Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raymond Felton Looking For Bounce Back Season

Playing for the New York Knicks is something that only a select few individuals get an opportunity to do.  Rarely do players get a chance at multiple runs with the Knicks, but Raymond Felton is a player that has a second chance.

When Raymond Felton signed with the team as a free agent before the 2010-2011 season he was living out a dream of being a Knick.  Felton went on to build a great relationship with newly acquired Amar’e Stoudemire, putting up career high numbers in nearly every statistic, averaging 19 points, nine assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 38.4 minutes per game.  He was becoming the leader of a young Knicks roster looking for leadership, proving to be more than capable of playing Mike D’Antoni’s up temp, fast paced type of basketball.

Felton only played 54 games with the Knicks in his first go-round as he got traded to Denver as part of the blockbuster trade that bought Carmelo Anthony to New York.  Felton was disappointed by the trade and his numbers reflected that as he became a backup to young gun Ty Lawson in Denver.

Following the 2011 playoffs, Felton was again on the move in another three-team trade, this time landing in Portland.  The trade happened before the lockout was put in place and Felton suffered.

Felton struggled mightily in his season in Portland, coming in overweight and out of shape.  His stats plummeted, as his work ethic and conditioning were questioned throughout the season and he was used as a scapegoat for the underachieving Trail Blazers. 

Felton did not seem to be engaged since leaving the Knicks, disappointed that he was traded after showing such willingness to play for the organization and with how well he performed.  New York is where he wanted to be and luckily for him, the Knicks wanted him back as well.

This off-season, Felton was reacquired by the Knicks in a sign-and-trade the Trail Blazers in which the Knicks also landed former Knick Kurt Thomas.  Thomas was quoted as saying, “He’s definitely motivated, he’s definitely excited, he definitely wants to come back to New York. He’s looking forward to this season.”

After hearing about the trade, Carmelo Anthony offered his opinion on Felton, who has been playing against for most of his basketball life.  “He wants to prove everybody wrong,” Anthony said.  “He loves to win.”  That competitiveness is something that Anthony loves about Felton, adding, “When (Felton) was here in New York, they were rolling.  He was having an All-Star year when he was here.  So, to bring him back (to New York is) an extra incentive for him.”

“I am hearing from everybody, ‘He wasn’t in shape last year,’” Felton said.  “I played in the league seven years, about to be eight, came in out of shape one year and that’s all everybody wants to talk about. … I look forward to this year and shutting up everybody’s mouth.”

Felton has a lot to prove this season in New York and is motivated to get it done.  He will be under the microscope and under immense pressure from the start.  The Mecca of basketball is not an easy place to play, but Felton already has experience playing here and knows what winning can do for the fan base

The pressure does not stop there for Felton, as he is the person being asked to replace the sensation that was “Linsanity”.  If Felton struggles at all, the fans will be calling for his head and further question the front office’s decision to let Jeremy Lin walk in favor of Felton.  Replacing Lin is the easy part if you ask Felton himself, as he said that he is a competitor and better player than Lin is. 

Felton has a full plate this season with the Knicks, as the fan base and organization is expecting to take a step forward with him at the helm after what Lin did last season.  Felton will be given the responsibility of running the first team offense, as Felton is expected to be named the starting point guard in a lineup that will also include Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. 

I am a believer in Felton, as the intangibles he brings to table is a great fit for this team.  For one, he runs the pick-and-roll game very well.  The chemistry he developed with Stoudemire his first run with the team will hopefully carry over and turn Stoudemire back into the dominant force that he was and not the shell of himself he looked like at times last season.

Felton also adds another tenacious defender in the backcourt, something the Knicks lacked from the point guard spot.  Felton will take pressure off the big men like Chandler and Marcus Camby because he is not the revolving door at the head of the defense that Lin was last season.  The competitiveness that Anthony was so excited about from Felton really comes out on the defensive end.

Head coach Mike Woodson will look for Felton to be a leader on the court as he has been thrown into one of the toughest situations in the NBA.  Felton has to figure out a way to get both Anthony and Stoudemire playing their best on the offensive end while both on the court, not taking turns with one or the other on the bench.  No other player has seemed to be able to do so yet, but Felton is more than ready for the challenge and he will take it head on to prove everyone wrong about him once again.

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