Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two

Knicks waiting for an orthopedic surgeon to fly in and diagnose Iman Shumpert’s knee


Trailing the Pacers 2-1 in their second-round series, the Knicks need all the good news they can get. This is not it. Tina Cervasio of MSG Network:

If Shumpert can’t play tonight, who starts in his place?

Shumpert started the final 45 games of the regular season and every playoff game after returning from surgery to the same knee. Before that, Ronnie Brewer started, but he has since been traded to the Thunder.

Chris Copeland started New York’s first game of the postseason when Pablo Prigioni was out with a sprained ankle, but Copeland played just the final minute of Game 3 against the Pacers and had three DNP-CDs against the Pacers.

J.R. Smith has played the Knicks’ third-most minutes per game in the playoffs, but he hasn’t started a game all season. Mike Woodson clearly prefers to bring the Sixth Man of the Year off the bench.

Quentin Richardson is also on the roster.

Woodson is such a mad scientist with his starting lineups, nearly any solution is possible. Because Carmelo Anthony can play small forward rather than power forward, maybe the Knicks insert a big man like Kenyon Martin or Amar’e Stoudemire into the starting lineup to counter the Pacers’ size. Stoudemire still has a 15-minute limit, and the way Woodson uses his starters, starting could be a good role for Stoudemire.

Of course, the player that would pick up Shumpert’s minutes is much more important than who starts, though both are related. Smith would be a leading candidate to carry a bigger load, and on that front, the Knicks got some good news:

Well, it’s good news if Smith lifts his playoff field-goal percentage above 34 and playoff 3-point percentage above 28.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.