BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Raymond Felton is determined to keep personal turmoil from affecting what was already his most trying season professionally.
A day after his arrest on felony weapons charges, Felton returned to practice with the New York Knicks on Wednesday, saying that was “not a distraction” to the team.
Felton spoke for less than a minute and did not take questions. He thanked family, friends and teammates for their support and insisted his thoughts were on the Knicks’ game Thursday night in Miami.
“This is not a distraction to this team,” he said. “I’m focusing on finishing out this season, finishing out these games with my teammates and going down to Miami, focusing on this next game at task versus the defending champs.”
The Knicks are barely hanging on in the playoff race and Felton’s struggles have been among their biggest problems. Slowed by nagging leg injuries early, he’s averaging a career-worst 10.4 points on 40.3 percent shooting for a team with a 21-36 record.
He’s also dealing with the breakup of his marriage, and he was arrested early Tuesday after authorities said a lawyer for his wife turned into a police precinct a loaded semi-automatic handgun allegedly belonging to the point guard, claiming she no longer wanted it in their home.
Felton was released on $25,000 bail, and his next court appearance is scheduled for June 2.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he never considered not letting Felton play against the Heat.
“The bottom line is Ray is a part of our team, and as his coach I’m going to support him and make sure he’s doing everything the right way from here on out, and to try to get him to just concentrate on basketball and practice and playing games,” Woodson said.
Felton was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree and criminal possession of a firearm. The firearm charge is punishable by up to four years in prison. The weapons charge is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
He had turned himself into police not long after a 110-108 loss to Dallas dropped the Knicks farther back in the playoff race. His wife, Ariane Raymondo-Felton, filed for divorce last week, according to court records, and Felton acknowledged recently dealing with personal problems.
He said he wouldn’t comment on the case, referring any questions to his 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,” Felton said. “Trying to make it to the playoffs. We’re 5½ games out, 25 games left, so I’m really focusing on that with these guys, with the team and trying to make that happen.”
Felton was playing well in his first stint in New York before he was traded to Denver in the middle of the 2010-11 season as part of the package for Carmelo Anthony. He had a dismal 2011-12 season for Portland, admitting he reported out of shape because he wasn’t sure if, or when, the lockout might end.
Yet the Knicks surprisingly re-signed him that summer, a move that paved the way for them to let Jeremy Lin leave as a free agent. Felton rebounded with a strong performance last season in helping the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division title since 1994, but neither he nor the team has been able to build on that.
Felton has played better lately, and center Tyson Chandler said he was focused at practice Wednesday.
“He seemed like he was no different,” Chandler said.
Felton still could face punishment from the NBA, though likely not until the legal process has been completed. He is set to earn $3.8 million next season and has a player option that would pay him $4 million in 2015-16, and any attempt by the Knicks to void his contract would be met with a strong challenge from the players’ association.
For now, Felton and the Knicks are just trying to salvage the season.
“My job is to continue to coach and try to get guys to do the right thing on and off the basketball floor. I take pride in that, so when things creep in like this, it’s a surprise, but again we’ve got to get through it,” Woodson said.
“Again, I don’t know the legal part, the severity of it. All I know is Raymond is still with us and I’m on Raymond’s side in terms of trying to make sure that he’s doing the necessary things to play basketball and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Notes: The Knicks plan to sign veterans Shannon Brown and Earl Clark to 10-day contracts Thursday and have them available to play against the Heat. … Anthony missed practice for personal reasons but will be with the team in Miami.
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