Several hundred miles away from the legal net that engulfed him last season while he played for the New York Knicks, Raymond Felton is playing with a gleam in his eyes.
The Dallas Mavericks’ new point guard has a bounce in his step, and a story to tell about redemption.
Asked after Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage at American Airlines Center if he finds himself smiling more these days than he did last season, Felton smiled and said: “Way more. Way more. Without a doubt, way more.”
Happiness has become a new way of life for Felton since the Mavs acquired him and Tyson Chandler in a June 25 trade with the Knicks.
Some two months after the trade, the NBA suspended Felton for the first four games of this season without pay for pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm.
That came after Felton cut a deal with prosecutors after he had been charged in February with possession of a weapon. His estranged wife and her attorney turned in to police a semi-automatic handgun that belonged to Felton.
But just the way Felton was driving down the lane Saturday and finding open teammates, he seems comfortable these days.
Felton’s not even sweating whether the Mavs put him in the starting lineup, a place where he’s been for 611 of his 667 career games.
“This is going into my 10th year, so it doesn’t really matter [about starting],” Felton said. “I just want to play, I want to help this team.”
Felton will be splitting playing time at point guard with Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris. How the minutes shake out is still a mystery, although coach Rick Carlisle would prefer to keep Harris in the role he had last season of entering the game off the bench.
“We all want to be on the court, sometimes together, sometimes not,” said Felton, who helped the Blue edge the White 40-37. “We’re looking to come out here and try to win some games.”
Carlisle likes what Felton can bring to the Mavericks.
“He’s an attacker, he’s aggressive, he’s a combative guy, personality-wise, on the court, which I think helps us on the floor and in the locker room,’’ Carlisle said. “He’s lost weight and he’s going to continue to work on losing a little bit more, but he’s a good player.’’
Before 6,440 fans Saturday, Nelson started in the backcourt for the White with Monta Ellis, while Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons started at forward, and Chandler was the center.
“Felton, he’s going to be out [serving the NBA suspension] the first four games,” Carlisle said. “So if there were some tea leaves, that’s what [the starting five] may look like.”
As far as what his role will be now that he has a fresh start, the 30-year old Felton said: “You’ve got to ask coach that. Whatever my role is I’m going to accept that and I’m looking forward to it.”