Coach says Houston should be at Knicks' practice Friday

Updated: October 10, 2007, 5:16 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Allan Houston is back with the New York Knicks.

HOUSTON Q&A
Why is Allan Houston attempting an NBA comeback? Chris Broussard talked to the former All-Star last month. Read the interview. Q&A

Houston re-signed with the Knicks on Wednesday after a two-year absence from the NBA. The team didn't disclose contract terms.

Coach Isiah Thomas said Wednesday he didn't expect Houston to be on the floor Thursday when the Knicks play their exhibition home opener against Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he does expect him to take part when the Knicks return to practice on Friday.

"After much thought and prayer, I have decided to return to the NBA as a member of the New York Knicks. I have worked extremely hard in the last year and a half to accomplish my dream of playing in the NBA again," Houston said in a team statement.

"After my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our fourth child last week, I realized that New York is where I am supposed to be, and the Knick uniform is the one I want to wear. I have seen the Garden in some of its best moments, and I truly believe that this team is on the verge of experiencing that again. This team is hungry and energetic. I hope to contribute in the weeks and months ahead."

With the maximum 15 players under contract, the Knicks don't necessarily have room for Houston. But if he can still play -- and guard Jamal Crawford said during workouts Houston proved he could -- Thomas would find a way to keep him.

"If he's that good, I mean if he's the Allan Houston that we know and we haven't seen him in a while but if he's that good a player, we want good players,'' Thomas said. "If we're in a position where a player can help us, we definitely will look at him and make room for him.''

Houston, 36, said he wants to return to the NBA because he did not leave by choice. In 2005, Houston retired because of an arthritic left knee. He has not played a full NBA season since 2002-03, when he scored a career-high 22.5 points per game. Over the next two years, he only played 70 games.

"It's really like I never got to finish. You ever been cut off in midsentence and never been able to finish what you were saying? It feels like I get to finish now ... Of course I want to win, but this quest to me is more about being able to play again while I still can," Houston said in a recent interview with ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

Houston said he still believes he can make an impact in the NBA.

"I believe I can still have an impact on the game. A lot of my friends and people are saying, 'You should go for three more years if you feel good!' I'm just thinking about this year right now. If things go like I think they will, playing longer would be something to think about," he said.

Houston, who worked as an analyst for ESPN last season, was given a much-criticized $100 million, six-year contract extension in 2001 from the Knicks. The deal made him virtually untradeable once he began to get hurt and crippled the Knicks' ability to make moves because of salary cap woes.

Houston averaged 17.3 points during his 12 NBA seasons. He shot 40.2 percent from 3-point range.

After spending his first three seasons in Detroit, Houston signed with the Knicks, who hoped he would be the outside shooting complement they needed to Patrick Ewing.

Houston helped New York to an improbable spot in the 1999 NBA Finals, when his running jumper in the closing seconds of the deciding Game 5 knocked off the top-seeded Miami Heat in the first round.

Thomas also expects a warm welcome from Knicks fans on Thursday. It's the team's first game in New York since a jury found Thomas and Madison Square Garden sexually harassed former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders.

"I think I'll get a warm reception,'' Thomas said after practice Wednesday. "I don't think that the things that have gone on will affect the way people feel about me. Just from walking around New York and being in the city and even getting back, I've received a lot of love ... letters and support from a lot of people.''

Thomas hasn't spent much time in New York since the jury's decision on Oct. 2. He left that day for Charleston, S.C., where the Knicks held their training camp, and the team only returned Monday night.

The Knicks haven't won a playoff game since Thomas arrived as team president in December 2003, and fans frequently booed Thomas and chanted for him to be fired in previous seasons. But they warmed to him last season, his first as coach, as New York rebounded from its early struggles to get into playoff contention and earn him an extension.

Last week, Al Sharpton threatened to lead protests at Madison Square Garden if Thomas didn't apologize for saying in a videotaped deposition shown at trial that he made a distinction between a black man and a white one calling a black woman "bitch."

Still, he expects to hear cheers Thursday.

"I believe they will. But if not, then I'll earn it,'' he said. "I've been fighting for my life all my life, so I'm not a guy that walks away or shy away. And if whatever comes my way, I'll deal with it and I'll stand tall. But I'm not expecting a bad reaction tomorrow at all.''

Information from Andrew Marchand, managing editor of 1050 ESPN Radio in New York, and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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