The New York Knicks held their first media day of the 2013-14 season on Monday at the Madison Square Garden training facility in Greenburgh, NY.
Most of the talk was about the puzzling departure of Glen Grunwald as Knicks General Manager, and the decision to replace him with Steve Mills. The other topic of conversation was about Carmelo Anthony's contract situation. Anthony has the option to exit out of his contract after this season and can become a free agent.
Despite all the "negative" talk, it was third year guard Iman Shumpert who caught the attention of everyone.
"I had an awesome summer," said Shumpert. " I have had a great summer. I have been healthy and I have been able to work on my game the way I want to work on it. There is no lockout, and nothing crazy going on. This has been as smooth as it's ever been for me."
It was only a one year ago that Shumpert was working his way back from a torn ACL injury that he suffered during the 2012 NBA playoffs. The former Georgia Tech guard would comeback on the court less than seven months after his gruesome injury, and would end the season as one of the team's best players.
The most telling quote from Media Day came from Shumpert. With Kenyon Martin sitting beside him, a question was asked to both of them about how much pride they take in their defense. It looks as if Shumpert had thought about the answer to that question for a very long time. He turned to Martin, and asked if he can take the question.
" I can't speak for Kenyon but it's not like I love defense" said Shumpert. " I don't love defense. I just want to score so bad that I am willing to snatch the ball out of your hands. That's what defense is for me.
"The game of basketball is to score more points than the other time. To do that, I have to snatch the ball away from you as many times as I can to give my teammates more chances to score the ball. When I play defense, I play with my heart and passion. Coach Woodson understands that and that is why he puts me with the guards."
Martin had a response that you probably would expect after hearing something like that.
"I agree" said a chuckling Martin.
It was during the playoffs that Shumpert started to emerge as a big-time performer, especially in the first-round series against the Boston Celtics. In Game 6, he made arguably the most important play of the season, pulling off a steal and fast-break finish to put an end the the Celtics 20-0 run.
In the Knicks’ 106-99 season-ending Game 6 loss to the Pacers, it was Shumpert who delivered a surge that nearly saved the season of the Knickerbockers. He scored 16 of his 19 points in a third quarter in which he knocked down three consecutive three-pointers in a 54 second stretch that cut a 10 point Pacer lead to 1.
New York hopes that Shumpert can build off that great playoff run, and take that into the upcoming season. If he can elevate his game to the next level, the Knicks have a legitimate shot to challenge the top dogs of the Eastern Conference.