A whole lot to unpack from today's introduction of the newest Portland Trail Blazers. In case you missed it earlier, here's a link to a few pictures. We'll start with new starting point guard Raymond Felton, acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a draft day trade for Andre Miller.
The headline from today was that recently acquired point guard Raymond Felton, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season and cannot be offered a contract until the completion of next season, said he is interested in remaining with the Blazers going forward.
"I definitely want something long-term here," Felton said. "I definitely look forward to that situation when the time comes. I have one year left on my deal. That's all I'm worried about. I'll worry about this season. I'll let my agent deal with all the rest of that. I'll just come out and play basketball and help this team win.
"I wanted to be in a situation where I can run a team and I wanted to lead my team. I'm still young in my career."
Felton said he thinks the Blazers fit that bill. "The fit is great. We're a very young team, athletic. We can really get up and down the court. We've got a great post man who can put the ball in the basket, just in case we have to play some halfcourt basketball. I look forward to everything."
Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan reiterated that the organization has followed Felton's progress for years, and thinks the sitaution is a win-win for both team and player.
"We've been tracking Raymond for quite some time, all the way back to his days at North Carolina," Buchanan said. "National champion. Had a great start to his career in Charlotte. Showed great improvement each year in Charlotte and had a tremendous year last year -- started in New York and was traded to Denver. We've been big fans of Raymond for quite some time. We're fortunate to add Raymond to our core moving forward. We feel like he's a player entering the prime of his career. Matches up a with a lot of the guys on our roster as-is. I think it's a great opportunity for Raymond as well."
Last summer, Felton signed a two-year contract with the New York Knicks. He said on Monday that the Blazers had been the other finalist for his services.
"It was definitely between here and New York," Felton said. "It was a tough decision. I guess this is where I was supposed to be from the beginning, and now I'm here."
"I'm not just out here to get money or whatever," Felton said. "I'm playing to win. That's what drives me."
"I'm a point guard who is able to push the ball up and down the court but who can also run a team as well," Felton said.
"They take advantage of what you give them," Felton said of the Blazers. "If you take a bad shot or commit a turnover they're a team that's capable of running on you at the time. But for the most part I think it's more of a slow-pace, halfcourt type of team. They set the ball up and really just give it to the great scorer that they have, LaMarcus Aldridge. Who I think, in my opinion, should have been an All-Star this year. He's one of the best four men in the league."
The Blazers were fairly honest in their assessment of Felton and his potential future. In conversations today, decision-makers painted Felton as a player who has demonstrated improvement throughout his NBA career and who they expect to continue developing. They admit Felton tends to work his way into shape a la Miller and noted that he will have an offseason strength and conditioning program in place. More importantly, they feel that Felton is still on an upward trajectory, whereas Miller, because of his age, is not.
In particular, the team would like to see Felton continue to improve his three point shooting, work on his ability to finish in the lane and at the rim, and provide more consistent effort possession to possession defensively. Most intriguing, they expect Felton to help add an extra dimension to Aldridge's game. Aldridge has rarely been involved in true pick-and-roll situations, as that was not the strength of Miller, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless or Brandon Roy. Felton is expected to find Aldridge on his familiar pick-and-pops but also get him baskets and free throw attempts on roll plays, similar to how he played with Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire last season. One Blazer decision-maker says he spoke to Aldridge this weekend and Aldridge was already running different two-man game scenarios through his head.
For his part, Felton, despite turning 27 yesterday, realizes he's not a finished product. "I just ... try to improve the consistency on my jump shot. Trying to be more consistent percentage-wise from the three point line. I think I've done that each and every year. I've gotten better running a team, being a point guard each and every year.
Felton spoke highly of Blazers forward Gerald Wallace, who was his teammate in Charlotte. "Gerald is a guy that plays hard, brings it hard every night. I love to play with warriors. That's what he is and we have a lot of those on this team."
He said he hadn't yet touched base with Wallace. "I didn't really get a chance to yet. I think he's out fishing somewhere."