by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
The Impact Basketball League added some notable star power to kick off their second week of action when New York Knicks pg Chauncey Billups came through for his first run in the series on Monday. The five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA Selection and former NBA champion teamed up for the first time with Knicks first-round draft pick Iman Shumpert in the day’s second game, and said afterwards that he likes what he’s seen from the No. 17 overall pick out of Georgia Tech.
“We didn’t get a win but it was a fun game,” Billups told SLAMonline afterwards. “We had a good time, but I’m just looking forward to playing more with my new teammate Shumpert. He’s very athletic, and I’m just trying to learn his game right now. I’ll only have to play with him a few times and I will see how to best use him. I’m gonna try to make him a star, man.”
Shumpert, who paid his own way to Las Vegas to compete in the full slate of these Impact games, has done very well for himself thus far. He is bigger and quicker than most people think up close and in person, and Knicks fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about this kid.
Since last Monday, he’s averaging 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game, but it’s also been his freakishly athletic abilities on the defensive end of the floor that have really made him stand out. Which is one aspect of Shumpert’s game, specifically, that Chauncey believes will allow him to come in immediately and fill a need for the Knicks next season.
“A lot of young guys want to come in and be effective by scoring,” Billups said. “They want to show they have all the nice moves, which is good, you gotta have that in your skill-set, but if you’re talking about playing winning basketball it’s a little different. Some things are more important than others, and Shumpert’s going to be a good one because he’s able to defend. That’s probably what we’ll need him to do more than anything this year with all the scoring power we have on the team, is come in and stop some guys, and also get some buckets for us when we need it too.”
As far as the opportunity to learn how to play winning NBA basketball from the guy they call Mr. Big Shot for a reason, Shumpert noted that he’s looking forward to that, and was excited to get out and play alongside Billups for the first time on Monday.
“It was good to get out here and play with Chauncey,” Shumpert said after the game. “Of course we’re gonna need some more games together, we don’t really know each other well at this point, but today was great, and it’s just our first time playing together so it will only get better as more games come. ”
Shumpert added that he came out to Impact to improve his game by getting some run in against NBA competition, and was all business when asked about how that was going for him so far.
“It’s going good, and I feel like I’m playing well. It is different for me because I’m used to being ball dominant, and right now I’m working on playing off the ball more here, but I’m getting used to it. I’m trying to learn how to pick my spots, and get to the right spots on the floor, and it’s been a good adjustment so far.”
When asked if off the ball was where he saw himself playing in the League next season, he said he didn’t know that for sure. At the moment, the combo guard is trying to develop that aspect of his game too just in case that ends up being a role he can help Chauncey and the Knicks in next season.
“I don’t know if they’ll need me to play off the ball next season or not at this point, but I’m just trying to get used to doing that now so that just in case I am I’ll be ready for it.”
Which seems to be the thought process necessary for developing the mentality to play the winning NBA basketball referred to by Billups earlier; something Chauncey also plans to assist the young rookie with moving forward. Just like guys did for him when he was coming from the same spot Shumpert’s in now, as Chauncey went on to recall on Monday.
“There were a few guys who helped me develop the right mentality to play in this League when I first came in. Guys like Jason Kidd and Tim Hardaway did a lot for me,” Billups added. “I used to talk with those guys about the attitude and the mentality you needed in this game, Sam Cassell was great for me also, but the player who’s done the most for me over my career was the Terrell Brandon. I had the pleasure of playing with him for two years in Minneapolis and he made the biggest difference for me of any player in my career. I do plan to pass those things along to Shumpert as well the more we get to know each other.”
Iman certainly appears receptive to the tutorial forthcoming from Billups too. He’s put himself in a position to start learning from one of the greats as early as possible, and has excelled on the court all summer long in the process. There’s good reason to believe that Chauncey very well could help make this kid into a star when it’s all said and done, too, especially since that’s his intention.
Brendan Bowers is an NBA writer from Cleveland, OH. You can follow him on Twitter @StepienRules.