Knicks guard Iman Shumpert playing summer league ball to work on his offense
LAS VEGAS -- Nearly all of the players taking part in the NBA summer league here either are recent collegiate players or journeymen holding on to their hoop dreams and hoping for a training camp invitation. And then there's Iman Shumpert.
Perhaps the most established of the roughly 250 players who came here, Shumpert was encouraged by the Knicks to at least play a few games here and continue working on his offensive game in the wake of his breakout postseason.
Shumpert arrived Thursday for the team's final practice on the UNLV campus before Saturday's opener, and he's embracing the chance to be a grizzled veteran for a change.
"I'm here with a smile," he said. "I'm not here with the angry eyes."
Coach Mike Woodson wants Shumpert to become "more of a focal point offensively," which makes sense. Shumpert's growth as a scorer could be vital next season because some rival teams have improved their rosters this offseason while the Knicks have only tweaked theirs.
That's why Woodson said the Knicks plan to run their offense through Shumpert while he's here, even having him handle point guard duties at times.
"There's going to be times when he's got to handle the basketball during the course of a ballgame," Woodson said. "He's got to be able to make basketball decisions with the ball."
Shumpert welcomes the opportunity to run the point, something he did in college.
"They want to make sure I'm comfortable, make sure that I'm working on things I need to be working on," he said. "It's all about smoothing everything out, making sure everything is polished. I understand it completely."
Plus, for a guy about to enter his third year in the league, he hasn't had too many organized training sessions as a pro. The 2011 lockout canceled his first summer league and limited his first training camp. He missed the second summer league and training camp while rehabbing a torn ACL.
"I'm just happy to be healthy, happy to be working on my game this summer," he said.
Shumpert flashed his offensive potential in the playoffs, scoring 17 points in the first-round clincher over Boston and 19 points, shooting 5-for-6 on three-pointers, in the Game 6 second-round loss in Indiana. He said his confidence grew as his teammates showed more trust in him.
Now he's looking to build off that, even if it's in meaningless offseason exhibition games. And although Knicks fans might cringe at the thought of seeing Shumpert drive into the paint and bang bodies with an overzealous big man, he said another serious injury is not on his mind.
"Iman's here to play basketball," he said. "I could get hurt working out by myself in the gym. I'm not thinking about me getting hurt. I feel like the worst has already happened. I tore my ACL in a freak accident. I don't think God has it out for me. I'll be all right."