On the eve of Raymond Felton's return to Rip City, the 6-1 point guard was amongst his New York Knicks teammates preparing himself mentally before taking on the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City Wednesday night.
The Nuggets are 28-3 at home and winners of their last nine games. Those are some tough odds for Felton and the Knicks to overcome, but the odds of Felton receiving a rousing ovation Thursday night at the Rose Garden are even less probable.
Yet still, Felton is looking forward to catching up with some people.
“I'm excited. I met so many good people in Portland and their fans are great,” Felton said over the phone. “I had fun during my brief time there. It's unfortunate that things didn't go the way we all hoped for.”
The Trail Blazers 2011-12 roster was equipped to be a playoff contending team. Former Trail Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan appeared to have his point guard of the future once the team traded for Felton on draft day. And then the NBA lockout hit.
When it ended, Felton showed up to training camp out of shape, appearing ill prepared. The Trail Blazers finished that year a disappointing 28-38, falling well short of a playoff bid. McMillan was fired at the trade deadline after a 121-79 blowout loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Felton suffered his worst season statistically since his rookie year. He admits that his weight was an issue coming in and he takes full responsibility for it, knowing that the Trail Blazers faithful were not too thrilled with his performances.
“From day one I said I wasn't in the best of shape. I'll own that,” he said. “I should have been better prepared after that lockout. I was disappointed in myself. That's why I wanted to make sure during the offseason to get my body in the best shape possible coming into this season. If fans boo me because of that, I'm fine with that and I will accept it.”
But there's something Felton is not willing to accept. He wants to make it extremely clear that he isn't a coach-killer and that's why he took offense to reports stating he was a cancer and that he and others lead a mutiny against McMillan.
“If they boo me because of those negative articles, they would just be reacting off of the lies,” Felton said. “Everything written about me and coach [McMillan] was wrong. You can talk to any other teams I've been on and ask if I've ever been a problem in the locker room. I never have. I heard they booed Jamal [Crawford], so I know what to expect. But really, we just had a tough season last year.”
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News tweeted out Felton's reaction to going back to Portland Wednesday morning: “Raymond Felton says he has no problem with Portland fans but "certain people there I don’t want to see and better not come near me.”
When CSNNW.com asked him who he was referring to, he responded by saying, “They know who I was talking about. They better not come by me or ask me a question. I've already let people know. You can't put out lies like that and expect me to talk to you. Please.”
Felton has lost 15-20 pounds prior to this season and has put together a bounce-back year. He's the starting point guard on a Knicks' team now sitting third in the Eastern Conference standings with hopes of moving up higher.
Thursday night at the Rose Garden is going to be business as usual for Felton. However, he realizes that unlike any other game this season, every move he makes, every jump-shot he takes, every turnover he makes will have the potential to be showered with laughter and boos.
He's okay with that, he just wants the win.
“I'll be there to get a job done,” Felton said. “I can't worry about what's going to happen. I had fun there in Portland and I have memories and friends that will last forever. I have nothing personal against the fans. They were great.”