Almost nothing went right for Raymond Felton in his first season with the Dallas Mavericks last year.
The injuries kept piling up and kept getting him further and further behind in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation.
Such, however, is not the case this year.
It’s just about being professional and understanding the situation. We had a lot of good guards last year, and I was hurt, so you can’t expect to just come back and expect the coach to just sit those guys down.
Mavericks guard Raymond Felton on not complaining about a lack of playing time last season
A healthier Felton has shown the Mavericks what type of an asset he can be as he has figured prominently in both of their wins this season.
The 11-year veteran guard started and scored a game-high 18 points and handed out six assists when the Mavericks opened the season with a 111-95 win at Phoenix. And when the Los Angeles Lakers chopped an 18-point Dallas lead to six points with more than 3 minutes left in Sunday’s game, it was Felton who hit a jumper to seal that 103-93 victory.
The Mavericks (2-1) are hoping Felton’s string of success continues when they play their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against the 3-0 Toronto Raptors.
Felton’s prosperity has been a boost to a team besieged with injuries.
Felton is poised, cagey and knows how to direct an offense.
“It’s just one of those things where I wasn’t healthy last year,” Felton said. “I was sitting there trying to compensate for my ankle last year and then I ended up pulling my groin.
“So when you’ve got something else that you’re trying to protect, you end up hurting something else. So now I’m healthy, so I don’t have to worry about protecting anything. I can just go out and play.”
Felton is poised, cagey and knows how to direct an offense. He started 612 of a possible 667 games in his first nine seasons before he was traded from the New York Knicks to the Mavericks in June 2014 in a deal that also brought Tyson Chandler back to Dallas.
“Raymond has been doing what he does, which is play hard, run the team, penetrate, make plays,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s got a point guard mentality, but he can score, and he’s been one of our best defenders at the guard position.
“He’s been playing extremely well throughout the training camp and preseason and the first [three] games, too.”
22 Games of the Mavericks’ final 50 last season that Raymond Felton missed due to a coach’s decision.
Last season, Felton suffered a right ankle sprain in a preseason contest against Oklahoma City and didn’t play his first regular-season game until Dec. 28. By then, he had missed the first 31 games.
Over the final 50 games, Felton didn’t play at all in 22 of them due to a coach’s decision. But he never complained.
On the contrary, because Felton continued to work hard without uttering a critical word, he became one of the Mavericks’ more popular players.
“It’s just about being professional and understanding the situation,” said Felton, who has played in 699 NBA games. “We had a lot of good guards last year, and I was hurt, so you can’t expect to just come back and expect the coach to just sit those guys down.
“At the same time I’m healthy this year, I want to be able to play, I want to play, so hopefully Coach is going to figure that out when the time comes. And he has so far, so I think it’s been good.”
Felton’s professionalism didn’t go unnoticed by owner Mark Cuban, who is always raving about the fifth pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.
“Raymond is a true pro,” Cuban said. “When you’ve got guys that really, really like you — and I think everybody likes Ray — it just makes it easier.
“He was hurt so much last year, but he’s showing who he was in the years previous. He’s a good guy and he’s who we need him to be right now.”
In the first three games this season, Felton averaged 11 points and four assists, and is shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. He surprisingly leads the Mavericks in minutes played at 29 per game, but he’s not motivated by being planted in the starting lineup.
“It felt good just to get out there on the court,” Felton said. “At this point, starting is always good, but at the same time I just want to play.
“So being able to get out there and just play, and being able to perform and try to help this team has been the biggest excitement for me.”