By DAN KELLY
Special to ZAGSBLOG
NEW YORK –– Knicks guard Iman Shumpert is not close friends with Nerlens Noel but he can feel his pain all the way from Kentucky.
On Tuesday night, Noel, the 6-foot-10 freshman center tore his ACL while trying to block a shot on a fast break against Florida and has been declared out for the remainder of the season. He is expected to have surgery in 2-3 weeks and then undergo a rehabilitation of 6-8 months.
“Oh, man,” Shumpert said before the Knicks’ lost to the Toronto Raptors, 92-88, Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. “I don’t wish that upon anybody. That’s a tough injury. He’s a competitor. He’ll be able to battle back and get to where he was. It’s a long haul but he’ll get through it.”
Noel’s draft status remains in flux. Chad Ford of ESPN dropped him from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3, yet one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv Wednesday, “The injury will not affect his draft status.”
“Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback,” Noel said on Twitter.
Kentucky coach John Calipari confirmed that Noel had insurance and said the freshman had a positive frame of mind about the injury.
“The good news is he is insured, so he would have been fine even if the injury would have been worse,” Calipari Tweeted.
Speaking of Noel’s mindset, he added: “I met with Nerlens earlier today. The meeting was really positive, and I loved his attitude.
“The way he is already dealing with this injury lets me know that he is going to come back stronger than ever.”
Shumpert can relate to Noel’s agony that left him screaming on the court at Florida before teammates carried him off.
There were six minutes left in the third quarter and the Knicks were down big to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series last spring when Shumpert crossed half court, planted his left foot, dribbled behind his back and crumpled to the floor.
It was diagnosed as a torn ACL and the doctors said that Shumpert would be out the required 6-8 months.
Optimists believed that Shumpert, a 21-year-old rookie at the time, could be back by the beginning of the 2012-13 season. But the Knicks took their time bringing back their second-year defensive stopper. Shumpert didn’t play his first game this season until January 17, over eight and a half months after he crumpled to the floor.
Shumpert is still not the player he was before the injury and has admitted he’s still rounding into shape as a defensive stopper on the perimeter.
“When your mind and body is in different places,” he said recently, “it is hard but I am going to keep working. I am getting adjusted to it.”
If Shumpert’s timeframe is any example for Noel, he could return to the basketball court in early November, although it may take several months after that for him to return to 100 percent.
Whether Noel returns at Kentucky or in the NBA remains to be seen.