Iman Shumpert Better off Without Drama-Plagued New York Knicks

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  Iman Shumpert #21 of the New York Knicks looks on during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden on November 10, 2013 in New York City. The Spurs defeat the Knicks 120-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Iman Shumpert and the New York Knicks are approaching the point of no return.

Happiness has become an offshore concept in the Big Apple, where the Knicks have lost nine straight and share last place in the Eastern Conference with the Milwaukee Bucks. Expectations that once soared are plummeting, as the hapless Knicks rummage through the wreckage of their season, looking for answers.

Time after time, their search has led them to one player: Shumpert. 

When Tyson Chandler went down, the New York Daily News' Frank Isola reported that the Knicks were shopping Shumpert. And following a sideline shouting match with Carmelo Anthony, the New York Post's Marc Berman wrote that Shumpert may have earned a one-way ticket out of town.

All indications are that the Knicks will move on from Shumpert in some way. At this point, the move feels inevitable. Too many rumors have been floated. Something is brewing.

The jury on a potential trade is still out. Until we know what the move is and who the Knicks receive in return, all legwork is guesswork. We don't know if New York is better off without Shumpert. 

But we do know that unless things change, Shumpert is better off without the drama-filled, baggage-carrying, conflict-toting Knicks.


Dirty Little Secrets

"Transparency" is not a word the Knicks know. Or preach. They prefer to work behind curtains, keeping media and fans immersed in dense darkness.

Privileged information isn't kept under wraps for long, though. Inevitably, the truth, or some version of it, always comes out. Intel is leaked, and dirty little secrets exposed. Not even the covert-happy Knicks are inoculated against the natural flow of information.

Over the offseason, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith revealed that Knicks owner James Dolan wanted Shumpert gone after he appeared in only one summer league game. Shump had just finished up a sophomore campaign, half of which he missed while rehabbing a torn ACL. That didn't matter. Play, Shump. Just play.

Later, Isola discovered that Shumpert underwent clandestine knee surgery during the offseason. More drama. More secrets. 

More anger:

Timing is everything, and it's understandable that the organization wasn't pleased about his procedure. But can Shumpert really blossom on a team that promotes "secret surgeries?" Or for an owner who clearly doesn't understand that even 20-somethings have physical limits?

The chances aren't great.


Family Feuds

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Teammates Iman Shumpert #21 of the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 16, 2013.  NOTE TO USER: User expres
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Can't the Knicks all just get along? Apparently, no. Not with Shumpert.

In the midst of New York's losing streak, rumors of a rift between head coach Mike Woodson and Shumpert have surfaced. Speculation gained so much traction that Woody was forced to address the issue publicly, which we know the Knicks hate doing, per Berman:

If I didn’t like him, I don’t think he’d be averaging 30 minutes on my ballclub. You got to look at that. I like everybody on our team. So that perception is bulls–t, if you ask me. If I didn’t think much of the man, he wouldn’t be playing. If I don’t think much of you, you’re not going to play.

True to his word, Shumpert has played. He's started all 16 of the Knicks' games and is averaging 29.7 minutes of action a night. When Isola told us the front office (aka Dolan) was pressuring Woodson to bench Shump in favor of Kenyon Martin, he demoted J.R. Smith instead. Hugs, chest bumps and secret handshakes all around, then.

With the Knicks, it's never that easy. Woodson has indeed shown hostility for Shumpert, benching him after his on-camera tiff with Anthony.

Shumpert's approach wasn't perfect, but there was merit to his cause. 

The Knicks have become a defensive disaster. Watch the tape. No tape in particular, either. Watch anything. You'll see they're a mess without Chandler, switching on everything

Switch-heavy defenses can be valuable strategies, but they're more complicated than man-to-man coverages. New York isn't built around defensive sages; it's reliant upon players who don't always grasp or even try to comprehend defensive schemes.

"They were pretty much scoring at will," Smith said of the Knicks defense against the New Orleans Pelicans, according to ESPN New York's Ian Begley. "Especially my guy. I don't know what the hell I was doing on defense."

Shouldn't Woodson be excited that Shumpert is playing with the fire Smith isn't? That no one else is?

