GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- In the first quarter against the Pistons on Thursday, Iman Shumpert was confident and in rhythm, as if he had started the Knicks' previous 37 games.
He came out aggressive on defense, fighting through screens to stay with Tayshaun Prince and then demonstrating quick lateral movement and constant hand movement to distract the Pistons forward. Offensively, Shumpert was patient and his positioning was on-point in the corner when Carmelo Anthony attacked or set up in the post. Shumpert had one 3-pointer from that spot.
But who could've predicted in his first few minutes in his season debut that he would drive baseline and nearly throw down a vicious one-handed dunk over two Pistons players?
Mike Woodson said after Sunday's practice that the way Shumpert performed didn't surprise him. The coach had been impressed with Shumpert's resolve as he battled back from knee surgery.
"The kid is just so tough, mentally tough and physically tough, that he was determined that, hey, I'm back and I'm going to play," he said. "I was very pleased."
During Shumpert's 15 minutes on the court, the Pistons shot just 30.8 percent. When he was on the sideline, Detroit climbed to 50.9 percent. And offensively, when he was playing and penetrating well with his explosiveness, the Knicks got the ball inside more. They attempted 40.9 percent of their field goal attempts in the restricted area, compared to only 14.0 percent when Shumpert was sitting.
Speaking with reporters on Sunday, Shumpert said he was "happy" to do things in the game that he had been working on in practice -- getting after it defensively and hitting corner 3-pointers. Now he's less than 24 hours away from bringing all that hard work to Madison Square Garden for the first time this season, against the Nets. And he's beyond ecstatic.
"It's going to be everything. That'll put a big smile on my face," he said. "Even though I'm supposed to have a game face, I'll probably have a smile for the first couple of trips down. Overall, I just hope that it provides enough energy for us to get off on the right foot. We've been starting games slow in the Garden."
J.R. Smith expects his backcourt teammate to play even bigger on Monday.
"To get him back for this Brooklyn game, it's going to be big, too," he said. "He's going to come out with a lot of energy, more than I think he did in London."
Woodson said Shumpert is still on a "minutes restriction," but the good news is the combo guard hasn't felt sore since Thursday.
Overall, there is a lot of excitement in the air with Shumpert back. But, at least for Smith, there's only one thing the second-year player needs to work on: his flat top.
"Awful, awful," Smith said, with a smile. "It was cool for a while, but he's taking it too far now. He's got to cut it."
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