Felton back as the starting point guard, McMillan explains why

TUALATIN, Ore. — Winless since the All-Star break, Nate McMillan has decided to change his first unit once again, re-inserting Raymond Felton as the starting point guard and putting Jamal Crawford back on the bench.

McMillan spoke with Felton about the change during practice Sunday and confirmed the move with the media Monday.

The reason?

“I thought Felton was pressing a few games ago before the break,” McMillan said. “I wanted him to relax and stop pressing as much. With the break and a few games coming off the bench, hopefully he can settle down and play the type of basketball we need him to play. That is the group that we need to go with.”

McMillan removed Felton from the starting lineup after the Blazers managed just seven points in the first quarter vs. the Lakers on Feb. 20. The Blazers won the next game by 40 over the Spurs — albeit with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the bench.

Statistically, Felton’s return to the first unit might not seem warranted. After all, he is coming off of a two-point, 1-for-9 performance against Minnesota Saturday and is 5 for 21 from the field since the All-Star break.

But McMillan asserts that Felton was brought onto the team to be the starting point guard, adding that his presence is needed on the defensive end of the floor and better suits the team’s desired offensive tempo.

“We need to get back to picking up the ball and pressuring the ball. It kind of changed how we were playing, with the guards changing positions,” McMillan said. “Hopefully we can get back to picking up the ball, pressuring defensively, and offensively pushing the ball and taking advantage of what I think are the strengths of our guys.”

McMillan added that Kurt Thomas will be ready to go after missing two games due to a concussion, although he’s still unsure as to how he’ll work him into the rotation given how he was shooting the ball over the rim in practice Sunday. McMillan also said that he may look to play Thomas and Joel Przybilla together.

Elliot Williams is still ahead of Nolan Smith in the rotation.

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