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Ex-Knick Dennis Smith has another strong game for Hornets

by NYPost
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Ex-Knick Dennis Smith has another strong game for Hornets

Dennis Smith Jr.’s impressive early season numbers for the Hornets weren’t a mirage. He looks like a different player than the one who spent parts of three seasons with the Knicks between 2018 and 2021.

The 2017 lottery pick was one of the best players on the Garden floor Wednesday night in the Knicks’ 134-131 overtime victory over the Hornets. He notched 14 points and 11 assists, starting because Charlotte is without injured guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier.

“He’s playing well,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I’m happy for him. He’s a good kid.”

Before the game, the 24-year-old Smith told The Post he didn’t hold any ill will toward the Knicks, that his time with the team had taught him about battling adversity. But he did hint that he didn’t get much of a shot from Thibodeau during the coach’s first season with the Knicks in 2020-21. Smith appeared in just three games before suffering a quad injury and was later traded to the Pistons in the Derrick Rose deal.

“They know what I’m about, they got the tapes from two years ago when we were in practice with all them boys,” Smith said, when asked if he had something to prove to the Knicks. “For real, for real. All that stuff is documented. They know what I’m about.”

Former Knick Dennis Smith Jr. drives on Derrick Rose during the Hornets' 134-131 overtime loss.
Former Knick Dennis Smith Jr. drives on Derrick Rose during the Hornets’ 134-131 overtime loss.
NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks may have learned even more on Wednesday night.

After Evan Fournier fouled out with 3:28 left in regulation after scoring 14 points, Thibodeau used Cam Reddish (five points) to close out a game for the second time this season.

“We thought [with] a little more size out there, [we] could do a little more switching,” Thibodeau said. “I like Cam’s length. Each night will be different.”

Cam Reddish
Cam Reddish
NBAE via Getty Images

The coaching matchup was a Knicks reunion of sorts. Charlotte’s Steve Clifford and Thibodeau were on head coach Jeff Van Gundy’s staff in the late 1990s that also included Brendan Malone and Don Chaney.

“It was like you were in the best clinic in the world every day,” Thibodeau said.

Quentin Grimes (sore left foot) remained out, though Thibodeau said the second-year guard is making progress and moving around better. He practiced on a limited basis Tuesday, but hasn’t practiced fully since feeling discomfort in the left foot after the final preseason game, which was also the first in which he was able to play.

The Knicks picked up the fourth-year player options on Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley and the third-year option on Grimes. Toppin had nine points and Quickley scored 11 points.

“They’re very deserving,” Thibodeau said. “So obviously glad to see that, a byproduct of their hard work. I know they’ll continue to work the way they’ve been working.”

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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