In the fairy-tale version of the New York Knicks' season, Allan Houston gallops triumphantly back from his extended vacation, lifts the spirits and play of his teammates and rekindles a dormant love affair between New York and its beleaguered basketball franchise.
In the fairy tale, Houston is still the shooting ace whose clutch play put the Knicks in the NBA finals in 1999. He is the leader they need, the anchor they have lacked.
But the Knicks do not really do fairy tales, Willis Reed notwithstanding, and no one knows what Houston has to offer after spending eight and a half months recovering from knee injuries.
They do expect Houston to make his season debut today in Washington. And they will soon know if the man with the US$100 million contract is still their best player or merely their highest paid.
Isiah Thomas, the team president, continues to pursue Toronto's Vince Carter, monitor Chicago's Eddy Curry and explore any and all moves that might push the Knicks, who are 9-9, beyond the ranks of the mediocre.
To that end, Thomas made a call Wednesday to the agent for Karl Malone, the disillusioned former LA Lakers star. A free agent, Malone is ready to play again after recovering from off-season knee surgery. But because of a recent rift with Kobe Bryant, he no longer wishes to play for the Lakers.
"Isiah was very forward yesterday," Dwight Manley, Malone's longtime agent, said.