Iman Shumpert can't win.
But neither can the New York Knicks. And unsurprisingly, their fates are inextricably linked.
In Knicks' 103-96 loss to the Indiana Pacers on November 20, Shumpert had just four points and shot 1-of-6 from the floor. He also committed basketball's most condemned sin and fouled Paul George on a game-tying three-point attempt in the closing seconds of regulation. George drained the three free throws, sent the game to overtime and scored nine points, finishing with 35 for the game and sealing an Indiana victory, via ESPN.com.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, irritated by Shumpert's foul, benched him for the duration of overtime. However, it could have been Woodson's decision to bench Shumpert that ultimately cost New York the game.
As the Knicks' best on-ball defender, Shumpert was assigned the difficult task of guarding Paul George. A once-over of the box score might create the illusion that Shumpert failed. A closer examination, however, paints a different picture.
According to Time Donahue of ESPN, Paul George did most of his damage with Shumpert on the bench.
Not only did George struggle with Shumpert on the floor, the Knicks were +6 as a team. When considering how poorly Shumpert played offensively, it's astounding how positive an impact he had on the game.
Sure, the foul was dumb. Shumpert is a professional basketball player. He knows that.
As a coach, Mike Woodson should have realized the contributions that Shumpert was making from a defensive stand point. He should have reminded Shumpert that you don't foul jump-shooters, and then told him to make up for it in overtime. Instead, he sat Shumpert and let George feast on J.R. Smith.
When asked about it after the game, Woodson said, "Iman being a young player, it was just a foul that we didn't need at that particular time." (via NBA.com)
Not exactly the most compelling explication of his decision.
On top of the numerous trade rumors, Shumpert has been receiving this sort of treatment from the organization throughout the the Knicks' tumultuous start to the season, and it simply doesn't make sense.
It has become increasingly apparent that Knicks owner James Dolan is not Shumpert's biggest fan. Ever since Shumpert didn't want to play with the Knicks' summer league team, Dolan has been shopping the 23-year-old around the league.
Initially, Dolan was attempting to work out a deal with the Denver Nuggets. When that failed, he set his sights on Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics. Though Dolan has been unable to execute a deal, the churning rumor mill has taken its toll on Shumpert.
The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has struggled in this season's early stage. Though he has played well defensively, he seems unsure on offense. He isn't shooting as well from long-range and has not been as aggressive.
This is likely because Shumpert's leash is much shorter than his teammates'. He lacks the offensive freedom that players such as Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani are given. Shumpert is one of the Knicks' youngest players and should be encouraged to assert himself offensively. Though he is only shooting 41-percent from the field this season, he is averaging just 7.1 attempts per game, via ESPN.com. It's hard to break out of a slump when you're not a volume shooter.
Just ask J.R. Smith.
For comparison, Smith is shooting 31-percent from the field and averaging 14.5 attempts per outing, yet Woodson allows Smith to do just about whatever he wants.
The Knicks are rapidly closing in on crisis mode. If the losses continue to pile up, changes will be made at Madison Square Garden. Trading Shumpert, however, should not be one of them.
Currently, the Knicks are a team full of talented players who have never won anything. The Knicks have talented scorers in Anthony, Smith and Bargnani, however the team lacks the X-factor that all great teams have. A player that is able to help a team win regardless of individual stats. Someone who can fulfill multiple roles, and adapt when needed. Think Kawhi Leonard.
Shumpert's youth, athleticism and basketball I.Q. allow him to be one of those players.
The Knicks definitely don't look like a championship team this season, but if their goal is to build a team of that caliber in the next few seasons, Shumpert should be in the equation.
The Knicks are at risk of losing 'Melo at the conclusion of this season, and they likely will if things don't improve.
And after the Knicks' loss to the Pacers, Anthony was asked if he felt Shumpert was vital to the Knicks' success. His answer was simple, but Knicks fans should hope it was heard.
"I think he is; I believe so." (via Ian Begley of ESPN New York)
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