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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Three things to watch in Shumpert's return

By Jared Zwerling

Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert prepares to make his season debut in London against the Pistons.
Knicks fans are buzzing with the upcoming premiere of "21 Shump Street: Season 2." After almost nine months, they finally get to see its lead character, Iman Shumpert, "parkin people on 21 Shump St.," as he explains on his Twitter account.

In Season 1, when Shumpert played in 59 games, the Knicks were more effective than in the seven games he missed. They had a better offensive rating (102.9 versus 99.8), defensive rating (99.3 versus 97.5) and opponents' turnover percentage (18.7 vs. 16.6).

Here are three main things to expect from the Knicks' combo guard, starting on Thursday:

1. On-the-ball defense: Last season, among all NBA players to defend at least 100 isolation plays, he ranked 11th in points per play allowed (0.699). Synergy Sports tracked him as the defender in a team-high 113 isolation plays, and guarding the lead ball-handler the most out of any Knick (222 plays). Overall, according to Synergy, Shumpert was the team's second-best defender based on points per play (0.822), behind only Tyson Chandler.

This season, too many opposing guards have had big games against the Knicks, including O.J. Mayo, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Jameer Nelson. In fact, entering the New Year, the Knicks were the worst isolation defensive team in the league. That's why Shumpert's return is so critical for isolation and pick-and-roll defense.

2. Transition buckets: If you recall, he made a eye-turning impact in his first-ever NBA game, a preseason matchup between the Knicks and Nets in Dec. 2011. He was all over Deron Williams, and with his sharp instincts in one possession, he picked the ball right out of the Nets point guard's hands and finished with a fast break layup.

Addressing reporters last week, Shumpert said he wants to help the team score more quickly off turnovers. He can do that with his perimeter defense and breakaway speed, which will lead to more offensive opportunities for the guys to have better first quarters. His aggressiveness will also come in handy in halfcourt sets, creating ball movement and easier looks at the rim for the big men.

"It's about applying pressure on guards as far as us running our fast break," Shumpert said, "so that guys don't have as much energy to go at us on offense."

Currently, the Knicks are second-worst in the league in fast break points per game (9.2). Eventually, with the explosive Shumpert, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith in the backcourt -- even sharing court time -- the Knicks will be much more dangerous in the open court. That's not even factoring in Carmelo Anthony's momentum-changing 3-point shooting, as well as Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire's unique agility as trail men.

3. Improved outside accuracy: Shooting coach Dave Hopla has been working with Shumpert on jumping less to focus more on his release point and consistency. Tim Hardaway remembers returning from his ACL injury, suffered in 1993, and being a much better shooter. He told ESPNNewYork.com last year the same thing would happen with Shumpert and Derrick Rose.

"His jumpshot is going to come back a lot better than what it was, I'll you that," he said. "His jumpers and his free throw percentage are going to be up. I'm telling you. That's all you can do. You can't do anything else, but shoot around and just shoot free throws."

What are you excited to see from Shump? Leave us your comments below.

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