This is incredibly cruel to fans of the Charlotte Bobcats, because it smacks of the usual nonsense that fandoms outside of major-major-MAJOR markets have to deal with, consistently. That their finest players cannot wait to get out of town, and into a metropolis where parking is something you plan out a decade ahead. That time spent building a franchise or a rebuilding process up from square one is just a stepping stone spent toiling before you move onto another more prominent team that happens to be several squares ahead. That Charlotte doesn't count.
And I'm telling you, as someone who saw the fans fill that stadium 20 years ago, and saw the locals put headbands around statues downtown a decade ago, Charlotte counts.
It was the Bobcats that didn't count. And while Raymond Felton is a professional who should be relied upon to provide spirit and spark 82 games a year, he's also a human who played as if he knew better. And stuck on a middling team with no long-term plan working for coaches who loved to walk it up and call 197 plays per 100 possessions, Ray was stuck.
In New York? He's killing it.
As have the Knicks, who have won five in a row and 10 of 11. New York is currently fifth in the East with a 13-9 record, and while this team doesn't exactly smack of a conference contender, it does have to sit well with Knick fans who have had to deal with unending drama even when the Knicks were championship contenders. Going back to the team's run to the 1999 NBA Finals or especially the Pat Riley-run years, storm and stress was the order of the day for New York.
But not for this club. No, these Knicks just happen to be a pretty good team that is fun to watch. One of a few like it in this league. And something tells me that Knick fans are welcoming the nearly nightly entertainment factor along with its fightin' chance at a win. How the Knicks don't have to be on the tip of everyone's tongue due to behind-scenes machinations or potential for massive re-tooling or front office/coaching switches. How Mike D'Antoni's team is just a team to sit down to root for and (more often than not this season) watch win.
The stats are through the roof, at least in comparison to where that roof was in Charlotte. And while over 18 points and eight assists may sound about right for a guy who is one year closer to his prime, playing big minutes (38 a game) in a fast offense (fourth in possessions per game), trust me, the numbers are great. And he's running things with an effusive style -- going hard even when fatigue is clearly setting in -- that you just didn't see in Charlotte.
Now, everyone gets excited 25 games into your first season running a new team, especially a team like these run and gun Knicks, but something has been unlocked here. If Felton continues with this spirit, his gifts (the on-ball breakdowns, the competent scoring and passing, the quickness, the defense) should sustain a nice little run as New York's latest hope at point guard. Few have been more dismissive of Felton than I, but it needs to be said that this guy is playing his absolute tail off.
And Knick fans, after too long spent hoping, have a real team to come home to. Thank Ray for that.
- Raymond Felton