It hasn't taken long for new president of basketball operations Phil Jackson to make his presence felt with the New York Knicks. In addition to receiving a rock star's welcome, Jackson hasn't been shy about directly engaging Knicks players, recently giving guard Iman Shumpert a piece of his mind.
The 23-year-old was coming off of an especially inspired defensive effort against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Shumpert had five steals in just 24 minutes of action, jumping in the passing lane on multiple occasions and helping turn defense into offense en route to a 110-81 blowout over the Nets.
Jackson has every reason to want to see Shumpert succeed. He's arguably the Knicks' best young piece and could become central to the team's future plans. According to the New York Post's Marc Berman, that's consistent with Jackson's thinking:
Now Shumpert appears to have a legitimate future with Phil Jackson’s Knicks. According to a league source, Jackson is a fan of Shumpert. Shumpert is a defensive-minded player who sacrifices his game and doesn’t need to score a lot to have an impact. “Iman is still part of this,’’ a league source familiar with the Knicks’ thinking told The Post.
That comes as welcome news for Shumpert, who's had an uneven third season after a noteworthy rookie campaign.
Shumpert's averaging just 6.6 points in over 26 minutes per game this season. That's significantly down from the 9.5 points he averaged as a rookie. The numbers can be a bit misleading with Shumpert, though. He's known for his defensive efforts and could become a legitimate stopper if given the opportunity.
According to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley, one scout said, "I think he could be an elite defender. He's got the range, he's got the wingspan and the quickness. He's got to want to do it, though. He's got to commit to it and I think at times he wavers on it."
Phil Jackson would like to see less wavering.
This isn't the first time the Zen Master has shared his wisdom with one of the Knicks. He reportedly met in the locker room with Carmelo Anthony prior to the Knicks' meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. Neither side disclosed the contents of that discussion.