Healthy Iman Shumpert ready to help Kings: ‘I am very happy to be here!'


SACRAMENTO -- Happy birthday! That is how Iman Shumpert ended his media session on Tuesday afternoon. It’s also how he ended all of his interviews during media day. 

Shumpert is eccentric. He loves to sing, be the center of attention and he has a million dollar smile. He also just got cleared to return to practice fully after struggling with leg and foot injuries over the last year.

“They’ve been running a lot of tests on me to make sure everything is completely balanced and I tested out on everything right,” the 28-year-old wing said following practice. “Today was my first day getting a full bit of action out here on the court and I feel really good.”

No one knows exactly what the Kings’ plan is for Shumpert this season. He was acquired at the deadline in February as part of the George Hill deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his recovery from early season knee surgery, he developed a case of plantar fasciitis and never suited up for Sacramento.

In total, Shumpert played just 14 games last season. If he’s healthy, he could possibly give coach Dave Joerger another option at the small forward position, but health has been an issue for the former Georgia Tech star throughout his seven years in the league.

Shumpert has a lot to play for. He’s in the final year of a 4-year, $40 million deal he signed with Cleveland back in 2015. He’ll make $11 million this season with the Kings, whether he steps on the floor or not. 

While he hasn’t made an appearance yet with Sacramento, he’s played plenty of pickup games over the summer with his teammates. Shumpert’s been around the group and he’s enjoyed the vibe of his young teammates.

“Playing with these guys, they’re young, everything is free flowing, they take chances ‘cus they look to make up for it athletically,” Shumpert said. “That’s the style of basketball that I came from and I’ve missed for a while.”

Shumpert is ready to help shoulder some of the leadership role with the team this season. He’s excited to work with a team that is trying to build something, even if most of the players are too young to understand his movie references.

“For them, they don’t understand it yet and they’re not supposed to, they’re supposed to live in the moment,” Shumpert said. “I think it’s kind of funny, I quoted Coming to America the other day they all looked at me like I was crazy. That was my first confirmation of being old.”

If all goes well, Shumpert could possibly make his preseason debut later this week when the Kings take on the Utah Jazz on Thursday and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. He brings a defensive mentality, a physicality and a huge personality to the table. 

On his way out the door, Shumpert shared his movie quote from Coming to America, giving his best impersonation of Eddie Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda. 

“I am very happy to be here!”

Buddy Hield, shooting at a nearby court, shook his head, confirming that he had no idea what Shumpert was referring to. If nothing else, the veteran has a lot of work in front of him on educating the young Kings on the finer nuances of 1980s comedies.

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