Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Updated: December 1, 11:49 AM ET
Can Knicks nix Nash comparisons?
By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK -- For Raymond Felton, the comparisons between him and Steve Nash had been as unflattering as they were unwelcome.
This was the stuff you were hearing: Nash was a better pick-and-roll passer with Amare Stoudemire than Felton. Nash always knew the right time to feed Stoudemire with a lob pass for a dunk; Felton didn't. Nash was a master of the 40-foot lead bounce pass that always seemed to catch Stoudemire in full stride, whereas Felton did not appear to have that play in his repertoire.
Well, the comparisons became a little less valid Tuesday night in what was easily the best two-man tandem game Felton and Stoudemire have played all season, a 111-100 New York Knicks victory over the New Jersey Nets. The pair led the Knicks to a win that put them above .500 (10-9) at the latest point in a season since January 2005, when Lenny Wilkens was the coach and the roster included Bruno Sundov, Vin Baker, Moochie Norris and Michael Sweetney.
Long time ago, eh?
"Me and Amare are just getting more comfortable with each other, just taking the flow of the offense," Felton said after scoring 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting with 10 assists for his sixth double-double of the season and his third in the past four games.
Four of Felton's assists came on passes to Stoudemire, who scored 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting two nights after going for 37 in a double-overtime victory over Detroit.
Those are the type of numbers Stoudemire used to put up regularly in Phoenix when he was teamed with Nash. Stoudemire now has scored 20 or more points in nine of the Knicks' past 10 games -- seven of which have been victories.
"No, man, don't compare me to Steve Nash," Felton said. "Steve Nash is a great point guard who did what he did and who's still doing what he's doing. So I don't want to be compared to nobody. I want to be Raymond Felton, not Steve Nash. I'm Raymond Felton, my own person."
Felton broke this one open after Nets point guard Devin Harris was landed on by teammate Kris Humphries as they both went up to contest a fast-break opportunity at the rim. (Harris said he had an injured meniscus in his knee, the seriousness of which will not be known until he undergoes an MRI). The score was 67-65 Knicks at that point, and Felton followed with a short jumper, a steal, a finger roll and an alley-oop pass to Stoudemire in a span of 40 seconds to turn it into a 10-point game.
From there, the Knicks cruised with a major lift from Wilson Chandler, who started at power forward as Ronny Turiaf (sore knee) missed another game. Chandler held his own against the bigger, stronger Nets power forwards in producing 27 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 8-for-10 from 2-point range and 8-for-8 at the line, where the Knicks went 25-for-29 to help make up for their 4-for-19 3-point shooting.
New York, which has gone 7-4 on the road, improved its dismal home record to 3-5.
Felton also had seven rebounds, three steals and a block for the Knicks, who finally will face a legitimately tough opponent Friday when they travel to New Orleans to play the Hornets. There, Felton will be measured against Chris Paul, the man who would replace him as New York's starting point guard if what was toasted to at Carmelo Anthony's wedding (a grouping of Paul, Anthony and Stoudemire) ever came to fruition.
But with the way Felton has been improving, Knicks fans might start looking at Felton as a keeper instead of spending an inordinate amount of time wondering whether Nash, Paul or Deron Williams will someday end up running the point in New York.
"I'm not ever going to compare the two. It's not fair to either one of them; they have different games," coach Mike D'Antoni said of Nash and Felton. "But both of them are terrific leaders and winners. And again, we'll see where we can go. We know what Steve has done, MVP two years -- no one can touch that. But Raymond has his own way to win a game."
Over the first three weeks of the season, the lack of chemistry between Felton and Stoudemire was glaring at times. They were averaging about two successful pick-and-roll plays every three games, and more often than not the best playmaking between the two came when Stoudemire was the passer and Felton was the cutter and scorer.
Now, a more traditional point guard-big man dynamic is evolving.
"I think he's getting comfortable with what we're doing, we're getting better spacing. With Amare, there's a timing between the two that they kind of have to develop, and you never know if they will or they have," D'Antoni said. "But I think they keep getting better, and with Raymond we can show him on film what he's missing and what's out there, and then he picks it up and puts it in his game."
|Raymond Felton scored 21 points and dished out 10 assists in the Knicks' win over the Nets. |
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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