NEW YORK -- Ask any NBA player about Twitter and chances are his No. 1 reason for signing up wasn't to hear 140 inspiring characters from the fans. It was to give them a behind-the-scenes look into his daily life.
That's just what Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert did, too, but then he realized his tweets (@I_Am_Iman) were offering much more than personal enjoyment. For him, they were turning into personal fulfillment.
"Twitter's been nuts. Knicks fans just want to see basketball, and I understand that," said Shumpert, the 17th pick in the 2011 draft out of Georgia Tech. "A lot of Knicks fans demand a lot. I may tweet out, 'I'm with my mom' or something like that, and Knicks fans are like, 'You should be shooting 1,000 shots' (laughs). Just having that on you all the time, it makes you work a lot harder. It gives you a lot of motivation that somebody who's eight years old on Twitter can tell me that I need to be shooting 1,000 jump shots instead of hanging out with my mom. It just lets you know what you've got behind you and how much the city loves ball."
On Monday, Shumpert joined fellow rookie Josh Harrellson, as well as Carmelo Anthony, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Andy Rautins, at the Knicks' training facility for voluntary workouts. When he walked into the media work room, he displayed that big trademark smile -- the same one you see from kids when they enter Magic Kingdom. He was ecstatic about taking the court with his new teammates and afterward being able to store his sneakers for good in his Knicks locker.
"It's magical. I've been waiting a long time to get in here," he said. "Thank God the lockout's over. I'm just glad to be in here with some of the guys working out."
Shumpert's visit to Tarrytown was his first since June 24, the day after he was drafted by the Knicks. Since then, he spent most of the offseason back home in Chicago, enjoying home-cooked meals; in Bradenton, Fla., working out at IMG Basketball Academy; and in Atlanta, training with Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack, who also played for the Yellow Jackets. Jack helped him better understand the point-guard position.
"Jarrett doesn't really jump like I jump or run as fast, so he really tries to teach me all the little things that I need to work on," said Shumpert, who mentioned that Melo stopped by for a workout once. "Things with my handle, things with passing, knowing when to give the ball up, knowing who to give the ball to."
Shumpert also stayed in close contact with Chauncey Billups, who helped him remain positive during the work stoppage, and Douglas, who was once an ACC rival. When Douglas was a junior at Florida State in 2008-09, Shumpert was a freshman. Being that both players are defensive specialists, Douglas has discussed ball-hawking tactics with him. He's also taught the 6-6 combo guard offensive maneuvers to get to the basket quicker.
"He's just trying to teach me that with the pro game, you've got 24 seconds," Shumpert said. "Everything's got to be A to B, A to B, A to B, north-south, north-south. He said a lot of times I go east-west a lot. He's just trying to help me lose those habits."
During the summer, Shumpert quietly became a YouTube legend with videos showcasing his 42-inch vertical leap in action. Even Fields caught wind of them.
"He's real strong and he moves well," Fields said. "I didn't see much on him before the draft. I've seen some YouTube stuff, but obviously those are highlights. I'm looking forward to getting in the gym with him every day."
Now, with the lockout behind him but a shortened training camp and season ahead of him, Shumpert said fans shouldn't worry about him adjusting.
"I think I'm pretty good at learning things fast, picking things up," he said. "The biggest thing is just keeping my body healthy through everything, and everything after that will come."
The rookie ride for Shumpert goes into full effect on Christmas. It's a moment he's been dreaming up in his head lately; you just won't catch him getting caught up with the flash that day. His focus will be what's in front of him on the court.
"It's going to be big," Shumpert said of the Knicks hosting the Celtics. "I'm going to try to not look at the lights too much" (laughs).
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