The Kings are 12-11, miles ahead of where many (including myself) thought they would be. De’Aaron Fox is playing like an All-Star. Buddy Hield has become one of the best marksmen in the NBA. Bogdan Bogdanovic is still awesome. Marvin Bagley is making me a believer. This is by far the most fun I’ve had watching the Kings play in over a decade.
And yet perhaps the most surprising thing about all of this is just how much I have enjoyed Iman Shumpert.
When the Kings traded George Hill to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, the move was generally hailed as a good one for Sacramento in terms of opening up future flexibility and freeing up time for De’Aaron Fox, but it wasn’t about talent. Shumpert was viewed more as a contract than a player. Yet here we are, 23 games into the season and Shumpert has emerged as one of this young team’s leaders on and off the court.
In all the ways that Kings fans had hoped George Hill would be a mentor and glue to this team, Shumpert has been that and more. You could see it even starting last year if you caught Shumpert on the sidelines cheering on the team that he wasn’t even playing for yet, or in his social media posts after the games. Even with an unknown future with the team, Shump was buying in.
It helps that for the first time in a long time, Shumpert has been healthy. The veteran guard has been dealing with injuries on and off for a big chunk of his career and now he can finally relax and just play the game he loves, and he’s doing well. Shumpert is playing the most efficient basketball of his career, and he’s providing a steady presence on the wing, Sacramento’s biggest area of weakness.
I haven’t talked to anyone associated with the team that has had a bad thing to say about Shumpert. Just look at James Ham’s most recent article on him to get the kind of idea of what his teammate’s think of him:
“He’s crazy, he’s a fun guy to be around,” Buddy Hield said. “His personality, it rubs off on everybody. We’re glad to have a veteran like that.”
There is a something different about Shumpert. He has an odd habit of telling everyone happy birthday, regardless of whether it is their birthday or not. He likes to talk and make noise, but his teammates have embraced his quirkiness.
“He’s positive crazy, that’s how I like to say it,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “For sure we needed him last year and he’s one of the toughest guys I’ve played with.”
Shumpert’s seemingly taken it upon himself to be the guy that has everyone’s back. You see it when he and Buddy are talking during breaks in the game about where they need to be, or the extra pass that needs to be made. You see it when De’Aaron Fox gets called for a technical foul.
Iman Shumpert said the technical on De'Aaron Fox was unnecessary. Shump said he doesn't want Fox to have to pay for that technical - said he'll pay for that for him.— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) November 20, 2018
You see it when he’s passing up free points to get a teammate a bucket:
Panier anodin de la nuit dernière mais 2 enseignements :— Sacto Kings FR [Flo] (@SactoKingsFR) December 5, 2018
1) Shumpert est vraiment un super coéquipier, n'en a rien à faire de ses stats au scoring
2) La défense de Deandre Ayton est un sacré chantier. Mais genre pyramide égyptienne le chantier... pic.twitter.com/1puiQbCpT0
Iman Shumpert has been a breath of fresh air for this franchise. He’s not only hyping up his team, he’s helping to hype up this fan base.
I just let yall in on what the team does...the purple talk is the collection of lingo our team developed so far. Chemistry OD fun right now. Let's enjoy it in Sacramento!!!! #purpletalk https://t.co/pyjN8VIsv5— Iman. (@imanshumpert) December 5, 2018
I don’t know what the future holds for the Kings and Iman, but there’s no question that he’s made a significant impact in his short time here already.