Originally written on Knicks Journal  |  Last updated 11/20/14

Without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, the Knicks have had to make adjustments to the lineup. In doing so, there's been hope that other key players step up in the clutch as the team steadies itself towards the playoffs.
In search of some extra offensive firepower, the Knicks have been refreshed by the recent contributions of J.R. Smith, who has been excelling off the bench as a main offensive option. The swingman has averaged 13.7 points since the beginning of STAT and Lin's time off the court, and though he still displays an erratic shooting touch, Smith's clutch play has allowed the team to depend on him when it matters most.
Smith is a playoff veteran, and the man he teamed up with for some formidable playoff battles while playing for the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony, has not only re-emerged as a dominant scoring machine, but a influential leader as well in New York. With the Knicks' playoff hopes not appearing very promising following the two gut-wrenching injuries, Anthony has stepped up, perhaps, to begin writing the first few notable pages in his Big Apple legacy. During this stretch, the superstar has been living up to his reputation, averaging 28.8 points on nearly 50% shooting from the field while grabbing 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
There's no denying Anthony is carrying the Knicks offensively, and as many fans will recall, so did Patrick Ewing while on many of the successful New York squads during the 1990's. Though Ewing was the starring attraction, many will argue that it was instead John Starks who represented the heartbeat of those teams over the years.
Starks could score the basketball, but it was the fact that his grit, desire, and determination oozed out every time he hit the court that truly made him a fan-favorite. Fast-forward to 2012, and as the Knicks once again begin to form an identity (one with a lot of defensive prowess), rookie Iman Shumpert may very well represent the new-school John Starks.
In my most recent contribution to The New York Times' NBA blog, "Off The Dribble," I not only examine the similarities between the two players, but also assess the various tangibles and intangibles Shumpert provides the Knicks with.

Iman Shumpert is quickly becoming known for his grit and determination as he fills in as the team’s starting two guard. The high level of intensity he plays with each night is similar to that of Starks. The rookie excels and paces the Knicks by playing hard-nosed defense, coming up with steals and diving for loose balls. Even more important, he is a lockdown man-to-man defender.

Shumpert never shies away from a big moment. Whether it is being posted up by the seven-foot Dirk Nowitzki, or trying to contain the league’s reigning M.V.P., Derrick Rose, he seems to welcome challenges. Able to come through in the clutch, Shumpert distracted Rose into an 8-of-26 shooting performance in the Knicks’ thrilling 100-99 Easter Sunday victory over the Bulls.

The 6-foot-5 guard’s skill set will remind New Yorkers of Starks as well. Shumpert can will his way to scoring when his team needs it most, but his real value comes from all of the other things he does well too. Besides providing the Knicks with a strong defensive presence, he rebounds the ball well for a guard and pushes the break.

Anthony may be the star, but in the absence of other key players, Shumpert has emerged as an engine of sorts, propelling the Knicks with his array of different talents. The rookie's heart and the way he preserves are crucial because of the tone he sets whenever he hits the hardwood (much like Starks) often elevates his team.
The Georgia Tech product has been called upon to guard some of the league's top talents already this season, and if he can do enough (all while playing on a sprained ankle) to contain the Heat's Dwyane Wade, perhaps he can help inspire a Knicks victory tomorrow afternoon.

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