Raymond Felton to play for Knicks in Miami, says he won't be distraction
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As Raymond Felton rejoined his Knicks teammates Wednesday for the first time since his early-morning arrest on gun charges Tuesday, he promised that his legal problems won't have any effect on their uphill climb to make the playoffs.
Felton met with reporters briefly after practice in a room away from the court. He declined to comment "about what's going on off the court with me," thanked his family, friends and teammates "for their support in this situation," and said his focus is on the remainder of the season. He declined to answer questions.
"This is not a distraction to this team," Felton said. " . . . I'm here to concentrate on this team, finish this season out with the New York Knicks and see what happens, man. Try to make it to the playoffs."
For Felton, being back on the court, if only for a practice, was a welcome return after spending much of Tuesday in police custody awaiting his arraignment.
According to court documents, Felton was arrested early Tuesday morning -- hours after the Knicks lost to Dallas at Madison Square Garden -- after an unidentified complainant brought a loaded, high-powered semiautomatic handgun to police Monday night. Law enforcement sources have said the complainant was Felton's estranged wife, Ariane Raymondo-Felton.
Felton was charged with one count of felony third-degree criminal possession and one felony count of criminal weapons possession and was released after posting $25,000 bail. His next court date is June 2.
Felton's estranged wife decided to tell police about her husband's handgun because she believed he might use it to hurt himself, said a law enforcement official familiar with the weapons case against Felton.
Felton was having problems and his wife told detectives that during one discussion he said words to the effect that "life was not worth living." Felton didn't act suicidal and did not threaten her with the weapon, Raymondo-Felton told police, said the source, who asked not to be identified.
Felton's attorney, Jim Walden, said Wednesday night the Knicks guard is in a good frame of mind. "I have spent plenty of time with Ray and his loving family over the past two days, and I can say this with absolute certainty: He is grounded, focused, and strong -- and the only damage he is looking to do is to his opponents on the basketball court," he said.
The charges Felton faces were beefed up recently under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act passed in January 2013 in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The changes in those laws will likely make it harder for Felton's attorneys to try to plea-bargain down to a misdemeanor level, said Brooklyn defense attorney and former Nassau County prosecutor James DiPietro, who is not involved in the case. Felton could face a maximum of 7 years in prison on the third-degree charge but is not exposed to any minimum term, DiPietro said.
Coach Mike Woodson on Wednesday pledged his support for Felton, saying he will play Thursday night against the Heat. The idea of sitting Felton, even for only a game or two, never came up in their discussions, Woodson said.
"We just wanted to get him back to the team and around people that love him," Woodson said, "and try to get him back on track and get ready to play."
Woodson said he spoke with Felton late Tuesday night and came away from that conversation confident that his point guard is "committed and focused" on basketball.
"I don't know a whole lot about what happened, the situation he's going through," Woodson said, "but at the end of the day he's a part of the New York Knick family, and I'm going to support him."
It's already been a disappointing season on the court for Felton. Now in the second season of a three-year, $10-million deal, he was slowed by a hamstring injury early in the season. He has faced lingering questions about whether he's out of shape, and his play has been inconsistent at best.
Felton's name was included in reports of trade discussions in the days leading up to the trade deadline last week. He also said at the time that he was dealing with "personal stuff" he didn't want to address publicly.
"All I know is Raymond is still with us and I'm on Raymond's side in trying to make sure he's doing the necessary things to play basketball," Woodson said, "and I'll continue to do that."
According to Tyson Chandler, Felton has the support of his teammates, too. Chandler said he learned of Felton's arrest when he awoke Tuesday morning and checked his phone. He said he did not speak to Felton about his situation before or during practiceWednesdayNotes & quotes: Carmelo Anthony was not at practice because of personal reasons, but the Knicks said their leading scorer would be back for Thursday night's game . . . ESPN.com reported that the Grizzlies claimed Beno Udrih off waivers. He was released Monday by the Knicks.
With Anthony M. DeStefano. The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.