by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
Despite the disappointing start to the season, Raymond Felton smiles in every single photo he poses for on this Thursday night. He arrived at the Basketball City complex on the Lower East Side to meet with over 150 Big Brother Big Sister matches from the NYC area, as well as 25 selected high schoolers from Comprehensive Development Inc. But as Felton walked in, a different group of kids, presumably from an after school program held at the facility, were on their way out the door. Needless to say, Felton ended up taking photos and interacting with a much larger crowd than he had initially anticipated. The Marion, South Carolina native’s tie to the Big Brother Big Sister program dates back to his first years in the NBA with the Charlotte Bobcats, where he mentored local kids as a ‘big.’ In New York, Felton serves as an ambassador for the organization. On this night, on-court activities, crafts, pizza, free gifts and photos were all on the itinerary.
SLAM caught up with the Knickerbocker in between photo poses for a few minutes to discuss charity work, Knicks and trade rumors, among other topics.
SLAM: A lot of the kids meeting you tonight seem to really be impacted by your presence. As a kid, were there any celebrities or pro athletes that you met and made an impact in your life?
Raymond Felton: I had great people in my area that impacted my life. My dad, one of my coaches, AAU coach, high school — I had a lot of people that made an impact in me. As far as meeting somebody famous, the only famous person I ever met growing up was David Thompson. I was playing in his rec league. He came in and spoke to us. That was the first time I met someone that was celebrity status.
SLAM: What is the biggest message you try to tell kids when you interact with them at an event like this one?
RF: My message all the time to the kids is to be free and enjoy life. Just set goals in life — that’s just the biggest thing. You don’t want to take away from kids being kids. Yeah, you should set dreams and shoot for them but at the same time you should still enjoy being a kid because once you become an adult it’s a different world — it just is.
SLAM: What motivated you to become an ambassador of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program?
RF: I was a part of this in Charlotte for five years. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. It was something I really wanted to get back into and be a part of because it’s something that I really enjoyed doing and what the organization is about. I had fun spending time with the kids and being an impact in the kid’s lives. I wanted to be a part of that again.
SLAM: Moving on to basketball and the Knicks, what’s the biggest takeaway the team has gained from the disappointing start to the season?
RF: Well, it’s showing us what type of toughness we have as a team. Right now we are at our worst times. We just gotta fight out of this and get better. It’s about how you finish, not how you start. We understand that these first two months haven’t been the greatest but we have a lot of basketball to still play, so we have a long way to go and we can definitely make up for this. We’re not giving up — definitely not ever going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting and get better.
SLAM: How confident are you guys that you can still turn it around in time and win the Atlantic division?
RF: Without a question, we still have that as a goal — to win our division. It’s still there. We just have to keep fighting, get better and get everybody healthy, and we’ll see what happens. Just have to remain positive. We know there’s a lot of talk out there. A lot of people saying a lot of negative stuff, people talking about trades. I feel like we built this team from last year. I feel like we still have the same core. We added some new guys into the team that we’re bulls in to our system. That takes time. But I feel like once we all get that chemistry, we’re going to be a tough team to be reckoned with.
SLAM: Statistically, you’ve have some of your best years in New York. How come?
RF: Just the atmosphere, man. Something I really can’t explain. Just that electricity you get on that court when you’re playing in The Garden. It’s just this feeling, the adrenaline, you just can’t explain. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it.
SLAM:Your name has been brought up in trade rumors, particularly for Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. How do you personally deal with such reports?
RF: It’s mentally tough. It can mess with people’s heads. I’ve seen it happen to teammates of mine in the past. Trade rumors come out and their game go from being here to being down here because they’re worried about being traded and about not making mistakes. It’s one of those things where you just have to play with it and deal with it. I mean, I’ve heard Carmelo’s name in trade rumors. Anybody can be thrown in trade rumors. If it happens, hey, you go to another team and still play basketball. There’s nothing you can do. But I want to be in New York and I feel like everyone on our team wants to be in New York. But we have no say, so when we get traded and sent to another team, there’s nothing I can do about it. How I deal with it? It’s whatever. If its going to happen, there’s nothing I can do about it. Hopefully my agent get’s into the conversation and gets me to a good team where I can go there and still play my game.
SLAM: Do you think all the trade rumors surrounding different Knicks players have affected the team’s chemistry or performance?
RF: I’ve heard like six or seven different guys on our team in trade rumors. I don’t think it affects the chemistry. I think some guys get tired of hearing it. It can mess up the chemistry, though. That’s the thing in New York, there’s so much media reports, that you’ll hear something different everyday. You can’t stop everyone from listening. There’s so many negative reports out there, and you have some guys on our team that read it and you have others that don’t. Some guys can’t mentally take that. Everyone is not the same. It kind of bothers guys. You can see it but it’s all about being able to let it go and just let it be.