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Raymond Felton shows depth of his value to Thunder on and off the court

Leadership comes in many forms. With the retirement of Nick Collison, Raymond Felton immediately became the longest-tenured pro in the Thunder locker room.

It was Collison who was often the go-to voice for 10 years of Thunder basketball. But even when Collison was still in Oklahoma City in 2017, Felton arrived as a free agent and provided additional perspective and maturity.

On his eighth team, Felton has finally found a home … so long as the Thunder will have him.

"I love it here. I love this organization," Felton said. "I love this team, love this city.

"I'm a guy at a point in my career, I want to be settled and just enjoy playing the game that I love and enjoy being in the city that loves me back and loves their team, and there's no better place than here really."

With the arrival of Dennis Schroder, Felton’s role was marginalized this past season. But Felton’s proved to be valuable not just as a locker room presence, but a figure in the rotation by season’s end.

The Thunder struggled post All-Star break with Felton back in the rotation, but it wasn’t because of him or the second unit. In his increased minutes (11.8 per game) from Feb. 11 to the end of the season, Felton shot 45.8 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from 3-point range in 18 appearances.

As the Thunder’s third point guard, Felton appeared in just 33 regular-season games. But as the Thunder’s wing depth was sapped as the season progressed, Felton was inserted back into the rotation after playing just twice in two months, and played well.

"Whatever it takes, man, to do whatever I got to do for this team," Felton said. "I was on board with that no matter what."

That’s no hyperbole. Felton filled a myriad of roles, from Paul George’s pre-game warm-up buddy, to coach Billy Donovan’s undersized, fill-in wing, to impromptu team spokesman in the most poignant non-basketball moment of the season.

On March 11, during a 98-89 win against the Jazz in Salt Lake City, a fan told Russell Westbrook to "get on his knees like you’re used to," a term Westbrook called racist. The fan was banned for life from Vivint Smart Home Arena, but not until after Felton and numerous players, including Thunder forward Patrick Patterson and Utah players Donovan Mitchell and Thabo Sefolosha, condemned the fan’s behavior.

"I’m going to speak on this, and I want everyone in here to really tune into this and understand … At the end of the day, we’re human beings," Felton said, part of a monologue that went viral. "Just like they’ve got feelings, we’ve got feelings, too.

"People can say whatever they want to say to us during games, yell out stuff, talk about our families and our kids. Our kids. We’re fathers, we have families and people can blurt out what they want about us. That’s not and it’s not right. When is it going to be a point where it’s going to be about protecting us players?"

In each of his two seasons with the Thunder, Felton has played on one-year, veteran’s minimum contracts. He’s a free agent this summer, and the Thunder will likely only offer him the minimum again based on his age (Felton turns 35 on June 26), on-court contributions and its salary cap constraints.

That night in Utah, Felton showed the depths of his value as a mass of media gathered around the veteran point guard for his word.

Felton didn’t even play in the game.

Related Photos
<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4eee078b6ed54f43e4090a7aba54c703.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-n_f63045522db746c30768b9836628f491.jpg" alt="Photo - Raymond Felton did not play much during the 2018-19 season, but he is one of the team's leaders. Felton, 35, plans on returning to Thunder next season. [Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Raymond Felton did not play much during the 2018-19 season, but he is one of the team's leaders. Felton, 35, plans on returning to Thunder next season. [Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Raymond Felton did not play much during the 2018-19 season, but he is one of the team's leaders. Felton, 35, plans on returning to Thunder next season. [Photo by Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

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