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Knicks sign J.R. Smith after stint in China league

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The streaking New York Knicks signed former Denver Nugget J.R. Smith on Friday, giving point guard sensation Jeremy Lin a new backcourt mate.

Smith, who averaged 12.5 points a game during seven NBA seasons, was available after finishing his season with the China Basketball Association's Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls, with whom he signed during last year's NBA lockout.

"His talents fit our system perfectly," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters before Friday's game against the New Orleans Hornets. "He's a great three-point shooter, can put the ball on the floor, can run a pick-and-roll."

To make room for Smith on the roster, the Knicks cut forward Renaldo Balkman.

The injury-depleted Knicks have gone on a seven-game winning streak since Lin took charge in the backcourt but are about to add a number of players to the mix.

High-scoring All-Star Carmelo Anthony may return from his groin strain Sunday against the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, and guard Baron Davis is also close to a return from injury.

"We're adding a lot of talent," said D'Antoni, who was asked whether he was concerned about disturbing team chemistry. "It's a great problem to have. We got a lot of depth."

"If everyone keeps buying in the way they're doing, the chemistry will still be good. This is a weird season, you see how many people go down, getting tired, but (now) that shouldn't affect us."

Smith is not arriving in New York in time to practice on Saturday so will probably not be available for Sunday's game.

General manager Glen Grunwald said the Knicks, who rank 26th in the league in three-point shooting percentage, had long coveted Smith.

"We've been looking at and talking about J.R. for a long time now since his time in China was going to end at some point this season," he said.

"J.R. had a good season over in China. He shot close to 50 percent from three-point (range) and that's one of the things we look to improve here."

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)