The Knicks explained Friday why they passed on a strong rebounder like Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) and an adept defender in Chris Singleton (Florida State) and revealed how impressed they were with Shumpert’s private workout June 9.
“His workout was one of the best we’ve ever had here,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said at Shumpert’s introductory news conference. “When we were here, all the coaches, some of the scouts and the front office all kind of turned together at the same time and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’ From Day 1, we were pretty sold on him.”
Shumpert’s defensive athleticism, sorely needed on a team that was among the worst defensively in the league last season, was his known asset. Shumpert has a 42-inch vertical leap and a 6-foot-10 wingspan. His shooting, however, was regarded as something of a question mark.
But Shumpert, who averaged 17.3 points and 3.5 assists last season, helped dispel that notion during the workout. The Knicks said they believed that his shot was smooth and that his scoring ability had been undersold. The 6-5 Shumpert can play at either guard spot, too, adding needed depth.
“He gives us an ability that whoever is playing well can play,” said D’Antoni, who envisioned a variety of combinations with Shumpert, point guard Chauncey Billups and shooting guard Landry Fields, or all three together. “If he’s one of those guys, then we’ll find a spot for him, definitely.”
Shumpert seemed at ease in front of the cameras, wearing a gray suit, a striped blue tie and a flat-brimmed Knicks cap. He had planned to do an internship as a sports broadcaster this summer, but decided to keep his name in the draft.
Shumpert, who said he was a little more than a year from graduating, hopes to complete his studies in science, technology and culture.
His mother, L’Tanya, has served as a professor of art and design at institutions near Chicago, including Harper College and Columbia College.
But Shumpert’s current education will include emphasizing his defensive presence. He said he learned to be tough on defense while playing with his older brothers in pick-up games in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. He does not plan to change now.
“Definitely, you need to play defense,” he said. “Those other guys are veteran guys. They’re scoring the ball; the way they’re scoring the ball, sometimes you can’t score the ball and play defense all the time. But I’m the young guy with the legs, so I’ve come to play some defense.”
By the time the Knicks selected Shumpert, the best shooters and big men had been taken, and so those needs will have to be addressed in free agency.
Walsh, who is stepping down as president June 30, sat to the side Friday and watched Shumpert engage the news media. He did not speak with reporters.
Shumpert’s presence should provide the Knicks with different looks to complement the team’s All-Stars, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Billups. Shumpert could also eventually become the replacement for Billups, who will be 35 next season.
“The coach, the history, the city, being able to learn from those veteran guys, Chauncey Billups, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo — that opportunity doesn’t come every day,” Shumpert said, grinning widely. “For me to be in this position, I’m all smiles.”