Friday, October 4, 2013
LJ: Shumpert is Knicks' future
By Ian Begley
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Iman Shumpert went to Summer League in Las Vegas for two reasons: The New York Knicks wanted to see him play a little point guard and to get used to playing a bigger role within the team, according to ex-Knicks star and current Knicks staff member Larry Johnson, who was in Las Vegas with the team.
Iman Shumpert, known for his defensive prowess, is expected to have a bigger role in Mike Woodson's offense.
"We wanted [Shumpert] to know, 'You're our future.' We wanted him to play a bigger role, [be] a little more vocal and have a little more leadership," Johnson said in an interview last week.
Shumpert's entering his third season in the NBA, but this is the first year he will play a full training camp and preseason. He was a rookie during the lockout-shortened season of 2011-12, which featured an abbreviated camp. Last year, he sat out the first 2 1/2 months of the season while rehabbing his knee after surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament.
"I'm extremely excited," Shumpert said Thursday. "I'm just happy I'm healthy and ain't nothing wrong with my knees, man. [I'm ready to] get out here and play, put my jersey on for the first game and we're going to get rolling."
As they did last season, the Knicks will rely on Shumpert to defend the best guard/wing on the opposite team. But Johnson said the Knicks staff would like to see Shumpert be a little more assertive on both ends of the floor -- especially when he shares it with Carmelo Anthony and other Knicks veterans, such as Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler.
"That young man has so much potential," Johnson said. "Sometimes when you put him on the floor with Melo, you put him on the floor with those guys, it's kind of obvious that you can see that he lets those guys be the focus of attention."
It would help the Knicks greatly if Shumpert emerged as a consistent scorer. They're constantly in search of dependable secondary and tertiary scoring behind Anthony.
For what it's worth, it sounds like Shumpert himself expects to improve on offense this year.
On Thursday, he was asked what he plans to accomplish on offense this year that fans hadn't seen in seasons past.
"I'm just going to show you," Shumpert said. "I'll show you. I'm not going to do any talking about it."
LJ'S 4-POINT PLAY COMMEMORATED AT MSG: Johnson, who serves as basketball and business operations representative for the Knicks, is probably best known for the famous four-point play (3-pointer and subsequent free throw) he completed with 5 seconds to play in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference finals against Indiana.
That moment is forever frozen in the memories of those who watched the game. Now, it will be frozen in time at Madison Square Garden.
As part of the Garden's three-year renovation (which will be finished this month), the arena's 20 "Defining Moments" will be featured via pictures, artifacts and memorabilia in the eighth-floor concourse.
Johnson's moment will be among them. This season marks 15 years since Johnson made one of the most improbable shots in franchise history.
"It means the world, man," Johnson said of his shot being commemorated at the Garden. "To have that displayed in the Garden? It's not like you have it in Milwaukee. It's not like you have it in Charlotte. I have it at MSG. This is the mecca."
Johnson spoke while at the Garden donating memorabilia along with the surviving Beastie Boys and boxer Larry Holmes for another section of the newly renovated arena. He said he remembers being the third or fourth option on the play drawn up by then-coach Jeff Van Gundy with 12 seconds to play and the Knicks down by four.
"I just knew I was going to get that ball," Johnson said. He hit the shot, then the free throw and the Knicks completed a remarkable victory.
Johnson credited then-Knicks assistant Tom Thibodeau with helping him prepare for the shot.
Johnson dealt with a back injury late in the regular season but said he worked in the days before the series with Thibodeau on his shot. Thibodeau is now the Bulls' head coach.
"We worked so hard leading up to that series, I was just ready for that shot," Johnson said.
So what does Johnson remember best about the sequence?