Raymond Felton Returns Tonight Against the 76ers, So What’s About To Change With The Knicks?

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Ray Felton returns tonight from the “terrifying” pinkie injury he suffered last month.

This is not the same Knicks team since he left.  It will not be the same Knicks team of the past month now that he has returned.

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1. It’s time to take care of Jason Kidd

There have been far more statistically important pieces to the Knicks this year, but Jason Kidd becoming the swing point at shooting guard has kept the flow of the baskeball on offense despite a team that is used to isolation in previous years.

Now that Amare Stoudemire is back and seemingly on pace to play a ton of minutes with Carmelo Anthony (maybe even being placed in the starting lineup at some point), Jason Kidd’s involvement is more important than ever.

But he has been playing over 30 minutes a game since Felton’s injury and at 39 years of age, this is a load Kidd cannot carry.  Coach Mike Woodson sure knows this, “It may have already done its damage.  He may be out tonight with a back injury that has already cost him four games earlier this year. “Every day I tell him I’m sorry because he’s a major piece…that I’d hate to lose. He’s been a trouper throughout this whole Raymond Felton absence.”

For this team to be successful and make any sort of playoff run, Jason Kidd must remain healthy.  Now with Felton back and Iman Shumpert playing well enough off of his ACL injury, Kidd’s minutes need to be as limited as possible, perhaps even giving him a few games off in a row, to recharge the batteries and keep him going for the most important part of the season.

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2. Amare Stoudemire is back, and so should be 2011’s Pick and Roll.

What made Raymond Felton such an attractive piece to bring back to New York was his chemistry with Stoudemire.  Both were at their best prior to the Carmelo Anthony trade and are now reunited.  Remember the MVP chants?  Those were once exclusively set aside for Amare.

And it could be even more successful this year.  Felton has already found the same P&R consistency with Tyson Chandler – now there will be two options heading to the net.

STAT’s last few games have been very strong, scoring at least 15 in his last three games and adding a season high 9 rebounds against the Celtics, Thursday.

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3. The Knicks will finally see their actual projected starting lineup

Whether the original lineup was supposed to be Chandler-Amare-Melo-Kidd-Felton or Chandler-Melo-Shumpert-Kidd-Felton or another deviation without Kidd, the Knicks will finally be at full strength for the first time all season (cough Camby cough Sheed cough cough)…well, at least with their top contributors.  This should help out Melo, at the very least, who’s shooting percentage dropped from 47.3% to 41.4% without Felton.  Their 3-point percentage dropped by four points without Ray at the point as well.

Despite being 6-6 in Felton’s absence, the Knicks still remain 2nd in the Eastern Conference at 26-14.  It may take a few games to get the gang back together on the same page, but the Knicks should be better.  They no longer need Felton to put up as many shots, especially of the pentrating-the-paint kind, now that Amare is back.  Hopefully with more passing options, Felton will be able to help Kidd out with continuing their season-long offensive ball movement.

Knicks get the division-rival Philadelphia 76ers tonight.

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