Dirk Nowitzki could prove vital to Raymond Felton’s success in Dallas

DALLAS — After a subpar season by his own standards, Dallas Mavericks point guard Ray Felton admittedly has a lot to prove heading into the 2014-15 campaign.

Hampered by off-the-court issues and nagging injuries during the ’13-14 season, Felton averaged a career-low 9.7 points per game and 5.6 assists an outing while starting all 65 of his appearances for the New York Knicks. He also connected on just 39.5 percent from the field, his lowest shooting percentage since his second season in the league.

So, with a chip on his shoulders to prove his naysayers wrong, Felton welcomed the six-player trade from New York to Dallas alongside center Tyson Chandler on the eve of the NBA Draft back in June.

“Just to show everybody that I’ve still got it,” Felton said during a conference call with members of the Dallas media last month when asked what he’s looking forward to most next season.

He added: “I still can play. I still can play this game at this level. I can still play this game as an elite point guard at this level. … When you come off a season like I had last season, it’s always a point that you’ve got to prove to yourself coming back the next year. And trust me, I look forward to it.”

The Mavericks hope that Felton’s quest to prove his critics wrong equals a replication of the 2010-11 season, when the 30-year-old lead guard put up near career numbers across the board while averaging 17.1 points, 9.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Knicks. Coincidentally, the Mavericks will also try to duplicate that season’s success after bringing the first title in franchise history to Dallas, looking to once again climb to the top of the mountain with Felton in the fold.

“You know, I think we’ve had a lot of success over the years of guys that maybe have went through a hard year previously,” Mavs president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson said in regard to the acquisition of Felton. “You know, you look at Jerry Stackhouse when we acquired him. Here’s a guy that a lot of folks probably wouldn’t have touched. Nick Van Exel, you go down the line, and we’ve done a pretty good job of bringing guys like that into the fold and having them buy in.

“I think Raymond has been through some tough times. … It’s no secret that he’s gone through some difficult times in New York. I think the cards are, and if history holds true, we certainly have the kind of locker room that has done good with those kinds of players in the past. I hope that Raymond will follow suit.”

But, in order to maximize Felton’s potential in a Mavericks uniform, both he and the team may have to put more on the broad shoulders of 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.

Rallying back from his own injury-riddled season, Nowitzki returned to All-Star form last year while averaging a team-best 21.7 points per game and 6.2 rebounds in his 80 games. Nowitzki also came just shy of another 50-40-90 campaign, connecting on 49.7 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from 3-point range and 89.9 percent at the free-throw line.

Nowitzki’s patented offensive game should now bring out the best in Felton as the Mavericks try to get back into championship contention.

“I mean, as a point guard, it’s always great to have a big man that can really shoot the ball the way that he does,” Felton said with excitement as he anxiously awaits playing alongside Nowitzki. “Dirk has always been one of my favorite players in the NBA. So, to get an opportunity to actually play with him, it’s going to be fun. And then, for me, it’s just my job to try to make things easier for him; try to penetrate and make his guy try to help. Get inside the paint and try to make things easier as possible for him as well.”