This is the same Woodson who, via Begley, said the Knicks aren't "taking pride in guarding the ball individually." He should be ecstatic that his lone two-way player—who improves the Knicks' sorry defense by six points per 100 possessions when on the floor, according to (subscription required)—is taking action. Showing emotion.

You don't poke a raging bull, and you don't anger a superstar approaching free agency—I get it. But the Knicks need that kind of passion. Shumpert must not be punished for an outburst that, while imperfect, was totally justifiable. 

If the Knicks, the 28th-place defensively ranked Knicks, cannot reward a still-developing Shumpert for exhibiting effort where the team generally exudes none, then there's no personal benefit to him calling New York home anymore.


Dysfunction at Every Turn

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 21: Head coach Mike Woodson of the New York Knicks talk with Iman Shumpert #21 and Carmelo Anthony #7 during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 21, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Kn
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Shumpert has been criticized for his diligence, or lack thereof, on numerous occasions.

"Iman didn’t have much in his tank in the first quarter," Woodson said of his guard's performance in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, via Berman. "He was just out there. I’ll sit and talk to him and see where his head is at."

You mean Shumpert, the subject of incessant trade rumors, hasn't been playing well under duress? You don't say?

Effort should never waver, but we must understand that Shumpert's career-low PER (10.7) and 40.8 percent shooting go beyond engagement. 

AUBURN HILLS, MI - NOVEMBER 19:  Iman Shumpert #21 of the New York Knicks dribbles the ball against the Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2013 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

There are times when he appears disinterested. There, I said it. Mostly, I've seen a frustrated Shumpert. A pressing Shumpert. Confused Shumpert.

We're quick at telling him to play through scuttlebutt. Shump's a professional basketball player and hearsay comes with the territory. Deal with it. 

But Shumpert is only 23. Courtesy of a lockout and ACL injury, this past training camp was his first full one. He's still new to all this, so we cannot expect him to power on like a veteran. Not when the support system clearly isn't there.

Aside from random attacks on his character and fourth-quarter benchings, the Knicks aren't placing faith in Shumpert as anything more than an inconvenient trade chip. According to Begley, they're actually trying to sell prospective suitors on his potential by criticizing his performance under Woodson:

According to league sources with knowledge of the team's talks with potential trade partners, president/GM Steve Mills' management team has also cited Mike Woodson's coaching as one reason for Shumpert's poor play.

"They're saying that Shumpert's a better player [than he's shown] but Woodson isn't using him right," one league source said.

The Knicks apparently think Shumpert is better than he's shown and are aware he's being misused, and they've done what? Shop him? Bravo. If there was an award for the most dysfunctional business model in the NBA, Dolan's Knicks would be repeat champs.

New York isn't currently an environment where a budding prospect can develop into anything more than a fragmented rendition of himself, sans any self-esteem. Right now, it's not a place where Shumpert can thrive or even hope to exist in harmony.


Put Up or Move On

Nov 20, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) reacts to a foul call late during the fourth quarter of a game against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers defeated the Knicks 103-96 in overtime. Manda
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For all his flaws, Shumpert doesn't deserve this. These Knicks. They're awful. Not just on the court but off it, where a malfunctioning front office is slowly diminishing the importance of a promising youngster.

This isn't to say Shumpert isn't partially at fault. The lack of emotional growth on his part is alarming. Displeasure on his behalf appears more likely to be voiced through temper tantrums than it does coherent conversation. That's all on him.

But the rest is on the Knicks, who haven't given Shumpert the respect or reassurance he needs to help their team.

"We had a miscommunication defensively," Shumpert said of his momentary beef with Anthony, per Begley.

The entire year, from the start until now, has seen the Knicks and Shumpert drift apart under the guise of one big miscommunication. Unless the Knicks can put their words into action and prove they want Shumpert to succeed, nothing will change. Fissures in their relationship will exist. Drama will continue to overshadow everything. Egos will be crushed.

Shumpert, so long as he's in orange and blue, will fail.


*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and (subscription required), and are accurate as of Dec. 3, 2013 unless otherwise noted.


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