GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Iman Shumpert will make his Madison Square Garden debut this afternoon and expects to crack a big smile.
“It’s going to be everything,” the second-year Knicks guard out of Georgia Tech said after practice Sunday. “That will put a big smile on my face. Even though I’m supposed to have a game-face I’ll probably have a smile for the first couple trips down.”
Shumpert played in his first game back from left ACL surgery in London last Thursday when the Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons, 100-87. He notched eight points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.
“I was just happy to play again,” Shumpert said. “And I was happy that a lot of the things that I was doing in my rehab, just constantly shooting corner 3’s, I was able to get two or three attempts at that. I was able to knock two of them down, trying to take the pressure off Melo a bit. I was able to get out in the open court, do a little Euro-step, that’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been working on just to test the power of my left leg.”
Still, Shumpert will be on a minutes limit again today.
“That’s up to Woody [coach Mike Woodson],” Shumpert said. “I’ll play 48 minutes if Woody tells me to go out there and play 48 minutes. It’s whatever the coaching staff and the doctors and our training staff tell me what to do because thusfar listening to them has got me in a pretty good position.”
Woodson is happy to have Shumpert but wants him to work his way back, just as Amar’e Stoudemire is doing from a knee injury.
“I just think that the fact that the kid is just so mentally and physically tough that he was determined that ‘Hey, I’m back and I’m going to play,'” Woodson said.
“I was very pleased and happy for him because that’s a tough injury to bounce back from and the way he did it, boy, was kind of nice. He did a lot of hard work to get to that point so it’s nice to see.”
Shumpert should help the Knicks defend quick guards like Ty Lawson, Kyrie Irving and Kirk Hinrich, who have killed the Knicks this season.
His return — plus the return of Raymond Felton (fractured pinky) down the line — should also help 39-year-old Jason Kidd, who has not been the same player recently as he was early in the season.
“When we get healthy it should definitely help me with my minutes,” Kidd said.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.