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

3 Comments

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.

Dirk Nowitzki on Mavericks sexual harassment allegations: “It’s very disappointing. It’s heartbreaking.”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dirk Nowitzki is the face of the Dallas Mavericks franchise, the best player in Dallas history, the future Hall of Famer who led them to a title.

Nowitzki was not named in the bombshell story detailing sexual harassment in the Mavericks’ workplace, nor were any of the players, coaching staff, or basketball operations people. It was all on the business side of the house. That doesn’t mean Nowitzki wasn’t going to be asked about it, as was done by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“It’s tough,” Nowitzki said after the team practiced at USC in advance of a Friday game against the Lakers. “It’s very disappointing. It’s heartbreaking. I’m glad it’s all coming out. I was disgusted when I read the article, obviously, as everybody was. I was shocked about some of the stuff.”

“So really, really disappointed that our franchise, that my franchise, that stuff like that was going on,” Nowitzki said. “It’s very sad and disappointing. But I think [Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban] is trying to step up and lead this franchise to the right direction, and that is hiring investigators, finding out all the little details that we have to know as a franchise what really was going on. I think Mark is going to step up here …

“As a franchise, obviously, we feel bad for the victims and for what happened to some of these ladies. Like I said, it’s truly, truly disgusting. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with some of these victims.”

That’s exactly what Nowitzki (and the other players) should say. We are all disgusted having read what was going on, and clearly since the misconduct started with a former CEO it sets a tone for the organization that this is acceptable. It is not.

There would be no reason that Nowitzki and other players would have or should have had any idea what was going on over on the business side of the Mavericks organization. Mark Cuban on the other hand… there are still questions to answer, even if he is saying and doing the right things now.

LeBron James on 1-16 playoff seeding: ‘Let’s not get too crazy’

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
4 Comments

The NBA’s first newly formatted All-Star game went well (especially for LeBron James). It’ll probably go even better next year when the All-Star draft is televised.

Adam Silver also discussed breaking from another tradition – playoffs divided by conference. The NBA commissioner said 1-16 seeding has gotten “serious attention” from the league office.

LeBron, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“I would disagree with that,” James said Wednesday afternoon following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first practice since the break. “I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.”

“It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs. You have Eastern Conference and you have Western Conference. You have Eastern Conference champions, you have guys from the Eastern Conference that win the big dance and sometimes you have it from the West as well.”

LeBron has won seven straight Eastern Conference titles, usually traversing an easier road to the NBA Finals than the Western Conference champion. With the West projecting to remain better for the foreseeable future, does this hint LeBron plans to stay East and wants to keep his advantage? Remaining with the Cavaliers seems slightly more likely now, though maybe LeBron will leave for the 76ers or some other Eastern Conference team. I doubt he knows yet, but I also think he cares about his conference-title streak for legacy reasons – to the point it could affect his free agency. So, this could be preemptive lobbying.

In the past, LeBron has had Silver’s ear. But Silver specifically said in Los Angeles he wasn’t concerned with the tradition issues LeBron raises.

I’m not either.

The NBA has always split the postseason by East and West, but teams have been too fluid between the conferences to feel beholden to the current setup. Current Eastern Conference teams Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic have all been in the Western Conference while in their current locations. And vice versa with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. (The New Orleans Hornets were in the Eastern Conference before they became the Pelicans and surrendered their history to Charlotte, and the Pelicans are now in the West.)

To Silver, the obstacle is travel. Concern is frequently raised about the possible effects of cross-coast playoff series.

I’m more concerned about the regular season.

Right now, teams play 52 intra-conference and 30 inter-conference. To most logically implement 1-16 seeding, the NBA would have to balance the regular-season schedule. That not only means more travel, it means more awkward start times due to time-zone difference. East Coast fans don’t want to stay up until 10 p.m. to watch their favorite team tip off during Western Conference road trips. West Coast fans don’t want to rush home from work or school to see their favorite team tip off at 4 p.m. during Eastern Conference road trips.

And then there’s the biggest and maybe only real issue: It’s virtually impossible to see enough Eastern Conference owners, who benefit from the current format, voting to change it.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

1 Comment

Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Leave a comment

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.