Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Did We Ever Doubt Ray Felton?

There are a handful of agreed-upon superstars in today’s NBA. In ESPN’s somewhat scientific poll, Lebron, Durant, Dwight, CP3, D-Rose, Kobe, Kevin Love, D-Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams reflect a preseason Top-10, the chosen few players expected to be great. Essays will be written to laud or deride these men, commercial time is a given, and Christmas basketball will rearrange their holiday plans. And the other 300+ players in the NBA are mere planets in this Q-rating based solar system.

To that end, Raymond Felton is the planet Pluto – a dwarf (6’0”) far off in the distance (Charlotte? Portland?), questioned constantly to verify its Solar System status (is Ray going to be fat this year?). In college, they said he ran too fast. In the NBA, they say he runs too slow. Alan Shipnuck of SI once dubbed Ray Felton “the survivor” – and that was before he was undermined in Charlotte, dealt by New York after winning its heart, and left for the buzzards in Portland.
But as the world turns, we find the same old Ray: hungry, passionate, determined. Before his injury, Ray was averaging a neat 16-6, was responsible for 32% of the team’s FG’s when he’s on the floor, and is 11th in the league in the infamous assist/TO ratio category (among players with over 150 assists), even with a bum thumb. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Ray Felton blasting Maino’s “Hi Hater” from his locker before practice.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

Ray Felton’s had a winning pedigree since his high school days. He won two state titles in South Carolina and got the call from Coach Roy Williams. Roy showed him the Carolina baby blues, and Ray showed him what the championship crystal basketball looks like up close.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?
Chris Paul had the Demon Deacons on a yo-yo – his team won 3/4ths of the games he played in – so the Paul name got all the love in ACC country and all the eyes on the draft boards. Even though Ray had just won his team a NCAA title, he was considered Paul’s inferior. Experts said he could only play in fifth gear, Coach Roy blamed it on the system, but the damage was done. Ray (#5) got picked right after Paul (#4) in the 2005 NBA Draft, for an expansion team desperate to recreate Tobacco Road a few hours west down I-85.

Ray rewarded his employers with a sensational rookie season, with top-4 honors among freshmen in PPG (11.9) and APG (5.6), all while playing the entire year out of position (SG). Thanks Brevin Knight.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

When the “ship be sinking” in West North Carolina in 2008, Carolina Jordan called Carolina Brown out of retirement to save the ship. Larry overlooked Ray Felton – a fellow baby blue blood – to draft the quicksilver University of Texas guard D.J. Augustin. In response, Ray tipped his cap to the haters, started 161 of 164 regular season games, got his 3-point stroke to 38%, and led his team to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

For this feat, Ray Felton was greeted with his walking papers. Although Felton was bought by the Knicks as their consolation prize in the Lebron James sweepstakes, Ray made the Big Apple his NBA show case. Thanks to Ray, Amare Stoudemire heard chants of “MVP!” during his charity stripe visits, and thanks to Amare, Ray found himself in pole position for NBA All-Star honors. After 50 games, Amare & Ray were the 4th highest scoring tandem in the NBA, behind 5 of our 6 current day superstars.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

Ray was rewarded with a one-way trip to the Rockies, playing out his first Knick year on the island of misfit toys. The Nuggets were the best NBA 2K team money could buy – if only teams could win championships in virtual reality. Ray played second fiddle to the beloved Andre Miller, sulked his way to the Rose Garden, and admittedly ate his way out of favor with the press. It was clear: Ray missed his Knicks.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

Just when it all looked grim for Raymond Bernard Felton Jr., Linsanity crumbled. Mr. Harvard got himself a sweet back-loaded payday from Daryl Morey and his Rockettes, so the Knicks moved ahead with the Felton remarriage. And while Knick fans mourned the loss of Lin, Raymond began to drop the baby fat. And the rest is simple calculus.

Why did we ever doubt this dude?

They say two months are too small of a sample size. They also say that it only takes about 21 days to form a habit. Guess Ray Felton’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. But Ray Felton doesn’t mind all that much. He’ll just wave hello to the haters, and keep on proving them wrong.

Let them talk.

Mike Benjamin is a Knicks fan living in territory annexed by the Brooklyn Nets. He’s always got the itch for some good baked macaroni and cheese. Get at him on Twitter: @MBauthor.

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