10:42 am Jan. 18, 2013
By the time Iman Shumpert took the floor for the New York Knicks on Thursday (in London), his team had come to miss him, badly.
He was playing for the first time in more than eight months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in last season's playoffs.
He turned in a stellar performance, in what turned out to be a 102-87 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Shumpert started at shooting guard, played the 15 minutes doctors had cleared him for, and did a bit of everything the Knicks need him to do.
He made his first shot attempt, a three-pointer. Nor was the space that allowed him that open look an exception; for a player who hadn't been on the court all season, he had an impressive awareness of where he had to be at all times to make the offensive spacing work.
Shumpert provided excellent on-ball defense throught his time on the floor in roughly five-minute increments in the first, second and third quarters. And by the third quarter, he was attacking the basket with regularity, finishing a difficult, twisting layup to complete one play, and making an impressive bounce pass to Tyson Chandler on the baseline, who finished with a thundering dunk.
The return was as seamless as Amar'e Stoudemire's earlier this month was rusty. Stoudemire, incidentally, was as impressive as he's been since coming back on Thursday, repeatedly attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
And that ought to be instructive. It is merely the first game back from a serious knee injury for Shumpert. There's no telling how he'll respond to actual game conditions, night after night.
"I’m so happy that I’ve got a jersey on again; I can’t really think about my knee," Shumpert said following the game. "If it hurts, that’s the only time I’d think about it, and it doesn’t, so I’m fine."
Knees are fickle. But if last night was any indication, "fine" is an understatement.