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For all of his life, Raymond Felton’s by no means been a tattoo man.

Jermichael Wright, his finest buddy, makes a dwelling on this planet of ink design as an artist together with his personal store.

Collectively at Latta Excessive College in South Carolina, the 2 gained back-to-back state championships in 2001 and 2002. With profession averages of 39 factors, 9.1 rebounds eight.9 assists and 5.6 steals per recreation, Felton led the Vikings to a 104-9 file over 4 seasons and earned the Naismith Prep award his senior yr amongst future family names, together with upstart junior LeBron James, earlier than making a memorable run on the College of North Carolina.

Nevertheless it wasn’t the accolades and private accomplishments that caught with Felton; it was the message he and Wright lived by that made it attainable — GBMS, the very phrase the longtime NBA veteran had tattooed on his proper arm this previous yr.

“It means God Bless My Success,” Felton instructed Basketball Insiders in an unique cellphone interview. “It’s an on a regular basis factor for me. Each dang day.”

One week in the past in the present day marked a full yr since Felton turned a free agent. Following a two-season stint with the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, he didn’t find yourself signing with a staff. It’s the primary time that the recently-turned 36-year-old hasn’t performed professionally since getting into the Affiliation in 2005.

That’s fairly an adjustment for any person who’s been round hoops his total life; nevertheless, his on a regular basis routine hasn’t actually modified. Felton shouldn’t be carried out with the sport but. Nonetheless residing in Oklahoma Metropolis, he’s been coaching, staying in form and, most significantly, sustaining a nutritious diet as he will get older.

“It was robust, mentally, not with the ability to do one thing that you simply like to do and have a ardour for,” Felton mentioned of lacking the motion. “I really like basketball. I’d do it even when I wasn’t getting paid to do it. However me, understanding that I’m 36 and getting in the direction of the top of my profession, I simply didn’t need it to finish like that. In order that’s why I’m not retiring.

“I really feel like I can nonetheless play. If I get to the purpose the place I really feel like I can’t transfer the way in which I used to, then that’s letting me know that it’s time for me to let it go. Even when I’ve acquired to go internationally, I’m going to play basketball for an additional two years to fulfill myself and the way I need to finish it.”

This previous spring, misguided experiences surfaced that Felton was signing with Czech Republic Second Division membership GBA Jindrichuv Hradec to proceed his enjoying profession. So what occurred?

Felton spoke with a coach for the staff, who occurs to be a buddy of his from North Carolina. The coach tried to steer him to return abroad and be part of them for a match, so Felton did some analysis out of curiosity. It didn’t go far. He was supplied cash and had a dialog with the final supervisor of the membership, however phrases have been by no means agreed upon, nor near agreed upon. In actual fact, his agent didn’t even communicate with the staff’s administration.

“I began getting all types of cellphone calls from individuals saying, ‘Hey man, you signed with the Czech Republic and you’ll’t even go to the Czech Republic,’” Felton mentioned. “I’m like, ‘No, I’m at residence. I’m not going wherever.’ I don’t know. It was only a large mix-up with that.”

The closest Felton got here to enjoying was final summer time. He was understanding with the Houston Rockets steadily and felt the group would provide him a contract. They didn’t even invite him to coaching camp within the fall. Ideally, Felton would love to select up the place he left off within the NBA with a staff that values his presence.

“I nonetheless really feel like I’ve acquired lots that I can provide, however you understand how that goes typically within the league now. They need to go younger. They need to do various things. It may be unlucky typically.”

It’s not the primary time that Felton’s been on the flawed facet of girl luck. After 4 shedding seasons with the then-named Charlotte Bobcats, the staff made the playoffs and seemed to be set on a franchise turnaround; it didn’t work out the way in which he thought it will.

Felton went on to signal with the New York Knicks in the summertime of 2010, a transfer that turned out to be excellent for each the staff and himself. Via 54 video games, Felton was averaging career-bests in factors (17.1), assists (9) and free throw proportion (86.7), all in over 38 minutes per contest.

Led by All-Star large man Amar’e Stoudemire, younger skills like Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and promising rookies — Landry Fields and Timofey Mozgov — the Knicks have been in the midst of the playoff pack with a 28-26 file and issues have been wanting up in The Large Apple.

Then again, the group had a possibility to strike gold with a hometown celebrity, Carmelo Anthony, aching to play for New York. The Knicks went with the latter choice and made a blockbuster three-way commerce to amass ‘Melo from the Denver Nuggets. Felton, together with a number of key contributors and younger skills, was made expendable. It’s a state of affairs that begs the query: “What if?”

