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

Knicks’ rookie Iman Shumpert had a stellar first half of the season, despite not being the answer to his team’s point guard woes.

The Georgia Tech product is averaging double-figures in points per game with 10.3, and also grabs two steals per game. His rebound and assists numbers are solid for a rookie, but there’s no doubt Shumpert’s game has been elevated by Jeremy Lin’s presence on the court, just as much as anyone else’s.

“Jeremy just brings that swag,” Shumpert said while attending the John Starks Foundation’s charity bowling tournament. “He’s always smiling and is passionate about what he does. We all feed off his great energy, so having him on the court is a great image.”

Aside from his energy, Lin’s presence on the court has allowed other guards like Shumpert to play within their means, not forcing up shots or playing out of position. Lin orchestrates the offense beautifully, finding teammates like Shumpert for solid shots in the flow of the offense.

With less pressure now on the rookie, and Lin cementing himself as a starter, how will Shumpert continue to help his team in the second half of the season? The young guard said, “I’ve got to be that defensive presence whenever I enter the game. I’ve been working on my shot form too. I want to be more consistent. Even though I’ve been hurt, I still haven’t been taking every day off. I was working, and hope to come back and get some wins.”

Of course, Shumpert has been sidelined for the Knicks with knee tendonitis, and was furthermore, prevented from participating in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during NBA All-Star Weekend. That said, the high-flying rookie said aside from the much talked about dunk featuring Landry Fields’ famous couch, not many other big surprises would have been in store.

Though Shumpert was bummed about missing the contest, he said if he participated, there would have been some behind the back type theatrics on display. So what did the Knicks’ rookie think of the contest? After lifting his shoulders for what has become known as the “Shump Shump Shrug,” he smiled, lamenting, “I thought Chase [Budinger] should have won, but I was happy for Jeremy [Evans]. I was just glad no one got hurt.”

Despite his strong play thus far, Shumpert was left off the Rising Stars Challenge roster(s), even before suffering his injury. However, the rookie wasn’t fazed, insisting individual awards don’t necessarily give him motivation heading into the second half of the season. So what does?

“As long as the Knicks continue to win, I’ll be happy,” he said. “I want to win. The sky’s the limit for us. We can go as deep as we want to. I think everybody needs to lock in, but it’ll be a fun ride. Everyone seems focused in practice, so we hope to build upon that.”

Shumpert was in fact the lone current Knick representative at the John Starks Foundation’s event, taking the “place” of former Knick Ronny Turiaf who attended last year. Instead of bowling, the 21 year old interacted with fans, hamming it up and posing for pictures with Knicks greats Starks and Charles Oakley.

The John Starks Foundation raises money to provide deserving teens from the tri-state and Tulsa, Oklahoma areas with scholarships for college, in addition to building community programs that aid the educational, recreational, and career development of children and their families. The foundation has been running strong, making an impact since 1994.

Other celebrity attendees of the event included former NBA players Cliff Robinson, Scott Burrell, Giants Super Bowl Champion Ramses Barden, and former NFL players Ottis Anderson and Rodney Hampton.

Shumpert and the Knicks resume play tonight vs. the Cavaliers at the Garden.

Be sure to stay tuned for exclusives with Knicks great Charles Oakley and Assistant Coach Herb Williams at Knicks Journal.


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