Raymond Felton back in lineup

  • Ian Begley [ARCHIVE]
  • Special to ESPNNewYork.com | January 26, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Raymond Felton returned to the New York Knicks' lineup on Saturday night after missing nearly five weeks with a fractured right pinkie.

Felton started at point guard against the Sixers and played without a minutes restriction in the Knicks' 97-80 loss.

He was a step slow on defense and a bit out of synch in his return, finishing with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting. He had three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 29 minutes.

Felton hit his hand late in the fourth quarter. He winced on the court but said afterward that it stung and the pain quickly subsided.

"That was a good sign," Felton said.

Felton started alongside Jason Kidd, who missed practice on Friday with a back ailment but responded well to treatment and pronounced himself healthy enough to play against Philadelphia.

"I feel great, I feel great. I'm young, I bounce back," the 39-year-old said with a smile before the game.

Kidd played just 15 minutes, missing all three of his shots. He also did not record an assist. With the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, coach Mike Woodson sent Kidd back to the trainer's room to get treatment on his back.

Kidd and Felton are expected to be available for Sunday's home game against Atlanta, though Felton said he may get a precautionary X-ray to be sure he can play.

New York, which has lost five of eight, went 7-7 in Felton's absence, struggling at times on both ends of the floor. Kidd was forced to play extended minutes at point guard with Felton out. Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and, recently, Iman Shumpert were forced to handle playmaking duties. This led, at times, to an isolation-heavy attack for the Knicks (26-15).

With Felton back, Kidd moved to shooting guard.

Woodson said he'd like to reduce Kidd's minutes to between 20-25 per night now that he doesn't have to start at point guard.

Kidd, an 18-year veteran, played 30-plus minutes in eight of 12 games during Felton's absence.

"I'll get my rest once we get fully healthy. That's how I look at it," Kidd said. "Getting Ray back, that definitely helps."

The Knicks offense hasn't been the same without Felton. Kidd and his backup, 35-year-old Pablo Prigioni, could not run the pick-and-roll with the efficiency that the 28-year-old Felton does.

Felton can penetrate deep into the lane on the screen-and-roll, creating open shots on the perimeter and opportunities at the rim for the screener.

"We were very successful with that earlier in the season, so hopefully we can get back to that," Felton said before the game.

Even though he looked a bit out of synch on Saturday, Woodson is optimistic about the impact Felton can have on his club.

"He'll get back. We can't base anything on one game," Woodson said after the loss. "He got 20-something minutes under him -- that was the main thing from a conditioning standpoint to get him back out on the floor."

Before he fractured his pinkie in three places on Christmas Day against the Lakers, Felton had been playing with bone bruises in both hands. The injuries affected his shooting.

He said on Saturday that he feels no pain associated with the bone bruises and was anxious to see how his hands felt after they got hit. Felton, who played with his pinkie and ring finger taped together on Saturday, was happy to be back on the floor injury-free.

"I feel like a new man, like I'm about to play the first game of the season," he said.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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