It’s over. The Raymond Felton story is over. Certainly Ray’s career isn’t over, next season he’ll be back at least one in the Rose Garden, and he’ll be back at least once every season until he decides to retire, but for all intents and purposes, the chapter of Blazer lore that will be titled “The Brief and Terrible Blazer Career of Raymond Felton,” has mercifully come to an end.
I say mercifully because for me the whole thing seemed a bit overblown and mostly just silly. It’s fitting, though, that something that was all bluster and no real action would come to a close in the manner it did on Thursday.
Felton, who warned about some people, you know who they are, being advised not to come around him or ask him any questions, ducked reporters to start the game, managed only 11 of the 50 points he promised to score, and refused to answer one question post game in a relatively feeble stand against the local media he claimed to have propagated lies against him.
For the part of the media, the crowd to talk to Felton both pre-game and post game lent the kind of weight to what is really a non-story (in the opinion of this writer Raymond Felton was terrible last year but he was far from the only thing wrong with the 2011-12 Blazers) that can only lead to the pissing contest that this whole thing devolved into.
The Raymond Felton situation was always a chicken or the egg type thing. Which came first, Ray’s hatred for the local media or the local media’s hatred/obsession with Ray? Either way, it shouldn’t matter anymore. The physically beaten and depleted Knicks toyed with and abused Meyers Leonard in the first quarter of Thursday’s game to build a double-digit lead, and then spent the remaining three quarters falling apart.
Ray Felton was pretty much a non-factor, Damian Lillard was phenomenal, Portland won going away. If Felton talks about his beef with Portland writers when the Knicks are in town in 2013-14, he’ll be trying to re-start a fight he’s already lost (by a lot). If local writers continue to fixate on Felton after today, they are guilty of trolling or inciting a guy to act out in the hoops of driving traffic (a kin to the cardinal sin of journalism creating news on which to then report).
Blazer fans aren’t off the hook either. If they boo Felton for the next 48 minutes he plays in Portland, they’ll be living in the past.
Booing ALL NIGHT was impressive, caring so much about a guy who played 60 games as a Blazer is understandable in this market, writing articles that toe the line of acceptability to get people to read and comment makes sense (journalism is a business after all), and talking a bunch of smack to anybody who will listen about how well you are going to play against your old can be expected (NBA players are all ego, that’s how they got to be where they are).
But it’s over now. It’s time to move forward.
Moving forward’s not so bad, though. Damian Lillard continues to be amazing. LaMarcus Aldridge has started to find a very solid balance between his inside game and his outside game. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews have evolved into floor stretchers while also improving on the ball. Eric Maynor is an x-factor. There is a team here that can win. There is a core with this group that, combined with maybe one or two additional pieces, can compete with the top teams in the Western Conference. Raymond Felton isn’t a part of that, how he feels about it shouldn’t matter, and how bad last season was is pretty irrelevant.
Lillard led the Blazers in scoring Thursday night, proving once again that the national stage is where he likes to excel the most. LaMarcus Aldridge collected 22 points on 15 shots. Nicolas Batum was shooting the ball again, finishing with a +24, second only to Lillard’s game-high +25. And as a team, Portland figured out how to play defense on the fly for one of the first times all season.
Through 12 minutes, the Knicks tuned up the Blazers’ interior defense, racing out to 30 points in the game’s opening frame. A huge percentage of those points came from simple pick and roll action run by two guys in their late 39s against another guy in his early 20s. But the 30 New York hung on Portland in the opening quarter weren’t enough to overcome an 11-point scoring difference in favor of the Blazers in quarter number two and a 13-point difference also in favor of the home team in quarter number three.
New York made a push to get back into the action in Thursday’s final 12 minutes. The Knicks cut the lead to under 10 in the fourth, but big threes from Lillard and Batum helped the home team maintain their edge and close out the evening.
Head coach Terry Stotts said in his post-game presser that he told his team to keep pushing the pace and keep trying to score even as New York made their expected run. It was the up-tempo play that got Portland the lead, and it was the up-tempo play that sealed the deal.
Certainly the bulk of Thursday’s game reports focused on Raymond Felton, and the curious nature of his time here (this recap included). That’s fine. A scene’s a a scene. Hopefully what doesn’t go unnoticed is that with fewer than 20 games left, the Blazers have reached 30 wins (a decent number to be sure) and given the circumstances being faced by other teams in the Western Conference, there is still an OUTSIDE shot at the post season.
By the end of next week, we’ll know how Portland’s season is going to finish. Until then, let’s agree that this team is fun to watch, can win games, and has a bright future. Three things that can’t be said about Raymond Felton. Let’s also agree that that’s the last time we’ll mention him.
Portland closes out this home stand Saturday against the Detroit Pistons.
One quick thing:
- Will Barton tried to draw a foul on former Blazer Kurt Thomas during the second quarter of Thursday’s game. KT, who has made a living drawing charges, drew a charge. Thomas was drafted in 1995. Will Barton was BORN in 1991. When I asked Barton after the game if he knew when Thomas was drafted, he said it was probably before he was born. When I told him that he was born but he was about four years old, Barton was impressed. The NBA is an interesting place, the most interesting part about it is that Kurt Thomas has been playing in the league for almost as many years as Will Barton has been alive. Somewhere there is a four year old picking up a basketball for the first time. With a little luck, that kid might one day try to draw a foul against Will Barton in a NBA regular season game.