Moke Hamilton, NBA AnalystOn Sunday night, the New York Knicks suffered a 103-99 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. It was their seventh straight home loss and ninth overall.
The loss suffered at the hands of the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans, though, may not compare to the loss of Iman Shumpert’s morale.
The usually upbeat and jovial Shumpert’s demeanor has shifted in recent weeks as the Knicks have spiraled downward. With Sunday’s loss, at 3-13, the team will enter December 2 tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference and just one game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the worst record in the entire league.
As the losses have piled up, Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony’s postgame ritual of delivering diatribes preaching “figuring it out” and “battling through it” have become quite repetitive, all while Shumpert’s name continues to emerge in trade speculation and his frustration boils over.
And boil over, it certainly did. It was evident both on the floor and afterward in the Knicks’ locker room.
With 5:51 remaining in the third quarter, Shumpert and Anthony were involved in a screen-and-roll between Jrue Holiday — whom Shumpert was guarding — and Ryan Anderson; Anthony was defending Anderson. As the screen was executed, Shumpert attempted to fight over Anderson’s screen while Anthony switched onto Holiday. As a result, both Shumpert and Anthony were chasing Holiday around the screen while Anderson popped out for an uncontested three-pointer.
Shumpert recognized Anderson being unguarded and attempted to close out on him and defend the oncoming three-point attempt, but was whistled for a foul after colliding with the Pelicans’ Jason Smith. Anderson released his shot as the whistle sounded and converted on the three-pointer, giving the Pelicans the opportunity for a four-point play.
On the bench, Shumpert and Anthony got into a heated exchange. When asked about it after the game, Shumpert stated that it was “a miscommunication” between himself and Anthony. Shumpert was replaced by Hardaway after the foul and did not return.
In Shumpert’s stead, Hardaway played the final 17:51 of the game, where he scored 18 of his total 21 total points, converting on five three-pointers — both career highs. Hardaway was instrumental in helping the Knicks turn a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead over a span of five game minutes that bridged the end of the third quarter to just short of midway through the fourth.
Shumpert was on the bench the entire time, even as the Knicks struggled to find a defensive answer for Tyreke Evans. Led by Hardaway, the Knicks built a six-point lead over the Pelicans with eight minutes remaining, but Evans scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and helped the Pelicans to an eventual victory.
It is no secret that Hardaway’s flashes of offensive proficiency have hastened Shumpert’s potential exit. The Knicks have struggled mightily and Shumpert is the team’s most coveted trade asset. If the decision is made to pursue a trade, he is very likely to be the player that opposing general managers have interest in, and with Woodson’s proven loyalty to Smith and the emergence of Hardaway, the writing may be on the wall for his tenure in New York.
After the Pelicans secured the victory, Shumpert attempted to leave the Knicks’ locker room without addressing the media. On his way out, he was overheard exclaiming “Of course I wanted to play!”
Afterward, Anthony admitted that the Knicks are struggling to find their identity, but anyone within earshot of the Knicks’ locker room did not need to hear an admission from Shumpert: he is clearly frustrated and has been giving off a pronounced, disturbed energy over the course of the current tailspin.
Shumpert’s future as a Knick has come into the question as Hardaway’s offensive flashes have impressed quite a few, and after beginning the season as the team’s starting shooting guard, there now seem to be a lot more questions regarding Shumpert than there are answers.
As the clock ticks toward December 15 — an important day in the realm of player availability via trades — the situation regarding Shumpert warrants close monitoring.
Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and hosts TheKnicksBlog Podcast with TKB Lead Writer, Harris Decker. He contributes regularly to TheKnicksBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton