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Thursday, December 27, 2012
Opening Tip: Without Felton, what's next?

By Jared Zwerling

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: How will the Knicks cope without Raymond Felton?

Four to six weeks. That's how long the Knicks' starting point guard could be sidelined if surgery is required to fix his broken right pinkie.

Just as the team was close to mostly having everyone back -- Marcus Camby just returned and Amar'e Stoudemire is expected next week -- it now has to deal with the loss of Felton.

So what does that mean? Here are four main things the Knicks need more of:

J-KIDD: The biggest positive is the Knicks still have Jason Kidd, who single-handedly beat the Suns' youth Wednesday night, finishing with 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. The future Hall of Famer simply knows how to run a team, make plays and motivate his guys. Even at 39, he's brought constant energy and effort like an eager rookie. That attitude has helped the team build quick leads at the start of quarters.

Consider Thursday's game against Phoenix. Soon after tipoff, Kidd hit a 3-pointer and then found Kurt Thomas for two jump shots. Then, at the start of the third quarter, he made his mark on the Knicks' first five plays as they built their biggest lead of the game, 57-44. He had a 3-pointer, layup, another 3 and then assists to Tyson Chandler and James White.

SCORING CONSISTENCY: When Kidd is on the bench, the Knicks struggle to produce points. Therefore, without Felton, maintaining consistency from the first to second unit is even more critical. Against the Suns, Pablo Prigioni only finished with five points and three assists, and he's going to be needed more with Felton out. How Prigioni sets the tempo is something to watch. The Knicks have been playing well defensively with him, but not scoring as much.

PICK-AND-ROLLS: While Kidd and Prigioni both excel in the pick-and-roll, can they develop chemistry with Chandler? Late last week, Felton and Chandler were leading the league in alley-oop finishes with 25. Against the Suns, the center scored more on his own -- he hit two rare jump shots -- but his offensive bread-and-butter is capitalizing as the roll man.

A good chunk of the Knicks' early success came from Chandler's threat off screens. That enabled the team to have better spacing on the court, but since Felton has gotten hurt and started shooting poorly, defenses are collapsing further on Chandler. As a result, Smith and Carmelo Anthony have had to carry the load in isolation. But that won't always cut it.

SET STARTING FIVE: One other key question is this: What's going to be the starting five? Woodson needs to solidify it soon so guys can adjust to their new roles. Now that Felton is out, Stoudemire may get a harder look because the Knicks will need more up-front offense. Not only is Felton's 15.8 points per game gone, but Ronnie Brewer has been nonexistent. If Stoudemire can provide a lift with his jump shot and post-up game -- allowing Prigioni, Smith, Novak Copeland and eventually Iman Shumpert to thrive off the bench -- that could be a strong mix.

How will the Knicks cope without Felton? Leave us your comments below.

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