Monday, November 22, 2010
Updated: November 23, 10:05 AM ET
Felton may be unfamiliar to former team
By Chris Sheridan
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- When Monday's final scrimmage ended, the New York Knicks ran for the exit door as a unit.
Apparently, it was time for them all to take a deep breath, get every extra second of extra rest they could and take stock of themselves after returning home from their first Western road trip, which concluded with a three-game winning streak after they had previously lost six in a row.
They are clearly a better, more well-oiled machine than they were when they left New York a week ago, and the next two to three weeks will go a long way toward showing whether their positive turn is going to have any permanence.
There is only so much pride you can take from building a three-game win streak against the likes of Sacramento, Golden State (without David Lee) and the Los Angeles Clippers. But in a broader sense, the Knicks are pleased with the way they have acclimated themselves to coach Mike D'Antoni's system in turning the speed up a notch, getting balanced contributions on offense and injecting some level of optimism into a locker room that resembled a funeral parlor just a week ago.
The Knicks scored 118, 113, 125 and 124 points in their four Western games after failing to reach 100 in three of their previous five.
"We just tried to speed it up, that's just what we needed to do," D'Antoni said Monday. "Especially, even when we're in the half court, because it's not a full court kind of thing. It's a rhythm, and we made an effort to do that -- just moving the ball, making quick decisions. We're doing better, we've got a ways to go yet, but it's pretty good."
Tuesday night's home game against Charlotte will mark Raymond Felton's first game against his former team and his former coach, Larry Brown, who may have a hard time recognizing the type of player Felton has started to become in D'Antoni's freewheeling offensive system.
Felton has averaged nearly 16 shot attempts over the past five games, going 7-for-15 from 3-point range over the past two games, though his assist totals have been all over the board and his turnovers are up. Friday night's 35-point, 11-assist performance against Golden State marked the high point of his 14-game Knicks career.
"Guys are getting better at understanding the system. Everybody's getting used to each other," Felton said. "You bring in nine new guys, it's going to take time for you to jell. Unfortunately, we had to drop six before the light bulb finally hit us in our heads."
Felton will return to Charlotte and his former fans on Wednesday as the teams play the second night of a back-to-back, and the Knicks' schedule remains relatively easy over the last couple of days of the month as they close with games against Atlanta, Detroit and New Jersey. December begins with a trip to New Orleans before the Knicks have four more very winnable games against Minnesota, Toronto (twice) and Washington.
If the Knicks go 4-1 over the remainder of November, they're back to being above .500; they were 3-2 before the six-game skid began with a home loss to Philadelphia in which Felton shot just 2-for-11.
Since then, Felton has raised his shooting percentage from .446 to .473 as D'Antoni has told him to be aggressive offensively and take the shots that the defense is giving him.
"Coach Brown was open with me, he let me take shots more than he ever had with other point guards, but at the same time he was a coach who wanted to be in control, and Coach Mike is more of a coach who gives you a little more freedom in the open court to do your thing," Felton said.
"When I was struggling a little bit, I was trying to force the issue. Trying to feed guys instead of just letting things come, trying to make sure I get this guy the ball, or that guy the ball, instead of just taking what's there. I think for the most part I've got that, I'm used to the system now," said Felton, who signed with the Knicks for $7.5 million per year -- more than Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was willing to pay, even though Felton led the Bobcats to their first-ever playoff appearance last season.
If Felton is bitter about his departure, he's hiding it.
"Coach Brown is a coach that really drills you, he wants to be in control of you, he wants to teach you the game of basketball. He teaches the game at a slow pace, but he really makes you think as a point guard, and it made me better," Felton said. "So I can use what he taught me those two years and bring it to this fast pace, and it's only going to make me better."
D'Antoni said all his players will be available, including Amare Stoudemire (twisted left ankle) and Ronny Turiaf (assorted bumps and bruises), who did not scrimmage Monday.
|Point guard Raymond Felton has picked up the pace in Mike D'Antoni's high-octane system.|
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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