Before Tip-Off: Neal to start, Smith wants Knicks to stay focused


Jeremy LinSAN ANTONIO, TX – As I was taking an elevator inside the AT&T Center, word came out that tonight’s San Antonio Spurs (25-12) vs. New York Knicks (18-20) game has been called a “sell out.”

No it’s not the playoffs, no it’s not a jersey retirement night, it’s “Linsanity.”

The Knicks and media star Jeremy Lin are in town and the building is buzzing, though the Knicks have some injuries to worry about.

Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni confirmed before the game that center Tyson Chandler would be out as would forward Jared Jeffries. Josh Harrellson will get the start at center for the Knicks.

Though they’re finally healthy, the Spurs also made a lineup change as Gary Neal will sta at shooting guard instead of Danny Green. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he’s ready to get the roster back in tune as Manu Ginobili is making his way back into the rotation.

“Gary Neal going down the stretch is a big part of our rotation just like he was last year,” said Popovich, “with Manu coming back, those two guys naturally are probably going to get more time than Danny Green does.

I spoke with New York Knicks’ guard J.R. Smith in the Knicks’ locker room and he told me what his team will need to do to improve after falling to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

“I think as a team, we need to come out here and be ready,” said Smith. “We can’t get lackadaisical as a team like we did yesterday.”

Smith also confirmed to me that the Spurs were one team interested in him when he was a free agent out of China. The full interview will be up on Project Spurs Thursday. Coach Popovich also spoke about the NBA trade deadline, look for his words on the trade deadline Thursday as well.