Point guard Raymond Felton makes his return to the court following an arrest for gun possession charges as the New York Knicks take on the Miami Heat Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Piling on to an already difficult season for the Knicks, Felton told reporters in a statement on Wednesday that he is focused on the rest of the season and that his troubles with the law won’t be a distraction for the team.
“This is not a distraction to this team,” Felton said. “You know, I’m focusing on finishing out this season, finishing out these games with my teammates and going down to Miami and focusing on this next game at task, versus the defending champs.
“As far as what’s going on off the court with me, there will be no comment speaking on that. If you got any questions, anything doing with that, speak to my lawyer. But other than that, I’m here to concentrate on this team, finish this season out with the New York Knicks and see what happens, man, trying to make it to the playoffs.”
Felton was released on bail on Tuesday night after he was charged with two counts of felony weapons possession. The charges come after the lawyer for Felton’s estranged wife turned in a loaded handgun to New York police.
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Injuries, a major rebound discrepancy against opponents and a struggling offense have dropped the once title-hopeful Knicks to 11 games back in the Atlantic Division and five full games behind the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Felton’s legal issues exacerbated the sour feelings Knick fans already had about his play this season, with the eight-year veteran shooting 38.2 percent from the floor in February and New York going 3-9 for the month.
Miami will welcome back LeBron James, who returned to practice on Wednesday after suffering a broken nose last week in the victory over Oklahoma City. James will wear a protective mask and he told the Miami Herald his game won’t be affected.
“Every day is better and better, but I haven’t been hit in it either,” James said. “Morning time and at night are always difficult.”
The defending champion Heat are riding a five game win streak and are 8-1 this month, currently second in the East. Led by Chris Bosh’s 28 points and 10 rebounds, and 23 points from guard Dwyane Wade Miami trounced Chicago 93-79 with James on the sidelines.
New York fell to Dallas off a kind bounce for Dirk Nowitzki’s buzzer beater on Monday night. Forward Carmelo Anthony netted 44 points and nine rebounds against the Mavericks, the second time he’s surpassed the 40-point mark in the last three games. Anthony’s been especially sharp from three-point range this month, shooting 43 percent, and he’s averaging 32.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in the last 12 games.
Anthony did not participate in practice on Wednesday for a personal reason, but he is expected to play against Miami.
The two squads last met on Feb. 1 with Miami pulling out a 106-91 victory. James dropped 30 points and tallied eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. The Knicks struggled with turnovers with Anthony and Felton combining for 11 of the team’s 17 on the night.
TV Channel: TNT
Time: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST
Online Stream Info: A live online stream can be viewed at TNT Overtime here.