Dennis Smith hoping for fresh Knicks start with number change

Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is changing his jersey number — and perhaps his fortunes.

Smith will return to the No. 4 he wore at North Carolina State, according to an NBA source.

The 22-year-old point guard from Fayetteville, N.C., had been wearing jersey No. 5 since he got traded from Dallas to the Knicks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal, in January 2019.

It will be Smith’s third different number in the league. After being drafted ninth by Dallas in 2017, Smith wore No. 1 with the Mavericks. But after the trade to the Knicks, he deferred to Emmanuel Mudiay. Because Mudiay wore No. 1, Smith switched to 5.

Smith’s college No. 4 was also taken by UNC rival no less, forward Isaiah Hicks. Neither Hicks nor Mudiay is still with the Knicks.

After a strong start in New York in his first partial season, Smith slumped badly this past year, wracked by an array of injuries and the early-season death of his stepmother. He also was on the trading block.

However, Smith is believed to have a fan in new head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was high on Smith when he came out of N.C. State, according to SNY. Smith has been working with Thibodeau during the OTAs the past two weeks.

Smith was a one-and-doner at N.C. State, with some draftniks forecasting he had the driving explosiveness of Russell Westbrook.

Thibodeau’s aim will be to improve Smith’s defense and decision-making as a point guard. Smith played in just 34 games in 2019-20, averaging just 5.5 points and 2.9 assists.

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