With a healthy Raymond Felton, Knicks still within striking distance

Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst

Sometimes in life, you sprint through the finish line and bask in the glory of a graceful and forceful finish.

And other times, you get out to such a huge lead that you can trip, stumble, fall on your face, roll over three times before getting up, dust yourself off and still pull off a win.

Or, in this case, an 89-85 win.

USATSI_7659717_110579513_lowresThat’s what the Knicks did on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. After playing the Detroit Pistons to a 41-all tie through the game’s first 24 minutes, they rode a spirited and engaged third quarter to an eventual win. They nearly gift-wrapped the game for the Pistons, but in the end, Detroit could not get out of its own way and the Knicks, to their credit, did not hang their heads when they themselves failed to execute.

Neither did Raymond Felton.

After missing the past six games, Felton return to action on Tuesday night and turned in a respectable 12-point, six-assist effort. Over the course of the game’s first three quarters, his performance was a microcosm of what he is capable of bringing to a team that has struggled to find consistency from its point guard platoon.

“It’s a new year now,” Felton said after the Knicks third win in four games.

And with that, he and his team will attempt to make the last three months of 2013 a distant memory.

On Tuesday night, all things considered, Felton performed admirably. From getting into the paint, to knocking down an open three-pointer to finding Kenyon Martin for an alley-oop, he showed some of his strengths—at least until the game’s final eight minutes.

After re-entering the game with 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Felton seemed to run out of gas down the stretch and some of the rust from his most recent absence showed. But with him back, for this team, things may be looking up.

With the Pistons surging and the Knicks clinging to a three-point lead, Felton committed two critical turnovers in the game’s final 1:26. Fortunately for the Knicks, the Pistons were unable to capitalize, as Andre Drummond and Charlie Villanueva each split a pair of free-throws before Josh Smith shot an airball on what would have been the game’s go-ahead shot with 9.9 seconds remaining.

Under normal circumstances, a player returning to the lineup after a six-game absence would not play extended minutes, but Felton had to out of necessity. With Beno Udrih held out of the game’s second half, Mike Woodson opted to lean on Felton down the stretch instead of playing rookie Toure’ Murry in the game’s most critical juncture.

“[Felton] played 30 minutes and I thought he was very fatigued coming down the stretch,” Woodson said. “But Beno couldn’t go, his knee was bothering him and that’s why we didn’t play him in the second half.”

“I didn’t feel really comfortable playing Toure’ and putting him in that position in crunch time, so we just have to live with this,” Woodson added. “We’ll give Raymond a little more game shape and go from there.”

Udrih originally tweaked his knee back on January 5 in Dallas and will undergo what he called a precautionary MRI on Wednesday.

How quickly Felton can regain form, though, will go a long way toward helping the Knicks maintain their newfound momentum. Before his fatigue became a factor and especially in the game’s third quarter, the Knicks offense clicked. Anthony benefitted from playing without the ball and the Knicks’ offense opened up when Felton was able to penetrate into the teeth of the Pistons’ interior defense.

Though his play and health have left something to be desired thus far this season, Felton is the Knicks’ best point guard and consistency from him could go a long way toward helping the team dig out of the 12-22 hole in which they find themselves.

After the game, an obviously fatigued Felton took an abnormally long time getting dressed, moving gingerly and sighing often.

“My legs are fine,” Felton said when asked about his six game absence. “I’m just weak, tired and still stick,” he said, sniffling.

The win may help his condition improve, though, and the Knicks will need it to—quickly, as the Miami HEAT will visit Madison Square Garden for the first time this season on Thursday night. A win over the defending champions would indicate that the Knicks have truly turned a corner. If Felton is close to full strength by then, he could obviously play a major role in what could be a big win for the Knicks, who, despite being 10 games below .500, suddenly find themselves just two games out of the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re happy to have [Felton] back,” Anthony said on Tuesday. “The way he can play the pick-and-roll, the way he can get to the paint, create for others, create for the big guys, we can just sit out there, he’ll find us and he trusts us to make shots.”

