Sacramento Kings

How Iman Shumpert ‘Scores’ energy – and some lighthearted jabs – from his teammates

Kings swingman Iman Shumpert (9) is having fun being back on the basketball court and spending time with his teammates. He has nicknamed the team “The Scores.”
Kings swingman Iman Shumpert (9) is having fun being back on the basketball court and spending time with his teammates. He has nicknamed the team “The Scores.” pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Iman Shumpert is having fun again. It wasn’t always that way for the Kings swingman.

He played in just 14 games last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and once he was traded to Sacramento in February, he never suited up. He couldn’t even practice with his new teammates.

“I probably sat out completely for about eight months where I couldn’t do anything,” Shumpert said Tuesday at Golden 1 Center. “I was damn near on bed rest.”

Every time he thought he was good to return, he’d face another setback.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I started really looking at my injury history and I’m like, ‘Man, what’s going on with me?’ “

Shumpert, who had arthroscopic knee surgery nearly a year ago and also battled plantar fasciitis, said he had moments of wondering if he’d ever get back to feeling good enough to contribute on the court, so when he was healthy enough to return, his mindset changed from thinking about the injuries to preparing to play.

“Being free of that feeling ... my smile came back,” he said.

He talked about how being back on the court brought him “a different type of happiness” after scoring a season-high 26 points Oct. 21 in his first start as a King, a victory at Oklahoma City and the team’s first of 2018-19. He’s since become the starting small forward and has played in all but three games.

He’s averaging 9.9 points on 43.7 percent shooting — both career highs for the veteran in his eighth NBA season.

Shumpert is enjoying his contributions to the Kings (10-10) and says being around the young roster has a lot to do with that. He also takes jabs from his teammates about his age. At 28, there are only three older players on the Kings’ 17-man roster.

“These guys are younger, so they clown on me all the time, saying I’m old,” Shumpert said. “I’m not that old, but they clown on me just because a lot of the references I make to movies, different CDs I listen to, whatever, they’re like, ‘We were babies when that came out, dude.’ “

The energy he gets from being around them has helped him along the way.

“Being around that new energy, (teammates) have no problem when someone’s scoring on them. They take (the ball) out and push it up again, and that helps me,” he said. “At times, I’m one of those guys who if (an opponent scores), I’m putting my head down, I’m mad and I can’t get to the next play because I wanted that one really bad.”

Shumpert says the Kings seem to have a short memory in those situations and rely on being energetic. It has shown in the statistics. Through Monday, they were second in pace and tied for seventh in scoring at 114.2 points per game.

That prompted Shumpert to give the team a nickname: “The Scores.”

“That’s who we are,” he said. “We’re trying to score fast, we’re trying to score it at a high rate. ... I think it’s cool to be on a team where you don’t know who’s going to score,” adding that most anyone on the roster can have a big night.

Six Kings average at least 11.2 points and eight have had at least one 20-point night, led by Buddy Hield’s 10. De’Aaron Fox has the high game, scoring 31 as part of his first triple-double in a win at Atlanta on Nov. 1.

“It doesn’t matter who has (the big night), and we don’t care. We’re just going to share the sugar,” Shumpert said. “Calling us ‘The Scores,’ it’s just a little reminder for everybody that we can all do it. We can all score the ball. ... We’ve just got to win.”

National attention – The Kings are at .500 through 20 games, a record most league analysts and fans didn’t expect. Now, they’ll get their first exposure of the season on a major national network.

TNT will air the Kings’ game Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers, who at 13-6 have the best record in a stacked Western Conference in which all but one team entered Tuesday with at least nine wins.

The game will be called by Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller.

Rookie big man Harry Giles III said it’s exciting to play in front of a national audience, but the Kings are set to go at any time.

“We’re just ready to play, regardless if it’s on a Twitter link, TNT, ABC, whatever,” Giles said. “It’s exciting to get a chance to be on the big screen with everyone else, so we’re going to go out there and show it.”

The game is currently the only one slated for the Kings on TNT, but television schedules are always subject to change. Sacramento is not listed to play on ESPN or ABC this season but has appeared on NBA TV twice, with two more dates scheduled.

The Kings went 3-6 in nationally televised games last season.

Noel Harris: 916-321-1602, @SacBeeNoel
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