This season has been a disastrous one for the New York Knicks thus far and turning it around does not look to be on the horizon. One person who has been under fire constantly is third-year guard/small forward Iman Shumpert. Shumpert has been in the middle of trade rumors for the better part of the season thus far, even having at least one trade with the Denver Nuggets for Kenneth Faried in exchange for Shumpert being turned down. This all has began to weigh on Shumpert on the court it would seem but even through all the negativity surrounding him he has found a way to bring it on the court night in and night out. But Sunday he may have finally punched his ticket out of here.
The Knicks were playing quiet well Sunday through the first half and caught quite a break with budding New Orleans Pelican superstar Anthony Davis suffering a displaced fracture in his left hand. Things looked to be adding up to a Knicks victory but Knick killer Ryan Anderson was forced into more playing time and he did what he does best; knock down three pointers and send Knicks fans home upset. Anderson went off on the Knicks, something that has become common for him, knocking down seven three pointers and grabbing six rebounds. The only person who seemed to care that the Knicks were crumbling again in the third quarter and letting an opponent go off on them was Shumpert, who during a timeout went off on Carmelo Anthony for not playing lackadaisical defense on Anderson, resulting in him knocking down a three pointer and Shumpert picking up a foul attempting to cover up for him. Check out the video below of what happened during that Knicks timeout:
You can see Shumpert and Anthony having a disagreement about what happened and Mike Breen hits the nail on his head about the effort and reaction of both players. In most cases this is something that would be lauded; a player showing some passion on a team lacking in it and calling out the best player to be better than what he is giving. Shumpert showed guts in doing so but it may also result in nothing but more negativity towards him.
Coincidentally Shumpert did not see the court for the remainder of the game after the timeout. Shumpert did what he thought was right being one of the better defenders on the team, he most likely lost his cool a little bit taking all things into account and looking at it in hindsight. Anthony is by far and away the most powerful person in the Knicks organization outside of owner James Dolan. Anthony has more power than any coach or front office person being Dolan’s handpicked player to bring the Knicks back to prominence. Shumpert on the other hand has seemingly been in Dolan’s doghouse for the better part of his career, hitting its high point this past summer when Shumpert did not want to take part in the NBA Summer League against Dolan’s wishes. Shumpert appeared in only one game and Dolan became incensed to the point that he attempted to trade Shumpert because of his actions.
Both players downplayed the incident, with Shumpert calling it a “defensive miscommunication.” Anthony has stated in the past that he would like for Shumpert to remain on the team but Knicks management might not see it the same way as their main goal is to make sure Anthony is retained once he either opts out of his contract or is free agent eligible after next season. From a purely basketball standpoint keeping Shumpert is a no-brainer. He is the best perimeter defender the Knicks have and does not demand the ball on offense, instead feeding off his teammates which are what you need on a team led by Anthony. He also helps in all areas of the game and has the makings of a Tony Allen-type player, something the Knicks should love to have as Allen is a winner and respected player around the league. But once again this is the Knicks we are talking about and them making decisions based solely on basketball does not happen.
Another layer to this story is the play of Tim Hardaway Jr., someone the Knicks organization is very high on; high on to the point they feel trading Shumpert wouldn’t hurt them much with Hardaway Jr. ready to step in right away. Hardaway Jr. took advantage of the opportunity given to him Sunday with what looked like Shumpert’s benching, scoring a career high 21 points in his extended minutes and knocking down five of eight three-point attempts. Hardaway Jr. looks to have the makeup to be a good NBA player but right now he does not help the Knicks anymore than Shumpert does. He is not the defender that Shumpert is and he does not have the discipline on offense to perform night in and night out; his shot selection needs work and there are times he looks like another J.R. Smith who will shoot you out of as many, if not more, games than he shoots you into you.
All in all Shumpert took a chance in calling out Anthony during a timeout for his lack of defense and he suffered for it. A benching for the better part of a second half could be the least of Shumpert’s problem though as it would not be shocking to see Hardaway Jr. start getting more consistent minutes while Shumpert’s wane. How Smith still gets away with what he does on the court is a question for another day but it looks more and more likely with each passing day that Shumpert’s time with the Knicks may be coming to an end with the Anthony timeout incident being the last straw.