“He has the ball, he’s the point guard, he facilitates, he gets in the paint and makes things happen for himself, for the bigs and he’s finding us out there on the perimeter.”

In some ways, Anthony’s referring to Felton as the point guard seems self-serving. Though he has clearly been playing a more motivated, all-around brand of basketball over the past four games, Anthony’s greatest attribute remains his scoring. He benefitted from playing off of the ball and off of Felton on Tuesday night, and as Felton’s health improves, so shall his productivity. And so will Anthony’s.

Amazingly, the Knicks are still relevant. Salvaging their season remains within grasp. And with a healthy Felton, more importantly, it remains possible.


Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and, along with Lead Writer Harris Decker, hosts the Knicks Blog Podcast each and every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton

184 comments
Brostoevsky
Brostoevsky

Bargnani was hot in the the 1H. He had (I think) 11 points and was effectively drawing detroit bigs out of huge paint on D. Then he gets 2-3 shots the rest of the way and minimal PT down the stretch - including stretches in 4Q when the team had trouble scoring and on obvious offense-defense sub opportunities in the final minutes.

This is the type of isht that drives me crazy about Mike Woodson. What is up with his substitution patterns? And why am I seeing Bargnani getting no minutes/shots after hot starts? Makes no sense.

bockers
bockers

will Irving really abandon the Cavaliers like LeBron James and head to the Big Apple to NO WAIT STOP RIGHT THERE NO FALSE DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200.

In 2016, Irving will be a resricted free agent. Two things about this situation are relevant:

1. There is no history of a player whose team wanted to retain him coming off his rookie deal failed to do so as a restricted free agent. Even if Irving signs with another team, the Cavs aren't leting him go; they'll just match his offer sheet. Even if he says he doesn't want to stay and he hates Cleveland and "No, no, no, you can't make me," do you really think the Cavs are going to let him walk? They'll keep him and eventually trade him if it comes to that. Of course, he could just sign the qualifying offer instead of entering restricted free agency and become unrestricted, which is likely since no superstar has ever done it.

bockers
bockers

Thibs may become available soon.He is not happy with NO D.Rose and the trade of Deng.I want him for the Knicks.

skoonix
skoonix

Yes, I know Felton was "rusty" but those two turnovers late in the game were awful. It was like he was trying to give away the game. I miss Pablo very much and I feel the offense flows better when Pablo is out there. That being said, of course I want Felton healthy and I am thrilled we have won 3 out of 4.

towlie22
towlie22

 Did no one else notice Melos freeze out of the entire team during the last six minutes of the game as he engaged in his own personal one on one match with Josh Smith, culminating in his iso offensive foul after missing to base lane shots after having held the ball for 10 seconds each time. Does he not realize that if he passed and then shot off the return pass he'd get a much better shot. Made me sick. Unless he commits to Knicks before deadline by signing extension he has to go. Enough of this babying. Finally Woodson has got to stop playing JR Smith in crunch time if he's not playing well. My thinking is that JR is in rehab before the end of the season.

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

The Knicks, winners of three of their past four games, now get to test their newfound mojo against the defending champs at the Garden on Thursday. Anthony did appear to be honestly surprised about the Knicks’ next opponent.

“We've got to face them,” Anthony said. “It is what it is. We can't run from them. I think we're getting better each day.”

brookdon
brookdon

@Al_Iannazzone: Woodson said there's a bug going around the team and only four guys could practice today.

orlando_knickfan
orlando_knickfan

Ian Begley @IanBegley

Woodson said Tyson Chandler will be a game-time decision for tomorrow vs Miami. #Knicks

onewhoknix
onewhoknix

JR Smith Daily Stat:

In the current season JR Smith has shot above 40% in 9 games this season (only 3 games with 50% or higher). He has shot a staggering 39% or less in 19 games. Scoring Efficiency is at a career low but fear not because minutes per game are approaching a career high.

