Will Miss Friday at Boston Celtics
Houston To Sit Awhile To Rest Knee
by Tom Kertes


Decisions, choices, arriving at crossroads, selecting one among a number of difficult options.
The Knicks, a team that had to do a lot of all of the above this season, may have just made their most momentous move: star two guard Allan Houston, who’s been struggling with his right knee all season, is going to shut it down for a while.

“It may be two games, it may be five,” he said with a sad smile after Thursday’s Knick practice. “I really don’t know. All I know is I must do something, anything, to change the situation for the better.”

Coming off of the best season of his career (22.5 ppg. on 44.5 per cent shooting), Houston had an arthroscopic procedure done on the knee during the off-season. Though he once again leads the Knicks in scoring (19.8 ppg.), and ranks eighth in the league in three point shooting (42.3 per cent) and third in free-throw percentage (90.8), he has “never felt quite like myself all year,” he says. Of late, in particular, he looked uncomfortable on the floor, sitting out parts of some games and playing ineffectively in others. Houston has averaged only 11.9 ppg on 16-47 shooting the last four games -- way down from his customary production -- as the Knicks, missing his shot and all-around impact, went 1-3.

“It’s VERY frustrating -- there’s never a good time to do this,” said Houston. “Especially not with the team involved in such a tight playoff race. But, the real question is, how do I help the team most?”

In spite of the pain -- not to mention the frustration of not playing at the top of his ability -- Houston pronounced the idea of a layoff “unthinkable” -- until he had a conversation with the Knicks President of Basketball Operations following Tuesday’s San Antonio game. “Isiah (Thomas) gave me a lot of comfort,” he said. “He said he understood. And when a guy like Isiah, who’s played and played hurt, says he understands that means a lot. He also said he was sure we’re going to make the playoffs. So I felt that, with the changes he’s recently made, we have a very capable team here now. So maybe this was the time to do this, to look at the big picture.”

And that is this: “Mentally, now I know -- not playing one or two games, then coming back, just wasn’t working,” said Houston. “In fact, it was setting back the progress I made -- the rehabilitation, the strengthening -- on the knees during the time of rest. I say ‘knees’ because, due to the compensation my body was doing, my left knee started to hurt as well. A longer period of rest and rehab is what’s needed to get back to where I want to be as a player. I don’t know exactly how long it’s going to last. I’m taking it one day at a time. But, as of right now, I’m NOT thinking of going on the injured list.”

“I want to be strong for us when I need to be,” said Houston. “Every team makes their run after the All-Star break,” added Coach Lenny Wilkens. “Of course, we’d like to make our run NOW. But, looking at the big picture, this -- to do this now -- is the right decision.”

Of course, their purest shooter missing in action is not going to make the road any smoother for the Knicks, a team that’s been trying to adjust to one change after another all season. “It’s been a process, all right,” power forward Kurt Thomas smiled, shaking his head. “Very unusual, I would say, even for the NBA. But you just pull up your bootstraps and do the best you can.”

The last two days of very welcome practice time, for instance, was spent on “putting in a bunch of new sets,” according to forward Keith Van Horn. “Lenny had us focussing on movement, which has been lacking, especially on the weak side, over the last two games. I feel very good about the new stuff Coach put in.”

“We’re still trying to gain a COMPLETE understanding of Coach’s offense and defense,” added Thomas. “We’re trying to get to the point where a guy gets the ball -- and doesn’t have to think about what he’s doing any longer,” said Wilkens. “Just does it. Executes naturally. In this game, you’ve got to KNOW. We’re not there yet.”

“Allan? If you know him even a little bit, you know he didn’t want to do this,” added the coach. “He’s the captain, he’s the leader of this team, he wants to be present, he wants to be there with the guys. He’s always reluctant to sit. I’m sure he’s suffering like crazy. But this is for the best. I’m in his corner. I want him at his best.”

“Yes, this upcoming game in Boston -- the team right in front of us in the standings -- is a BIG game. Very big, in fact. But we have no choice. We have to look at the big picture.”