J.R. Smith wants to start for Knicks

J.R. Smith always had been content to be a backup — the mercurial sixth-man gunner. Not this October. The controversial Smith made it clear he prefers to start for the first time in his career.

He has a good chance, because free-agent signee Ronnie Brewer had knee surgery in early September and won’t start practicing for two weeks. Iman Shumpert, incumbent starter at shooting guard, may not be back until January as he rehabs from ACL surgery. The shooting guard position is Smith’s for the taking. He admitted concern about being pegged as a bench player, perhaps because of a bad-boy rep.

“I’d rather start. I’ve been playing [eight] years, coming off the bench,’’ Smith said yesterday. “Whether it stays [that way] or goes, I’m going to be same person I am. I prefer to start. I’d rather be a starter. If not, I understand that.’’

– Reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post