To be fair however JR Smith has been playing through back pains citing 'imaginary stab wounds' by betrayers.  

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

It's always amusing to read the battle between the right track and wrong track posters. What gets lost in dissecting a single game, like last night with the obvious plus of a win and the negative of the poor play down the stretch, is the big picture. With a $92 million payroll for next season and no draft picks, this is the team we will have for the next two years.

What the Knicks needs is a competent basketball man running the operation. Being $30 million over the cap and having traded away your draft picks for the next 4 seasons, should result in something better than a 12-22 team. If your hallmark for success in 2013-14 is to beat out rebuilding teams to make the playoffs, then you need to raise the bar.

lindro88
lindro88

@orlando_knickfan I'm sure GM's are drooling over the prospect of having getting JR on board.  He's on the knucklehead list.  I'd bet more than half the teams in the league wouldn't take JR if they could have him for free. 

Ryan Postal
Ryan Postal

@towlie22 Are you talking about the Melo with 34? The one who was probably told by his coach to go iso at the end of the game? That Melo?

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@towlie22 LOL!...did u notice Melo defensive stop on smith on the other end?  Did you notice his offensive rebounds and 2 free throws to clinch the game?  No..i'm sure u didn't.  Go to sleep.

rgm891
rgm891

@brookdon Some nice 2 vs 2 basketball. Toure Melo vs Shump Tyler haha

brookdon
brookdon

Damn. Ultra flu game in Miami?

ds2488
ds2488

@onewhoknix People don't realize how bad he's been.  He's probably the worst player in the NBA this season.  And with this "coach", I kind of feel it's not all on him because he just shouldn't be playing this many minutes with no limitations on good or bad shots for him.

ds2488
ds2488

@Knicks_Fanatic agreed.  I'm fine with this year and the next not going too well.  As a Knicks fan, if there is one thing I've learned it is to be patient.


Besides for the horrible trading of the 2016 pick for Bargs, this team should be well set up in 2015.  Very little in the way of obligations, combined 11 million for Ray and JR is bad but not killer.  Resign Melo (or don't if he doesn't want to, just get some draft picks back for him), try to hold on to Shump and Timmy, and get a legitimate 2nd and 3rd option in here and we'll be fine imo.


The problem these past couple years has been paying 2/3 of our salary cap to Stat and Tyson.  Once those come off the books along with Bargs we will have a real chance to rebuild and do it properly.

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Knicks_FanaticAmen! Been trying to get fans like us to do this for years.  We all need to raise the bar and stop have low expectations for our teams.  

We all want to see our team win but cheerleading without using common sense or challenging nonsense does not help us achieve that.

akamarb
akamarb

we had a compitent man in DOnnie Wlash ( aka the savior ) and we let him go...who is your idea of a good replacement

ds2488
ds2488

@rgm891 @brookdon Nah.  Toure and Tyler were forced to sit on the bench and watch like usual.  No JR, no Toure.  It was just Melo v. Shump one on one, but wasn't a real game because Woody kept trying to bench Shump after he hit a shot and stopped play several times to scream at Shump.

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@rgm891@brookdonLOL Yep and Woody still have them switching.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@ds2488 

Building by free agency is really difficult. The vast majority of free agent signings turn out to be overpriced. Miami is the exception to the rule and the new CBA makes that just about impossible. If you have Melo, Felton, and JR at $36 million on a total rebuild, you can get one other star player. Then you have to find value in vet minimum players. The odds of that succeeding at quite high against it.

lindro88
lindro88

@xmenreturn @Knicks_Fanatic Nothing any of us do is going to change anything.  If someone wants to be ultra positive, even when it is clear this team is a train wreck, what is the harm.  

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@BiggieSmalls@Knicks_Fanatic 

Given the history of the franchise under Dolan, being well over cap, trading away draft picks, and having a losing record has not led to success. It has been a pattern of competitive failure.

