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As first reported by Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert has torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. Shumpert also tore the lateral meniscus in the knee, the Knicks announced Saturday evening. He will need surgery to repair the tears, and will miss six to eight months of action, the team said.
The rookie sustained the injuries during the third quarter of the Knicks' 100-67 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series on Saturday afternoon, crumpling to the court in obvious pain after a non-contact play.
With the Knicks down 24 points after being blitzed by the Heat 30-13 in the second quarter, Shumpert dribbled up court following a Dwyane Wade turnover. The Knicks guard moved slightly to his left before trying to come back to the right, then instantly pulled up lame, losing control of the ball as he reached for his left knee. Mario Chalmers grabbed the loose ball and passed to Wade, who made a basket and was fouled at the other end of the floor. Shumpert stayed down, holding his knee and appearing to be in agonizing pain.
Teammates, coaches and trainers crowded around the rookie as ABC's telecast cut to commercial. During the break, teammates Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson carried Shumpert off the court and into the Knicks' locker room. He exited the game at the 6:04 mark of the third quarter, having gone scoreless in 19 minutes of action.
Shumpert was not the only guard to tear his left ACL during Saturday's opening-round action. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose suffered the same fate late in the fourth quarter of Chicago's 103-91 Game 1 win over the Phiadelphia 76ers.
In the short term, Shumpert's injury leaves the seventh-seeded Knicks down a key piece in a series where they desperately need all hands on deck to compete with the heavily favored Heat.
After developing into the Knicks' stingiest perimeter defender (and one of the league's best) during his rookie season, the 6-foot-5 Shumpert was expected to see heavy minutes guarding Miami star Dwyane Wade. That task will now likely fall to the combination of J.R. Smith and Landry Fields, both of whom are capable defenders, but neither of whom has earned the sort of shutdown rep that Shumpert has already cultivated in just 59 NBA appearances since being chosen out of Georgia Tech with the 17th overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft. Wade scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting in 31 minutes in Game 1.
It's the time beyond this series that really counts for Shumpert, though.
From the Knicks' perspective, the injuries stunt the development of one of the team's most important young and inexpensive pieces moving forward. They kibosh the opportunity to spend a full, proper offseason working with Shumpert, sharpening his offensive skills and refining his game to add professional polish to the athleticism that's already made him a contributor on a playoff team. Beyond that, the tentative timetable laid out by the Knicks on Saturday — six to eight months — means Shumpert will most likely miss the start of his sophomore season, too, meaning Mike Woodson (or whoever's coaching the Knicks next year) won't be able to count on his presence in the backcourt rotation heading into the season, but will have to figure out how to reintegrate him at some point.
The time between a player's first and second years, after he's been beaten up by the NBA and now has a real sense of what he needs to do to get better, can be such a critical time for a young guy's growth, and now Shumpert's going to have to spend that time just trying to get back to the baseline. Rather than seeing an improved, better-rounded version of the player that tantalized Knicks fans this year, we'll just be waiting with bated breath to find out if he can even be Version 1.
For Shumpert himself, that's the biggest thing — coping with and working through his first serious injury. He missed seven games during his rookie year with a combination of knee injuries — four games after spraining his right medial collateral ligament in the Knicks' Christmas Day opener, three in February due to patella tendinitis in his left knee — but this is the first major, long-term injury he's sustained.
Everybody handles injuries differently, of course, and every injury itself is different, too — Al Harrington's been playing with a torn meniscus for weeks now, Eric Bledsoe missed the better part of two months after undergoing meniscus surgery, some players miss longer — But they're rarely simple, and the quality and speed of comebacks vary. Not only will Shumpert need surgeries and rehab, he'll need to learn how to deal with spending up to eight months on the shelf, and he'll need to figure out how to be the same kind of explosive, aggressive, uptempo player he was before the injury; if he can't, he'll have to figure out how to be something else.
Hard work is typically the recovering athlete's best friend; Shumpert showed himself willing to grind it out in earning his spot in the Knicks' rotation, becoming a favorite of coaches Mike D'Antoni and Mike Woodson through his dogged defense and determination to get better. Get well soon, Iman.
On the game itself: LeBron James was the star of Game 1, scoring 32 points in 31 minutes on 14 shots through the first three quarters before sitting or the entire fourth. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sure didn't need him to close out a New York team that looked finished before halftime. J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 17 points off the bench.
The Knicks struggled to get star forward Carmelo Anthony the ball throughout the game, as Miami enjoyed great success with having defenders front Anthony to take away New York's entry passing angles. When they could find 'Melo, though, he couldn't get any offensive rhythm going, scoring just 11 points and missing 12 of his 15 attempts from the field in 34 minutes of play. Running buddy Amar'e Stoudemire took just seven shots in 32 minutes and missed five of them, scoring a quiet nine points in the loss.
Game 2 tips Monday night in Miami.
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