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Knicks might sit Dennis Smith Jr. rest of season with sore back

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HOUSTON — Dennis Smith Jr. trash-talked Knicks assistant coach Royal Ivey in the visitors’ locker room in Orlando on Wednesday night, joking that he reinjured his back “bustin’ his ass” in practice.

Ivey, the former Thunder swingman who is just 37, participated in one-on-one games against the guards last week with the club injury-riddled.

Nevertheless, Ivey may not get his chance at revenge on Smith. Knicks coach David Fizdale isn’t sure if Smith will get his back right by the season finale Wednesday against Detroit, after it “really stiffened up on him.’’

Smith said the re-injury likely happened in Saturday’s game against Miami — not against Ivey. Smith will miss his third straight and ninth of the last 11 when the Knicks finish a two-game swing here Friday.

In a concerning revelation, Smith said last week the back discomfort is related to a misplaced disk and would require long-term maintenance.

“Something that’s lingering,’’ said Smith, who has played 19 games for the Knicks. “I got some good trainers on the staff. They’ve been doing a good job of taking care of me. … My goal is to get back to 100 percent. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Smith is uncertain if he will play again this season. A return depends on his response to the massive amount of treatment and “mobility exercises.”Certainly the Knicks would like to see more of what they have in Smith, who started off strong. But they also saw Smith’s downside with sloppy play in later games. The athletic point guard averaged 2.4 turnovers, 14.1 points and 5.5 assists.

“If I’m able to,’’ Smith said. “If I’m able to play at any time, I’m going to play — even if it’s the last game.”

“Too many unforced turnovers,’’ one NBA scout said in sizing up Smith.


The Knicks get their rematch with Mike D’Antoni’s red-hot Rockets (51-28) and James Harden, who scored a Houston franchise record 61 points in the first meeting at the Garden on Jan. 23.

Harden, an MVP candidate, is averaging 36.4 points, 7.6 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals. Billy Garrett Jr., the 6-foot-6 G-Leaguer who signed this week, will be asked to slow Harden. … With four games to play, the Knicks (15-63) need to go 2-2 to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history.


Smith, 21, said he’ll spent much of the offseason in Fayettville, N.C., where he’s become a benefactor. He said he funded two new basketball courts in the Seabrook apartment complex and hopes to give back more to the community by one day setting up a foundation.

“I’ll go out and referee,’’ Smith said. “It’s an outside court in the projects. I redid two courts. I was there every day.”

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