Raymond Felton knows it's all about the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
Why? Well, one big reason for it can be summed up in two words: Jason Kidd.
At the Knicks' media day on Monday, Felton referred to Jason Kidd as a "father figure" (via the Twitter of Newsday's Al Iannazzone). Clearly, Felton has a great deal of reverence for the future Hall of Famer who is now his teammate.
Even though Felton is a seven-year veteran of the NBA, he knows he can learn a wealth of knowledge from his elder counterpart. After all, when Kidd was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1994, Felton had just celebrated his 10th birthday.
When Kidd was signed by the Knicks this offseason, it was assumed that he would act as the mentor to Jeremy Lin. After Houston offered the free agent a ton of money and the Knicks refused to match their offer, it appeared they had signed an aging veteran in for no reason.
But then they brought Felton back to New York. With him, the Knicks get a familiar face who is more than competent at the point.
And they have paired him up with a wily pro who offers great leadership to his teammates. But Kidd's experience will be especially valuable to Felton.
Having won a championship in 2011, Kidd can speak to the glory of fulfilling such a long-held goal. Players like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will be all too eager to listen, especially to a man who has 146 playoff games and three appearances in the NBA Finals to his credit.
Felton will likely be the starter at the point and Kidd the backup, but they could also share the court, especially with Ronnie Brewer missing most of the preseason with a knee injury and Iman Shumpert rehabbing his own knee until January.
Pablo Prigioni, the 35-year-old rookie from Argentina, is also in the mix at the point, so the Knicks have a host of options in the backcourt.
But most importantly, in Felton and Kidd, the Knicks will have consistency and stability at the point, something that was sorely lacking last year.
Felton has already shown glimpses that he possesses the selfless wisdom of a veteran. Last season, after the Trail Blazers beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City in an early-season contest, Felton criticized opposing point guard Russell Westbrook for playing without the proper team mentality (via Yahoo! Sports):
That's the type of guy he is, that's his mindset, that's how he plays…He's always in a one-on-one battle with all the point guards. I'm not really into that. I'm into winning. If you win, everybody gets the praises. We are not wearing "Felton" on the front of our jerseys; it says "Blazers." I care about the Blazers winning.
Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers did not have a very strong squad last year, so they did not get to do much winning, but Felton's mentality is correct. In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, "You play to win the game!"
Individual stats count for naught if you're on the losing side. Kidd's guidance will only hone this team-first mindset in Felton and strengthen his ability to run the offense.
Felton already sounded confident and prepared to run the point when he was interviewed by HOOPSWORLD at the Las Vegas Summer League.
This selfless approach seems to be spreading on the Knicks under Mike Woodson, and it shows why Felton was such a good acquisition.
Even Carmelo Anthony, who has repeatedly been accused of being a selfish player, said he's willing to sacrifice his offensive stats with the goal of helping the team win. At New York's media day, he stated (per Newsday's Al Iannazzone):
At the end of the day it's about winning basketball games. I'm done trying to score 30, 35, 40 points for us to win a basketball game. I don't want that role anymore. It's what I do best. But in order for this team to be successful with the guys that we have we need a more well-rounded team. So if I have to sacrifice on the offensive end I'm willing to do it.
This Knicks appear to be entering training camp with a reformed mentality. They're focused on team success and winning.
And that success will begin with with the point guard distributing effectively and running a balanced offense. While Felton is fully capable of doing so, he joins the Knicks with a lot to prove.
Following a disappointing season in Portland, he stated, "I'm in shape now, ready to go and I've got a big, big chip on my shoulder. So I look forward to this season and I'm definitely happy to be back in this New York Knicks jersey" (via Ian Begley of ESPN New York ).
Felton admitted that he was out of shape last year in Portland, when the NBA lockout caused much uncertainty about whether there would even be a season and cost the league the majority of its training camp.
But Felton looks ready to prove his doubters wrong this year. He participated in voluntary workouts with Jason Kidd and others in Greenburgh, NY prior to the start of training camp.
Multiple sources at the workouts confirmed that Felton "looks great," and appears to be ready to return to the All-Star form that Knicks fans saw in 2010 (per Ian Begley of ESPN New York).
That year, Felton teamed with Stoudemire for an electric start to the season. Amar'e set a Knicks franchise record with nine consecutive 30-point games. Their coach, Mike D'Antoni, called their pick-and-roll "unguardable" (via Newsday's Alan Hahn).
Felton posted the best numbers of his career, averaging 17.1 points, nine assists and 1.8 steals per game. He even shot 86.7 percent from the free-throw line.
While it's true that Mike Woodson's scheme will be drastically different from D'Antoni's—more down tempo and defense-oriented—Felton should find himself right at home.
Felton is poised to have the best season of his career. He will be enthralled to find a fine supporting cast around him—the most talented roster he's ever played on.
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And he will be passing to familiar faces besides Amar'e. Felton played in Charlotte with Tyson Chandler in 2009-10 and with Marcus Camby in Portland last season. He even played with J.R. Smith in Denver following the Melo trade.
Felton has not yet experienced much team success in the NBA. He was drafted in 2005 by the Charlotte Bobcats. His rookie season was only the Bobcats' second year in existence, as Charlotte was awarded an expansion franchise after the Hornets were relocated from North Carolina to New Orleans in 2002.
Felton suffered through four losing seasons as the Bobcats lurched to records of 26-56, 33-49, 32-50 and 35-47. His first taste of the playoffs came in 2010, as Charlotte snagged the seventh seed with a 44-38 record under coach Larry Brown. They were promptly swept in the first round by Orlando.
Felton seemed invigorated when playing with the Knicks in 2010-11. Finally on a competitive team in a big-market environment, he attained new heights in New York.
After the blockbuster that sent Melo to New York and Felton to Denver, his numbers declined sharply, and though the Nuggets made it to the playoffs that year, they were eliminated in five games by the Thunder.
Last year in Portland, the Blazers limped to a 28-38 record, finishing eight games out of the playoff hunt.
The Knicks not only hope to make the playoffs, but will be aiming for a high enough seed to guarantee home-court advantage through the second round. If they can secure a top-four seed and manage to win a playoff series for the first time since 2000, Felton will be a huge part of that success.
Felton offers a perfect balance of youth and experience at the point. Between his ardent desire to prove that his first 54 games with New York were no fluke and the sapient guidance he will receive from Kidd, the Knicks have found just the right man for the job.