Every successful team needs a player that is committed to doing what is best for the team ahead of their individual achievements and accolades, and for the Cleveland Cavaliers, that one player is shooting guard Iman Shumpert.
Capable of scoring in bunches, Shumpert has tallied just 6.2 points per game, but is averaging 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals over 24.1 minutes of play since coming back from wrist surgery at the beginning of October.
“It’s about getting in a mindset,” Shumpert said. “I’m on a team where I really don’t have any scoring responsibility because we have that many weapons. There’s games where I might shoot the ball twice and we win by 20. Sometimes, it’s about me coming out more aggressive, making things happen defensively, getting rebounds and creating my own energy.
“It’s pick your poison at this point, especially when J.R.’s shooting the ball like that, but like I said, we’ve just got to continue to bring the energy defensively, make sure we rebound the ball and get out on the run. The more we run, the more everybody gets involved, the better we are.”
Although Shumpert does not often carry the load on the offense, he poured in 23 points on nine-of-19 shooting, including a three-for-six mark from three-point range in a 125-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 8th, and scored in double figures twice since while adapting to a different role as the Cavaliers have switched their pace of play under Tyronn Lue, who was promoted to head coach following the dismissal of David Blatt.
“I thought he played simple and straight,” Blatt said of Shumpert before his dismissal. “He didn’t have to play outside of himself, just knocked down his shots. He made good decisions when to shoot. He played both ends of the court, like he always does, and the ball was falling for him.
“We got him some more looks too, which he knocked down, but I didn’t think he played outside of himself. I thought he played within himself, and that was really a good thing.”
As the Cavaliers prepare to start the second half of the regular season with Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena, Shumpert believes good things lie ahead for a team that not only enjoys a 10.5-game lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division, but also, a three-game advantage over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think the pieces are starting to come together for us,” Shumpert said. “We’re as good as we work to be, so it’s getting exciting as the season goes, as we start to catch a rhythm with each other.”