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Raymond Felton is really the man who can revive New York basketball

Oct 20, 2010, 12:34 PM EDT

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The Knicks are back.

Massive billboards in Times Square proclaim it, so it must be true.

And it would be good for the league, in the same way it is good for baseball to have the Yankees in the playoffs. New York is good for the league.

Amar’e Stoudemire has brought his high-flying dunks and amazing athleticism to New York to save Knicks basketball from the wandering in the desert, which is what recent seasons felt like.

Plus Knicks fans are falling in love with Timofey Mozgov as part of that revival. Knicks fans feel like they are finally getting a quality player everyone overlooked, as opposed to an overpaid player nobody wanted.

Then there are rumors of another savior — Carmelo Anthony — forcing his way out of Denver to New York. A forward who can light up the scoreboard with a 3-pointer or a post move. An elite scorer (although that can be up for debate) who would certainly change the future of the Knicks.

There’s a lot of hype about the saviors of the Knicks.

But as often happens with the trendiest restaurants and newest Broadway shows — the hype in New York has got it wrong.

If the Knicks are turning it around this season, it will be Raymond Felton who does it.

Stoudemire was a force in Phoenix, but he had Steve Nash feeding him the ball. Right now Carmelo has Chauncey Billups at the point taking pressure off him, and before that Allen Iverson taking shots away from him. Both of those amazing forwards have only known success with a strong point guard.

In the Mike D’Antoni system the point guard is king. And last season Chris Duhon didn’t wear the crown well, so the Knicks spent $7 million to bring in Felton to run the show. This was the less-discussed, less-hyped change that really will determine how the Knicks will play.

And on one level it made some sense — last season Felton was far better in transition offense than Duhon. In transition, Duhon shot 36.6 percent, Felton 66.4 percent. Duhon turned the ball over on 17 percent of his fastbreak opportunities, Felton 12 percent. Felton was also better in shooting percentage, points per possession and lower turnovers as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll last season than Duhon.

He was the man who could make it work.

Except that so far he hasn’t.

Through much of the preseason, Felton looked lost and unsure. He has looked a little heavy and slow. He has shot just 34.9 percent. Toney Douglas has outplayed him and has fans wondering if the backup shooting guard was really better off as the starting point guard.

Frankly, Felton has looked like the Felton from two and three years ago. The one that historically is no better than Duhon. Felton’s play has further fueled Knicks fans’ obsession with Chris Paul, but that doesn’t solve the now.

This has to be the biggest concerns for the Knicks — Stoudemire and Mozgov provide a good front line, and both are very good as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. Both can run the floor. There are some good shooters and role players on the roster. But that only works well if they have a point guard that can really set everyone up, who reads the floor well coming off a pick or can spot the lob coming on a fast break.

Maybe Tuesday Felton started to turn the corner, scoring 13 points and dishing out 11 assists against the Nets. (Of course, Douglas had 24 points and six steals, but don’t tell anyone). Also, no matter how he shoots, Felton is a better defender than Duhon — he fights over picks, doesn’t just sag under every single one.

Knicks fans had better hope the corner is turned. Go to church and light a candle, meditate on it, do whatever it is you do to bring good vibes to a situation.

Because for all the billboards and hype, it is Raymond Felton that is the savior of Knicks basketball. This year, anyway.

  1. richmondboy - Oct 20, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Although i share your thoughts about felton’s poor offensive play lately, calling him a “savior” is a bit of a stretch. Yes Amar’e had Steve Nash for the majority of his successful seasons, but lets not forget he won rookie of the year with Stephon Marbury and the following year (once Steph was traded to NYK) Amar’e produced very well with Leandro Barbosa as his point. So lets not overstate the value of having an All-time great point guard available for Amar’e to be successful.

    Now back to Raymond, sure his offensive numbers leave much to be desired. However, the one area many in the media, including you, fail to point out is Felton’s stellar defense. Its a running joke whenever someone mentions defense in the same sentence with either the Knicks or Mike Dantoni. but its clear this season there is at least a real effort to play it. Not to mention the athleticism and players skilled enough to do so. Duhon was TERRIBLE on the defensive front last season, Felton not so much. In fact if you look he ranks in the top 10 among defensive point guards last season. Combine that with the continued progress of DWTDD (as you mentioned above) we now have a very aggressive and competent defensive backcourt. One Knicks fans haven’t seen since the years of Ward & Starks. Amar’e savior sure, Melo? hopefully, hell even Danilo could get that moniker without too much criticism. But Felton? C’mon Son

  2. nbadork - Oct 20, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Solid point about Amare in his earlier years and I couldn’t agree with you more about the defensive toughness that Felton brings. Douglas and Felton will be getting a lot of run together and the pressure they bring is going to create a ton of fast break points. I’m excited for it all. Knick fans have an odd feel this season. Deep down we know that the current team right now will not be among the top 5 in the east and we will more than likley be fighting for the 8 spot. It’s a new feel and a new vibe. It’s like the guy who hasn’t had sex in forever, and then all of a sudden he gets a girl friend and he thinks its the greatest thing of all time because hes finally having sex. It may not be the greatest and the girl might not have a rack and maybe webbed toes, but it’s all good to him.

  3. knightstrafe - Oct 21, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    If Felton can settle in, go on a diet and get his game on par with last season, I’m tempted to say the knicks would be better off without Carmelo. Felton and Douglas would do until the Knicks could make a push for CP3 and the money could be better spent on a sharpshooter or a lockdown D SF in the mold of Artest who can limit other teams scoring while the Knicks pick and roll goes to work.

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