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Berman: J.R. Smith, Cleanthony Early could return by Christmas Day

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More Knicks? That's interesting!

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Less than 24 hours after I conclusively proved that Santa Claus hates the New York Knicks, it would appear that the cunning old wizard might be willing to throw the team a bone by returning a pair of injured players.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, J.R. Smith looks set to play in Thursday's Christmas matinee against the Washington Wizards after missing the last seven games with a foot injury:

Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith had a private workout with the assistant coaches Monday and has a good chance of making his return from a small tear in the plantar fascia in his left foot on Christmas against the Wizards.

One source called it an "80 percent’’ chance Smith would return

There would be a magnificent symmetry to J.R. making his return on December 25 -- a day better known as the one-year anniversary of his brother Chris Smith's glorious NBA debut.

While he hasn't been especially good at basketball this season, Berman mentions him as a potential trade chip, with the caveat that New York would be looking for "a major asset" in return. Yes, please get a move on trading away a major asset for J.R., rest of the league!

Here's hoping Derek Fisher gives J.R. all the shots upon his return, if only to entice some naive, possibly delusional owner. (Looking at you, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive!)

In far more interesting news, rookie Cleanthony Early has nearly recovered from the arthroscopic surgery performed on his knee way back on Nov. 18.

Per Berman, Early "...finally could return to practice Tuesday and won’t rule out Christmas Day as his return to the lineup."

Whoa, whoa, whoa...practice? Let's consult Steve McPherson's daughter Maggie on this one:

What is a Knicks game, after all, if not a 48-minute practice? If Early can take the court on Tuesday, and feel no ill effects on Wednesday, he should play on Thursday. Hell, he might as well start.

I hereby propose the organization imposes a strict small forward knee surgery exchange program. Early did his time on the operating table, and now it's Carmelo Anthony's turn to go under the knife. Once Melo has healed, Travis Wear can undergo a knee procedure.

Let's get this done, Knicks! Knee surgeries for some, miniature American flags for others!