Felton sat courtside Thursday during the Knicks’ summer league game against the Toronto Raptors. It was his first appearance in his second stint with the Knicks, and it came around the same time that , whom the Knicks allowed to leave for the Rockets in favor of Felton, was finishing his introductory news conference in Houston.
When the game was over, Felton spoke as if he had prepared a statement himself — for the fans in Portland and New York, and for members of the news media.
“I’ve been listening to all those people talk about what happened in Portland last year,” he said. “I’m just ready to shut up a lot of people.”
Felton has wanted to return to the Knicks ever since he was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York. But he did not expect these circumstances: to be following Linsanity and returning after the worst season of his career.
Felton and Lin, at least for this season and maybe longer, will be linked. When the Knicks agreed to acquire Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland last weekend, the team told him that he — not Lin — would be the starting point guard.
“I think I’m better than any point guard,” Felton said.
The decision frustrated many Knicks fans who have questioned if Felton could be the same player he was two years ago as the Knicks’ starting point guard. Portland fans were upset with Felton after he showed up last season overweight once the N.B.A. lockout ended. He also struggled under the Trail Blazers’ former coach Nate McMillan, who was fired in March.
“I won’t make any excuses,” Felton said. “I wasn’t in shape.”
At the Cox Pavilion on Thursday, Felton appeared to have lost a good portion of the weight he gained in Portland. Felton would not say how many pounds he shed, but when asked if it was more than 20, he smiled.
“A whole lot,” Felton said. “I’ll leave it at that. I’m ready to play.”
Felton said he had been more motivated than usual this off-season to return to the player who averaged 17.1 points and 9 assists in 54 games with the Knicks in 2010-11.
Felton and Lin have this in common: they have played their best in the up-tempo offense of the former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.
Now, Felton will lead the offense for Coach Mike Woodson, who said just a week ago that Lin would be his starting point guard. Felton said he and Woodson had had good talks, and Felton feels he will be comfortable running Woodson’s system.
Amar’e Stoudemire was one reason Felton had the best season of his career in 2010-11. Stoudemire, who averaged 25.3 points a game that season, sat next to Felton during the second half of the summer league game.
“We developed great chemistry last time,” Stoudemire said. “We did something special the first year I was in New York. Now we have to make sure we continue that.”
Felton emphasized that besides losing weight he had spent much of his off-season training on becoming a better defensive player. His first task in training camp is to make sure his teammates are ready to play defense.
Stoudemire said he was excited to play with Felton again.
“With Raymond, expect him to be a bulldog,” Stoudemire said. “He’s going to play hard and not back down. That’s what we need.”
Felton felt he needed to be back in New York. He also knows he needs to change the conversation about him.
“The fans were great when I was there,” he said. “Hopefully, I get that same love. I’m ready to prove to them I’m the same Raymond Felton from two years ago.”