NBA PM: Iman Shumpert Nearing Return
Prior to a recent New York Knicks game, Iman Shumpert was on the court going through a rigorous workout. He was running, cutting, shooting and dunking. While his teammates went through their usual light shootaround, Shumpert was testing his surgically repaired knee and working up a sweat. The 22-year-old looked like himself, and it was evident that he’d be returning to the court sooner than later.
Today, team doctors cleared Shumpert for full contact practices and drills, which means he can now participate in five-on-five scrimmages for the first time since tearing his ACL and lateral meniscus during last year’s playoffs. Shumpert should be able to make his 2012-13 debut in the next few weeks, depending on how his knee responds to the scrimmages and contact drills.
While Shumpert has been listening to his doctors and staying patient throughout the rehab process, missing games has been killing him and he can’t wait to don a Knicks jersey and start contributing again.
“It’s extremely tough, especially for me, being young, I’ve never dealt with any injuries that kept me out this long,” Shumpert told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s new for me, not being able to play basketball – real games, pick-up games, one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three – that’s something that I’ve always done. Even when I did a full day of drill work, I would always play one-on-one, two-on-two or three-on-three afterwards and I’m not able to do that now. That’s the biggest wear, it’s been tough mentally.”
Like many injured players, Shumpert has been productive while on the sideline. During every game, he has been sitting with his coaches and veteran teammates, and he has been learning a lot. He can’t wait to get back on the court and put some of the things he has learned to use.
“I’ve always learned a lot from sitting on the bench, even when I was healthy and just not playing,” Shumpert said. “Now, being out, I’m definitely learning a lot. I’m taking myself out of the equation and just watching. You see where you can add certain things, where you can help. I think that’s been the key for me. I’ve been able to recognize areas where I can help and what I need to do when I come back.”
Shumpert has also been picking his teammates’ brains. There are a lot of talented veterans in the Knicks’ locker room and he is taking full advantage. He’s constantly asking questions and taking advice from his elders. Most young players rely on their energy and athleticism early in their career and don’t start learning some of tips and tricks to make their life easier until they become an old, wise veteran. However, Shumpert’s teammates are trying to teach him as much as they can so that when he returns, he’ll have the body of a sophomore player and the mind of a veteran.
“I’ve definitely been picking their brains,” Shumpert said of New York’s veterans. “Not only the guards – Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith – but also guys like Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are always in my ear, talking to me and telling me little things that I can do. They show me certain plays that a lot of teams around the league run. They tell me what to look out for and little ways that I can help out the team. With them being older, they know all of the tricks. They’ll say, ‘Well, you’re young enough to do this stuff. We’ll tell you the tricks and you’ll do them because you’re young enough to get these extra little points or things that we can’t get because we’re a little older.
“It’s cool and it’s a dream come true playing with all of these guys. The best thing about them is just the comfort they give me about coming back. They’ve all said, ‘You can take as much time as you want, we’ll be fine. Just take your time, make sure you’re healthy before you come back.’ That kind of encouragement has really helped.”
If you haven’t noticed on Twitter or in interviews, Shumpert doesn’t lack confidence. He has been behind the #knickstape movement, taunting opponents and celebrating each Knicks’ victory on Twitter. He believes New York can win it all this year and he’s not afraid to say it.
“We can go as far as we take ourselves,” Shumpert said. “Me being confident, I was confident in this team last year and I’ll always be confident. That’s just how I am. That’s how I was growing up and that’s how it’s always going to be. I’m never going to back down. Even if I feel like we’re not that good, I’m not going to tell nobody else that. I’ll talk noise like we’re the best team, even if I feel like we’re the underdog. I’ll do that until we win. If you’re not driven to win in this league, you might as well retire.”
Shumpert is also confident that he can come back and be a better player. He doesn’t think the injury will limit him from realizing his full potential. Immediately after he tore his ACL and meniscus, Shumpert vowed to be even better and stronger when he returned. He hasn’t backed down from that goal.
“I’m extremely determined to come back better than ever,” Shumpert said. “I believe in myself more than anybody. I’m extremely confident that I can get back to where I was and then grow like I was supposed to grow if this never happened.”
Up Close With Nolan Smith at D-League Showcase
Nolan Smith is one of many talented young players that the Portland Trail Blazers have stockpiled in recent years. In an effort to get him more playing time and experience, the Blazers sent him down to the play with their D-League affiliate the Idaho Stampede. Smith has embraced the assignment and, like all D-League players right now, is trying to display his talent in the D-League Showcase in Reno.
Even though Smith is currently on an NBA roster, he understands the importance of the showcase. He’s playing in front of the NBA’s decision makers and he’ll be an unrestricted in several months since the Blazers didn’t pick up his option. Smith has something to prove and he’s been playing extremely well with the Stampede, finishing with 28 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals in his first game. With Portland, Smith had averaged just 2.5 points and 1.2 assists in 8.2 minutes.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Smith at the D-League showcase to talk about his D-League experience, the progress of fellow assignee Will Barton, the excellent rookie season Damian Lillard is having, the playoff expectations in Portland and much more in this exclusive interview:
Nolan Smith - VIDEO OF THE DAY
Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith talks about how he wants a chance of scenery and what he expects heading into free agency.Watch More Video Here
Rudy Gay On the Trade Block
The rumors are true. The Memphis Grizzlies are willing to trade Rudy Gay, but only if the right deal comes along. They want to shed salary, but at the same time bring in players that can help Memphis make a deep playoff run. The Grizzlies want to be competitive in the Western Conference and the team won’t trade Gay just to get out of his contract, they want to use him to bolster their roster as well.
The Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics are among the teams that have had conversations with the Grizzlies about Gay, according to league sources. The Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors have shown interest in Gay in the past and could be potential trade partners as well.
Gay is owed $17.8 million and $19.3 million over the next two seasons and Memphis wants to avoid paying the luxury tax, which is why they’re looking at deals that would allow them to cut costs.
This isn’t the first time that Gay has heard his name in trade rumors. The Grizzlies have considered moving him in the past and Gay has made it clear that he’s open to a trade. In the past, Memphis wasn’t blown away with any of the discussions that they had with other teams and decided to keep Gay. We’ll see if the same thing happens this season as the February 21st trade deadline approaches.