All anybody really needs to know about Raymond Felton is that in the middle of one of the most miserable seasons of his career, he laid the blame for his struggles elsewhere.
For all the debate over whether the New York Knicks should match Jeremy Lin's offer sheet from the Houston Rockets and keep him in Manhattan, the idea that the Knicks seem to consider Felton a suitable replacement is just as unbelievable. Felton, who enjoyed a breakout campaign in New York two years ago, is a massive downgrade from Lin for what he represents on the court and off it.
Felton was a welcome story two years ago after he signed with the Knicks as a free agent and bloomed into a borderline All-Star by averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game. His stock rose so high, he was a significant piece in the three-team midseason trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York.
After a so-so stint with the Denver Nuggets, Felton was shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers last summer, and nothing went right after that. His production plummeted to 11.4 points and 6.5 assists per game and his turnovers reached a career-high 3.2 per 36 minutes, which is a deceivingly low number since Felton never made a creative pass or initiated the offense in a way that would have risked a turnover, anyway. As his season spiraled downward with the Blazers and Lin's star rose in New York, Felton did a very un-Lin-like thing and blamed his coach for his struggles.
"I know I'm struggling, but it's hard to perform the way you know how when you know they don't have confidence in you," Felton told CSNNW. "Never in my days playing basketball have I felt like a coach wasn't confident in my abilities. It's hard to play knowing that. Coming in and out of games is throwing my rhythm off, but it's something that I'll get through."
Felton's comments about Blazers coach Nate McMillan may have been more than fair. McMillan is notoriously tough on point guards, and veteran floor general Andre Miller made comments to the same effect in 2009, shortly he arrived in Portland.
The difference between the two point guards' handling of their situations could not have been more stark, however. Miller persevered, scored 52 points in a regular season game midway through his first season with the Blazers, and eventually became a locker room leader and fan favorite. Felton went deeper into his funk, although his numbers did begin to trend back upward toward the end of the season in April.
This aspect of Felton's struggle-filled season, much more than his overall numbers, is why it is puzzling that the Knicks would consider even the reported three-year, $10 million deal a worthwhile expenditure. Felton is five years older than Lin with a career arc that is unlikely to ever reach All-Star levels again, whereas Lin could turn out to be just that, not to mention to extensive international publicity Lin brings to whichever team employs him.
The sticking point, though, is how Lin dealt with a lifetime of doubters compared to how Felton handled his own minor bout with adversity. Lin strived against great odds, while Felton externalized his problems. As the song says about New York, if Lin can make it there, he can make it anywhere. Felton, meanwhile, could not even make it in Portland or Denver, although finding who was at fault there depends on who you ask.
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