth-man role quite nicely and reprise his position as one of the best bench scorers in the NBA.