Why J.R. Smith's Achilles Injury Is Enormous Red Flag for NY Knicks

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2012

Oct 13, 2012; Hartford, CT, USA; New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) dribbles a basketball prior to a game against the Boston Celtics at XL Center.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

Durability in paramount in the NBA, but for the New York Knicks it's hardly prevalent.

If it's not one of Amar'e Stoudemire's many frailties, it's Ronnie Brewer's knee, Marcus Camby's calf or Iman Shumpert's ACL.

Oh, and now it's J.R. Smith's Achilles.

According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, Smith is nursing an Achilles injury in his left foot:

While starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer made his practice debut as a Knick yesterday, J.R. Smith sat out and wore a boot on his left foot. Smith sat out Saturday’s exhibition game in Hartford with what the Knicks called a sore ankle, but Smith told The Post it is his Achilles.

Smith had returned to practice Tuesday, but Woodson said he needs more rest. Brewer, meanwhile, was held out of scrimmage but will today and could play on the road trip.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is exactly what the Knicks didn't need, and it was an injury suffered by a player who has never been more valuable to the team's immediate future.

Unfortunately, Achilles mishaps are a fairly common injury for those in the Association. On the bright side, though, some ice and good old-fashioned rest can normally do the trick, allowing the athlete in question to return to action without missing significant time.

Simply put, these types of injuries can normally be considered "minor."

For the Knicks, however, there is no such thing as a minor injury at this point. Especially in their backcourt. And especially when these types of injuries have the potential to culminate in surgery and require six-to-10 weeks of rehabilitation.

Which means this is huge.

Not only do New York's guard slots consist of the 35-year-old Pablo Prigioni and 39-year-old Jason Kidd, but Shumpert is rehabbing a torn ACL and Brewer has only just returned from meniscus surgery.

Now there's Smith, whose Achilles and boot can only be classified as a red flag. Because if he cannot run the floor the way he needs to, generate the lift in legs his jump shot requires or make the necessary lateral movements perimeter defense dictates, then he cannot help the team win.

Right now, more than anything, New York needs stability; the team needs players it can depend on to be on the floor every night playing at a high level.

And until now, Smith was emerging as one of those players. His preseason averages of 20 points, six assists and four rebounds on 72.7 percent shooting was a promising start to what was a pivotal season in Smith's career.

But now, here we are.

Smith will not make the Knicks upcoming three-game preseason road trip, reports Berman once again, leaving the team nearly dry in the backcourt

Understandably, Smith needs to rest; he needs to rehab the injury. But New York is not afforded the luxury of cautious optimism because this is yet another leg-related injury to one of its guards.

And not only that, but it brings the Knicks at least one road trip further away from practicing with as close to a full-house as possible.

How is this team supposed to generate any kind of chemistry, any level of on-court cohesion if they're never at full strength?

They can't, and it puts them in a lose-lose situation.

Either Smith's injury becomes a reoccurring issue, one that requires surgery or prevents him from producing at the level the Knicks need, or he returns, free from his boot, but with one or more week's worth rust, the kind that only materializes amidst a revolving roster.

So, despite New York's repeated attempts to reinvent the roster, injuries continue to hinder its development and remain the team's biggest pitfall.

In other words, it's a new season. We're dealing with plenty of new faces, but we're bearing witness to the same old Knicks.