Dennis Smith Jr.’s oblique strain is taking on a life of its own. A serious baseball injury — the Yankees’ Aaron Judge missed two months due to it last season — is turning into a serious basketball injury, too.
The Knicks point guard, obtained in last January’s Kristaps Porzingis deal, missed his ninth straight game in Sunday’s matinee vs. Miami. There’s no clear projection on a return despite talk of progress.
“It’s actually faster (than I expected),” Smith said regarding his timetable. “I heard with oblique strains, it can be two months. I’m actually coming along fast. I’m going through the process. I’m feeling better. The good thing about it is I’m making progress.”
Smith is not surprised he suffered the rare basketball injury considering how it happened. It was from a cross-court pass in practice, he said. “I felt like my ribs had separated on the side,” Smith said. “And they say it happens to pitchers, too.”
In the Knicks’ limited practice time, Smith has been spotted in for contract drills but not all.
“He does portions of it,” interim coach Mike Miller said. “He hasn’t been completely full blown. He does something and comes out. There’s still pain he feels when he does certain things.”
Smith, who had an MRI recently, confirmed his moves to the basket are hampered. “It’s moves that’s necessary for me to play the way that I play,” said Smith, whose strength is his penetrating ability. “I still feel pain with those moves. We’re trying to work through that and they know when to remove me.”
Smith has played just 21 games in his first full season with the Knicks, and there have been signals he may want a fresh start. He missed action after his stepmother’s passing and received a handful of DNPs.
He was relaxed before Sunday’s game, sitting in the locker room in sunglasses (it was almost 70 degrees outside). He reminisced about his former AAU North Carolina teammate Bam Adebayo, who is putting up an All-Star caliber season for the Heat. They were on the same team when Smith was in middle school.
As Smith goes through these struggles, he can use Adebayo’s journey as inspiration.
“It’s all about situations,” Smith said.
Frank Ntilikina missed Sunday’s matinee with a sore groin. Ntilikina was hampered the second half of last season with a groin strain. … Marcus Morris was out a third straight game with a neck injury, but Julius Randle returned to the team after a death in the family.