Can it get worse?
In a lost season at One Center Court, an outspoken point guard who entered the lockout-shortened season out of shape and out of mind was the figure head for everything that appeared wrong in the Rose Garden Arena.
In recent memory, there has not been a scapegoat used by Blazermaniacs as much as point guard Raymond Felton was in 2011-12.
Before the season even started, fans who attended LaMarcus Aldridge‘s charity event at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center noted that Felton looked closer to one of Santa’s Helpers than an NBA starting point guard.
He was heckled from the opening tip thereafter for shooting over 50 percent only once during the team’s first 14 games.
When the Trail Blazers lost on Valentine’s Day to the Washington Wizards in a 124-109 debacle at the Rose Garden, his four points and six assists hardly endeared him to fans.
On the day of former coach Nate McMillian’s March firing, Felton got blamed for Mr. Sonic’s turn at the coaching guillotine, even as noted vocal miscreants Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace were shipped in partial response to their treatment of McMillan.
As the Blazers lost seven in a row to end the season, four of which Felton was benched for, the Blazers faithful blamed him.
Portland’s fans had a legitimate gripe. ESPN.com’s John Hollinger had Felton ranked #43 for point guards in his Player Efficiency Rating, which assesses a player’s per-minute productivity.
This means there were teams with two more efficient point guards on their own roster that were more efficient than Portland’s starter in the 2011-12 season.
His stat lines were 11.4 points and 6.5 assists per game and he shot 40.3 percent from the field and 30.5 from the three point-line. For the first two-thirds of the season, Felton was putrid, plain and simple.
The only question is how should the Blazers respond? What can Portland do about Felton?
1). Promote Him to General Manager
Felton was among the team’s most passive-aggressive players in his attempt to get former coach Nate McMillan fired. Playing for the New York Knicks and the Charlotte Bobcats among others have taught Felton exactly what it takes to reach the playoffs and win consistently at the highest level.
Everyone knows that he has had enough time watching them on TNT and ESPN to dissect tape of winning teams while playing with those franchises.
Portland should take his 11 points and seven assists to the front office and give him the General Manager’s desk and see if he can identify a coach to fit his style of play and lead the Blazers to a sub-.500 record like the Knicks and Bobcats have done in past years.
2). Beg Him to Sign an Offer Sheet:
As long as Portland is not the one that will bear his signature. For the 2012-13 season, Felton is a restricted free agent that would earn $7.56 million next year as a Blazer, meaning that Portland can match the offer sheet of any team that courts Felton, but surely does not have to.
If a general manager is willing to pay him as little as a dollar for 2012-13, the Blazers should let him run faster than Jonny Flynn during his Blazers exit interview. There are plenty of options to go with at point guard.
Unrestricted free agents such as Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich, Golden State’s Nate Robinson, Houston’s Goran Dragic are reasonable options, as are Blazers retreads Andre Miller in Denver and Toronto’s Jerryd Bayless.
3). Let Him Sit:
If he wants to come back to Portland for some unidentifiable reason, sign him for one year only and let the current coach Kaleb Canales or the next hire deal with him accordingly.
Felton has not accomplished enough in a Blazers uniform to warrant any loyalty from management or the fan base. Management should let him do as the next coach sees fit.
Worst case scenario in this option?
Buy his contract out and eat the money for the last 40 games.
Next season will be much bigger for the Portland Trail Blazers than it will be for Raymond Felton.
When the curtain fell on 2011-12, President Larry Miller and company should have put number five in the rear view mirror along with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and the rest of the ugly story lines from this past year.
The lockout season play that unfolded was a broken promise fulfilled by nothing and a player that symbolized as much about it.