- Associated Press - Friday, December 31, 2010

Raymond Felton walked quickly and confidently to the line, ready to shoot the technical free throw the New York Knicks had just been awarded.

Lingering near midcourt with the other players on the floor was Danilo Gallinari, at the time third in the NBA in free throw percentage at 92.5 percent and in the midst of a streak of 43 consecutive makes.

Asked why Felton shot the technical instead of Gallinari _ whom he once called the best shooter he’d ever seen _ Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said he wasn’t sure how they decided.

Wait a minute. THEY decided?

You mean NBA coaches, who sometimes barely sleep for fear of being unprepared, wouldn’t have a policy for handling what’s essentially a chance at a free point _ especially in a season when technicals seemed guaranteed to rise with the league cracking down on complaining?

Actually, though they say they want the guy with the best percentage, they sometimes find reasons to bump him for someone else. Sometimes it’s for a guy who’s red hot; other times it’s for a guy who’s ice cold.

“Every once in a while I pull one out of the hat,” Denver coach George Karl said. “Guy’s struggling, every once in a while I’ll let a guy shoot it.”

Otherwise, Karl is usually fine with either Carmelo Anthony or Chauncey Billups shooting them. D'Antoni feels the same about Gallinari or Felton, who is now neck-and-neck with the Italian for the team lead.

Not that he’ll be looking over to the coach’s box for permission to shoot even if he falls too far behind.

“I’ve got one of the best if not the best free throw percentage on the team and guys look at me as their leader, so they tell me, ‘Hey, go shoot it,’” Felton said.

Karl will put his foot down when necessary.

“In a clutch situation, an end of game situation, it’s always going to be Chauncey Billups,” he said.

If there was ever a season to make certain the technical procedures were in order, this was it. The NBA informed teams during the preseason it would expand its enforcement of the “respect for the game” guidelines. Refs would be calling technicals for any overt gestures, even those not directed at a referee, and the league warned teams it would not tolerate assistant coaches yelling at officials from the benches.

With that in mind, the Minnesota Timberwolves reminded players of their policy to go with the player with the highest percentage, and how to react if the plan had to be changed.

“A scenario might happen where somebody just gets in a funk and let’s say they’ve missed three or four free throws for whatever reason. They might have an injured shoulder or something. So then it’s the next guy in line,” coach Kurt Rambis said. “We’ve kind of mishandled that a couple times this year. I got the team in the locker room and made sure they understood what we expect of them in technical foul situations.”

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