Knicks Cut Allan Houston While sitting in the second row of the bleachers in the gymnasium at Pace University last Sunday morning as the Knicks practiced practicing I found myself intently following Allan Houston around the floor. This was unexpected. I mean, I knew he was going to be there. I knew all about his latest comeback attempt. But it all seemed sort of besides the point as I got ready for the debut of the D'Antoni/Walsh Era. Houston was an afterthought. He was closer to an AARP subscription than to contributing on an NBA roster.
Like I said, he was afterthought. Until I couldn't stop watching him. He surely doesn't have the frenetic energy of Nate Robinson, the rubber-neck inducing, cataclysmic charisma of Stephon Marbury or the sheer size of Eddy Curry. And, he was, even then when he still was a member of the team, far less relevant to the Knicks 2008-2009 season than any of those three. But he was the guy who hit the shot against Miami in Game 5 in 1999 against the Heat. He was the guy who played with Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and who pushed John Starks out of the starting lineup. He has scored the fourth most points in franchise history and the sixth most minutes played. He is ALLAN HOUSTON.
Or, at least, he was ALLAN HOUSTON. Now, he's just Allan Houston. He's 37 years old. He's got creaky knees. Therefore, I wasn't surprised when he was cut from the roster yesterday. It was the right move, the necessary move. Because Houston is done. The more I watched him this past Sunday the more that I knew it. Aside from the fact that he couldn't even participate in the five-on-five that they ran at the end of the hour, he just looked out of place the whole morning. He moved gingerly and without conviction as he went through the motion on the other drills. He was apart from the other players on the floor even when he was standing in line with them waiting for his turn to take a shot from elbow. And, when he stood on line waiting to take his shot he kept shaking out his limbs as if he could break loose the shackles of age with a shimmy or a shiver. He was flexing and bending and twitching like a fiend waiting for a fix. And, in his way he was. Waiting on line behind guys so much younger than him, waiting for a "teammate" to feed him the ball so he could take his jump shot from the elbow. Shooting that shot is his drug.
And from 1996 to 2005, when he was scoring those 9,243 points in a Knicks uniform, that sweet jump shot was our drug too. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was the essence of basketball. After all, the set shot was there before the ally-oop, before the slash to the lane (which everyone forgets that Allan used to be quiet adept at as well). I've never seen anything as simple and ideal as Houston's jumper. It was all muscle memory and thoughtless focus. It was what Matthew Graham was really talking about when he said, "Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body." He only thought he was talking about dancing because that was all Graham knew. The fluid, wordless expression of the soul was Allan Houston's jump shot more than it was ever a pirouette. If you've seen it then you know what I mean.
And, as Houston finally trades in the hundred-dollar high tops for the the shined-up penny loafers that he'll wear as a Knicks executive it is a shame that he isn't appreciated as much as he should be. Too many Knicks fans, one of my brothers included, never forgave him for pushing Starks to the bench. Too many Knicks fans never forgave him for signing the one hundred gazillion dollar contract that he was offered. Of course he signed it. Wouldn't you? What else could he do? It's not his fault that management offered him all that money without thinking about what it meant for the long-term health of the franchise? It's not Houston's fault. We can't hold him accountable for it. But we can give him credit for all of the beauty he gave us. For all the games that he won. Hopefully with the passing of time and with his continued involvement in the organization he can eventually receive the respect he deserves. Hopefully we'll remember him for what he was on the court and not who he pushed off of it or what he signed off of it.
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