Knicks’ Iman Shumpert Looks Past Injury
New York Knicks second-year guard Iman Shumpert, a Chicago native, likes to listen to an eclectic selection of music from his iPhone before each game. While he never knows exactly which songs he’ll listen to each night, one song in particular gets heavy rotation.
“I always listen to Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Superstar,’” Shumpert told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s the only song that I go to on a nightly basis.”
In the song, an individual deals with the pressures of going from an unknown to a superstar. In the song’s opening refrain, the lyrics are eerily similar to the struggles that Shumpert has been battling in his own life: “If you are what you say you are, a superstar, then have no fear, the camera’s here and the microphones, and they wanna know, oh oh oh (the return).”
April 28, 2012 was a difficult day for fans of the NBA. The playoffs were just getting underway when Shumpert and Chicago Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose both went down with torn ACLs. Fast forward 11 months and Rose still is fighting his way back onto the court for the Bulls. Meanwhile, Shumpert, who now sports a unique high-top fade, is back after making his triumphant return for the Knicks during their game against the Detroit Pistons in London on January 17.
Shumpert, who hasn’t spoken directly with Rose, has sympathy for the Bulls point guard not only because of the difficulties of coming back from a serious injury, but also because of the responsibilities that Rose has on the court.
“[Derrick] knows his body better than anybody else,” Shumpert said. “He has a lot more on his shoulders than I do. This is my second year in the league. I’m more of a defensive stopper for this team. Derrick has to make sure that when he’s back, he’s on the top of his game. I think he’s just being patient. He doesn’t want to rush it. When he’s ready to play, he’ll be back on the court.”
Adrian Peterson, the star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, went down with a torn ACL in week 16 of the 2011 NFL season. Remarkably, Peterson made his miraculous return to the field less than 10 months after the injury. Peterson went on to win the MVP in 2012 and was just nine yards short of breaking the NFL’s single-season rushing record. It was an astonishing season and Peterson’s success gave Shumpert the confidence that he could come back and make an impact in the NBA.
“I had respect for Adrian Peterson before his season even started,” Shumpert said. “The fact that he didn’t even miss training camp, that’s a different level. His season this year was special.”
Unlike Peterson, Shumpert’s return hasn’t been smooth sailing. While he insists that he was ready to return, part of him feels that he may have come back too early.
“I came back and realized how tough it is mentally,” Shumpert said. “There are times when I wish I would’ve waited longer. I’m back now, there’s no way to go back and do things differently at this point.”
Shumpert has struggled offensively for the Knicks. While he insists that he is battling a slump, he knows that his teammates have his back and are encouraging him to fight throw his inconsistencies.
“The most important thing that my teammates have been in my ear about is how everybody in this league goes through slumps,” Shumpert said. “Getting out of the slump is not only going to give myself confidence, it’s also going to help my team get the win.”
Besides the injury, another reason for Shumpert’s struggles could be due to the fact that the Knicks brought in nine new faces to training camp this season. Last season, Shumpert was forced to play point guard because of the lack of guards on the Knicks roster, and he averaged 9.5 points and almost three assists a night. This year, the Knicks brought in veteran point guards Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and 35-year-old rookie Pablo Prigioni. Coach Mike Woodson has slid Shumpert over to shooting guard and small forward.
“[My role] has changed a little this year,” Shumpert said. “We made some additions at point guard and Coach wants me to play more of a wing this year. It would’ve helped if I started at the [shooting guard] during training camp. I just jumped in during the middle of the season, so it’s been a little rocky as far as not fitting in. I’ve seen places where I can help, where I need to be more aggressive in different areas. I’ve been watching a lot of film with the coaches too.”
Despite his struggles offensively, Shumpert is still a valuable defender for the Knicks. His ability to guard multiple positions takes pressure off of his teammates.
“It’s not difficult for me to guard a team’s best player,” Shumpert said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s an exciting feeling for me. Coach trusts me to make sure that the other team’s best player is uncomfortable every night. My whole life, I’ve always guarded the best guard. It gives me a lot of confidence in the rest of my game.”
With a little more than a month left in the regular season, the Knicks are focused on finishing the season off strong. It has been 12 years since the Knicks have made it past the second round of the playoffs, but Shumpert has higher goals for this season.
“I don’t think anybody in the league is just trying to get to the second round of the playoffs,” Shumpert said. “Our goal is to win every game and try to get to the championship. If you’re not in this league to play for a championship, you shouldn’t be here. As we get ready to make our playoff run, we want to have the highest seed possible. When we finally do get to the playoffs, our record is out the window. We just want to try and win sixteen games after that.”