“I’ve acquired the identical query you bought,” Felton chuckled. “’What if? What if y’all simply waited?’ ‘Melo was gonna come anyway. He was gonna come anyway in free company that summer time. Similar to…I don’t know man. To me, that staff was particular and I believed it may’ve been actually particular. I want to have seen what we may’ve carried out, however that’s how the league goes typically.”

After ending the yr out with the Nuggets, Felton was dealt but once more to the Portland Path Blazers, the place he spent one brief season because of a lockout. He returned to New York within the 2012 offseason through one other commerce and in the end performed with the person he was moved for. Below new head Mike Woodson and alongside new teammates, Felton was part of the perfect Knicks staff because the late ‘90s. Felton thought that group had a “large probability” at a title, and regardless of a sequence loss to the Indiana Pacers within the second spherical of the postseason, it was a terrific yr.

Following his second go-round with New York, Felton bounced round with three groups over 5 years. When the Knicks despatched him to the Dallas Mavericks in June 2014, an harm pressured him out of the rotation his first season there. Despite receiving DNPs for the primary time in his profession, he credit Rick Carlisle for being upfront with him about his preliminary function. Felton labored his tail off to earn a spot the subsequent season and did so; he gave key performances for the staff within the playoffs. Once more, he assumed he’d signal again with the Mavericks when his contract expired, but it surely fell by way of the cracks.

So his subsequent resolution was signing with the Los Angeles Clippers to again up Chris Paul. It wasn’t a foul name, as Felton obtained over 20 minutes of enjoying time per night time over 80 video games (plus the playoffs). Even in his first season with the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder the next yr, Felton had a constant function and appeared in each recreation. He re-signed with them two summers in the past considering he’d have the identical obligation. That didn’t occur.

“I had already signed again as a free agent,” Felton defined. “Then [OKC] made that commerce later in the summertime after they removed ‘Melo to go to Atlanta after which they acquired Dennis Schroder over there. Then they kinda simply mainly instructed me that they have been gonna play him because the backup level guard. And it was similar to, nicely, okay, kinda want I’d’ve identified that going into free company earlier than I signed again.”

No exhausting emotions from Felton, although. He made nice associates in his Thunder days and nonetheless retains in contact with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Steven Adams and Schroder, the younger guard that overtook his former function.

He’s realized the way in which the league works and the unfortunate breaks that include being part of it, firmly believing that the power to adapt is the one path to longevity.

It was as current because the 2019 NBA Playoffs the place Felton confirmed his talents in spurts, most notably a fast stint in Recreation four between the Thunder and Portland Path Blazers. He scored eight factors in fast style and ignited a run that spurred the Chesapeake Vitality Area crowd right into a frenzy, a second he felt confirmed groups, and the world, that he hasn’t misplaced a step.

Felton isn’t misplaced of confidence, and he gained’t ever be. He is aware of he can impression successful — capturing, protection, being a ground normal — in no matter quantity of minutes are given to him, in addition to in a mentorship function.

“You get put in a state of affairs the place a number of groups who’re successful groups or are veteran groups that kinda have already got their staff set, and me going to a younger staff would mainly be one other coach, a player-coach. So that you go right into a state of affairs like that and also you already know you’re not gonna be enjoying ’trigger they’re rebuilding. They’re attempting to deal with their younger guys.

“And I’m to the purpose now the place I simply need to be across the recreation. I’m keen to try this. I’m keen to be a player-coach to assist younger guys and assist them develop their abilities and assist them study the sport, mentally. As a result of just about all people has the bodily attributes, however a number of them miss the psychological a part of it that’s actually necessary about being an NBA participant. So I’m keen to have the ability to assist in that facet and nonetheless simply be prepared if my quantity is known as.”

If you happen to’re anticipating to see Felton in an NBA uniform anytime quickly, it in all probability gained’t be in the course of the league’s restart this month. Like many, he has issues with the bubble surroundings on the World of Disney in Orlando. From who he’s spoken to, there have been “iffy” emotions towards the plan itself. Between the surge of coronavirus circumstances in Florida and the struggle in opposition to racial injustice and police brutality, Felton isn’t certain if the gamers shall be there from a psychological standpoint.

