Knicks Guard Iman Shumpert Talks Rookie Season Hopes, NBA Idols, and Much More.

The transition from college to the NBA can be a whirlwind for any young player. There can be quite the culture shock. Though such a switch can be difficult in any normal scenario, the NBA lockout surely doesn’t make it any easier. Aside from being thrown off by a delayed schedule, incoming rookies cannot even be in contact with their new coaching staffs to better prepare themselves with what to expect during the upcoming season.

Nevertheless, none of that has discouraged Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert. He has been hitting the gyms even harder, making sure he is doing everything in his power to be ready to contribute to his new team when the season starts. It’s certain his strong motivation will make him a fan-favorite in New York, if his defense hasn’t already.

Shumpert, who mentioned he would be taking part in Amar’e Stoudemire’s organized team workouts, whenever they should begin, spoke with me after a full day of his own workouts.

Ever wonder what an NBA player likes to do in his spare time? Read on to hear all about how Iman plans on enjoying the Big Apple, as well as his rookie season goals, NBA idols, summertime training, and more. You may even realize the newest member of the New York Knicks has a common off the court hobby.

Q: I know that you’ve been doing a lot of training this summer. What are some things that you’ve been working on?

A: I’m just trying to stay in shape. Sometimes you have nagging injuries that you want to make sure don’t come back. I’ve been putting up a lot of shots too. I’m trying to get my jump shot tighter.

Q: The Knicks’ defense has been criticized over the years. Obviously, you were drafted largely in part due to your own defensive tendencies. How are you going to look to help the team and how do you feel you’ll fit in?

A: I just want to bring that intensity. Hopefully I can be effective and people start to chime in and play defense like I do. I like to bring a new type of energy to the floor. Who knows? Maybe my teammates and I will mesh and blend together to make the Knicks more of a defensive minded team.

Q: I see. A lot of times, a player is able to bring a new type of energy to the floor by providing a much-needed boost for his team off the bench. Does your style of play make you an ideal sixth man for this Knicks squad?

A: Whatever I can do to help, I’ll do it. I’m not really looking into that yet. I’m just working to get better and better. Whenever I’m on the court, I know I’ll be playing defense and bringing that energy to the floor for sure.

Q: Who are some of the players you’ve looked up to as you’ve watched the NBA growing up? Seeing as how you’re part of a younger generation, I know some of your idols may actually still be playing in the league. Will you be nervous to take the court against any of them?

A: Hmm…Jason Kidd. Definitely guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James too. I used to watch a lot of Penny Hardaway. I usually like a lot of the big guards. I definitely look at players like Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade as guys I look up to. I won’t be nervous to play against them though, no. Not at all.

Q: I know you haven’t gotten too much of an opportunity to explore the Big Apple just yet, but what are some things you’re looking forward to doing while living in New York?

A: Well actually, I’m looking forward to doing a lot of sightseeing. I like to look around and explore different things. I was already able to go down and see the World Trade Center site. Stuff like that is just powerful. I still would like to see a few museums too. I guess I’m just ready for the fans and for basketball to start. I really want to play ball.

Q: You know, as you mention the fans, I know you must be looking forward to performing for them. You’ve been pretty active on your Twitter account lately. Have you gotten a chance to interact with the fans online? What have they been saying to you?

A: The Knicks fans have definitely all been supportive, but they also give a lot of tough love. That’s something I’m used to, being from Chicago and all. Most people just tell me they hope I’m ready to keep working hard. The fans say, “New York’s a tough city, but if you work hard, we’re going to love you!”

Overall, the feedback from the fans has been great. If they’re more appreciative of a dedicated worker, that definitely works for me because I’m more of a gym-rat anyway.

Q: Speaking of being a gym-rat, let’s talk about your training again for a minute. I know you’ve been working out with NBA guard Jarret Jack a bit. What has he been in your ear about the most?

A: Jarret has been telling me to play with more pace. He knows that the league is all about pace and being able to change up your speed, especially at the guard position. That’s the main thing, I guess. I need to be able to change speeds on the court while keeping control of the game at the same time.

Q: Being able to keep up the pace is certainly something that will help you in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Obviously any extensive opportunity for you to speak with him and the Knicks coaching staff has been delayed due to the lockout. What advice did the staff give you upon being drafted?

A: Well they told me that after watching me, I need to clean up my defense a little bit. They wanted to make sure I’m ready to work hard and to build up a more consistent form in my jump shot. That’s definitely something I’ve been working a lot on and hopefully I’ll have that ready by the time the lockout is over.

Q: Aside from working out, what else have you been doing in terms of a higher level of competition this summer? I know you played in Dwight Howard’s charity game in Atlanta a little while back.

A: I’ve just been doing a lot of work down here in Florida at IMG Academy. I’ve tried to get in as many pickup games here as I can. I played a lot of ball with the guys who were training in Atlanta when I was there last month too. I’ve been working out with a lot of guys who went to Georgia Tech. We just like to get as many of us together as we can. Hawks forward Josh Smith has been playing some pickup ball with us too. We definitely try to get as many pros in the gym as possible.

Q: You’re going to have quite the experienced pro in Chauncey Billups as a teammate in New York. How do you feel about having a veteran like him as a mentor as you transition into the NBA?

A: Anything Chauncey has to share is obviously going to help point me in the right direction. He’s got such a great basketball background. I look forward to learning as much as I can from him. He’s actually one of the guards that I’ve looked up to over the years. To be able to play alongside him, or however else it works out on the court is going to be great. I’m really excited for the opportunity to work with him.

Q: Before I let you go, I wanted to find out if you were going to start blogging again as a New York Knick. You maintained a pretty active blog while playing at Georgia Tech.

A: I haven’t done it in a while, but maybe I’ll get back into it actually. Lately, I’ve been so into my training that I haven’t paid it much mind. I was thinking I would start it back up again, post more videos and add more updates and stuff. I’d like to be able to interact with the people during the lockout, so the blog is something I’ll be looking into again.

Q: In the meantime, to help Knicks fans get to know you a little, tell me your favorite music artist and favorite movie of all time.

A: Favorite music artist is definitely a toss up between Jay-Z and Kanye West, but I would probably go with Kanye there. Favorite movie of all time is tough. It might be “Paid in Full”. Actually, I’m going to say “Harlem Nights” on that one.

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