Carrying a Big Chip, Felton to Start at Point Guard for Knicks

Adam Zagoria

GREENBURGH, N.Y.The man expected to start at point guard for the Knicks in their season opener Nov. 1 against the Brooklyn Nets is carrying a big chip on his shoulder.

Raymond Felton says he’s carrying that chip because of the “negative talk” about his season last year in Portland when he  admittedly reported to training camp out of shape because he was “caught off guard” by the end of the NBA lockout. He averaged a career-low 11.4 points to go with 6.5 assists.

“It wasn’t a terrible season,” Felton, 28, said Tuesday. “I still averaged decent numbers last year, didn’t shoot it that bad. Just the fact that I came in out of shape one year out of seven and everybody want to talk about that. But you know it’s all good. That’s the big chip about, just the negativity that I had talked about last year, just to come back and prove that I’m still that same point guard from before, before the Portland year.”

The Knicks let Jeremy Lin go to the Houston Rockets during the summer and opted to obtain Felton in a sign-and-trade to run the point. After Felton lost more than 20 pounds during the offseason, head coach Mike Woodson says he will be the starter at point guard ahead of 39-year-old Jason Kidd.

“Raymond will probably be the starting point guard right now,” Woodson said. “He’s going to get first crack at it. He’s had opportunities over the years to run teams, he’s done a great job at it. And at the end of the day, it’s still about team. I don’t think anybody else on this team is going to care who starts, but Raymond will probably be our starter.”

Felton, who won an NCAA championship at North Carolina in 2005, enjoyed success in his first tenure with the Knicks during the 2010-11 season, averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 assists.

He says he’s much closer now to being that player than the one he was last year in Portland.

“It’s a big difference [from last year],” Felton said. “I was out of shape. This year I’m in shape and my body’s great, my body’s good. Last year was a big difference, I was out of shape last year.”

Woodson left the door open that Kidd, or someone else, could close games even if Felton is the starter.

“What can I say?” said Felton, who added that he considers Kidd a “role model” whom he grew up watching. “If he decides to go with me one night at the end of the game, decides to go with Jason, I’m all about winning. It’s whatever it takes.

“I’m excited about this season. I’m excited about this team. He might sit Amar’e [Stoudemire] down the last minutes because somebody else might be playing better. He might sit Melo down because somebody else is playing better at the time. That’s the type of team we have, we have a very deep team.”

For his part, Kidd, a six-time All-NBA selection, said he’s fine with coming off the bench, but feels ready to “play a lot of minutes,” too.

“I’m in the best shape probably in the last five years, so I feel great,” Kidd said. “And if I had to play a lot of minutes I could do that.”

Felton said it’s not weird that he may be taking the starting job from a guy in Kidd who is a role model.

“He’s played, what 17, 18 years?” Felton said. “It’s like a cycle. At some point, somebody’s going to come in and do the same thing to me and I’m just lucky to have him here and to learn from him and to pick his brain.”

While Woodson is looking at starting Ronnie Brewer or J.R. Smith at the two, he could also opt to play Felton and Kidd together, with Kidd playing off the ball.

“Oh, I think we could be good,” Kidd said. “I’ve played the two. I’ve guarded the bigger guards in Dallas when I had J.J. [Barea] and the smaller goods, so it’s not anything new. So we could be effective.”

Felton agrees.

“You got two guys on the court that can pass the ball, they could create and could score if they need to,” Felton said, “so I could see coach doing that a lot.”

Mostly, though, the guy with the huge chip on his shoulder seems glad to have another shot to win in New York after being dealt in the Carmelo Anthony trade in February 2011.

“My motivation is I’m happy to be back here,” Felton said. “Everything is a business. There wasn’t no hard feelings when I left here, when we got traded. I had a good talk with Mr. [Jim] Dolan before I signed back here and I told him I always wanted to come back here.”

WALLACE NOT YET SIGNED

Rasheed Wallace has not yet signed with the Knicks, but is expected to sign a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum of $1.7 million. He was in the building but did not participate in practice Tuesday.

“We’re hoping he’s here soon,” Woodson said. “We as a team are waiting to see what we’re going to do.”

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