SACRAMENTO -- Have we seen the last of “load management”?
It’s an odd term devised by the Kings' medical staff, but one that makes sense for Iman Shumpert. The veteran wing has been a surprise addition both on and off the court for the Kings this season. but after suiting up for just 14 games last season, the team has limited his playing, especially in back-to-back situations.
Following the Kings’ buzzer-beater win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday evening, Shumpert went into detail as to why he’s sat in five of the club’s seven back-to-backs leading up to this week.
“Just sitting out a year, talking it over with the doctors and trainers prior to the season, they wanted me to play my first 25-30 games without doing any back-to-back,” Shumpert said. “I think I played one anyway, I kind of broke the rules.”
Shumpert has played in 28 of the Kings’ 35 games this season, including 26 starts. He’s provided quality defense at the wing, and he’s shooting a career-best 40.6 percent from behind the 3-point line.
“I just love that my teammates and coaching staff allowed me to do it - sit out certain games, whether they needed me or not and just allowed my body to adapt,” Shumpert said. “Now that we’ve played those 30 games, I’ll be able to play back-to-backs again.”
Needing a veteran influence on the court, coach Dave Joerger has relied heavily on Shumpert throughout the season. He’s averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 25.9 minutes per game.
At 6-foot-5, he’s slightly undersized at the small forward position, but he’s an aggressive defender who takes great pride in his craft.
“There’s no real way to just stop a guy, guys know how to score, guys know how to manipulate rules, get to the line when they don’t have a rhythm going,” Shumpert said. “My job is to study everybody in this league. I watch a ton of film and I’m just trying to take away your best attributes and make you do something you don’t normally do. That’s all I can do.”
Shumpert brings a different feel to the locker room. He’s one of the team’s elder statesmen and he’s played for winning organizations. A few weeks back, he even brought in his NBA Championship ring from his time in Cleveland to show his teammates and remind them what the ultimate goal is.
“I don’t like losing, I always feel like we’re in a game,” Shumpert said. “It’s a vibe, it’s a feeling when you can look somebody in the eye with conviction saying you’re going to win the game. It’s a different feeling you have.”
The 28-year-old is finishing up the final season of a four-year, $40 million deal he signed with the Cavaliers back in 2015. He’s an unrestricted free agent after the this year, and there are no promises he’ll return for another tour of duty in Sacramento.
But he’s making the most of his opportunity with the Kings, and he’s helped to change the culture of the team in his short time in Sacramento.