The Oklahoma City Thunder and Raymond Felton will journey to Portland to start their playoff series against the Blazers on Sunday. For Felton, he will return to his former home court with boos echoing in the background. In the aftermath of a lengthy labor negotiation, Felton posted career-lows in his single lockout-shortened season with the Blazers. His excess weight combined with his confrontational attitude to make him one of the bigger villains in Portland sports history.
Prior to his return, The Athletic’s Brett Dawson spoke with Felton about his tenure with the Blazers. Felton, now 34 years old, admitted that he was out of shape when he arrived for duty.
“I was out of shape,” Felton says. “It was a lockout year (2011-12). I didn’t come in prepared. I didn’t come in ready to play. I don’t blame anybody for that but myself. But the anger didn’t come from that.”
Felton went on to explain that his distaste for his time in the Pacific Northwest came from another interaction. Following a victory over the Nets, Felton directed his naysayers to his living space in the Pearl District. According to him, his vow to “keep it 100” stemmed from an interaction that involved a comment directed at his family.
Felton felt rage, he says now, because his mother was going through “a very critical moment in her life — she could have lost her life.” And as Felton, then 27 years old, struggled on the court, fans took shots off it, including one on social media that referenced his mother, in language that Felton says made him snap.
“I lost it,” he says.
“For somebody to say what they said about her, I lost it,” Felton says. “I think any man would, about their momma. I was young. The way I responded publicly wasn’t the correct way. To this day, I apologize for it. For that statement. Do I apologize defending my mom? No. I would never. But do I apologize for the way I handled it and the things I said? Of course.”
After two full seasons with the Thunder, Felton is open about where he went wrong with the Blazers.
“It was a bad season for me, man,” Felton says. “I don’t blame nobody but myself. Some things happened, some things were said, and things got a little heated at times. You react and do things as a younger man that you look back and reflect on and say maybe I would have done differently at this point of my career and at this age. But it is what it is.”
Felton produced 11.4 points per game in his 60 appearances (56 starts) with the Blazers. To that point in his career, that was his lowest scoring average.
Even with Felton’s long history with Portland, a new heel has captured the attention of fans. In the final regular season matchup between the Blazers and Thunder, Russell Westbrook received a chorus of boos after he sent Jusuf Nurkic to the floor. Whether it is Westbrook or Felton on the court, the crowd on Sunday will be amplified by the playoff atmosphere.
You can read Dawson’s full post at The Athletic (subscription required).