Raymond Felton: Wrongfully Accused?

Raymond FeltonMuch has been made about the lack of consistency of Portland Trail Blazers point guard Raymond Felton.

If we are going to be objective, the fact is that the great media hype machine took Felton’s legs out from under him before he even stepped off of the plane from Denver.

He was supposed to be a starting caliber, if not elite point guard. He was supposed to push this team to new levels of competition, and be at least partially responsible for making fans forget about Brandon Roy. He was supposed to be “IT”, the piece missing from the Blazer’s and their championship puzzle.

Felton has certainly raised eyebrows and made fans forget about Roy, albeit momentarily, however he is not doing so in the manner envisioned.

Open shots are missing their marks. Passes are soaring away from outstretched finger tips. Teammates are sharing bewildered looks. Coaches are sighing at missed opportunities.

In short, Felton is not living up to the hype. At least not yet.

Give the guy a break. He just got here, and yes, that is a valid point as well as an excuse.

Perhaps many of you could leave Portland, go to another job in another state, and have everything nailed down inside of thirty days, even though most new employees are allotted a ninety-day “probationary” period to learn the ropes, get settled, and show what they can do.

Why then, should Felton only get thirty days?! Let’s keep that in perspective, Felton has been with the team exactly thirty days, receiving his first game action on December 26th when the team opened against Philadelphia.

I know, the time seems to be longer. It doesn’t feel as though it has just been a month since the Blazers opened their season. January is possibly the longest month of the year, simply because of how short December often feels.

Regardless, Felton has still had the same amount of days you have had in the past month, and he is likely doing everything he can do get a good rapport on and off the court with his new teammates.

Those of you who are ready to quit on Felton, or have already, should take a deep breath, watch game film of Rajon Rondo’s 2010-11 season highlights, and then watch his 2007-2008 highlights, and tell me you aren’t excited to see 2011-12 Felton become 2010-11 Rondo. In fact, go find video of 1979-80 Magic Johnson, who took a chunk of the season to figure out how to play professional basketball with a collegiate type of enthusiasm and swagger.

For those of you who think that Felton should be able to step on the court on day one, and by some form of athletics-sorcery understand where his teammates like to setup on each play, how and where each prefers to receive the ball depending on who is guarding them and where they are on the court, and be able to do it at a fast-break pace, well… that sounds wonderful, but so do Rolls Royce’s, and they aren’t exactly handing those out.

I say patience, Portland.

I myself was a bit concerned when the team traded Andre Miller for Felton, as the latter had not exactly proven himself to be a great player at any of his previous three stops in Charlotte, New York, or Denver.

My concern was that the team was trading a solid player for a questionable one. That Miller had a few good years left, and that trading him without a real replacement was gambling. At 11-7 and just 3.5 games out of first place with 48 games remaining, the gamble is actually paying off thus far.

The team is playing faster and harder than they did with Miller. Felton is a younger, quicker version of Miller, and his time as a solid player will come, perhaps even this season.

This is a team in transition, and too much has been made of Felton and his temporary shortcomings. He misses shots, he misses passes, he passes when he should shoot, he shoots when he ought to pass. He does need work, but the good times will come.

It is not my prediction that Felton will become the elite and perhaps arguably the best point guard Rondo has become, however Felton still can be one of the best at the position. Elite in my eyes is top five in the league, and while Felton will have a hard time cracking that list, he can become one of the top ten.

Felton has yet to have that “wow” game, that really puts him on the map, so I say caution to those of you who want him traded, as he realistically does not have the market value that type of move would necessitate.

Conversely he does have just one year on his contract remaining, so if things continue as they are or perhaps worsen, the team will have one less deal to worry about this upcoming offseason when they go after a potentially great free agent class.

At the end of the day, Felton has a lot of work to do, and really has not had a lot of time to get it done. Having barely completed a quarter of the season, shouldn’t we be giving the guy a little more wiggle room?

Is more pressure really the answer? I say no. I say let him get it figured out, and enjoy watching him and LaMarcus become the next Paul-Griffin combo.

Felton does not need to become the best ever. Terry Porter was not the best ever. Felton just needs to get the job done, and with a fair amount of time, he will.

About Arran Gimba