Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Dennis Smith Jr. has several goals coming into his second season with the Knicks. One of them? To help R.J. Barrett win Rookie of the Year.
"I'm treating that as one of my focal points just to help him win Rookie of the Year. And whatever I can do, I'm willing to do it," Smith Jr. said in an interview with Chris Henderson. "It's important for us and it's important for our team and it's important for our morale moving forward, so I think it would be major if he won that."
Barrett's development is certainly a key for the Knicks this season. But Smith Jr.'s is as well. The point guard, who came to New York in the trade of Kristaps Porzingis last season, said in the interview with Henderson that this season is an important one for him.
"I feel like I've got something to prove, chip on my shoulder still. So I've just been working, man," Smith Jr. said of his approach this offseason. "I try to attack every day and look at it as if I didn't leave anything on the table, I got the most out of every day. That's how I've been attacking each day this summer and so far it's been paying off for me so I'm going to keep that going, bring it in to training camp and be a leader. Lead by example, earn my respect with these guys and then carry that into the season."
Smith Jr. has been working extensively on his shot this season. He'll compete with Elfrid Payton in training camp for the starting point guard role. In addition to Knicks topics, Smith Jr. talked sneakers, music and his time with the Mavericks in the interview with Henderson, which was published on YouTube.
Here are Smith Jr.'s thoughts on a few other Knicks subjects:
On the Knicks' identity: "For our team, it's just being in elite condition. We want to be able to be scrappy on both ends of the court, especially on the defensive end. We know offense is going to take care of itself. We've got some good guys. Julius Randle is better than what a lot of people think. Marcus Morris is better than what a lot of people think as well. So I know what we have to do on the offensive end, but defense is really where we have to hang our hat this year. We've got the toughness for it, especially with Mitch (Robinson), one of the best shot blockers in the league, already, if not the best. We've got to hang our hat on that end and everything else will take care of itself. And if we get in elite shape, that will be easy to do play after play after play. We've got to keep that up."
Defense hasn't been a strong suit for New York in recent seasons. They finished last year ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency. Their 2019-20 roster isn't brimming with players who have a strong defensive track record. So it will be interesting to see how things come together on that end of the ball. As Smith Jr. notes, they have plenty of talent on offense. So how they perform on defense could go a long way in determining how much success they have this season.
Smith Jr. on David Fizdale: "You interact with all the coaches, and it's not shade to any other coach, but I think Fizdale is probably the best guy in the whole business as far as being a real, genuine dude. If you ever speak to him he'll speak to you like he's talking to one of the other coaches. He's just that real. Me and him, we talk a lot and he tells me about the things I need to do, what he needs from me. And I try to meet every expectation he sets for me, if not exceed it. So we've got a really good relationship right now."