- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- So far, so good for Iman Shumpert.
The Knicks second-year guard went through 3-on-3 drills and took contact for the first time since his May ACL surgery during practice on Tuesday.
Afterward, Shumpert said it was too soon to set a specific date for his return to the court. He was encouraged by what he did in practice.
"It meant the world to me, I just wanted to compete," Shumpert said. "Getting out here and being able to compete definitely put a smile on my face for the day."
Once he returns to the floor, Shumpert is expected to boost the Knicks' defense, specifically on the perimeter. He established himself as one of the top young on-ball defenders in the NBA last year in his first season.
The Knicks have struggled to contain penetration at times when teams spread the floor this year. The Houston Rockets in particular had success against New York by working the ball around the perimeter and penetrating seams in the Knicks' defense. The Rockets won both games against the Knicks this season.
Shumpert, if healthy, can help contain that penetration and can be counted on to defend some of the league's top point guards.
"That's what I'm looking to do," Shumpert said. "Just add another piece, add another guard, another guy that can guard multiple positions."
The Knicks defense was ranked in the top 10 in the league in opponent field goal percentage and points allowed per 100 possessions. Since that hot start, they'd slipped to 20th and 21st, respectively.
So Shumpert's return is pivotal for a team that hopes to make a deep playoff run into June.
Mike Woodson was encouraged by what he saw from Shumpert on day one.
"He looked good. I mean, it was a great first day for him in terms of contact and moving around," Woodson said.
Shumpert reported feeling fine physically and mentally. His biggest hurdle remaining is regaining his rhythm, he said.
After more than seven months of rehab, though, Shumpert knows that it's only a matter of time before he hits the floor. And, for, that he is grateful.
"I'm in a good place," he said.
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