I don't see how the Knicks can leverage their expiring contracts next season into something, all the while maintaining their cap space for 2015 to sign free agents. That is a long shot.

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@BiggieSmalls Dude, Grunwald put on on this track!   While you were out building the GG statue, you didn't even bother to wait for the season to get under way and see some results. 

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@akamarb I don't know how much of a savior he was if he jumped ship when his own creation came back to bite him in the ss....


xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@akamarbYep, we won so much under Donnie!  Can't wait for his name to go up in the rafters!   So much for common sense!

Mr.Boots
Mr.Boots

@ds2488  Probably screamed at Shump for tripping over an untied shoelace.

brookdon
brookdon

I just spit up my food LOL. Good one

rgm891
rgm891

@xmenreturn LMAOOOO that's the only way. I honestly have no idea what Woodson sees while the game goes on. 

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@orlando_knickfan @VerySilentJay 

Then

Don't

B¨tch

About

It

bockers
bockers

@BiggieSmalls We can trade for a super star via S&T.The Bulls traded Deng for Bynum and they are at $72mm.They did not get under the apron.

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@BiggieSmalls Indeed, but until this happens, we really won't know what our capp situation will look like come 2015.

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@ds2488 @Knicks_Fanatic Building through the FA sometimes can be even touger than taking the draft route. Obviously, even if you do clean house, the chances of landing 2 star FA's are extremely slim, for a myriad of reasons. The team's stature, their previous record, how much they like the city, etc.

Not even LA has had too much luck building through FA. They done it through opportunistic trades here and there.

Aside from Miami, I can't remember a FO putting together a championship team through FA.

That said, should the Knicks want to compete in that FA class, they have Amare, TC, and AB coming off the books, leaving them with enough cap to sign a max star and good pieces around them. This, of course, is taking into consideration that Melo stays.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@BiggieSmalls@Knicks_Fanatic@ds2488 

Melo, JR, and Felton will get $36 million, no? If not what will they get? Pablo has a partial guarantee at $290K, THJR is at $1.3 million, and Shump will restricted. I'm assuming the Knicks will not resign him, if they want to sign a max free agent.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@ds2488@Knicks_Fanatic 

The problem with Shump is that he will have to get paid in 2015 and his cap hold/salary will prevent us from offering a max contract. So consider him gone. Hardaway is a fine prospect and will be very reasonable salary wise.

The problem I see with a Melo-Love-Felton-JR-Timmy team is that it will be an absolute disaster defensively. 

ds2488
ds2488

@Knicks_Fanatic @ds2488 By total rebuild and not listing them, do you mean no Shump and Timmy either?


I'd be pretty happy if we could add either a good PG like Kyrie or a good big man like Kevin Love to a core that includes Melo, Shump, and Timmy.  I think you are doing pretty well if for example, you have a Kyrie-Shump-Timmy-Melo-anybody starting lineup with Ray and JR coming off the bench in limited roles and minutes.  That's a solid starting point, add some draft picks and some more role players to that and it could be a very dangerous team imo.

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@BiggieSmalls@Knicks_Fanatic 

So far the teams willing to pay the luxury tax; Nets, Knicks, and Lakers, aren't dominating anything. All three teams are looking to rely on older players with $20 million plus salaries. It is easy to understand how that could be an advantage, but all three teams are run by hands on owners, with little basketball acumen.

Tikki
Tikki

@BiggieSmalls @Knicks_Fanatic  

"In this new CBA teams who can pay the luxury tax bill will be dominant"

Ability to pay luxury tax may be a necessary condition, but Knicks fans know all too well that it is far from sufficient :)

Tikki
Tikki

@Knicks_Fanatic @BiggieSmalls 

And expiring contracts don't have enough value on their own to land very good players.  They need to be packaged with picks/young talent.  If you don't have sufficient picks/talent, you just end up swapping an expiring for a longer contract.  


