Brent Kearsley seems like a sensible man.
He's a husband and father residing in Hillsboro, Ore., a supervisor at a knife warehouse who spends his free time officiating youth basketball games. When he's not wearing the stripes for extra weekend cash, Kearsley simply likes to spend time with his family.
Nice, easy-going guy, right? But mention one name to him and Kearsley morphs into the president of the 'I Hate Raymond Felton' club.
"This whole town hated him last year," Kearsley said of Felton. "I guarantee you it will be Kobe-esque -- every time he touches the ball, there will be boos. And he's a point guard, which is a good thing because he'll be bringing the ball up."
One thing I forgot to mention about Kearsley -- he's crazy in love with his Trail Blazers. He's a sixth-year season ticket holder cheering from Section 221, a lifetime fan whose pregnant wife should be lucky it's a girl because Kearsley wanted to name the child 'Meyers.' When he's not dreaming of an 82-0 season for the Blazers, Kearsley simply desires to make Felton's return trip to Portland a living nightmare.
This Thursday night, fans will get their chance to express how much they loathed the "Feltdown" of last season. Kearsley gave up his seats for plenty good matchups this year but wanted to be inside the Rose Garden for two specific games: opening night against the Lakers and March 14 against the New York Knicks.
"Every one was really surprised like, 'New York?' " Kearsley said, remembering the reactions during his ticket draft lottery before the season. "I wanted to be there for Raymond Felton."
Felton, the current Knickerbocker with the 29th ranked assist-to-turnover ratio in the league.
Felton, the former Blazer point guard who came into training camp looking like a before picture for a Weight Watchers ad.
Felton, the poster boy for all that went wrong last year and the 28-38 outcome.
There's only one emotion more powerful than love -- and that's the expression of hate. Not your garden variety hate, but that teeth-clenching, forehead-wrinkling, middle finger-saluting, four-letter word-spitting kind of hate. The kind that most likely will greet Felton from the time he walks onto the Rose Garden floor on Thursday until he ducks into the visitor's charter bus.
Is there any way that Felton can escape the fans' vitriol? Kearsley doubts it, but I have some suggestions that could help him.
Please, follow my advice, Raymond, and you just might make amends with the boo birds.
• First, under any circumstances, do not let anyone catch you lingering near the downtown food carts.
After leaving town, you boasted about your 20-pound weight loss and acknowledged: "last year, I was out of shape." Great that you're back at your fighting weight, Ray. Just too bad you completely forgot about the treadmill while living in Portland.
By the completion of the first back-to-back of the season, Nate McMillan admitted that he benched you in the fourth quarter because you looked fatigued. Really? Just two games into the lockout-shortened season and you needed a break? Considering that you run up and down a basketball court for a living, the admission that you were out of shape last year -- although honest -- is completely unacceptable.
• Stay away from those fancy moves again, -- ya know: the one where you dribble the ball off your foot.
Nothing worked the anti-Felton contingent into a frothy rage more than the time you had the ball in your hands in the close fourth quarter of the April 2nd game against the Utah Jazz. The Blazers led 102-97 with less than 90 seconds remaining. You tried to cross the ball between your legs, but it rolled off the back of your left sneaker and straight to the sideline. CYO beginning point guards have better handle than that, Felt. So leave the crossovers alone this time.
• Do not tell Blazer fans which hotel you're staying in and invite them to come see you if they want to boo you in your face.
By the time April rolled around last year, the season had long deteriorated until what your former teammate Wesley Matthews repeatedly calls a "debacle." So, it makes sense that you also had had enough. I admit, you handled the hate parade very professionally most of the time -- but then, you had to go and broadcast your Pearl District residence and challenge fans to come talk face to face if they have a problem with you. Yeah.
That didn't go over so well.
"OK, so now you want to fight it out West Side Story-style?" Kearsley said, recalling his reaction when he heard your challenge.
Raymond Felton, you seem like a sensible man. You're a husband, a gainfully-employed veteran of the NBA and you spend your free time giving back to your Carolina community. You probably have more in common with guys like Kearsley than one might imagine. Still, they hate you.
There's no way of escaping their hisses this Thursday. Just try to remember that you once, which seems like a long time ago, you adored them.
"I love it here," Felton said last April. "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."