After the Knicks got hammered, 110-90, by the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to drop their home record to 1-5 and sink into a last-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Brooklyn Nets, the ever-sordid state of affairs inside the World's Most Famous Arena grew even more absurd thanks to a Sunday report by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News surrounding a third-year swingman who appears to have fallen out of favor with head coach Mike Woodson and owner James Dolan:
Iman Shumpert had a second left knee operation over the summer, the Daily News has learned, and it is unclear if the unreported surgery could affect his trade value — with the desperate Knicks trying to package Shumpert in a number of proposed deals, including one for Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
According to a source, Shumpert had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last July that the Knicks never reported. [...] Shumpert originally tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee against the Miami Heat during Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs. Shumpert didn’t return until Jan. 17, 2013, and has felt soreness on several occasions, including the Knicks’ second-round playoff series against Indiana. In October, Mike Woodson cryptically said that Shumpert had “battled this summer with some of his injuries” and added that Shumpert had experienced knee pain but left it at that.
Marc Berman of the New York Post followed with what seems like a Garden-spun confirmation of the unreported procedure (emphasis mine):
A league source confirmed Shumpert actually had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-to-late August, which was not announced by the Knicks. It was on the same knee in which he tore his ACL and meniscus during the 2012 playoffs. But a source said the clean-out was so minor he didn’t need crutches afterward. However, the team didn’t announce it, abiding by Shumpert’s wishes.
A source said the surgery’s late date wasn’t good timing because it ruined the chance for Shumpert to participate in a portion of the offseason workout program with the assistant coaches and the early part of voluntary scrimmages at the Knicks’ training center. The workout program was considered vital because Shumpert elected to play in just one summer-league game in Las Vegas in July because of a conflict with a trip to China.
The Knicks are shopping Shumpert to see whether they can alleviate a shooting-guard glut and add frontcourt help. They are concerned more about Shumpert’s attitude at this point than his knee.
Rumblings that Dolan and company had designs on moving Shumpert began to circulate this summer, shortly after the Summer League dust-up. That chatter intensified last week, with ESPN.com's Marc Stein reporting that the Knicks felt "increasingly confident that they’ve got enough at the position to handle Shumpert’s exit now that J.R. Smith is back and with rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. looking good early."
This, amazingly, is not the first report of a "secret" Knicks knee surgery this season. Isola reported back in September that Amar'e Stoudemire had undergone an unreported "clean-up" procedure on his knee in July. Stoudemire has, frankly, been terrible since his return, averaging 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game and looking liftless and creaky in his limited offensive attempts while continuing to profile as a turnstile on the defensive end of the floor. This is the kind of thing that can happen when you have three knee surgeries in a year, on top of past microfracture surgery, back issues and an assortment of other maladies that have stripped the 31-year-old of his once-phenomenal athleticism.
That news came after the revelation that Smith's July knee surgery, while not secret, was deliberately delayed until after he had signed his new contract, which was originally reported as a four-year deal despite actually being a three-year deal, for reasons that remain unclear. Smith — whose comeback from surgery was delayed by a five-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy — has, frankly, been terrible since his return, shooting 22.6 percent from the floor and helping submarine the Knicks on both ends of the floor, as their offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency have each dropped by nearly six points per 100 possessions with him on the court, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
Smith's terrible first game back was rewarded with a move into the starting lineup, and his punishment for Twitter fighting was rewarded with a license to fire 18 shots (making three) and nine 3-pointers (making one) in Saturday night's blowout loss. On the other hand, Shumpert's comparatively sound play — he's one of 11 NBA starters shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line, he's one of two Knicks whose season plus-minus is not a net negative (along with injured center Tyson Chandler), and while he has looked worse on defense this season than he did in his first two years, the Knicks' D has been demonstrably more porous with him off the floor than on it — apparently has him ready to be run out of town on a rail.
The potential trade partner named most frequently last week — the Denver Nuggets, in exchange for power forward Kenneth Faried — quickly rejected such a proposal, according to Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. Subsequent rumors have focused on injured Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, whom Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has denied discussing with other teams, and disgruntled Houston Rockets reserve center Omer Asik, who is expected to return to the Rockets' lineup on Tuesday against the Celtics.
While the rumor mill continues to churn, Shumpert might now find himself moved out of the Knicks' starting lineup, according to Isola:
Despite the Knicks’ 3-6 start and five straight home losses, Woodson is not in imminent danger, according to a source, of being the next Knicks head coach to “resign” [...] but the word from above is to tinker with the starting lineup, which likely will include shifting soon-to-be-traded Iman Shumpert to the bench and likely promoting veteran tough guy Kenyon Martin. The move allows Anthony to play small forward while placing a rebounding and defensive-minded forward next to Andrea Bargnani, a non-rebounding, defensively challenged forward/center.
Sure enough, Woodson told reporters Monday that Martin might slide into the starting five as early as Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons. More from Isola:
Shumpert, Metta World Peace and Pablo Prigioni should be in the eight-man rotation and where that leaves Amar’e Stoudemire, no one knows. Poor Amar’e is a shell of his former self but it doesn’t help that Dolan and Lisa Callahan, the team’s medical director, are in charge of telling Woodson how many minutes Stoudemire and Martin can play.
The minutes restriction is a sore subject for Stoudemire and Martin and a source of frustration for the rest of the team.
According to one player, the team thinks the entire concept is counterproductive and another example of nonbasketball people — Dolan and Callahan — stepping on Woodson’s toes.
“Woody’s hands are tied,” said one Knick. “It’s a joke.”
Well, if there's one thing sure to straighten this mess out, it's anonymous anti-management/ownership quotes from a player. Yikes.
Both Martin and Stoudemire have publicly complained about having their minutes limited; it remains to be seen how, or whether, an increased role for Martin impacts Stoudemire's playing time. If they are still to be used in a platoon, it would certainly seem to behoove Woodson to surround the nearly-unplayable-on-defense Stoudemire with better defenders during his minutes, but that seems unlikely given Woodson's continued reluctance to play Pablo Prigioni more frequently, the apparent mandate to de-emphasize Shumpert, and the possible absence of Metta World Peace, whom the team announced Monday has a sore left knee and is listed as doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Pistons.
To review: The Knicks are allowing the league's fourth-highest number of points per 100 possessions, and their defensive anchor is out for another month. Their most attractive young player is on the trade block, but his trade value may have just taken a hit as a result of a knee surgery that was kept a secret until what seems like the worst possible time. Their All-Star forward says it feels "like we're not even trying right now." The offense they rode to 54 wins and a No. 3 offensive efficiency mark last season has regressed to a dismal 19th in points scored per possession, thanks in part to decreases in 3-point shooting frequency and effectiveness. Point guard Raymond Felton has basically disappeared, posting career-worst field-goal and 3-point percentages and getting to the foul line less often than ever. There's no salary cap/roster flexibility, no draft picks to include in trades as sweeteners until 2018.
Just about everything that could go wrong for the Knicks is going wrong right now, and while that might not come as much of a surprise to those outside MSG, it's surely an infuriating shock to an owner who, amazingly, expects a championship. Nobody knows what the next twist in the Knicks' ongoing soap opera will be, but the prospect of finding out does make Tuesday's visit to Auburn Hills must-watch TV; Knicks fans, though, might find themselves peering through their fingers, like a horror film you can't bear to watch but can't bring yourself to turn off, either.
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