Iman Shumpert Says All the Right Things When Discussing Knicks Owner James Dolan

Talking to the press is an art form most athletes have mastered at the midway point of their careers. So it’s hard to believe Iman Shumpert has been 23 years old for less than two months and has only played a year and a half at the NBA level. But when discussing a possible animosity brewing between him and Knicks owner James Dolan, Shump was focused on basketball, which is as it should be.

Last month, additional footage of Stephen A. Smith‘s interview with Dwight Howard leaked online. It showed Smith repeating a rumor he’d heard that Dolan might trade Shumpert because he wasn’t going to be working out in Vegas for summer league. It was the roiling anger of James Dolan run amuck once again because Shumpert is invaluable as a wing defender still on his rookie deal.

Today, while participating in a ping pong tournament with Serena Williams, Yankees OF Brett Gardner and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at the “Delta Open” in NYC’s Madison Square Park, Shump was asked about the Dolan incident last month and his ongoing relationship with his employer. Here’s what he told the New York Post‘s Marc Berman:

“That’s fine, that’s the media. Things get blown up in this day and age, with social media. It’s crazy. That video got out there and stuff happens. I’m happy to be a Knick. I’m worried about business.”

Perfect. When asked a question about your relationship with a notoriously hot-tempered owner, the man that signs your paycheck — for a contract with a team option for only $2.6 million next season — it’s best to just lower your head and repeat as many media maxims as possible about what you do know.

Next, Shump was asked about the possibility he’d be starting next season. The 6-5 swingman and rising emcee started all 45 games he appeared in for the Knicks last season, and consequently J.R. Smith won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

The decision to bring Smith off the bench and start the second-year player out of Georgia Tech was made by Woodson, and Shump understands that Woodie is the ultimate decision-maker. The Knicks’ bearded bench general has said that only Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton are guaranteed to start next season, which leaves an off guard and either forward position in flux a month plus out from training camp.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s our job as players to be at the highest level we can play at. It’s up to Coach Woodie to make those decisions. He’s the guy who will be losing sleep on what guys he should play, lineups to play. I’m just going to be a piece of the puzzle.”

Again, Shump nails it, and gives the best possible answer, one that acknowledges Woodson as the benevolent general and reiterates his team mentality by humbly referring to himself as just “a piece of the puzzle.”

As a tenacious wing defender, and with his three-point accuracy improving — he shot 30 percent from 3-point range in his first year and 40 percent last season even while his overall field goal percentage dipped below basketball’s Mendoza Line of 40 percent — Iman and his Meteor Man inspired bleached hairdo could be the perfect 3&D wing the Knicks can use to make a run against their Atlantic Division rival Nets.

Before he’s even played in his third season in New York, Shumpert also appears to have figured out the media game. There’s a higher learning curve when you’re under the lights of MSG, and Shump’s composer in front of a microphone — either rapping for fans, or reporters — is really good news for Knicks fans.

He’s also a semi-decent at ping-pong.

Do you think Shump will start next year, and if he does, will it be at small forward or shooting guard?

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