Look, the Knicks are bad. And this is a website that covers every sport on every level, so we won’t spend too much time talking about the woes of one awful team that doesn’t deserve to have words written about them anyway.
But as the Knicks begin fraying at the seams in the midst of a disastrous nine-game losing streak, I want to take a moment to tell this team — my longtime, hometown team — that they need to do everyone a favor and trade Iman Shumpert already.
And here’s why: He’s one of my favorite Knicks of the last decade and he deserves better.
It’s no secret that the Knicks have been shopping their former first round pick. What for? Well, there are a list of “basketball” reasons I could give you — the Knicks are weak up front; the Knicks have depth at shooting guard; Shumpert has been struggling to find an offensive identity with Carmelo Anthony; the Knicks are terrible and need something to help spark them; Shumpert is the team’s only trade-able asset — but none of those would really be “true.” The truth is, he just doesn’t fit on this roster anymore. (Landry Fields feels your pain, Shump.)
Shumpert and Anthony got into it last night after a defensive “miscommunication” (Shumpert’s words), and Shumpert could be seen yelling — or, at least, talking demonstratively — at Melo on the bench:
Shumpert didn’t play for the rest of the night after this argument. Nevermind that Carmelo has a history of lazy and technically unsound defense, and that Shumpert has been lauded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league — no one yells at the team’s star like that and expects to stick around. It appears that Shumpert doesn’t expect to stick around.
Unfortunately, this all feeds into the narrative that the Knicks don’t like Shumpert’s “attitude.” Instead, they would prefer the attitude of the shooting guard that was suspended for the first five games of this season for violating the league’s anti-drug program and his terrible — basketball-wise — and brother. They’d prefer the attitude of a guy who told the Knicks to wear “funeral” black before Game 5 of last year’s playoff series against the Celtics (the Knicks lost that game). They’d prefer the attitude of a guy who elbows people in the head; the attitude of a guy who is seven feet tall and yet doesn’t rebound or play defense consistently, as his height requires; the attitude of a ball-hog with no track record of proven success outside of USA Basketball (and in college).
This is what I know: Iman Shumpert is the only Knick over the last two years to play defense with intensity and consistency, and he appeared to be the only guy who didn’t want to go home during last year’s playoff series against the Pacers. He plays with a ton of emotion, is still young and raw, and clearly needs an organization that will support him through his growing pains.
On the other hand, the Knicks are an awful organization, run by a morons (with a particularly maniacal moron signing the checks) and they have put all their faith in Carmelo Anthony, for better or for worse. And when you get on Carmelo Anthony’s bad side, you get the ax.
That’s why the Knicks need to let Shumpert go. They don’t have time to cater to his needs. They don’t have the capacity to balance his strengths against the roster’s weaknesses. They’re in a “win-now” mindset (they’ve been in this mindset for about four decades and have yet to actually win — curious!) and they’re losing, which means that they need to find a scapegoat and Shumpert is it. Fine. Trade him and you pat yourselves on the back when you win the next three games from the emotional boost.
Earlier in the year, I begged the Knicks not trade Shump, because I liked him and wanted his jersey to be the first Knicks jersey I’ve purchased since Latrell Sprewell’s. I wanted them to recognize what he brings to the table — he actually plays defense, he’s fantastically athletic, he can rap — and that he was a better investment than J.R. Smith or even — gasp! — Carmelo.
Is Shumpert a great player? No, not currently, and perhaps not ever. But now I feel the same way about Shumpert that I’ve felt about my past girlfriends. Those ladies were — with an exception or two — good people, and they deserved better than what they had here. Shumpert deserves better than a dysfunctional organization that only cares about pleasing CAA and filling seats at the Garden. The Knicks are where good players go to play poorly, where great players go to fail to meet expectations and where bad players go before getting signed elsewhere and becoming good. It’s not a place for winners.
I very much wanted Shumpert to be a Knick for life. But hey, I wanted the Knicks to be a good team this year, and every year prior and that’s not the case either. Now I want Shumpert to get out before it’s too late. Go, Shump! Ask for a trade! Refuse to get on the bus! Get out before you waste years of your life pulling for a team that doesn’t love you, like me.
Photo via Getty