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Knicks season preview: Everybody doesn’t love Raymond

They’re over it. You should be too. Despite not landing the biggest prizes of the summer free agent frenzy, the Knicks were universally lauded for their extreme makeover that includes 10 new players.

They’re over it. You should be too.

Despite not landing the biggest prizes of the summer free agent frenzy, the Knicks were universally lauded for their extreme makeover that includes 10 new players.

Raymond Felton was expected to be the second fiddle, making sweet music with Amare Stoudemire just like Steve Nash did in Phoenix for coach Mike D’Antoni. After averaging 12 points and six assists in the Bobcats’ staid system, Felton went offbeat in the preseason, struggling with his shooting, decision-making and defense.

Maybe Felton’s brief Bobcats success and his University of North Carolina pedigree duped everyone. After all, his former coach in Charlotte, Larry Brown, never gets rid of good point guards, especially fellow Tar Heels. This is the same coach who kept Eric Snow around for years but allowed Felton to flee for free.

Brown didn’t see Felton as the next Nash, and to a certain extent neither do the Knicks. But that’s not a bad thing.

“I don’t want to put extra pressure on Raymond,” Stoudemire said. “He works extremely hard at his craft. Raymond’s special in his own different way. We're looking for him to reach his full potential.”

Felton is taking it all in stride for now and not wanting any part of the comparisons to Nash. It takes time to adjust back into his up-tempo high school and UNC roots after playing in Brown’s methodical offense for the past five years.

D’Antoni, who also knows a thing or two about point guards, having coached Nash in Phoenix, isn’t ready to relegate Felton to the bench in favor of Toney Douglas just yet, saying Felton will figure out the balance soon enough.

"We've got to find that medium where Raymond doesn't go too fast," D'Antoni said. "There's a time to push and a time to calm it down. A lot of that is in Raymond's hands. [But] there's an adjustment any time you bring in 10 different guys, different coach, different system and ask him to do something he's not quite ready to do today. I would expect he'll be ready to roll [when the regular season starts, Wednesday]."

This is the season long-suffering Knicks fans have been waiting for – a chance to be a real contender again or at the very least get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. But if the initiator of a D’Antoni offense isn’t effective, things fall apart [see: Duhon, Chris]. The Knicks exercised the option on Douglas’s rookie and the second-year player has shown in scrimmages and pre-season games that he just may be better than Felton.

Perhaps the Knicks had their point guard of the future right under their nose and didn’t need to shell out the $15 million over two years for Felton. Hopefully for all parties involved that Felton turns it around. That way the team will have two viable options at the point. But if not, New York will have the most expensive backup point guard in the league.

“I don't want it to be like Nash and him [Amare] because I’m Raymond,” Felton said. “We’re trying to get our own chemistry together. I got a big man who can catch the ball and finish a lot of ways … something I didn’t really have in Charlotte.”

He didn’t have a consistent winning team there, either. If he kicks it up, maybe Amare can help him change that in New York.

Three reasons to care about this Knicks team

1 They could be playoff bound

Yes, that’s how bad the East is again this season.

For the first time since the 1999 Finals New York will matter again in May and June. (We’ve erased the memory of the 2004 team led by Stephon Marbury that was swept by the Nets in the first round.)

2 Will he stay or will he go?

That’s the question they’re asking in Denver.

If Carmelo actually dons the orange and blue, he’ll be the best pure scorer since Bernard King. A triumvirate of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Felton could be as good as any trio in the East.

3 You never know what you’re gonna get

The promise and anticipation that this new-look roster brings is well worth coming out to the Garden.

There are 10 new players — mostly interchangeable parts — so expect a lot of funky and creative lineups that will create problems for most teams.

 
 
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