DALLAS – This season has started out quite different for Raymond Felton than last season.
In his first year with the Dallas Mavericks last season, Felton suffered a right high ankle sprain in the second preseason game and wasn’t able to play until Dec. 28. Thus, after missing the first 31 games of the season, Felton was way behind the Mavs’ other guards and spent the rest of the season in catchup mode.
Minutes became so scarce that Felton rarely got off the bench in most games. That was a difficult pill to swallow for a player who started 612 out of a possible 667 games he played in during his first nine seasons before joining the Mavs on June 25, 2014.
"Of course it was difficult,’’ Felton said after Saturday morning’s shootaround at American Airlines Center. "I’m a competitor, I’m a guy who’s used to playing, I’m a guy who loves to play, so it was definitely difficult without a doubt.
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"But at the same time it’s not all about Raymond -- it’s all about the team. The best thing for the team last year was for me not to be playing because I wasn’t healthy.’’
And how did Felton stay focused during those difficult times when he was healthy and playing time wasn’t coming his way? He leaned on his faith.
"You’ve got to stay positive man, and believe in God,’’ he said. "At the end of the day just staying focused and just believing in Him and understanding that God ain’t going to put too much on you that He knows you can’t handle.
"So that was just the biggest thing for me, just being professional, staying positive, keep working, get myself healthy. I got an opportunity this year to earn some playing time and it’s worked out for me.’’
Indeed it has.
Felton has started 11 of the Mavs’ first 23 games this season and is averaging nine points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27.4 minutes per contest. The starts came at the expense of small forward Chandler Parsons, who is under a minutes restrictions after undergoing offseason surgery on his right knee.
"What changed was he was healthy and opportunistic,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said of Felton. "He took advantage of all of his opportunities in preseason.
"And then when Parsons wasn’t available on opening night we felt he would be a good guy in the starting lineup as another playmaker and defender. And opening night in Phoenix he got off to a great start and really hasn’t looked back.’’
Felton enjoyed one of his best games of the season last Sunday when he finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals as the Mavs went on the road and defeated the Washington Wizards 116-104. It was Felton only double-double of the season.
Felton and the Mavs (13-10) will face the Wizards (9-12) again, tonight at 7:30 at AAC.
Last year Felton had career lows in games played (29), scoring (3.7), rebounds (0.9), assists (1.4) and minutes played (9.7). In other words, it was one of those seasons where the 31-year old wishes he could erase from his resume.
"Of course I wanted to be out there, but I wasn’t 100 percent,’’ Felton said. "But now I’m 100 percent and I’m getting playing time, so I can’t complain.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com