A GM would have to be very creative (and probably a bit lucky) to significantly upgrade the Knicks situation (maybe swap one expiring for picks, package those picks with Hardaway/Shump and the other expiring contracts,etc.).

bockers
bockers

@Knicks_Fanatic@xmenreturn@akamarb Magoo had no idea as to how to build a team.


1)HIred Pringles.

2)Signed Stat to a 5 year contract $100mm when no other team had interest.We are still paying for this moronic move

4 years later with one more year to go.

3)Traded ZBO and Crawford for no picks nor a player we would keep.

4) Traded David Lee a year too late.The result we get bck garbage for a double double player.

5) drafted Gallo for Pringles (his father played with Pringles).Yet we needed a point guard in that draft.

6)Drafted Jordan Hill with better players available.

At no time did Walsh have a plan for down the road.His plan was to obtain LBJ but he did not do his due diligence.We never needed Stat to get Melo to sign.Melo was signed FEB22,2011 and CP3 was signed 12/15/11.Now that as a partial plan.In the NBA you need a top point guard to go for a chip(the heat are the exception as they have LeBron and

surrounded him with 2 stars and o/s shooters

7)Walsh sent the Knicks' 2012 first-round pick, plus the right to swap first-round picks in 2011, to the Rockets along with Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill in the deal that brought Tracy McGrady to the Knicks.


Mr.Boots
Mr.Boots

@xmenreturn@akamarb Donnie's job wasn't to win, but to get the Knicks under the cap. He even stated that he only hired D'Antoni because he felt that his system would be "entertaining" while the Knicks were going through he de-construction years" and losing. That fact often gets lost in the trashing around here.

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@ds2488 @xmenreturn That cap space you talk about would've gone to sh¨t the minute you had to resign Chandler, Gallo, then Fields.

You see the contracts they have today. Each of them overpaid (except Chandler, thogh he hasn't lived up at all to it, barely played 100 games over 3 years).

His plan was to deliver LBJ, missed out on him, and signed Amare out ofdesperation, hence the contract.

SuperDuper
SuperDuper

@ds2488@xmenreturnabove .500? We was 2 games above .500 when we traded for Melo. Donnie gutted the team for Lebron 2 yrs early. Donnie could had keep some of the pieces, played better basketball and still had money for Lebron. Zach would had been the only contract that wasn't expiring in time for Lebron/Stat. Stat was a horrible contract that nobody came close to matching. Donnie bet against himself and Knicks are suffering because of it. Blame Melo all you want but Stat's contract is the reason we are in the position we are today. We are getting very little out of that contract. Donnie didn't like draft picks as you think he did. He traded a draft pick for McGrady at age WASHED UP.

ds2488
ds2488

@xmenreturn Donnie gets no credit around here and i understand that, but we had I believe the 2nd youngest team in the NBA playing above .500 ball with a lot of remaining cap space and draft picks pre-Melo trade.  That's a very good starting point for any franchise to build from.  


Of course the guy made some idiotic moves like hiring Dantoni and the Jordan Hill draft pick, but he had a legitimate plan that he followed through on that set us up very well in the first place.  Without him, there is no Melo trade.

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Knicks_Fanatic

The problem with a guy like Donnie is that he chose D'Antoni in the first place.  

We were not on any path to succeed prior to Melo with Pringles! 

Donnie was not that good period. As I stated before if the bar set was to have a GM that didn't try to sleep with another MSG executive that looked like Lawrence Taylor,  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

If it was to make us a contender most years, it was a total bust period. 

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

@xmenreturn@akamarb 

The problem is that you get a guy like Donnie Walsh. He starts to build a team for D'Antoni. Before the plan can succeed or fail, that team gets blown up in the Melo deal. Grunwald comes in to build a team around Melo. We have some success playing Melo at the 4. That plan gets blown up to go big. Grunwald gets fired and now we have Mills.

That is not a model for success.