Raymond Felton, along with Amar’e Stoudemire, has filled the city of New York back up with basketball excitement as the Knicks are off to one of their most promising starts in years.
Despite a recent six-game losing streak, the Knicks still hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The team’s resurgence is obviously largely due to their new one-two punch.
Though Stoudemire is the true superstar who arrived proclaiming “the Knicks are back,” it’s been Felton who has turned out to be the team’s architect for success.
Exceeding all expectations so far, Felton has been an excellent floor general, having been able to effectively get his teammates involved and score with ease himself almost all season long. His numbers have also seen substantial increases, as Felton is obviously reaping the benefits of playing in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
Though D’Antoni is famous for transforming Steve Nash into an MVP, he is quickly on his way to elevating Felton into an All-Star as well.
Felton has been the type of player who has made his teammates visibly better (Wilson Chandler, for instance) and is also a guy who is never afraid to take the big-time shots.
Prior to the team’s most recent skid, between Felton’s impressive play, the Knicks’ winning ways and the obvious advantage of playing in one of basketball’s biggest markets, one would think Felton could have been a shoe-in to represent the Eastern Conference during the All-Star game.
However, it’s no coincidence that as of late when Felton began to slump, so did his team.
While his 13.8 point average over the Knicks’ six-game losing streak has been similar to his career scoring average prior to arriving in New York, it’s been Felton’s elevated play that has, ironically enough, elevated the Knicks this season.
In order to succeed and compete at such a high level, the Knicks need Felton to be one of the NBA’s better point guards. That’s of course a very tough task to take on, but so far, Felton has aced the test.
However, the Knicks have certainly been struggling amid Felton’s own individual slump. Through the team’s recent slide, Felton has shot less than 31 percent from the field. His clutch play has been key to what has made the Knicks relevant again. At the same token, if his play continues to skid, the Knicks become irrelevant again just as quickly.
And if the Knicks’ success goes down the drain, so will Felton’s chances of making the All-Star team. It’s not a coincidence that the better Felton plays, the better the Knicks do, too.
The Knicks ride and die with none other than Felton, not Stoudemire. Though Stoudemire may be the team’s obvious and natural star, it’s Felton’s presence and extra boost that has made the Knicks a winning squad.
NBA coaches (voters for the All-Star team’s bench) often reward winners, as even players with less than All-Star caliber statistics will make the team, as long as they are influencing their team’s win percentage. In the same respect, it will not matter how well a player is performing if it is not reflected in his team’s record.
Should the Knicks continue to struggle, Felton could be in the same boat as the Warriors’ Monta Ellis (as well as the same boat Ellis’ Warriors teammate and former Knick David Lee was almost in last season).
While Ellis’ individual numbers suggest he is one of the NBA’s best guards this season, his team is still playing poorly (underachieving, perhaps), so it’s likely he will not be recognized for his own fantastic performance.
Last season, Lee, who was having a 20 and 10-ish season for an unimpressive Knicks squad, was also almost left off the team before NBA Commissioner David Stern named him as a replacement for the injured Allen Iverson.
Stoudemire has taken New York by storm with his MVP-type season and is in no way going to be overlooked. In fact, with his team still holding a winning record (and the Knicks in full pursuit of getting their fans to vote with ongoing fantastic campaigns), Stoudemire (and his star persona) may very well be named a starter when the NBA announces its All-Star game starters on Thursday night.
Even if Felton were to break out of his individual slide, it needs to show in the Knicks’ record in order for him to be selected as an All-Star reserve. With the entire city still pumped up, it will be hard to keep the Knicks’ full tandem off the All-Star squad if the men donning orange and blue are winning.
Although Felton has seemingly even more of an impact on the Knicks’ success than Stoudemire, he does not possess that same star persona and/or popularity that Stoudemire has played years to build. Because of this, Felton’s All-Star chances will be weighed against those of Ray Allen (a nine-time all-star) of the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics and Joe Johnson (a four-time all-star) of the Hawks, both of whose teams have better records than the Knicks.
Allen and Johnson obviously have the familiarity and experience factors in their favor, but it is Felton who has the element of shock and surprise in his. The storyline of Felton helping the Knicks rise from the ashes make him a more exciting All-Star selection than the two safer latter choices.
The key to Felton’s All-Star hopes is obviously getting his team back on track. Though slumps are something every team goes through (especially when facing teams like the Spurs and Thunder), it’s time for Felton to rise up again to renew hope that the Knicks are in no way a flop.
With a more successful team will naturally come better statistics and even more recognition for Felton, who still has hopes of joining his partner-in-crime, Amar’e Stoudemire, in Los Angeles for All-Star weekend for the very first time.
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