With some former Blazers, you’re not always sure how the crowd is going to react the first time they come back to the Rose Garden with their new teams. But if Raymond Felton is with another organization next year, there isn’t going to be much suspense.
The point guard has easily been the most maligned player in Portland this year, and has become a whipping boy for fans and media alike.
The fact that he is the 43rd most efficient point guard in the league this year certainly doesn’t help his cause, nor has some of his late-game turnovers. However, he has been serviceable during the second half of the season.
So what does he think about all the scrutiny he’s endured this year? What about the allegations of him being a locker-room cancer who came into training camp overweight and got Nate McMillan booted? We caught sat down with the 27-year-old for one last Q & A to find out.
Honestly, how much has the criticism bothered you?
“You can’t listen to what people say. Nobody knows me. But for somebody to assume something, or to write something down, to say that this person is like this, this person does that, I think it’s quite BS, but what can you say? You can’t say nothing to someone who writes because that’s what they do. There’s nothing you can really do or say about it.
“I’m not gonna lose no sleep because people are going to write good stuff about you, people are going to write bad stuff about you. Not that I like it. I definitely don’t. But what can you really do about it at the end of the day?”
Criticizing your basketball is one thing, but what about when your character is called into question?
“It’s a spit in my face, I think. The biggest thing with me is that no matter what, I’m professional. I never bad-mouth a teammate. Never bad-mouth a coach. I’ve never done that in my entire career. So for someone to write that, say that I’ve done that or anything in that sense, anything negative. Anyone in this locker room and anyone in this organization will tell you that I never did that, never said that. It’s one of those things that makes you mad for someone to say that about you. But at the same time, people can write, it’s sad, because if I do retaliate and do something, I look like the bad guy. It’s not fair, but it comes with the territory.”
So how do you respond when people say that you’re a locker-room cancer?
“(Laughs). Yeah, right. I’ve never heard that ever in my career or my whole life. Nobody will ever say that about me. Cancer in the locker-room? Come on, man. That’s just somebody looking for something to say, looking for something bad to write about.”
And that you got Nate McMillan run out of here?
“Is my name Paul Allen? Then I didn’t get Nate run out of here. I’m not Paul Allen. I don’t make those decisions. I’ve never bad-mouthed Coach McMillan at anytime to Mr. Allen, to (Blazers president) Larry Miller. I’ve never bad-mouthed him to the media. I’ve never said anything bad about him.”
You didn’t come into training camp in shape. How do you explain that?
“I came in here a little bit out of shape, but who didn’t? Who didn’t come into this season out of shape, in the shape they way they wanted to be? I’m the first person to say that I came training camp not in the shape that I wanted to be. But did I come in bent out of shape? No, because I wouldn’t have been able to play. I would have gotten injured.
“I mean, hey, Dirk Nowtizki had to sit out for a bit because he wasn’t in shape. Nobody made a big deal about that. His coach actually called him out on national television. Nobody blew that up. I’m just saying. He was out of shape, just because he’s Dirk, it doesn’t get blown up. I’m a human being. I may not always do things perfect, but that’s life.”
You’ve played well the second half of the season. Do you feel like people have paid attention to that?
“I feel like they have, but if they didn’t, like I said, I can’t worry about what people are thinking.
“Being the new guy, replacing a point guard that the fans like, the city like, the media like, you come into a situation where you got a bull’s eye on you already, a spotlight on you already. Being a leader, being a guy on the team, a captain, a new point guard to a new team, new system, new coach. You get all that thrown at you at one time and it’s tough. But I think I handled it professionally.
“I finished the season strong, I stayed on top of everything, made sure I got better every day, made sure I got myself in shape more and more. It panned out at the end of the season. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into the postseason. But as an individual, I feel like I played better the second half of the season.
To me, it seemed like you were cracking a couple weeks back when you said that you lived at the Indigo in the Pearl District and that if critics had something to say, to say it to your face.
“It’s not that I was cracking. When you get frustrated about somebody saying something, somebody tweeting this ... I don’t do Twitter, but I got friends that do and they’re calling mad, wanting to say something, wanting to do something. And I’m like, ‘What can you do about somebody who’s tweeting, somebody who’s writing?’ There’s nothing you can do about it.
“But what really made me crack -- I saw a tweet where somebody said something referring to my mom. Once you get personal -- you can talk about me all day -- but once you get personal and you’re talking about my mama, I don’t care about basketball anymore. I don’t play that way.”
So you would have made that Indigo statement again if you could go back in time?
“I don’t think I said anything out of line. I just said that if you got something to say to me, this is where I stay.”
Did anyone come?
“Yeah, right. You don’t have to tweet it, you don’t have to say it in the paper, If you got something to say to me, say it to my face. I didn’t mean it to say, ‘Let’s rumble.’ If it goes to that, I don’t care. But that wasn’t my intention.
“My thing is, though, if you bash me, where are you when I do something good? If I do something good, write something good about me. If I have a game where I have a bad turnover to make us lose a game, you have every right to say something. I’m mad at myself. I made a mistake. I was wrong. But if I do something good, say something good, too. That’s my thing, but whatever, man. You will always have people that are against you and people that aren’t.”
You’ve had some games recently in which late turnovers have proved costly. Has that been bothering you?
“No. I had that one game vs. Utah. You’re gonna have turnovers. The thing that kills me is that you have Steve Nash and these guys who turn the ball over just as well at the end of the game. The best point guards in the league. Chris Paul does it. Rondo does it. He may have 15 or 16 assists, but he turns the ball over just as well as I would. But mine gets magnified so much, it’s unreal. But like I said, I came into a situation where it already written negatively from Day 1. If I did anything wrong, it got magnified. I didn’t think it was fair in that sense to me, but I fought through it.”
Do you ever think, after you make a gaffe, “What are people going to say about me?”
Man, I don’t care about that. I’m just trying to win.
Ted Williams didn’t have a great relationship with Red Sox fans, and refused to tip his hat to the crowd after hitting a home run in his final at-bat. Given everything that has gone on here in Portland, are you someone who would tip his hat to the fans?
“I would. At the end of the day, not every fan that’s out there dislikes me. I had people that even wrote me after I made that statement about the Indigo, people wrote me at the Indigo saying, ‘We love you’ and this and that. So just to hear that? If one fan comes up to me and tells me they love me, they love what I do and what I bring to the game. That’s all it takes for me. Then 25,000 people in the arena can boo me, and I wouldn’t care if that one fan says that to me.”
So you’ve legitimately enjoyed your time in Portland?
“I love it here. I’m from the South. I’m from a small town -- small, quiet, conservative, not like a New York or an L.A. or a crazy partying city. It’s actually perfect.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org