Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills made the news official on Tuesday, via the team's official public relations Twitter page:
Dec. 17, 2013 – President & GM Steve Mills announced that the team has recalled Chris Smith from the Erie BayHawks of the NBA D-League.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) December 17, 2013
Though New York normally does the opposite of what we expect, this was a move you could see coming from Jupiter. Raymond Felton is currently sidelined with hamstring issues, and the team announced on Monday that Pablo Prigioni would be joining him, via the same Twitter account:
Pablo Prigioni has a hairline fracture of his right great toe. Surgery is not required. He is expected to be out at least two weeks.— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) December 17, 2013
Injuries to Felton and Prigioni left the Knicks with only two point guards—Beno Udrih and Toure' Murry, who has played all of 34 minutes this season. Iman Shumpert figures to see time at point as well, but until Prigioni and Felton return, the Knicks simply need bodies.
Smith is certainly fit to answer that call, but not much else. The younger brother of struggling chucker J.R. Smith hasn't played a second of meaningful action this season, and he has been buried in the NBA's D-League since mid-November.
While with the Erie BayHawks, New York's D-League affiliate, Smith registered 11.3 points and 2.7 assists on 50 percent shooting per contest.
Those shrugging off his call to arms as nothing more than a meaningless precautionary measure, I beg you to look at the Knicks. Really look at them. With how things have gone, Smith could see playing time.
Smith's tenure with the Knicks has been anything other than normal, or even intelligible. Every cent of his $490,180 salary (per ShamSports) became guaranteed once he was on the roster beyond opening night, terms the New York Daily News' Frank Isola wrote were beyond unusual.
This of no surprise, though. That he made the roster at all was the real shock. Or rather, it should have been. For the Knicks, their retention of him was painfully typical.
"Sure it does," head coach Mike Woodson told reporters in October, per Isola, referring to Smith's roster chances increasing because his brother was already on the team.
Woodson's comments, followed by New York's subsequent decision to keep Smith, prompted the NBA to investigate.
When the undrafted Chris Smith changed agents to J.R.’s rep, Leon Rose, last spring, some in the league saw it as a 'package deal.'
But, according to a league official, the league decided Chris Smith was enough of a bona fide NBA prospect to justify the club keeping him.
'Chris has enough talent,' the official told The Post. 'He could become an NBA player one day. Some teams do keep projects instead of players who can help right away, and Chris is one of those projects.'
Well, it's official: Smith is an NBA player. For now. Remember, this is the same Smith who one general manager told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski was "maybe the worst player in the history of the [NBA] summer league."
Ouch. That's your newest point guard, New York. One who could actually play.
Will Chris Smith see playing time with the Knicks?
Whoever was initially pulling the strings—the Smiths, CAA and Knicks owner James Dolan—desperately wanted Smith on the roster. Now he could become a part of the rotation, allowing us to see if he leans more toward "worst player" in summer league history or legitimate NBA prospect.
Who knows? By the time Prigioni and Felton return, Smith could be the unchallenged starting point guard. Or majority owner. Or Czar of life as we know it.
With the Knicks, you can never really predict how these acts of desperation pan out.
All you can do is fight back tears, and hope the Smith family doesn't eventually have their faces prominently featured on a newly minted form of currency, exclusive to New York and New York alone.