Coming off the lockout last season, Raymond Felton admittedly came into training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers overweight and out of shape. The result was one of his poorest statistical efforts in his seven seasons as an NBA point guard.
Since the Knicks officially acquired Felton for the second time on Monday via sign-and-trade with Portland, there has been a lot of talk about Felton’s weight and conditioning.
The former University of North Carolina star made his first public comments since the trade on Thursday when he went on MSG with Mike Breen and Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier during a Knicks’ NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas.
Given the opportunity, Felton let it be known exactly how he feels about the people doubting his ability after a poor season when he wasn’t in great shape.
“I look forward to this year, to shutting up everybody’s mouth,” Felton said. “I’m the first one to say I wasn’t in shape. I’m not making no excuses, I’m not blaming anybody else. That’s all I’m hearing from everybody. I played in the league seven years, about to be eight and that’s all anybody wanna talk about. They don’t talk about what you did good, they only talk about when you do something bad. At this level, you gotta take the good with the bad.”
Those are strong words from an established veteran and a player that had his best days as a professional with the Knicks during the 2010-11 season before he was shipped off to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade.
In 54 games with New York that season, Felton averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game, while flourishing with Amar’e Stoudemire in pick-and-roll situations as well as pushing the ball up the floor under then-head coach Mike D’Antoni.
As Felton prepares for his second tour of duty as a Knick, he understands he is walking into a very different situation under head coach Mike Woodson as opposed to the one he left almost 19 months ago under D’Antoni.
Woodson’s offensive game plan will likely be isolation-heavy with the ball in Anthony’s hands a lot, but no NBA offense would be complete without a healthy dose of pick-and-rolls, and that is where Felton will come in as he hopes to rekindle the chemistry he once had with Stoudemire.
In the end, Felton has more pieces to work with now than he did in 2010-11 on both sides of the ball. Anthony is one of the top scoring threats in the NBA, while Stoudemire remains a double-double threat most nights when he is healthy.
Felton will also have Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby clogging the middle on defense, and it doesn’t hurt that he’ll be learning a thing or two from free agent acquisition Jason Kidd.
“Screen-and-roll is screen-and-roll, every team still runs that and that’s what me and Amar’e was good at,” Felton said. “And then as a point guard, I don’t think coach Woodson would be against me pushing the ball up and down the court, which is what I’m strong at. If we don’t have a shot, we got one of the best one-on-one players in the league with ‘Melo and then you have Amar’e also who can play one-on-one. Just to have two options out there, it’s gonna make my job easier as a point guard.”
For his career, Felton is averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 assists, but is coming off a career-low 11.4 points and 6.5 assists in 60 games with the Trail Blazers. He views his brief stint in the Pacific Northwest as unacceptable by his standards and he seems intent on reminding everyone how effective he can be.
“I’m in shape, I’m ready to play right now,” Felton said. “I still got a lot more things I wanna do and workout, but I have two months to do that. I jumped on it early because I’m the type of person that you give something you wanna talk about, I’m gonna change that.”