It was around this time last year when Jeremy Lin New York Knick jerseys were being stowed away and Raymond Felton fat jokes were littering message boards all across the web. While the initial frustration with Felton replacing the global phenomenon known as “Linsanity” was targeted more towards James Dolan than it did Felton, clearly it was something that irked him. There were some ups and quite a few downs, but by the time the season was over, he put together a solid rebound from the worst year of his career in Portland. The numbers were a far cry from his previous Knicks stint in which he posted near All-Star numbers (17.1 ppg and 9 apg), got the best out of Amar’e Stoudemire, and was a well sought after fantasy steal; but the dynamic of the team has changed a lot since those pre-Carmelo Anthony days, so expecting that kind of production again was foolish. Yes, we all remember those cringe-worthy moments when he seemed to think he was the Knicks’ first offensive option, but it was during the playoffs where he really played his best. Well, actually, at least during the Boston series. It was then where he reminded Knicks fans why his contract was a rare healthy one in a sea of overpaid point guards that, yes, we now know includes Jeremy Lin.
We know that Raymond Felton has been very vocal about being a team captain in the run up to training camp, which is a positive development in light of Jason Kidd’s departure. We also know that coming into training camp Felton’s shed 10-15lbs (according to the man himself) and has never looked better. You see? He really did hear all of our fat jokes. Coach Woodson’s Knicks are always going to be a team with the ball in Melo’s hands, so the starting point guard position is a bit marginalized from what it is on a Chris Paul- or Derrick Rose-dominated team. This doesn’t mean it’s not an important position, and Felton is perfectly functional for what is needed: a ball handler that can work the pick and roll with Tyson Chandler and still be an offensive threat that can bail the Knicks out of a “going nowhere” possession. His stocky frame also makes him pretty effective when driving to the basket, and that can present a lot of trouble for undersized guards defending him.
What We’ll Need
We all know Felton can be inconsistent with his shooting but when he scores over 15, what usually followed is a Knicks win (26 games including the playoffs). This isn’t to suggest he should be shooting more, but it does reveal how much of an important player he can actually be. What the Knicks will need from him is to continue to be the hard nosed guard he’s always been, but to be more efficient with his shot and passing decisions. Bargnani presents a huge offensive weapon for the Knicks to use when ‘Melo is being double-teamed, and its going to be up to Felton to move the ball around better than what he did last season: 5.5 apg, a career low. A big part of that could be mastering the pick and roll with both Tyson Chandler and Amar’e. Just think about how far the Knicks can go if Felton can get a healthy Amar’e going again.
What We Can Expect
I like the leadership quotes coming from Felton and am overjoyed to see him take his conditioning seriously. It proves his head is in the right place and I think it will translate into having a very productive year. He doesn’t have to raise his scoring to do so, but he is going to have to improve his assists numbers, something he’ll have ample opportunity to do. With recent trade rumors that featured high profile point guard names such as Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, perhaps Felton’s Linsanity-envy has taken on a new form this year. Having something to prove is always a good thing, especially when it’s coming from a player that just doesn’t feel that way in a contract year. Knick fans should show their support to our team’s Rodney Dangerfield and give a little respect to our starting point guard. In fact, if you are one of those New Yorkers who stowed away your Lin jersey, which must be a lot, I’d go even further and replace it with Felton’s. It’s not that crazy of an idea since Felton actually seems to respond well to the energy of the Garden.