Iman Shumpert finally looked like a rookie.
It was bound to happen and not surprising it came against the Memphis Grizzlies, who put a lot of pressure on the ball and, as Kelly Tripuka and I noted in the postgame after Wednesday’s game, are very aggressive in passing lanes. You have to take care of the ball against that team and play with poise and patience.
Shumpert fell right into the trap. And no one knows it better than him.
“I wasn’t a PG at all tonight,” he wrote on Twitter after the game.
It only gets tougher Saturday night in Oklahoma City, where Russell Westbook awaits as Shumpert’s next challenge. This is, physically, a good matchup for Shumpert, who is similarly built and similarly athletic. But this isn’t an AAU game, where he can just go head-to-head with the opposing point guard, as he attempted to do with Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo on Thursday night in Memphis.
TNT studio analyst — and noted Knick critic — Charles Barkley blamed the coaching staff for Shumpert’s gunner mentality. The 20 FGAs for Shumpert, which included 15 in the first half, was the most by a Knicks rookie since — get this — Mardy Collins in the 2006-07 season. [More on this later. Right now, back to Shumpert…]
“A rookie should never feel that comfortable to take 15 shots in a half,” Barkley said, “unless they’re hitting them.”
On this occasion, Shumpert wasn’t hitting them. He finished 6-for-20 from the field, including 1-for-4 from downtown.
Mike D’Antoni was careful with his criticism of Shumpert and after the game told reporters that the rookie “just got a little loose.” Truth be told, he tried too hard, way too hard, to do it himself rather than get the rest of the offense — especially Amar’e Stoudemire — going.
“I made some bad decisions,” Shumpert told reporters after the game. “Didn’t knock down shots.”
He also made the Grizzlies gameplan easy: Pack it in, stifle the scorers and see if the young buck can beat you. Shumpert came into the NBA with a defensive reputation and with the noted ability to get to the rim. But no one saw him as a perimeter threat. Seven games into his career, that assessment is correct, as he’s shooting 38 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three-point range.
At his best, Shumpert’s game could be paralleled with Westbrook: Strong dribble penetration and either finish at the rim or drive-and-kick. He has shown the ability to see the floor, see the passing lanes, better than expected. But he’s not a floor general; he’s not the type that can organize an offense. That often takes time to develop.
Really, he’s supposed to be developing as a reserve, but third-year guard Toney Douglas‘ struggle has been a major issue. Douglas, like Shumpert, fell into the same mentality against the Grizzlies as he put up 13 shots, second most on the team, and hit just three.
So two Knicks guards combined to shoot 8-for-33 from the field and 2-for-9 from downtown, while Stoudemire attempted just seven shots. That’s a serious problem that once again reveals the main issue with the team right now: The lack of a true point guard who can run the offense.
This was the risk the team knew they were making with the decision to amnesty Chauncey Billups to clear enough salary cap space to sign Tyson Chandler. In essence, they created a major hole in the offense when they plugged a major hole on defense at the center position. And now there is greater emphasis on Baron Davis and what type of impact he can make once he is ready to play.
MELO IS ‘BEAT UP’
Anthony already looked like he was struggling to conjure up some energy early in the game, but then endured sprains to his left wrist and right ankle before his night ended after just 19:47.
“I’ve had worse ankle sprains before,” Anthony told reporters after the game.
He did not practice with the team Friday in Oklahoma City and his status for Saturday’s game against the Thunder is questionable.
Though the struggling Knicks offense will be desperate without him, with the compressed schedule, it may be best for Melo to rest the ankle and get himself 100 percent rather than risk further injury. The Knicks play next on Monday afternoon against the Orlando Magic in their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee.
THE SEARCH FOR STAT
Amar’e Stoudemire has put up some impressive numbers this season and what’s even more impressive about the 23.1 points and nine rebounds he was averaging before the Memphis game is that he really hasn’t seemed himself yet. Stoudemire still recorded four 20-10 efforts in the last five games (and missed the fifth by two rebounds) going into the Grizzlies game, but two quick fouls in the first 1:47 sent him to the bench.
It didn’t seem like he ever came back. Or that anyone on his team was aware he was back.
Stoudemire’s six points on 1-for-7 shooting in 19:36 was his lowest offensive production as a Knick during the regular season (recall he had four and seven points, respectively, in limited action in Games 2 and 3 of the playoffs after he suffered a pulled muscle in his back).
It also snapped a streak of 137 straight regular season games in which he had scored in double figures, going back, obviously, to his days with the Phoenix Suns.
The last time Stoudemire failed to score at least 10 points in a regular season game was Dec. 26, 2009 in a loss at Golden State. He had nine points in 28 foul-plagued minutes. And you have to go back to the 2008-09 season to find a game in which he recorded less than the six points he had in Memphis. That came Jan. 19, 2009, when Stoudemire was 0-for-7 for three points in 30:17 in a loss at Boston.
Mardy Collins, a rookie guard, hoisted up 20 shots for the Knicks in the home finale of the 2006-07 season, which was a 104-95 loss to Jason Kidd and the Nets on April 16, 2007. Collins started in place of injured Stephon Marbury and almost had a triple-double, with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 45:43. But he hit just six of those 20 FGAs to get there, one being a flying dunk down the lane.
Remember Mardy Collins? He was one of two first round picks in the 2006 NBA Draft, which included the selection of Renaldo Balkman, who is now back for his second stint with the team. Collins, meanwhile, is currently in the D-League.
Nate Robinson also jacked up 20 shots as a rookie in the 2005-06 season. Nate the Great, starting for Marbury, made 11 of 20 for 32 points in 45:33 in a 91-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 13, 2006. That was a game in which coach Larry Brown got sick during the third quarter and was taken to a nearby hospital.
LeBron James did not play in that game as he was resting a sprained ankle as he prepared for his first playoff experience.
Willis Reed led the way with 33 games in which he took at least 20 FGAs in a game and Patrick Ewing did it 19 times. Mark Jackson had seven games during his rookie season with 20 shots andGerald Wilkins had five.
CLYDE ON TWITTER
Efforts are being made to get Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier a Twitter account, so he can broadcast his various trademarks: Linguistic flair, basketball acumen and, of course, unique fashion sense, across the World Wide Web. We hope to have him Greetin’ and Tweetin’ in 140 characters or less in no time.