“It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.”
For a player that lives, breathes, and eats basketball, the above statement is stunning considering the topic. Iman Shumpert believes the torn ACL he suffered in last year’s playoffs will be the defining moment in his young career. The 22-year old was forced to change his approach to conditioning and physical preparation following the devastating knee injury.
“A lot of times, I just the roll the ball out there and start playing, just relying on me being young and athletic to guide me through whatever I have to get through,” Shumpert explained. “Now, I just take a lot more time to get my body right, come into the gym a lot earlier, working on my body before I start getting my shots up, working on anything basketball wise. I think this happening is definitely going to set me up for the rest of my career as far as taking care of my body.”
A supreme physical specimen coming out of Georgia Tech in 2011, Shumpert has never faced a severe basketball injury until Game 1 in Miami last season. KnicksNow.com has followed the entire arduous process, starting in Chicago during the summer all the way to the cold days at MSG Training Center in December.
Shumpert clearly expressed emotion when describing the journey, “It’s a frustrating process but every time you reach a milestone, it’s a breath of fresh air and the best way to look at it is to be positive about it and start being glad you are able to work on other stuff.”
The “other stuff” Shumpert alluded to involves both basketball related work and physical changes that will prolong his time in the NBA.
“You know, I had other deficiencies I didn’t know about as far as my body movements go, the way I played, the way I just walked,” Shumpert said. “A lot of the things that I’ve been doing, the correctives that I’ve been practicing every day are just helping me take stress off both my knees, mobilize my hips a lot more, so I feel like I will be a lot more mobile.”
A faster, stronger, smarter Shumpert is a scary proposition for opposing teams. He was one of the top rookies last season and considered the best on-ball defender in his class after he averaged 1.7 steals per game in 28.9 minutes last year.
Shumpert will not target a specific date for his return to the floor but he has shifted from individual drills around cones and invisible defenders to the side of the court with his teammates. He will now wait for clearance to absorb contact in practice, which is one of the final stages before he makes his season debut.
”I don’t really have a timeframe; I just know I want to come back and not miss a beat. I don’t want to come back and be not up to par. I want to come back and make the proper adjustments and be able to come back and help. I don’t want to wear a knee brace or anything, just want to come back and keep rolling, don’t even want to think about it,” Shumpert emphatically stated.
Over the summer, Shumpert recorded a mixtape that displayed his musical gifts and creative mindset. However, the second-year man with the Kenny Walker-esque flattop is devoted to his craft and making a return as an improved athlete not just a player who recovered from a knee injury. The memory of lying on the hardwood writhing in pain continues to dissipate and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for Iman Shumpert.