By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Raymond Felton‘s recruitment of former teammate Carmelo Anthony to join him in Dallas apparently fell on deaf ears. One must wonder if yet another Felton attempt to solicit belief in a fresh start will, too.
“I just have to show everybody that I’ve still got it, I still can play,” Felton said on a conference call with Dallas reporters Tuesday. “I still can play the game at this level. I still play as an elite point guard at this level. That’s just all. When you come off a season like I had last year, there’s always a point where you’ve got to prove yourself coming back the next season. And trust me, I look forward to it.”
It’s the second time in three years the point guard is coming off an awful season. He showed up for his first season in Portland after the 2011 lockout out of shape and never rounded into form. He quickly became the butt of pudgy point-guard jokes and the poster child for players who relaxed for too long during the work stoppage. He and was basically run out of town.
The Knicks brought him back in 2012 and Felton made similar pleas about fresh starts and being motivated. But his second season in New York was a disaster on and off the court. His divorce was recently finalized and in June he reached a plea deal to avoid jail time stemming from gun charges. In February, Felton’s then-estranged wife alleged he threatened her with a loaded, semi-automatic handgun.
“I was just fighting with a lot of injuries, and I was fighting with a lot of mental stuff off the court, but like I said earlier, I don’t make any excuses,” Felton said. “Last season was all my fault. It was nobody else’s but mine. I take the blame for it totally. Like I said, I look forward to this year. I’m putting all that behind me last year. I’m looking forward to this year with the Mavs.”
Dallas is putting as positive a spin as possible on the potential for Felton taking over as the starting point guard. It’s not as though he was their hand-picked choice. They badly wanted back center Tyson Chandler, their fiery, defensive anchor during the 2011 championship season, but to get him in last month’s trade, Knicks president Phil Jackson foisted Felton upon them to complete the deal.
“He’s an enthusiastic, high-energy, aggressive type of guy and I know he’s going to be extremely motivated,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’ve known him for many years and I’ve had positive experiences working with him and watching him play. He’s going to have a terrific year.”
The Mavs surrendered popular and steady veteran point guard Jose Calderon, speedy point guard and 2013 first-round draft pick Shane Larkin, starting center Samuel Dalembert, shooting guard Wayne Ellington and two second-round draft picks.
Since Jason Kidd left after the 2011-12 season, Dallas has burned through backcourt combos. The tandem of Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo was a bust in 2012-13, while Calderon and Monta Ellis, with Devin Harris off the bench, worked pretty well last season.
Harris this week agreed to a three-year deal to stay in Dallas, and will likely back up Felton, who last season averaged a career-low 9.7 points and 5.6 assists. That duo enters as one the worst shooting point-guard combos in the Western Conference. Felton shot 39.5 percent from the floor (31.8 percent from beyond the arc) last year and Harris shot a career-worst 37.8 (30.7 percent from 3).
Although Felton, who turned 30 last month, hasn’t escaped the body-image jokes, he denied that conditioning was an issue for him last season. He said at this point of the summer, his physical conditioning is as good as it has been in the last five years.
He is owed $3.8 million this season and has a player option for next season at $3.95 million.
“I’ve got a lot of things that motivate me this summer,” Felton said. “I’m just really getting after it, just working extra, extra hard. I’m not really doing anything different, just doing it more and working at it harder.”
It’s just not the first time Felton has had to make such claims.