The timing couldn't have been scripted better in a sitcom.
As Raymond Felton discussed Paul Pierce's inflammatory comments about the heightened rivalry between the Knicks and Nets, a young boy, as if on cue, walked by him wearing -- what else? -- a Paul Pierce jersey.
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Felton laughed . . . then sounded off in round 2 of the verbal sparring match.
"Paul Pierce said the Nets are gonna take over the city," the Knicks point guard said with a smirk Sunday. "It's hard for you to take over the city when we've got 'New York' on our chest and you've got 'Brooklyn' on yours. It's been this way since long before he started playing."
Felton fanned a flame initially sparked by Pierce last week when the new Net told Complex magazine that he hates the Knicks "with a passion" and wanted to "start the beef."
Pierce, a longtime Knicks nemesis with the Boston Celtics, was traded to the Nets in July along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. The blockbuster deal has made Brooklyn the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Division title and, in Pierce's estimation, the allegiance of New York fans.
"It's already a rivalry with them, and when you add Pierce and Garnett, that makes it bigger," said Felton, who helped conduct a basketball clinic for 50 kids Sunday at St. John's in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City.
Felton said the trash talk is "all in fun." He took a jab at the Nets last week in Slam magazine, suggesting the expectations for them should be tempered because "they're not going to have the youth that they had last year."
In addition to trading barbs this summer, Felton has traded carbs for protein and salads. "Fish and vegetables," he said. "That's all I really eat now." Felton looks svelte and said he's lost "15, 20 pounds" after playing last season at about 210 pounds.
"It's something we talked about with the training staff, but I also wanted to do it on my own," said Felton, 29, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 assists last season. "It helps me everywhere -- prevents injuries, you're quicker laterally."
Felton lauded the Knicks' additions of Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. He said coach Mike Woodson's recent comments about not yet knowing what his starting lineup will be is reflective only of the number of capable players on this veteran roster.
"I ain't gonna say the windows are closing," Felton said of the Knicks' championship aspirations, "but we have the type of team that should win now."