Iman Shumpert has something to prove this season, both to the Knicks and to other teams around the league in case New York decides that its future is better served by going in a different direction.
Shumpert is eligible for an extension to his rookie scale contract before Oct. 31, but the two sides haven’t engaged in negotiations, aren’t believed to have plans to do so. He was dangled in trade talks for the bulk of last season, and his production has dipped over his last two — meaning, he’s looking to bounce back in a big way in advance of becoming a restricted free agent next summer.
Shumpert would like to begin that process by playing in his team’s first preseason game on Wednesday. But he’s missed practice with a hamstring issue, and Derek Fisher may choose to take the more cautious approach.
“I was telling Shump earlier, for eight months we have to be at our absolute best,’’ Fisher said. “It’s a long season. We can’t rush trying to be so excited for the start of the season.’’
“For sure, we’re not going to risk any player to hurry up to be ready for Wednesday.’’
Shumpert, in the final year of his rookie contract, is aiming to play in the preseason opener. The Knicks will also face the Celtics Saturday at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.
“I believe I‘m playing,’’ Shumpert said. “I would hope so. I don’t want to sit out all these practices and not play. That’s why I’m sitting everything out so I can get some game action.”
Shumpert is understandably eager to establish himself early on as someone who is deserving of a substantial chunk of minutes as part of the regular rotation. But Fisher has to keep the bigger picture in mind, and the fact that he needs to be cognizant of keeping his players happy may make this the first minor test of his authority in his new role as head coach.