A Rejuvenated Raymond Felton

Could a rejuvenated Raymond Felton make a difference for the Dallas Mavericks this season?

Growing up in the state of Kentucky, I was destined to be a University of Kentucky basketball fan, but it was a different shade of blue that my heart leaned to. Much like anyone, it depends on how you grow up around sports that determines your sports loyalties.

My father is a die-hard NBA guy, with college basketball being a very far off second. Like most NBA fans in the 90’s, Michael Jordan reigned in our household. We had cardboard stand-ups, we had all the different Jordan jerseys, and we still to this day have every televised Michael Jordan game recorded on VHS.

After watching thousands of hours of Michael Jordan growing up, I couldn’t help but to notice this baby blue and white jersey he had on during his college highlight reels. I would watch his shot against Georgetown and see him outside of his normal red Bulls jersey and wonder who that team was. It was then, that my heart began to turn Tar Heel blue.

Most of you could care less about my college basketball loyalties, but when it comes to writing about one of my favorite Tar Heels who brought a title to Chapel Hill, it changes the game. Raymond Felton will always be a North Carolina Tar Heel.

After spending a couple of struggling years in New York with both on-court and off-court issues, Felton found himself being shipped to the Mavericks as a throw-in part of the Tyson Chandler trade that brought Chandler back to Dallas.

Mar 22, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Raymond Felton (2) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 98-92. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Felton immediately found himself at the end of the bench carrying a decent annual salary that netted him around four million a year. Felton, through battling health and lack of performance, found himself not even dressing most nights of the season. But his professionalism was untouched.

Even amongst all the trade speculation of the Mavs trying to dump him off or flat-out stretch his contract out, Felton remained motivated and continued his professional demeanor as he proved to the Dallas Mavericks organization the person he really is.

It was April 10, 2015 and the Mavs were up in Denver to play the Nuggets. Due to Carlisle benching the starters, Felton found his number being called and he deliver he did.

Double overtime. Mavs down by one. Felton isolation with under 10 seconds to go. Felton uses his patent quickness and delivers a lay up with 1.5 seconds in the game. The whole Mavericks bench erupted as they went out to celebrate with the veteran who had been a true professional all season riding the bench.

“The guy has been through an epic year of challenges,” Carlisle said. “Our whole team couldn’t be happier for him.” (per ESPN after the game)

Fast forward to the start of training camp a few weeks ago and Felton finds himself in a similar situation. Trade rumors are still flying. He still figures to be one of the last roster spots while still making around four million this season. People are counting him out like they have the past couple of seasons.

While similar to everyone else, Felton feels much different.

Felton battled much of the year last year with a sprained ankle, an ankle that seems to be behind him at this point.

As I sat in American Airlines Center watching the Mavericks practice at the annual Fan Jam, I couldn’t help but to notice exactly what Felton had mentioned at Media Day a few days earlier. He looked quicker. He look healthier. He looked rejuvenated.

With a recent past of injuries surrounding Deron Williams, Felton could find himself getting more minutes with Barea at the backup point guard spot. Against Denver in the first preseason game, it was obvious that Felton’s handles and quickness are still very much intact as he seemed to get past defenders at will some possessions.

But even with the hope for more playing time this season, Felton is all about the team first.

For a veteran who doesn’t get a ton of minutes, what more could you ask for? Also, Carlisle said recently that 75% of the roster is up for grabs, but mentioned Felton as being a lock.

A rejuvenated Raymond Felton won’t be our starting point guard this year nor will he win the 6th man of the year award, but he can provide a much bigger impact than what a lot of people think.

Ray Felton is a professional. He is a Tar Heel. But most of all, he is a Dallas Maverick.