Sometimes an opportunity to be petty is just too fun to pass up. After all, this is the NBA we’re talking about—a league built on a foundation of endlessly entertaining one upmanship.
Stop it pat lol LA has gave you a platform now but stop it bra bra!— Paul George (@Yg_Trece) March 9, 2019
Last Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Portland, took down the Trail Blazers in overtime, 129-121, and inched closer to earning home-court advantage in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
I was in attendance, along with OSN’s Arran Gimba, Casey Mabbott and Jared Wright, and I too saw the man who remains Portland’s Most Wanted play two whole minutes and get booed as if he’d eaten everyone’s cupcakes in the Moda Center during pregame shootaround.
That man, as you may already know, is Raymond Felton.
*Law & Order sound*
Although it’s true we’re now four days removed from the game itself and the bad vibez should be gone, it’s not always that simple. Not when one of the most hated players in franchise history comes to town.
Although already implied, it’s important to note (ya know, for emphasis and whatnot) that we’re not talking about Russell Westbrook, who famously told Damian Lillard he’d been “whoopin that ass for years” earlier this season. This also isn’t time to hate on Paul George, who landed with OKC instead of Portland two summers ago.
This is about the guy who was supposed to be a younger version of Andre Miller, yet he had one of the worst individual seasons in franchise history during his brief stint with the Blazers.
But context here is key. What Felton did on the court during his solo season* in Portland was cringe-worthy, but it wasn’t just his attitude, out-of-shape conditioning or dribble-off-your-own-foot-in-crunch-time signature move that rubbed fans the wrong way. It was more that the Blazers thought they had finally found their point guard of the future. Miller, who was dealt in the trade for Felton, had become a fan favorite of sorts and had played some quality basketball leading up to his departure. But Portland knew he was always going to be a stop-gap floor general; Felton was supposed to be The One.
*Felton only played 60 games in a Blazers uniform during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, but doesn’t it feel, almost a decade later, as if the Felton-Jamal Crawford dumpster fire of a season lasted, like, eight years? During that one season, the Blazers traded Miller for Felton, signed Crawford, watched Brandon Roy retire, saw LaMarcus Aldridge have heart surgery, put Greg Oden under the knife (during an already lost year) for his third(!) microfracture surgery, ultimately waived the former No. 1 overall pick at the trade deadline, and, oh yeah, also used the deadline to trade Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, not to mention fire head coach and overall good guy Nate McMillan. That was the longest, most eventful shortened season of all time—any Blazers fans can confirm.
As it turns out, Felton was the trainwreck you date immediately before settling down, as was the 2011-12 campaign at large. Felton was someone who convinces you to stop dating and get serious…someone you’ll always remember as your last failed experiment…someone you have to get through to get to your forever point guard person.
Because then, in all his or her glory, enters the love of your life.
Or in the Blazers’ case, enter Damian Lillard.
At this point in their respective careers, Lillard and Felton are on very different levels. If you’re learning this for the first time, you should brush up on your NBA knowledge…or maybe just stop watching altogether.
Comparing the two is completely unfair considering their respective ages and roles this season (not to mention Felton at his best could never hold a candle to D.O.L.L.A. at his worst), but we’re not here to be fair, we’re here to be petty—remember?
If Lillard, who has scored a total of 1,698 points in his 65 games played (26.1PPG), were to go scoreless the rest of the season while playing in those games, he’d finish the year with an average of 20.963 points per game—or roughly 21. Felton, who has scored a total of 114 points in his 24 games played, is posting an average of 4.8 points per contest.
Put in other terms: If Lillard, over the course of the final 16 games, managed to shoot a cool zero percent on, oh, let’s say 100,000,000 shots, he’d still outpace Felton—who would have to keep his same season pace, by the way—in points per game not once, not twice, not thrice, but fourfold.
Just looking at Felton’s game log over the course of the season, there may not be a more useless player in the NBA. It sounds harsh, but during the minutes, he plays he’s not productive, and, quite frankly, there’s no way he’s leading behind the scenes in a meaningful way during the minute’s he’s not seeing.
Felton, 34, isn’t getting any younger and won’t be a contributor in the playoffs barring a significant injury to Oklahoma City’s backcourt. The Blazers are clearly happy with the point guard they’ve had since 2012, and 2011 isn’t even on their minds.
But again … I’m just being petty. And I’m okay with that.