HOUSTON – Dirk Nowitzki is unquestionably Raymond Felton’s biggest fan on the Dallas Mavericks’ squad.
The Mavs’ 18-year veteran and resident superstar, Nowitzki watched last season when multiple injuries intervened to derail any chance Felton had of becoming a permanent member of the Mavs’ rotation. But what Nowitzki admired the most about Felton is that – once he became healthy – he never once complained about deserving more playing time.
Felton simply cheered on the players who were playing in front of him, all while working hard every day and waiting for his opportunity.
"Ray went through a lot here in his first year (last season) with not playing much, and then always being a professional,’’ Nowitzki said. "So I think everybody is rooting even more for him.
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"He’s a good dude off the floor, and he’s a team guy. And he’s easy to root for.’’
A lot of the Mavs were rooting for Felton Saturday night, and he delivered in style. The 11-year veteran scored a season-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shots, and also collected six rebounds.
Felton also completely took over the game in the fourth quarter when he scored 15 of his points, including 11 of the 14 points down the stretch the Mavs scored when the game was still in doubt.
And all the while high-stepping after he scored when he dribbled several times front left-to-right, and then drained a jumper which sapped the energy out of the Rockets (4-6).
"All I can think about is Dirk,’’ Felton said. "Dirk has really been in my corner, he’s been a great teammate from day one.
"He’s been in my corner since last year when I got hurt and my whole process of me trying to come back.’’
Nowitzki isn’t eh only one in Felton’s corner. It’s universal on this squad, as coach Rick Carlisle often talks about the affection his players have for Felton.
"A little swag at the end,’’ point guard Deron Williams said of Felton. "That’s good to see, man.
"This team, we enjoy being around each other. We like seeing each other make plays, and it was great to see him do it at the end of the game.’’
Felton is most appreciative of the praise he receives form his teammates and form the coaching staff.
"Everybody was just excited and just happy for what I went through last year to where I’m at now,’’ Felton said. "I think those guys are just very happy and very excited for me.
"But at the same time, we did this (Saturday night) together. We did this as a team.’’
A long-time starter in the NBA, Felton never doubted himself during his struggles last year.
"I was upset that I wasn’t 100 percent and that I felt like that ankle injury was going to linger,’’ Felton said. "But I really worked this summer, I really got myself healthy, I really did my rehab and everything I need to do to do to stay on top of it, and my ankle is like it never happened.’’
Nowitzki is hopeful Felton will be able to continue playing the way he played Saturday night.
"It was fun to watch,’’ Nowitzki said. "He was so hot he was high-stepping out there with the ball, and that was great.
"He’s playing with confidence. He was probably our best player in preseason, our most consistent player in preseason. He carried that confidence right into the big season, so it’s been fun to watch.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com.