2007-10-26 / Sports

Houston's Retirement No Problem For Knicks

By John J. Buro

HEMPSTEAD, NY - The news, itself, wasn't much of a revelation. After all, Allan Houston was a longshot, at best, to earn a roster spot with the 2007-08 New York Knicks.

The 36-year-old shooting guard, two years removed from the NBA because of chronic knee pain, called it quits again this past Saturday, in a press release circulated by the team.

"After much consideration," the franchise's fourth-leading scorer was quoted as saying, "I have decided to end my comeback with the Knicks. While my body and my knees, in particular, feel fine, I know what's required for me to be truly effective in the NBA again, and it involves a timing and progression that would not be fair to the team right now.

"With the season opening less than two weeks away, I think it's best for them to move on without me. I appreciate the opportunity that Isiah [Thomas] and the Knicks have given me, and I wish the team nothing but success."

The statement was given to reporters before the team's open practice commenced inside the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, on the campus of Hofstra University.

The free day out, which was aided by unseasonably warm weather, drew more than 2,000 fans. Houston didn't attend the publicized event, as he chose not to become the center of attention. In fact, his sudden announcement was not even publicized to the gallery.

"When I went into camp," he said the following day, "the intensity was a shock to my body, and I didn't have time to recover from that.

"These guys don't deserve me to be out there if I don't command a presence, and Isiah doesn't. And right now, that's not going to happen."

While one of the great Knicks careers is over, it remains to be seen if any of the other 20 franchises are desperate enough to make any inquiries.

"He tried," Stephon Marbury said. "That's all we could have asked for. It's a lot easier to walk away [this way], as opposed to walking away when you're forced out."

Houston's decision to step away after six days was only surprising in its immediacy. The prevailing attitude was that he would be New York's final cut or, at the very most, retire within the first quarter of the season.

And, though Thomas has been spared from axing one of the more popular Knicks in recent memory, the coach still has a few decisions to make before trimming the fat from his supersized roster.

"Unfortunately, part of the business we're in is breaking hearts and crushing dreams," said Thomas, who knows of such experiences. "The toughest part is calling people into the office, to tell them it's not going to work out."

Houston had joined the team ten days into practice. By then, New York was beyond the league mandate of 15 players. There was also a glut at his position, which dropped him even further off the depth chart.

That, in part, was why Houston played a paltry six minutes in the Knicks' 40-point drubbing by the new-andimproved Boston Celtics the previous Wednesday. A day later, after a grand total of five practices, he knew that it was over - as did those close to him. "It was an uphill battle," Thomas disclosed, "and Allan, definitely, needed as much court time as possible. But, I also wanted to be respectful of the player and the person.

Subsequently, the coach did not dress Houston for the 110-94 exhibition loss to the New Jersey Nets two nights later, and afterwards revealing that the chances of Houston forging a roster spot were very slim. "I'm not angry with [his] call," Houston said then, "Tonight is a good night to take off."

That was liar's poker at its best. First, Houston said that Thomas asked him not to play. Then, it was a decision that was mutually agreed upon.

"He told me just before the New Jersey game," Thomas confirmed to reporters seeking a clarification.

However, the ex-player may not be entirely through with the Knicks, and vice versa. His one chip is a strong friendship with James Dolan, the Garden chairman. So, employment in the front office is a distinct possibility.

Not that Houston would need the cash. In 2001, he inked a spectacular $100-million extension and, at $20.7 million, was still among the NBA's highest paid players over the last two seasons. "I think," Thomas offered, "he has won the battle -in terms of being able to get back out on the floor. He has found peace of mind, and is happy with his decision."

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