Before Shumpert returned on Jan. 17 from a left ACL repair, he knew his role wouldn't be the same as it was his rookie season. With the New York Knicks' two point-guard backcourt set, Shumpert would be a small forward, meaning he wouldn't have the ball in his hands for the first time. So Shump, known to religiously study game film of who he's guarding, examined players who excel at playing off of the ball.
One of those guys was the Celtics forward.
"I watched a lot of Jeff Green, I watched a lot of Ray Allen, watching [Shane] Battier and even watching a lot of [Steve] Novak -- seeing how guys space the floor, certain guys that cut," he told ESPNNewYork.com. "You've just got to find your way of helping out, find when you can do it and then, after that, it's just sort of trial and error."
When the Knicks drafted Shumpert in 2011, they envisioned him as a combo guard, facilitating pick-and-rolls and attacking from the wings. And that's what happened. When Toney Douglas fizzled as the starting point guard, Shumpert took over and played well. Later, he became Landry Fields' backup at shooting guard, but soon replaced him regularly in the starting lineup toward the end of the season.
While Shumpert's knee injury in last year's playoffs meant he would miss the first half of 2012-13, he was still gearing up to resume as the starting shooting guard based on his rookie success. But with no Shump or the injured Amar'e Stoudemire for months, Knicks coach Mike Woodson had to adjust the starting lineup.
Shumpert said he would prefer to be a main ball-handler: "I'm used to having the ball and getting into a rhythm that way.
"[But] if they want me to [do] something else, then I've got to do what they want me to do," he said. "It's all about winning this championship."
Taking what he has learned from Green and others, Shumpert has looked to add his own flavor at small forward (besides the flat top, of course). Those special ingredients have been his offensive rebounding (he had 12 boards in Game 4); on-the-ball defense (he has nine steals against the Celtics, including pick-pocketing Green several times); and 3-point shooting (43.8 percent in the series).
Shumpert first wowed the Knicks during his pre-draft workout with his downtown touch, and he improved his accuracy from season one to two from shooting repetition during his injury recovery. On the court, he said he has a better sense of his teammates' tendencies and where to position himself from beyond the arc.
"I think it's been a great relationship of them knowing where I am. And the more I make shots, the more comfortable they are throwing me the ball," he said. "I think it's clicking really well right now."
Shumpert said he had a "rough patch" earlier in the season, referring to the mental hurdles of his injury, but now that's behind him.
His renewed explosiveness and versatility on both ends of the floor will be needed in a big away on Friday night.
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