by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad

Thursday afternoon, laid back sipping a ginger ale on a plush couch at the penthouse of New York City’s Hotel Gansevoort, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton is feeling good. He’s here to help launch the Under Armour UA Spawn Anatomix, which you’ll see on his feet this coming season, and which you can learn much more about inside the pages of KICKS 16—which Felton covers with fellow UA teammates Brandon Jennings, Greivis Vasquez and Kemba Walker.

“Everybody loves it,” Felton says of the cover. “Fantastic 4—I actually really like that picture. Everybody loves it though, for real. I’m gonna get this made in a poster, get these guys to sign it and everything.”

He’s wearing an orange-and-blue UA top, representing both his teams. And while Felton was the “new guy” on the scene for the Knicks and his kicks in ’12-13, he’s says he’s comfortable now—literally (telling you, this is a nice couch) and metaphorically. Finally settled in his role, we figured it time to ask Ray about the slew of moves the Knicks made this summer, his off-season training habits and of course, the brewing rivalry with Brooklyn. Check out our conversation below.

SLAM: You’ve been with Under Armour for a few months now. How’s the transition been, how’s everything going?

Raymond Felton: It’s been great. When I signed, it was during the year, so I didn’t get a chance to really do anything [input-wise] but I got a chance to visit campus when we played DC later on in the year. I went down like three weeks ago, got some stuff done. I like the way they’re going. They’re already at the top as far as footwear, accessories, apparel. They’re probably the biggest in football, with cleats and all that, they’re already smashing in that. And I think we’re going to get to that level as far as basketball. It’s getting better every year with the designs, the shoe. I love it, I’m happy to be a part of something that’s growing.

SLAM: And you know your sneakers, so that’s big for you to say that.

RF: I love shoes. One thing I know is my shoes. I’m happy. They have a variety of everything, from nice, cool walking around shoes to slides, everything. They all feel good. They all got style to them. And that’s the biggest thing. If you’re going to wear something on your feet, you want to have a little style with it, but it’s also comfortable.

SLAM: Sounds like you won’t hesitate to give UA your input, huh?

RF: No, no, I let ‘em know. I’m supposed to, that’s what they want, that’s what they told me from day one—‘It don’t matter if they hurt our feelings or what, tell us what it is.’ I said, OK, don’t worry about it, I’ll tell you.

SLAM: Let’s talk hoops for a minute. The Knicks made a bunch of moves this summer. Starting with Metta World Peace…

RF: I love it. We need somebody like that. We need somebody that’s gonna bring that toughness to our team. We had K-Mart, he came on later on in the season. To add a guy like Ron as well, who can guard 1 through 5, really, he’s that strong. He has that mental state to do that. Just to have him on the squad is great. And he can play the game of basketball. A lot of people don’t talk about that—Ron Artest can play. He can shoot the ball well, he handles, he can pass. He has a great all-around perimeter game. So just to bring another guy that knows the game, has won a Championship at the NBA level. The experience that he has is only gonna help us.

And he’s not a old, old guy. Like everybody was trying to say about us last year, Oh, we were too old. Whatever. Yeah we had a lot of older guys in the League, but you know, it worked for us. We had a great season. I think we had a successful season. The postseason didn’t quite go the way that we expected, the way we wanted. But as far as a season, we had great year. JKidd was great for us, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas before they got hurt, Sheed before he got hurt. It’s no knock to those guys, all those guys have played 15-plus seasons in this League, so who can talk any junk about those guys? They had a great, healthy career, some of those guys are Hall of Famers, All-Stars. The changes that we made, as far as losing those guys—JKidd coaching, Sheed coaching, Kurt either gonna retire or go to somebody else. Camby we traded along with Novak to get Bargnani.

The changes we made, I think have made our team stronger, and younger. I have no complaints. I feel like we’ve gotten better. Just like people talking about Brooklyn got better, Chicago’s gonna be better because Derrick Rose is coming back. But nobody is talking about the Knicks getting better. We have our same team, that was the No. 2 team in the East, and we’ve gotten better. So it’s like, Why are y’all really disrespecting us like, Oh, they’re gonna finish five or six in the East? I like that though. We’re hearing that and we’re taking it as motivation. So we’re looking forward to this year for sure.

SLAM: You mentioned Kidd and Brooklyn. Is that weird for you, that you just played with this guy and now he’s wearing a suit on the other sideline?

RF: [Laughs] He was already like a mentor or coach anyway. He was always talking to me, always giving me advice. I look at him as a big brother in a sense anyway, like he was coaching me anyway. He was my mentor. Seeing him as a coach—it’s gonna help Deron Williams’ game, his game big-time. You have a guy that’s going to let you play, that’s played the game, who understands that point guards, you just let them go. They’re going to make mistakes, just let him go and let him get his own feel and just let him play basketball. I think JKidd is going to let DWill handle the team, run the team. As a point guard, when a coach tells you that, and you don’t have to worry about nothing over your shoulder, you can just play, the sky’s the limit.

SLAM: Can we expect the Knicks-Nets rivalry to continue to grow?

RF: Yeah, especially with Paul Pierce talking all this junk, each and every week. Saying something on some show, some radio show or whatever. It’s just boosting the rivalry, without a doubt. Like I say to people all the time, I don’t care what Brooklyn do, I don’t care if they have a better record than we do this year, we still got “New York” on our chest. We’re still New York’s team, regardless of what Brooklyn do. It just is what it is. It’s just like Duke and North Carolina, that big rivalry, we still got “North Carolina” on our chest. We’re still the most-liked North Carolina team there is. There’s a lot of Duke fans, too, but we’re the most-liked team. It’s the same comparison. We still got “New York” on our chest. They can say Brooklyn this, Brooklyn that, they got KG, they got Paul Pierce—OK, they’re going to be good, we know that. But they’re also going to be an older team as well. They’re not going to have the youth that they had last year. But I look forward to it. I love rivalries, I’ve been playing in them a long time.

SLAM: We haven’t seen you out playing any streetball this summer, huh?

RF: They’ve been calling me like crazy to come out to Dyckman and play. I’m thinking about it, we’ll see. I might just sneak out there one day and don’t tell nobody.

SLAM: So what have you been working on this summer, then?

RF: Training, man. My trainer’s been killing me, man. It’s been great, though. Losing weight, it seems like every week. He’s killing me. I’m lifting a whole lot more, turning my body into a lot of muscle, trying to lean out, get a lot of cuts in this body. Just working, man. I just want to be better. I feel like if I can make myself better it makes our team a little bit better. That’s all I want to do, is try to play my part on this team.

SLAM: Is there anything specific, basketball-wise?

RF: Really, no, I think more of a mental standpoint of being a more vocal leader. I think last year, it was my first time back to the team, so I didn’t want to come in and try to seem like I’m taking over. But this year, I need to be a little more vocal as far as being a leader, instead of being laid-back. Just voice myself a little bit more. I feel like that’s one of the things coach wants me to do more. As far as on the court stuff, I’ve been working on everything. Being more consistent everywhere, as far as running the screen and roll, knowing when to make the right pass, knowing when to shoot or pass up a shot to get somebody else a shot. All those parts of the game come from watching film and then going out on the court and working on it.

SLAM: Last thing, what have you been listening to this summer? What’s on your playlist?

RF: I listen to everything man. I like that J. Cole album, Jay Z’s album was nice. A little mixture of everything, I listen to whatever’s hot. Whatever these young kids—I’ve got a nephew about 15, whatever he’s listening to, he’s telling me what’s going on [laughs].