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Court Vision: Felton's career year a quiet catalyst for the Knicks' success

Raymond Felton Raymond Felton has made wholly sustainable improvements to his game this season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

By Rob Mahoney

• No individual has really ascended enough to claim complete credit for the Knicks' stellar play. But very quietly (and very improbably), Raymond Felton is having a career year for one of the NBA's best teams. Tom Ziller of SB Nation explains:

The thing is, unlike most other Knicks, Felton isn't shooting at some ridiculous clip this season. His three-point shooting will likely revert to below 40 percent based on his career numbers, and his field-goal percentage might dip too. But he looks like a whole new man running the team. Is having Jason Kidd there most of the time a huge playmaking relief? (Kidd has been on the court for about 2/3rds of Felton's minutes this season.) Felton has never had a turnover rate close to this low -- last season in PDX he was turning the ball over on nearly 20 percent of his possessions. He's at 12 percent this season which, combined with his 34 percent assist rate, is really efficient. Based on his career numbers, we expected Felton to have the same turnover problems Jeremy Lin did, but without the scoring punch and high playmaking level. But Felton's kept the turnovers down, helping the Knicks offense thrive. He's also been a serious piece of New York's defensive aptitude.

• Much of the sporting world is in awe today over Jack Taylor's 138 points in a college basketball game on Tuesday night, but far too few are taking the time to actually consider the context of the game in question. Tyler Burns actually parsed the game tape to figure out how a single player could attempt 108 shots, and his conclusions may leave you feeling a bit less impressed with the precedent-shattering record.

• The opportunity costs of Russell Westbrook playing hero ball.

• Why do we watch NBA basketball? Because of John Lucas III:

For athletes like Lucas, the word “perseverance” gets thrown around an awful lot. Years of Hollywood cinema and network television consumption have conditioned us to appreciate all varieties of the Hero’s Journey for how that journey reminds us of our own constant struggle to make it, or to make sense of this wicked world, or otherwise do what we aspire to do in a world that does not seem especially eager for us to do it. This does not mean that perseverance in sports is a myth, but rather that the identifying characteristics of such overcoming—race, class, size, drugs, whatever—are infinite and varied.

John Lucas III has fought to change perceptions and against genetic inevitabilities, has been forced to hustle and adapt in the face of ossified and inflexible systems and unfair biases and institutional prejudices. In this sense, we can actually find something in John Lucas III that relates to our individuated experiences, whatever they may be. And yet this story doesn’t quite move the way it’s supposed to move. Lucas’ position as simultaneous basketball insider and inexorable outsider has shaped not only his elliptical career path but his baffling and exhilarating on-court presence. This constant fighting and hacking away at the dense foliage of a path less traveled has defined his career. It’s what makes John Lucas III different, and both more and less like us.

• The presence of Tim Duncan leads many casual observers to conclude things about the Spurs that aren't necessarily true. Duncan's rep might suggest that San Antonio is still an elite defensive team, but that hasn't really been the case since 2009. His historically great work on the glass might also seem to indicate that the Spurs are covered in the rebounding department, but that's just flat-out untrue. J. Gomez dove into San Antonio's rebounding troubles over at Pounding the Rock, and though it's debatable whether these particular issues are resolvable with the current roster, one thing is indisputably true: the Spurs' rebounding fate will almost certainly come down to the performance of Tiago Splitter.

Jason Kidd pioneers the steal-pass.

• I'm not entirely convinced that Marcus Morris' sudden improvement is as explicable as Derek James makes it seem in this post for Hardwood Paroxysm, but the evolution at work deserves yet another mention in this space. Morris is a completely different player this season, and regardless of the precise reason why, that's fantastic news for the Rockets.

• While the Clippers have reinvented themselves on the court as a dynamic outfit with understated defensive potential, they've also undergone a significant change away from the hardwood, as detailed by Kevin Arnovitz for TrueHoop:

Last winter, Griffin would glower in the corner of the locker room after games and grunt platitudes to a swell of reporters. Across the way, Paul would perform his we're-not-satisfied shtick, win or lose. He was never expressly surly, but he was definitely guarded.

Maybe it’s the roomier and more orderly digs of the new setup, or maybe it’s the fact that the Clippers are beating the holy hell out of teams like San Antonio, Miami, Chicago and the Lakers, or maybe it's just the passage of time, but Paul and Griffin are far more accessible and revealing than last season -- both on and off the court.

• Wilt Chamberlain made a lot of things on the court look rather effortless, but this is impressive even by his standards. (via Mark Deeks)

• Scott Brooks has done many things right as the head coach of the Thunder over the last few seasons, but why he continues to employ a starting lineup that does his team a disservice is beyond me.

• Danny Nowell took a moment to appreciate the play and stylings of Nicolas Batum:

Watching him this season, I have begun to think of Batum as liquid, seeping into the cracks of a game and blasting cataracts where structural weakness permits. Through 10 games, he has almost certainly been the Blazers’ best player, though Damian Lillard’s emergence and LaMarcus Aldridge’s continued presence might seem to obscure the fact.  Superficially, he leads the team in Win Shares, PER, true shooting percentage, and individual offensive rating. He shares the team lead for individual defensive rating among regular rotation players. On a deeper level, his leap in production seems to encapsulate a Portland team that is finding ways to compete despite glaring limitations.

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