It would be an exaggeration to say that Raymond Felton has more savvy in his little finger than other players do in their whole bodies, plus it is a sore subject. But you get the idea. Felton has a way of spreading calm and confidence, as well as the ball.
Felton still isn't all the way back from suffering the injury to his right pinkie finger, but he did enough Sunday night to get the Knicks on the way. The spark they had expected with his return Saturday night came Sunday night at the Garden, with the point guard getting a double-double -- 12 points and 10 assists in nearly 38 minutes -- in a 106-104 win over the Hawks.
He had one thing in mind this night: "Be aggressive," Felton said. "For sure, these are big games for us. We wanted to come out aggressive offensively and defensively, get the ball moving."
The veteran got the whole team moving, making his first three shots in the opening 1:56. It was as if he were making a statement that the blowout loss in Philadelphia on his return was just an aberration.
"Those are the shots that he was making early in the year," Mike Woodson said. "He's capable of making those shots, he's capable of putting pressure on the bigs, getting to the rim, just like Teague does. I think he was in a good place early. We're going to need him to be in a good place so we don't have to always depend on Melo to bail us out."
You could say Felton came back just in time, just when his fellow savvy point guard replacement, Jason Kidd, appears to be hurting with back problems. Kidd played only 5:24 Sunday night and scored no points. Woodson again acknowledged that he wore down Kidd by playing him so many minutes while Felton was out.
But that's the way things go. "That's the toughest part and the most beautiful part of being in the NBA. You know you're going to get your opportunities if you're not playing," Steve Novak said, adding that the whole team is pleased to have Felton back. "He's just such a dangerous player out there the way he gets into the paint and causes problems for the defense. I think all the guys on the perimeter benefit when he's out there, and I think that's his greatest strength."
This time, for the first time in a long time, Felton was back in the flow. The flow started with him. "That's what makes this game fun," he said. "You've got to have fun."