Iman Shumpert to make season debut for Knicks in London
"I'm anxious and excited to play again," Shumpert told the media. He went on to encourage both the fans and his coaching staff by saying that he's "really forgetting about the knee" when he's playing. Shumpert's youth (22 years old) and perimeter defense will be welcomed with open arms by one of the NBA's older teams that has had trouble stonewalling penetration at times on the defensive end. Shumpert established himself as one of the game's premier on-ball defenders last year as a rookie, and will usually draw the responsibility of defending the opponent's best perimeter player.
Shumpert suggested that he has even more to contribute, saying he can bring a higher tempo to the Knicks' veteran squad. "Right now, I can add to the open court," Shumpert said. Ironically enough, Shumpert sustained his knee injury while pushing the ball up court off an outlet pass.
One of the most important things Shumpert provides, however, is depth. The Knicks have struggled to solidify their shooting guard spot ever since point guard Raymond Felton went down with a hand injury. As a result of Felton's absence, shooting guard Jason Kidd has slid over to point guard. Ronnie Brewer initially drew the start alongside Kidd in the backcourt, but struggled mightily in that role, prompting Woodson to start James White, who doesn't offer much outside of athleticism.
Shumpert may start over White in his first game back. The coaching staff is expected to see "where he is mentally and physically" before they decide on whether he'll start or come off the bench. Either way, every minute he's on the court, he'll be an upgrade over White or Brewer.
Perhaps the best news about Shumpert's return is the fact that he'll be keeping the immaculate high-top fade that he grew out while rehabbing his injured knee. He grew out the unique hairstyle due to his admiration for the '90's, and even shaved a couple of stripes into the side in honor of former Knick and Slam Dunk champion Kenny "Sky" Walker. Shumpert's fade makes Norris Cole's hair look like a buzz cut.
Shumpert was named to the All-Rookie team last season, and will look to build on his initial success. His ceiling is is incredibly high, and his return to the court is extremely anticipated by Knicks coaches, players, and fans.