Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Future of aging Knicks in question

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

Allan Houston took a jog or two and Antonio Davis popped in long enough to have dinner, but the Knicks were set to break training camp yesterday with no clear sign that either one will contribute this season.

In fact, it seems more likely that neither will.

The October movements of two 30-something veterans rarely warrants more than a footnote, but the Knicks are Larry Brown's team now, and he is generally partial to players with receding hairlines.

In Philadelphia, Brown had Eric Snow and Aaron McKie to help him manage the impetuous Allen Iverson, and in Detroit he had a polished group with experience and success.

The Knicks have little experience and even less success, and the absences of players like Davis and Houston could put a dent in their progress. Brown has referred to his baby-faced group as "like a college team," and he recently noted: "This is not the same situation I walked into in Detroit. Those guys all knew how to play. There weren't a lot of things that I told them that they hadn't heard before or done before."

Not so with the Knicks. Counting training-camp invitees, Brown has 11 players who are 25 or younger, including three rookies. Of the Knicks who are here and practicing daily, only Penny Hardaway is over 30, and Brown said the lack of experience posed some concern.

"Oh, yeah, you can't invent that," Brown said Tuesday. "But Penny is with us and he's been great. Allan's been great. But we just are very young. That's just the way it is. You hope that the guys we do have that have been through it will continue to do their best to help these young guys."

There is only so much a veteran can do, however, from the bench -- which is where Houston may remain -- or from Chicago, which is where Davis remains.

About halfway through the nine-day camp here, the 34-year-old Houston had a recurrence of pain in his troublesome left knee, forcing him to cease most on-court activity. He has been shut down until next week.

"Going at this intensity is new, so I'm going to have to just continue to adjust," said Houston, who is struggling to stay patient.

Houston has not scrimmaged or played in a game since January, and he has not played pain-free in two years. He says he hopes to have a better sense of his rehabilitation next week.

Davis, meanwhile, has yet to take the court with his new teammates. He reported here last Thursday night, after being traded with Eddy Curry from Chicago. But Davis was back in Chicago by the next afternoon. The official explanation is that Davis, 36, is attending to family matters -- an unspecified operation for his mother-in-law -- but Davis has also made it clear he does not want to leave Chicago.

Another bad sign: Curry was wearing jersey No. 34 on Monday. He originally opted for No. 32, explaining that No. 34 was reserved for Davis.

The Knicks are not yet working on a buyout of Davis' $14 million contract, although that day may come. NBA officials are leery of any deal to waive Davis and are watching with great interest. If Davis were to immediately return to the Bulls, it could be considered salary-cap circumvention.

Brown and Isiah Thomas, the team president, want Davis in a Knicks uniform to help tutor their flock of young big men and to provide some defensive toughness.

"His role doesn't have to be what it was when he was younger," said Brown, who previously coached Davis in Indiana. "But the fact that we have all these young kids, young big kids, he'd be great."

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