July 30, 2003 -- This was not an emphatic stamp of approval on the trade, but Allan Houston admitted his partnership with Latrell Sprewell had become too much duplication.
So while he paid homage to Sprewell, Houston said he understood why Scott Layden pulled the trigger for 6-10 Keith Van Horn in correcting the lineup's structural flaw of having two shooting guards.

"We'll see if it's a positive move," Houston said. "I know the intention was to get bigger. Unfortunately, it's for someone who everybody in New York loved. He brought an energy to us that we haven't had."

Houston also defended Van Horn's "soft" label and admitted management's war with Sprewell could have played a small role in the trade.

"With [Van Horn's] addition, the whole face of the team changes," Houston said at their practice facility where he received an NBA community award and read to campers. "Where last year we had me and Spree as the focal point, we did pretty much the same things. Now you have a different dimension. It's not just one dimension.

"The key is if the chemistry remains good, it will work. He definitely adds some things that we can benefit from - his size and shooting ability. His biggest strength is offensive rebounding. People talk about his attitude. How could a guy not have a strong attitude if he's a great offensive rebounder? I don't understand how you can question someone's heart if they're a great offensive rebounder. That's all that is - heart. "

Houston never was close with Sprewell but spoke to him Monday. He wouldn't reveal the contents of their goodbye but indicated Sprewell has come to terms with becoming a Timberwolf.

"Going back to a winning team, back in his natural position, that's better than being traded under different circumstances," Houston said.

Houston lauded Sprewell for playing small forward at 6-5 where he was undersized. "He made a tremendous sacrifice for so many years going to small forward," Houston said. "I definitely appreciate that because I don't think I could've played small forward."

No one questions Sprewell being the more accomplished player, but Van Horn makes the Knicks five inches taller and five years younger at the "3."

"It's apples and oranges," said Houston, who had a routine scope on his knee in May and ditched his crutches one week ago. "You're comparing someone who's 6-10 to someone who's 6-5. They're two different players. Van Horn is a great rebounder, Spree did things Keith can't do and Keith does things Spree doesn't do. We'll see if it's the best thing for the team. I'm optimistic by nature so I'm leaning that it will."


Aside from October's Garden exhibition vs. Wolves, Sprewell will face Knicks for first time when it counts on Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 26) at Target Center. Spree's first official trip to Garden is Dec. 23.
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