Felton wanted an early start to begin learning Coach Mike Woodson’s offense. Then he interacted with teammates as they came in for voluntary workouts. As much as Felton felt he needed to be here before most of his teammates, he also did it for pride, for a renewed sense of dedication. Last season he was out of shape during the Portland Trail Blazers’ training camp after the lockout ended.
“I’m ready to go,” Felton said Monday at the Knicks’ media day. “I’m definitely happy to be back in the Knicks jersey again.”
The Knicks are also relying on Felton to be more than a solid point guard after they acquired him in a sign-and-trade deal instead of matching Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet from the Houston Rockets.
It is hard to say whether Felton, 28, or the organization is more pleased to be reunited. Felton knows the best days of his career — although a brief 54 games — were with the Knicks, with whom he averaged 17.1 points and 9 assists.
He also admits he has not played the same since he was traded by the Knicks during the 2010-11 season as part of the blockbuster deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York.
The Knicks watched Felton become an All-Star-caliber player during that season, and the organization was saddened that he had to be part of the trade.
Felton said he talked with the Knicks’ owner, James L. Dolan, soon after the trade. When free agency started in July, the two had another chat. “I had a good talk with Mr. Dolan before I signed back here,” he said. “I told him I always wanted to come back.”
Felton has repeatedly said the lockout was no excuse for him starting the season overweight. But in his news conference Monday, Felton acknowledged his plan for the 2011 off-season was a bad one.
“I got really relaxed and complacent,” he said. “I didn’t work as hard because I didn’t think there was going to be a season.”
Woodson, who saw Felton lose more than 20 pounds this summer, said Tuesday that Felton would be his starting point guard.
“I think it’s fantastic, not only for him but for our ball club and the fans here in New York,” Woodson said. “It’s important that he comes in with a chip on his shoulder because we’re going to need him to play at a high level.”
Felton said the offense would push the ball up the court when opportunities were available.
“It’s definitely my job to make sure everyone, including Carmelo and Amar’e, stay happy and that we use their offensive skills to the max,” he said.
Jason Kidd, who will be the primary backup, is helping Felton figure out how to get Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to play well at the same time while also getting other players involved. When Felton was deciding where to play this summer, he said playing with Kidd was a major factor in his return to New York.
“He’s like a role model for me,” Felton said. “I grew up in high school watching Jason. He’s one of my idols, so to spend time with him and learn more of the game from him is going to be big for us.”
Anthony has noticed how much Felton enjoys playing with Kidd. “I see a totally different Raymond right now in just his mind-set and focus,” Anthony said. “For him, any other player could have easily said they didn’t want to come back after being traded. He loved it here and he never wanted to leave here.”
The Knicks know they need a different, more improved Felton to have more success than last season. Long before training camp started, Felton was already at work on changing himself.
The Knicks and Rasheed Wallace are still working a contract that will take Wallace out of retirement. Mike Woodson said he did not know how long it would be before Wallace joins the team. It is expected that Wallace wants the deal — which will probably be one year at $1.7 million — to be guaranteed. “We’re hoping he’s here soon,” Woodson said. “We as a team are waiting to see what we’re going to do.”