Shumpert practices with the starting five
December, 23, 2011
By Jared Zwerling
NEW YORK -- There was a good chunk of time during Friday's practice when rookie Iman Shumpert was wearing a blue jersey. That meant he was the point guard in the first unit, playing alongside Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
Mike D'Antoni said afterward that Toney Douglas also ran the team, and he wanted to switch it up with Shumpert because "we're just trying to get everybody used to playing with certain people." While D'Antoni is likely to name Douglas the starter for Sunday's season opener, he has been impressed with Shumpert's play-making abilities.
D'Antoni has the luxury of using Anthony as his point-forward, but an actual point guard who can make things happen will be necessary at times when Melo is playing off the ball. Eventually it will be Baron Davis, but in the meantime before the former All-Star is healthy, don't be surprised if that player ends up being Shumpert, not Douglas.
The deciding factors will likely be Shumpert's athleticism and 6-foot-5, 220-pound size, which will allow him to stick with stronger and quicker point guards such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. D'Antoni called Shumpert's defense "really good."
Offensively, Douglas has more experience at the point, but he's undersized. At the end of the day, he is better suited for the team's sixth-man role. The name of his game is scoring, and Shumpert's -- as D'Antoni alluded to on Friday -- is facilitating.
"[Iman's] shown that he makes simple plays, and if he can do that, he'll play," D'Antoni said. "Now whether right now in his rookie year can he run a team exactly the way we want it after two weeks of practice? I don't know. But if we've got other guys helping out, he can definitely play. We'll just cover that as we go forward."
By the look and sound of it, despite D'Antoni saying he'll "probably" go with the usual starting five against the Celtics, you never know -- Christmas Day could offer a surprise.