New York Knicks: PG Raymond Felton Will Have His Pick of Pick-and-Rolls

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

They ran an 'unguardable' pick-and-roll together under Mike D'Antoni. They will now do it under Mike Woodson.
They ran an 'unguardable' pick-and-roll together under Mike D'Antoni. They will now do it under Mike Woodson.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Raymond Felton is the point guard for the New York Knicks once again, and it's a welcome change of scenery. 

Felton did not have a very good season in Portland last year.

His agent, Tony Dutt, conceded that Felton showed up overweight to the Trail Blazers' training camp last season. According to Nate Taylor of the New York Times, Dutt cited "the uncertainty produced by last year’s lockout, which delayed the season for nearly two months and left players wondering when, and if, they would get back on the court."

Felton certainly looks slimmer coming into this season, and he sounded determined to bounce back in his return with the Knicks when interviewed by HOOPSWORLD at the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League.

But the extra weight wasn't the only problem. Felton's play was uninspired on a squad in Portland that managed only a 28-38 record.

As Zach Lowe of put it: "Felton was terrible in Portland last season, shooting bricks and coughing up an almost-unbelievable number of crunch-time turnovers with dribbles off his foot."

While that may be putting it a bit harshly, the Knicks are certainly hoping that they traded for the player they had for most of 2010-11, and not last year's version.

Before Felton was traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony bonanza in February of 2011, he and Amar'e Stoudemire had found an excellent chemistry running the pick-and-roll. In fact, coach Mike D'Antoni called it "unguardable" (h/t Newsday).

It was clear last year that Stoudemire was not the same player in 2011-12 as he was in 2010-11. Partly this was due to so much of the offense coming through Carmelo Anthony's isolation play. But in D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense (h/t New York Times), Stoudemire may eventually have been run into the ground.

At one point early in the 2010-11 season while playing with Felton, Stoudemire recorded nine consecutive 30-point games, a franchise record. That offense, which relied so heavily on their marquee free agent, indeed seemed to pile up considerable wear and tear on Amar'e's legs and back, making him look more like a 39-year-old than a 29-year old for most of the 2011-12 season.

It wasn't until late March that Stoudemire seemed to regain his exuberance and energy on offense, as noted by Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York.

Under new head coach Mike Woodson, Stoudemire doesn't have to race up and down the court nearly as much. He also did not have as many opportunities on the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler on the court, as observed by ESPN New York's Ian Begley.

But that may be a good thing, as fewer minutes and offensive chances may help to keep Stoudemire fresh over an 82-game schedule. Stoudemire will also spend two weeks in August—and $100,000—working with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon, most likely learning "The Dream's" legendary post-up game (per Yahoo! Sports, via the Twitter account of MSG's Alan Hahn).

As pointed out by ESPN's Ernest Tolden, the Knicks also relied less on the pick-and-roll with Jeremy Lin on the court. Now that Lin is in Houston, Raymond Felton will be running the point, with proven veteran and future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd commanding the second unit. Stoudemire should benefit from the return of a point guard that combined with him on offense for Nash-like results.

Stoudemire can also get more rest with both Chandler and newly signed center Marcus Camby shouldering the load at center. If the Knicks can figure out their spacing with Felton at the point, Stoudemire may be able to regain his "unguardable" form on offense while still preserving himself physically.

Felton will also be pairing up with a former teammate in Tyson Chandler. They spent the 2009-10 season together with the Charlotte Bobcats and now find greener pastures together at MSG.

Passing to Chandler is practically a sure thing. He led the league in field goal percentage last year (67.9 percent), which was also the third highest mark in league history behind only Wilt Chamberlain's two best seasons (per New York Times).

Felton may also be able to benefit from the acquisition of Marcus Camby, as they played 40 games together last year in Portland and are both happy to be back in New York. Camby called it a "great situation" to come back to MSG when interviewed by internet radio show Hard2Guard (h/t ESPN New York).

With Felton and Camby back in New York, and Jason Kidd around to mentor Felton, Mike Woodson's team may be able to harness the potent pick-and-roll again while still playing stout defense, instead of racing up and down the court at breakneck speed.

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