Chris Smith has never played a game for the New York Knicks, but he has already had success at Madison Square Garden.
In early March, with his parents and big brother—Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith—looking on, Chris Smith led Louisville to the Big East title. His 15 points were a team-high and pushed the Cardinals past Cincinnati, 50-44.
Smith also contributed in the NCAA tournament, helping Louisville all the way to the Final Four, where they fell to the eventual champions from Kentucky, 69-61.
Last week, the Knicks signed Chris Smith to a contract, uniting him on a pro roster with his big brother (h/t ESPN New York).
J.R. was certainly happy to hear the news, telling Ian Begley of ESPN New York: "'I paid for my brother to go to school for the last five years (at Louisville). Now, he's off my books and on somebody else's, so I'm happy,' he said with a laugh."
Chris, a native of Millstone, NJ, had initially planned to attend Seton Hall in nearby South Orange and play basketball for the Pirates. His grades weren't up to snuff, however, and he was ruled ineligible (per The Daily Orange).
He enrolled instead at Manhattan College, but only became eligible to play for the Jaspers at the end of the first semester. Because he joined in the middle of the season, Smith "didn't know the offense, knew less about his teammates and seemed lost at times on the court" (per Sean Brennan of the NY Daily News).
After two years at Manhattan, Chris decided to transfer to Louisville as a walk-on, and faced an uphill battle in joining the marquee Big East program. He sat out the 2009-10 season. Without a scholarship, J.R. committed to paying his brother's tuition.
Standing at a slender 6'2", it seems that some of Chris' Wheaties may have been stolen by the 6'6" J.R. when they were growing up.
On the first day that coach Rick Pitino saw Smith shooting at the team's facility, he thought he was a ball boy. Chris admitted that he faced adversity in going to Louisville (via the Detroit Free Press):
I would say the only people that would've thought that (I'd be a starter) were my mom, my dad, my brother and myself. Other than that, anybody else would've been like, "Oh, you don't have a chance to play." Even the coaches at Manhattan said the same thing, "Why are you going there? You'll never play."
But Chris ended up making the team and playing big minutes. While only averaging 9.4 and 9.7 points per game in his two season with the Cardinals, he also averaged 26.0 and 27.5 minutes in those seasons.
He ascended to co-captain and helped them to a Final Four appearance in 2012.
So, clearly, Chris Smith knows a thing or two about hard work and earning his playing time. But will he make a contribution to the New York Knicks?
Chris is the 15th player on the Knicks' roster, bringing the team to the maximum number of players.
And Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York reports that Chris will probably be jettisoned as the Knicks look to sign a power forward before training camp begins:
Chris Smith's contract is partially guaranteed, which means, in this case, he's only signed for training camp. In technical terms, Smith is not an NBA player yet. The Knicks will likely release him before the season starts, and then work with their D-League team, the Erie BayHawks, to sign him separately.
Of course, over an 82-game season, you never know who could make a contribution or when that opportunity might come. Just look at the emergence of Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak last year.
Since he's undrafted and fresh out of college, Smith could certainly use more polish on his game. The D-League will afford him the best opportunity for that.
Also, the Knicks' backcourt is both strong and crowded. With Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Ronnie Brewer and Chris' brother J.R. at the guard positions, there is precious little room for the rookie to fit in.
Sophomore shooting guard Iman Shumpert is also slated to return in January as he recovers from a knee injury, according to Newsday.
The Knicks could also use more depth in their frontcourt.
Aside from their superstars Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have an assortment of players who are either unproven or of advanced age.
Steve Novak returns, but he is primarily there for his stellar shooting. Chris Copeland has never been in the NBA and played for Belgium's Aalstar last season. James White has played in 10 NBA games and spent last year in Italy's Lega Basket Serie A (ESPN).
The two former Knicks in the frontcourt bring experience, along with a lot of candles on their birthday cakes. Marcus Camby is 38 and Kurt Thomas is 39.
According to ESPN's Jared Zwerling, forwards Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin, Andray Blatche, Louis Amundson, D.J. White and Donte Greene are all in the mix to join the Knicks' roster. The Knicks can offer playoff contention, but only the veteran's minimum salary.
Bringing in any one of these players would likely mean that Chris Smith would be headed for the D-League affiliate in Erie.
While J.R. might not be pleased to see his little brother shipped off to the Presque Isle Bay, the youngster could learn something about developing his game for NBA competition.
And, with some hard work, he could find himself back at MSG helping win games sooner than later.
Follow me. I gave Kobe the halftime pep talk.
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