NEW YORK – Iman Shumpert has been everything that the Knicks needed since he rejoined the team five games ago. The rookie penetrates, he pressures defenders and he provides enough energy on the court that Carmelo Anthony said the team is feeding off of him.
But there will be growing pains and New York saw a few Wednesday night. Shumpert turned in another solid statline: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. But the Knicks newest fan favorite also committed four turnovers. The most dangerous came with 53.9 seconds left. Shumpert mishandled the ball and was stripped near halfcourt by the Sixers’ Andre Iguodala, which led to two free throws for Iguodala a lead that was cut to four less than a minute to play.
The Knicks are 3-0 with Shumpert in the starting lineup. The rookie did struggled though at times Wednesday night with entry passes to Carmelo Anthony and had moments where he either tried to force his way into the paint or force a pooly-timed jumper. Still, Shumpert proved something else about himself after the game: He’s also not afraid to take responsibility.
“Down the stretch, I had a bad quarter,” he said. “I’ve got to clean that up. I made it real tough on our stars tonight, just turning the ball over down the stretch. Tomorrow will be a better day.”
The Knicks visit Memphis Thursday and Shumpert will see a pair of talented guards in Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo. With the Knicks handing over the keys to the offense to Shumpert, he knows he can’t cough up the ball in critical moments. Some of that comes with learning to control the offense and making sure that he can get his teammates into offensive sets.
“I just have to be tougher with the ball for one, and two we have to be in something,” he said. “A lot of times we came down and we didn’t get in our offense and that reflects on me. Myself, Toney (Douglas) and Landry (Fields) we gotta make sure that our guys are in something.”
Shumpert did make some careless errors with the ball but he also continued to provide an energy on the floor that isn’t seen when he’s sitting. On one play in the fourth quarter, Shumpert stripped Jrue Holiday in the open court and fed Amare Stoudemire with a no-look pass for a dunk that put the Knicks ahead by 17.
The rookie also shot 2 for 7 in the first half and struggled a good deal with his jumper. But when the Sixers doubled down on Anthony, Shumpert made hit three shots from the right elbow. The rookie came into the league known for his defense and disrupted Philadelphia offense with deflections and pressure on the guards.
“It’s great to see that he’s what we thought he could be, and he can be a lot more,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s barely tapped his potential. His hands and his strength on the defensive end are impressive. We thought he could add that. That’s what he’s kind of known for.”
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