Knicks At Hawks, 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

  • Looking to spark his team to a faster start, Knicks coach Mike Woodson will start shooting guard J.R. Smith — the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year — into the starting lineup Wednesday when New York takes on the host Hawks. Smith will replace Pablo Prigioni. I’m still trying to get defense and some [more] offense, too, where we’ve struggled in the early part of the season,” Woodson said. “I thought last year it was a better fit for him to come off [the bench] . . . right now I’m searching in terms of rotation.”
  • Smith, who averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, sounded pleased to be starting although he has struggled this season in coming off knee surgery and the sitting out the first five games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. “I think it’s a great accomplishment for me,” he said. “I think from warm-ups straight to the action . . . it’s better being warm than having to wait six or seven minutes. It’s kind of hard to jump-start your body, especially coming off the surgery. So it will be easier for me, I think.”
  • Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t exactly sound like he planned to have his team try to force the ball inside more against the Knicks even though defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler is out with a broken leg. Yet he didn’t deny the suggestion might benefit Atlanta. “Playing inside-out is something that we want to have as part of our offense,” the Atlanta coach said. “I think making [center Andrea] Bargnani and Carmelo [Anthony] defend the post, that’s something that would be good for us tonight. Every night we want to go inside . . . going inside tonight would make some sense.”
  • Knicks swingman Iman Shumpert did not do pregame interviews, but New York head coach Mike Woodson addressed Monday’s media rumors that he has been the subject of trade talks with the Denver Nuggets. Several reports have indicated that the Nuggets might be willing to ship big man Kenneth Faried east. The Knicks could use another big. “I always try to tell young players, ‘If your name is being floated out there, that’s a good thing. It means somebody wants you,’ ” Woodson said. “Guys get traded. The best players have been traded, but at the end of the day you still got to play. You’re still in a Knicks uniform, you’re representing what we’re trying to do here. You can’t worry about what’s in the paper. You’ve still got to perform.”

– Matt Winkeljohn

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