“I kinda want they’d’ve similar to canceled the season, simply actually cancel it and simply concentrate on the draft and concentrate on that upcoming season and simply let this one go,” Felton mentioned. “And I do know it’s by no means been carried out; it’s been a very long time since that ever occurred, but it surely’s been a very long time because the world’s been coping with what we’ve been coping with proper now, too.

“Even the blokes who really feel the way in which I really feel, we miss the sport too. I miss it like loopy. I ain’t performed in a complete yr, so I’d like to go play. I’d love that, however to not threat getting sick or threat my life or threat one thing taking place to my children or my household. Nah, it’s simply…to not end a season. (If) we talkin’ about beginning up a complete new season, then okay, that’s a distinct story. However to love end and do that format that they’re attempting out proper now, nah. Not in my view. That’s my opinion, however not all people feels that method, so.”

Regardless of his emotions on the comeback itself, Felton does really feel his associates and gamers throughout the league will use their platform in a optimistic method to have an effect on change. He shared poignant ideas on the problems taking place in our nation and our world.

“Something can assist at this level,” Felton mentioned. “What we’re coping with proper now could be simply one thing that simply must cease. It ain’t no racial factor. It ain’t no blacks in opposition to whites. It ain’t that. It’s simply that these cops, these unhealthy cops — ’trigger not all cops are unhealthy, I’ll say that; I’ve cop associates — however the ones who’re doing one thing that different cops have to step up and make a stand and say, ‘Look, this isn’t how we’re speculated to do issues.’ You already know, you’re not supposed to place your knee down on that man’s neck for that lengthy and so they find yourself passing out and dying. You’re not speculated to shoot a person as a result of they’re working away from you and also you shoot ’em of their again. It’s simply too many cases the place this stuff are taking place, and it’s similar to, it’s acquired to cease.

“And I’m glad that everyone’s protesting and doing the issues they’re doing as a result of it’s like…this stuff are taking place, however no person’s doing nothing about it. It’s getting brushed up underneath the rug, and it’s like, no. Sufficient is sufficient. We drained. We carried out. We carried out with this. I shouldn’t need to reply a query to my son asking me like, ‘Daddy I’m scared. Daddy, I’m scared to be black.’ And it’s like, what? After I hear my child say one thing like that, now I’m indignant, now I’m mad. It’s simply issues that gotta cease man. We’re coping with lots on this planet proper now with the (coronavirus) after which all these items that’s happening with Black Lives Matter, too.

“It’s simply robust occasions proper now,” Felton continued. And I nonetheless really feel like we’re all gonna get previous this, we’re gonna get by way of this. Change is gonna occur as a result of we’re gonna demand change. We’re gonna demand change. After which with the (coronavirus), it’s simply one thing that we simply gotta keep robust as a rustic and simply wait this factor out, man. Simply be protected and all people preserve training the issues we have to follow — social distancing, hand sanitizer, preserve your masks on, do the belongings you gotta do throughout these tough moments. It’s robust, man. These occasions like this, you simply wanna be near your loved ones, near your children and simply attempt to preserve ’em protected. You already know, it’s kinda exhausting to focus on basketball when there’s a lot happening on this planet which you can’t ignore.”

Whereas Felton and Wright carry GBMS on of their respective lives, the 2 have envisioned beginning up a clothes line collectively. Felton’s already acquired the shirts and sweatsuits, and folks have at all times requested him in regards to the attire he wears. It’s a love that motivates him to undergo with it down the road.

When requested about his future in basketball as soon as his enjoying days are over, Felton appears uncertain. He does know he needs to be across the recreation. Nonetheless, it’s not the time to speak about that proper now. There’s unfinished enterprise left to maintain in his eyes.

Felton’s path so far has been crammed with peaks and valleys. He’s had his justifiable share of moments on the prime and on the backside.

“I really feel such as you’ve acquired to make errors and do issues in life with a view to be a greater individual and discover ways to be a greater individual and a greater man in your life,” Felton mentioned. “Whether or not it’s (as) a father, a husband or a teammate or a buddy or a son or a no matter it’s. It’s important to do some flawed with a view to study.

“So I don’t actually know if I’ve too many regrets as a result of I actually can’t complain with my life. Sure, I’ve been by way of some issues — I’ve been by way of some robust issues off the court docket — however I’ve stayed centered, I’ve at all times saved God first and believed in God and believed that he’s gonna assist me get by way of this. Mentally, bodily, no matter. It’s at all times been that method. I’ve at all times gotten by way of every thing that I’ve went by way of.”

Via all of it, Felton wouldn’t change a factor about how he acquired right here.



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