Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni.
All three guards are seasoned veterans in the game of basketball and all three signal callers own drastically different experiences at the professional level. Nevertheless, the new-look backcourt in New York is taking shape during the early stages of training camp and the preseason.
Jump back to this past summer when Felton made a surprise visit to a Knicks Summer League contest in Las Vegas. Felton watched the game next to his former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire just days after inking a deal with his former team. In a courstside discussion with KnicksNow.com, Felton quickly made it quite clear he had a chip on his shoulder and was highly motivated to prove his worth in the league. Nothing has changed two months later.
On Saturday night in Hartford, Connecticut, Felton and the Knicks faced a familiar foe. As Boston and New York waltzed onto the floor for the opening tip, there were signs of respect but an unspoken understanding of the rivalry was in the air. Felton and All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo exchanged pleasantries and then engaged in a spirited first half of action. While the minutes were limited, Felton was in attack mode, constantly searching for the painted area across the floor from one of the elite point guards in the NBA.
“You get inside the lane, that messes of their defense. Rondo does the same thing, you get into that screen-and-roll and you get into the teeth of the defense, you cause havoc. That’s my biggest thing --- trying to do that,” Felton explained in the Knicks locker room.
At one point in the New York overtime win, Felton raced out into the open floor and put Rondo on his back, utilizing his superior strength to keep Rondo away from the rock. Felton then reached his desired destination in the lane and tossed a picture perfect alley-oop to Tyson Chandler for the flush. This play was just one example of Felton’s relentless approach on Saturday night. He finished with seven points, seven assists, six rebounds, and only one turnover in the victory.
Kidd assessed his teammate’s progress during training camp, “I think Raymond has been great. He is a guy that puts a lot of pressure on the defense and on defense he causes havoc by getting in the passing lanes. I’ve been pushing him and he’s been pushing me and we’ve been helping each other. I want the game to be easy for him and he’s playing at a high level right now.”
From day one, Felton and Kidd have displayed a strong chemistry on and off the floor. Felton respects the future Hall of Famer and searches for guidance from the point guard that possesses an NBA Championship ring.
“He’s been talking to me everyday and staying in my ear, helping me out tremendously,” Felton smiled. “He’s been great. He is a big role model of mine, I watched him when I was in high school and when he was in the NBA. So, just the opportunity to play with him and pick his brain, it’s a plus for me.”
At 39 years old, Kidd laughed in the locker room telling reporters that his teammates were giving him a hard time considering he played late minutes in a preseason game for the first time since his rookie year. In the fourth quarter and overtime session, head coach Mike Woodson utilized Kidd and Prigioni in the backcourt. Both guards played an integral role in helping New York snatch a character building win.
Prigioni, the 35 year-old Argentine is playing his first season in the NBA. In Saturday’s victory, Prigioni made an impression on his teammates as he harassed the Celtics guards, often generating turnovers or poor decisions from the opposition. He also effectively worked the pick-and-roll on countless possessions, assisting the youngster, Chris Copeland.
Kidd spoke highly of his new backcourt mate, “He understands how to play the game, it’s not rocket science. He keeps it simple, plays hard, and he is fun to play with because he competes. Throw the age out, it’s just basketball and we were just talking, how easy it is to play when you understand how to play the game the right way.”
The trio of guards knows where their bread is buttered. With a plethora of high profile scorers on this Knicks squad, ball distribution is a high priority. Sharpshooter Steve Novak believes his job will be easier with the gifted passers in the backcourt.
“You know that if you run the floor and work hard to get open, you are going to get the ball and that’s all you can ask for as a shooter,” Novak reiterated.
Felton confirmed this point, “The biggest thing is just trying to get everybody together and everybody as one. Being one of the point guards along with J. Kidd, that’s going to be our biggest challenge to make sure that Melo, Amar’e, and everybody strive together on the court.”
Ray, J, and Pablo are three different personalities but they share one common goal and their bond will go along way in leading the Knicks to success this season.