By MATT FALKENBURYSpecial to ZAGSBLOGGREENBURGH, N.Y. — With a tough week of games ahead for the Knicks, the injury news keeps getting better.
Raymond Felton, out since late December with a fractured right pinky suffered against the Lakers on Christmas Day, was cleared Tuesday for non-contact practice.
Felton took part in conditioning drills and was taking jumpers, working with shooting coach Dave Hopla while the Knicks scrimmaged.
“I feel great, I feel good, just waiting to get back on the court, that’s all,” he said after practice. “I’ve been out for about four weeks, so it’s been painful, it’s been terrifying. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and helping my teammates.”
Before the injury, Felton was having a resurgent season after struggling last year in Portland, averaging 15.8 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Since the injury, the Knicks have gone only 5-6 and have had to play Jason Kidd more than expected. According to Tommy Beer of Hoopsworld.com, this season, the Knicks’ offense averages 116 points per 100 possessions with Felton on the floor and, just 108.5 without Felton.
Felton mentioned his target date for returning was the game on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers and said there was a “big” chance he could play. But he also said, he doesn’t want to come back too soon and re-injure the pinky, because the timetable could then be 2-3 months more.
Coach Mike Woodson said it is important it is to get Felton back on the court when he is ready to go.
“We missed him a lot, he is a big part of the puzzle,” he said. “We didn’t bring Kidd in to play 30 plus minutes a game.
“I got to get Raymond back eventually and when they tell me he is cleared to play then we’ll get him back in there and we’ll get him back up to speed. He is a big part of what we are missing, So we do miss him.”
Teammates at practice know that Felton is close to returning and he wants nothing more than to get back on the court with them.
“I talked to Melo, Amar’e, Tyson, everybody was like we can’t wait to get you back and I said I can’t wait to be back,” Felton said. “This is the longest I have ever been out ever in my career. It’s been tough mentally for me, but I have been fighting through it and making sure I stay in shape.”
The Knicks know that when Felton does return, he not only gives the point guard position more youth and depth, he allows other players to go back to the roles they played so successfully at the beginning of the season.
The injury bug has taken it’s toll on the Knicks this season, but after the return of Iman Shumpert, the Knicks are now another day closer to getting another key guy back sooner rather than later.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.