Raymond Felton played his best basketball as a Knick two seasons ago. Back in New York, Felton is out to prove he will be better, the Knicks will have their best season in more than a decade and no one will miss Jeremy Lin.
"They knew what I did the last time I was here," Felton said. "Now it's about me just going out there and showing I can do it again.
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"Jeremy's gone. He's in Houston now. That's a lost cause. He's not coming back. It's my team. I'm the point guard. Me and [Jason] Kidd, so Jeremy Lin is in Houston. Only time he comes back is when he plays against us."
Felton, 28, will run the Knicks' offense again when they open the regular season tomorrow night against the Heat. That was hard to foresee after Felton went to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and more so after Lin's play for the Knicks last year.
But after the Rockets changed their initial terms and gave Lin a three-year, $25.1 million deal, the Knicks chose not to match the offer sheet. They worked out a sign-and-trade with Portland and put the ball back in Felton's hands.
Felton averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists in 54 games with the Knicks in 2010-11, and had tremendous chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire. Felton returns "hungry" to prove that is the norm and what happened last year in Portland the exception.
Believing the lockout would cancel the season, Felton admitted he was out of shape last year. He averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 assists and heard all the criticism. Felton came into his second Knicks' camp in shape and motivated.
"I think a lot of people just forgot my body of work, and I just want to get that back out there again," Felton said. "I got a chip on my shoulder and I think we got a good enough team to win it. We got a good enough team to go all the way and win everything. I feel like everybody should be focused and hungry and try to get to that goal, and that's what I want to do."
In the small visitor's locker room inside Syracuse's Carrier Dome, Anthony couldn't help but overhear Felton and nodded in agreement. It's a good sign that Felton's teammates already are listening to him and following their point guard's lead. There is some question as to whether the less-proven Lin would command the players' respect.
The veteran-laden Knicks, who haven't won a playoff series since 2000, needed a tough-minded point guard to run the team, manage egos and try to finally make Anthony and Stoudemire click. Felton plans to do that when Stoudemire returns from a knee injury.
It's clear Felton already has his influential teammates' respect.
"We could tell that he has a sense of urgency and he wants to regain his spot," Anthony said. "For him to come back to New York after being traded and still have that look in his eye and want to make something happen and get something done and lead this team, we definitely endorse that."
Tyson Chandler played one season with Felton in Charlotte and believes he's driven to have a "special" year.
"Ray's a tough dude," Chandler said. "He's at the point where he's in a good situation to succeed and he wants to succeed. You want a guy like that who's been through adversity and has something to prove running your ship."
"I thought he found his niche the first time here," Woodson said. "On both ends of the floor he was doing everything that was asked of him. Now he's back. He has sense of urgency. He's trying to find that old feeling again because he was pretty successful the first time."
Felton plans to show he and the Knicks will be better this time, and no one in New York will be longing for Lin.