A jovial group of Knicks made the short trip to Temple University on Friday afternoon for an optional practice. Following a big road win over Boston last night, the squad was all smiles and enjoyed a session filled with 4-on-4 games and individual drills. The importance of the practice was not lost on the players or the head man in charge with another important Eastern Conference tilt on the horizon and another key component of the team returning to the floor.
Raymond Felton participated in full-contact games and he said the doctors will take a look at his pinky after the practice to ultimately provide the green light for him to play on Saturday night.
“I got hit on it a few times and I actually swiped down on the ball really hard down in the post and it didn’t really hurt,” Felton explained. “Hopefully that’s a good sign.”
Felton has spent the past four weeks on the sidelines waiting for his fractured pinky to heal. Meanwhile, the Knicks have adjusted their lineups to counter the loss of their starting point guard. Felton believes the time is right for his return and the mix of Imam Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and the rest of the New York crew to gain chemistry before the midseason showcase in Houston.
“That’s big for us,” Felton declared. “It’s going to give us a chance to get a few games in with each other, a few practices with each other, and on top of that get a good break, everybody get their legs back from under them, everybody get healthy, and come back from the All-Star break and really get rolling.”
Carmelo Anthony was pleased to see his point man back directing the offense at Friday’s practice. The Knicks leading scorer says Felton’s presence will help alleviate pressure and minutes on the 39-year old Jason Kidd.
“It takes some slack off of Jason Kidd, gives him some rest and we pretty much get back to how we started the season,” Anthony added.
Kidd received treatment for a sore back after he logged 32 minutes in the win over the Celtics on Thursday evening in Boston.
Head coach Mike Woodson confirmed to reporters that he will place Felton in the starting lineup next to Shumpert, James White or Chris Copeland, Anthony, and Tyson Chandler. The strength and firepower of New York’s bench is now poised to make a tremendous impact.
“When you have two threats like Amar’e and J.R. coming off with Novak being able to make shots, I think with Raymond being back it could open some things for Novak a little bit more,” Woodson acknowledged. “The offense seemed to flow pretty good when Raymond was playing in terms of Novak being out on the floor and sometimes them leaving him and not leaving him. To have all three of those guys coming off the bench scoring helps us.”
The Knicks face the 76ers in Philadelphia tomorrow night at 7 PM on MSG Networks.