The NBA made the announcement Friday, continuing a string of off-court news for Smith, the reigning Sixth Man Award winner.
Two days after winning the Sixth Man Award, Smith was suspended one game for elbowing Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. Upon his return, he shot just 29 percent (34-of-117) – including 13-of-50 from 3-point range – in New York’s ensuing eight playoff games, five of them losses.
During the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Indiana Pacers, Smith’s poor play was attributed to being “hungover from clubbing every night during playoffs,” a phrase that allegedly appeared on music star Rihanna’s Instagram account. Smith and Rihanna were rumored to be dating in 2012.
Smith became a free agent and re-signed with the Knicks, inking a three-year, $18 million deal on which he took an eight-figure advance. Four days later, he underwent surgery to repair his patellar tendon and a torn meniscus. The procedure requires a recovery period of three to four months.
On Saturday, Smith told ESPN that there is no timetable for his return, saying, “I know they’re going to make sure I come back healthy, 100 percent so I don’t re-injure it or make it worse.”
He also added fuel to the growing Knicks-Nets rivalry in New York. After Brooklyn acquired All-Star forward Paul Pierce from Boston, Pierce said the Nets would “own New York.” Smith responded by telling ESPN that Pierce was a “bitter person just getting out of Boston. He doesn’t really know what New York is all about.”
Smith was not expected to be fully recovered at the start of the season, which means the five-game suspension begins “with the first game of the 2013-14 season for which he is eligible and physically able to play,” according to the NBA.
Smith, who turns 28 on Monday, averaged a career-high 18.1 points last season, second on the Knicks behind NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony. His absence, whether it is due to injury or suspension, places pressure on new arrival Andrea Bargnani and point guard Raymond Felton to score more in support of Anthony.