It’s safe to say Knicks fans were excited about Iman Shumpert coming into this season. And why not? He’s athletic and he can do a little bit of everything out there. But he’s doing a lot of one thing: shooting. And a relative lack of success doing so is tempering a little of the enthusiasm in New York.
Shumpert is 10-35 in his last two games. Last night, he turned in a 5-20 performance in which he took more shots than Carmelo Anthony (11) and Amar’e Stoudemire (7) combined. And even though Anthony and Stoudemire spent a lot of time on the bench with foul trouble, Shumpert took more than a few questionable shots with one or both on the floor.
Three minutes into the game, Shumpert brought the ball up, used a little pick from Tyson Chandler, and fired a shot with 17 seconds on the shot clock. “7 Seconds Or Less” offense or not, that’s not the shot a rookie should be taking. The offense hadn’t been set yet, Tyson Chandler (the screener) hadn’t had a chance to roll (and there was a lane for him), and Melo was just standing there.
Shumpert’s early decision making forced Carmelo to step into the point-forward role just five minutes into the game. But that didn’t stop Shumpert from making more of those bad decisions. Starting the second quarter, with Amar’e Stoudemire fresh off the bench and in no rhythm at all, Shumpert used a Stoudemire screen, failed to recognized he had Amar’e open for a mid-range jumper, and took the shot himself.
A few minutes later, off an OJ Mayo three, and with Stoudemire still in the game, Shumpert pushed the ball off the make and took a 1-on-5 three with all five Grizzlies defenders back, leaving Stoudemire to just trail the play and hope he could dive in and steal a rebound.
In all, Shumpert had the ball in nine different pick-and-roll situations. He shot the ball seven of those times. He turned it over the other two. Amar’e Stoudemire set four picks for Shumpert that all resulted in Iman taking the shot. Two of Tyson Chandler’s three picks resulted in Iman shots. And, as a coup de gras, Shumpert took a long jumper off what amounted to a staggered screen from Chandler AND Stoudemire.
Shumpert’s a talented kid and he may well break out of this slump, but last night’s horrible decision making went a long way in killing the Knicks. Amar’e will not stand for setting five picks for a rookie and watching the kid shoot all five times. And the Knicks didn’t pay Tyson Chandler all that money to do the same thing. Combined, that’s more than $31 million dollars on the floor trying to spring some kid from Georgia Tech with no conscience.
The Knicks will survive on offense with Carmelo Anthony bearing the scoring load, Amar’e Stoudemire hitting jumpers off a pick-and-pop, and Tyson Chandler either finishing pick-and-rolls or a drive-and-dish. That is the Knicks’ scoring hierarchy. Shumpert’s role in all of this is to (a) make sure those things happen first if he’s handling the ball or (b) spot up or slash, depending on what the defenders give him, when the focus is too heavy on any of the first three options.
He did do some of the good stuff last night, but there was nowhere near enough of it. And if he’s going to carve out some time on this Knicks team, he’s going to have to understand what his role is and execute it, or else he’s going to sit there and watch Mike Bibby and Baron Davis get all of his minutes. Considering where those guys are and what Shumpert could be, that would be a damning assessment of his game by Mike D’Antoni.
I know Shumpert is a scorer, but he’s going to have to adjust his game. Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler won’t have it any other way.