Iman’s 2013 season story begins in the 2012 playoffs, where if you’ve been a Knick fan longer than 16 months, you know full well that Shumpert tore his ACL and meniscus in Game 1 against the Heat. When the news hit, Nix Nation took a collective gasp.
True blue (and orange) Knick fans had to wait until Shumpert stepped back on the court before exhaling. 264 days to be exact. On January 17th, 2013, Iman Shumpert played an N.B.A. game in London (despite being in another country that speaks a foreign language, it was official, I double checked) against the Detroit Pistons. (Come to think of it Detroit is also like being in another country with a foreign language.) Afterward Jim Cavan described Shumpert’s performance as such:
But the opening bars were mighty impressive: a couple of smooth corner threes, a nice little Euro-step lay-in off a Cope deflection, a gorgeous feed to Chandler (Chandler feed is usually made of human bonemeal and spelt, so passes from Shump are really just empty calories — they’re Rollos is what I’m trying to say), and the kind of in-your-face D we all felt would be the first thing reconjured.
And breathe out.
Ask a Knick fan why they like Shumpert so much and the answer will undoubtedly be “defense.” While in the summer most ‘Bocker-Backers drool over any free agent who can light up the scoreboard like a pinball machine (you kids know what a pinball machine is, right? if not ask your more hipsterist friend — he has one in his basement next to the unicycle), nothing gets the MSG crowd going more than a defender. If you taped every mouth shut during a Knicks game, you’d be deafened by the blood rushing through the veins of 19,000+ bodies every time one of our boys blocked a shot, picked a pocket, or hit the deck for a loose ball. New York hasn’t had many great seasons, but all of the ones they’ve had have been centered on defense. It’s part of the Knick fan lizard brain collective consciousness. I’m convinced that born and bred New Yorkers who spurn the Knicks for another NBA team like the Bulls, Lakers, or Heat lack that essential evolutionary step that screams “D-Fence!”
But Shumpert’s appeal isn’t just due to his defensive attributes, it’s also in part due to the fact that he’s home grown. Pretend for a second that you were making an All-Knicks team, starting from this season and going back in time. You start adding names to the list: ‘Melo, STAT, Chandler, David Lee, Stephon Marbury, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Charlie Ward, Charles Oakley, and Patrick Ewing. In 28 years, dating back to Ewing, of all the players who have made a name for themselves in a Knick uniform, only 3 were drafted by New York. And Lee left after his rookie contract.
Just like any franchise, the Knicks have had their fair share of misses in the draft. Jordan Hill. Channing Frye. Mike Sweetney. Frederic Weis. Jerrod Mustaf. Kenny Walker. They’ve selected some who have had long careers, with all having more success outside of New York. David Lee. Trevor Ariza. Nene Hilario. Hubert Davis. Greg Anthony. Rod Strickland. Mark Jackson. For most teams the draft is the fountain of youth, a way to replenish their franchise with talent. For the Knicks, it’s Ponce De Leon wandering through the Florida swamps without a map.
But that’s not the only thing wrong with New York’s participation in the draft. Unlike any other sane franchise (haha Brooklyn, you’re not one of them anymore), the Knicks have given away their picks like few others. First round picks have been traded away for Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry, and even this summer for Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks have treated their draft picks like a credit card. You know that thing you use to buy crap they don’t need now, and pay a ton of interest on later.
So Iman Shumpert means something more than tapping into our unconsciousness. He represents the idea that we can have home grown talent. That we didn’t screw up when David Stern called our name to head to the podium. That we can erase 28 years of poor planning and foolish decision making. That for once we can have a player that we can call our own. Once a Knick? Sorry but we’re tired of sharing our players. Shumpert is ours, and you can’t have him! (Unless that knee keeps giving out, or that 40% from downtown was a fluke, or Oklahoma wants him in a trade for Durant. What? I’m a Knick fan — this is how we think.)
Grades (5 point scale):
Final Grade: B+