One by one, Mike Woodson sent a series of defenders onto the perimeter Wednesday night, their assignment a simple one, at least in the description: stand in front of John Wall.
And one by one, they watched the Wizards’ speedy point guard blow by them. Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd all took turns. But left out other than switches was the one player who the Knicks would normally hand the assignment to with confidence.
Before his knee was shredded in the playoffs last year, Iman Shumpert was the player who was the stopper for the Knicks, one who Woodson could game plan as a defensive weapon and a player who had the belief that no one could get past him.
But after heading out of the locker room in Washington quietly after the Knicks' 106-96 loss, he landed in Minnesota with the team and tweeted, "Soon my body will catch up to my mind...taking a lil longer than I thought...but if it was easy everyone wud do it." That admission was a rare one for the confident Shumpert, who is just 10 games into his comeback from knee surgery and not nearly the player he was as a rookie last season.
"Defensively, he's not reckless abandon like I want him to be, like he was last year," Woodson said. "I think a lot of that is going to come once he feels the confidence in moving laterally and knowing he can bump and gamble a little bit. I think all of that will come. But I think now he's trying to find himself as well." Shumpert spoke confidently of his return from rehab before he actually took the court, comparing himself to NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, who returned from the same injury and dismissing comparisons to Minnesota Timberwolves' guard Ricky Rubio when it was pointed out that Rubio has endured ups and downs in his comeback from the same surgery.
Guards killing Knicks; T-Wolves’ Rubio is next challenge
Bergen Record | Feb 8