Nov. 11, 1996
Nov. 11, 1996

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Nov. 11, 1996

NBA Preview 1996-97


Sure, the New York Knicks made Allan Houston an offer he
couldn't refuse--$56 million for seven years--but money wasn't
the only thing that lured the 6'6" free-agent shooting guard
from the Detroit Pistons to the Big Apple. Just as Houston, 25,
could be the final piece of New York's championship puzzle, the
Knicks may be his best shot at a ring. Houston hasn't played on
a title team since his junior year at Ballard High in
Louisville. "There are a lot of reasons I came here," Houston
says. "There's Madison Square Garden, the large fan following,
the big media market. But winning a championship will make it
even nicer. The Yankees [winning the World Series] put a lot of
pressure on us, but I think we can make a run at it."

This is an article from the Nov. 11, 1996 issue Original Layout

It has been a frustrating run for Houston since he left Ballard.
He expected to play on national-championship teams at the
University of Louisville, where his father, Wade, was coach
Denny Crum's top assistant. But when Wade took the head job at
Tennessee shortly after Allan committed to Louisville, the NCAA
granted Allan a release to follow his father. Alas, their four
years together in Knoxville were bittersweet. The Volunteers
didn't even get an NCAA tournament bid, but Allan became the
school's alltime leading scorer with 2,801 points and a career
21.9 average. (The total-points record Houston broke was held by
Ernie Grunfeld, the Knicks' president and general manager and
the man who brought Houston to New York.)

Drafted in 1993 by Detroit--the 11th pick in the first
round--Houston got off to a slow start as a pro. In his rookie
season he was inconsistent, negating the occasional offensive
explosion with long stretches of ineffectiveness. But by his
second season Houston had built up his body to 210 pounds and
could better handle the rigors of the NBA. "I'm not one of those
guys who lift weights until two o'clock in the morning," he
says, "but I got strong enough to set picks and do other stuff
so it would be more fun for me out there."

Last season it certainly was more fun. Playing in all 82 of
Detroit's games--75 as a starter--Houston averaged 19.7 points
and finished 10th in the league in three-point shooting
percentage (42.7). He even sparkled in the Pistons' three-game
playoff wipeout against the Orlando Magic, averaging a team-high
25.0 points. Though he attracted much interest when he became a
free agent, he says, "If I hadn't come to New York, I would have
stayed in Detroit." His father, who left Tennessee near the end
of Houston's NBA rookie year, was in on the negotiations. "When
the money got to a certain level, my dad and I just looked at
each other," Houston says. "We couldn't believe it. But he told
me this is what I had worked so hard for." Signing with the
Knicks was just one of Houston's off-season commitments: He was
married on Aug. 24, and he and his bride, Tamara, then moved to
Stamford, Conn., within commuting distance of the Garden.

Contrary to NBA gossip, Houston says he didn't leave the Pistons
because he was unhappy playing for demanding coach Doug Collins.
Indeed, he gives Collins credit for making him a better player.
"My defense came on last year," Houston says, "because Doug
really emphasized it. So that was another reason I felt
comfortable coming to New York, with the kind of defensive
reputation they've always had here."

The biggest reason for that reputation is 7-foot center Patrick
Ewing, who figures to benefit hugely on offense from Houston's
presence on the perimeter. One of the first times Houston saw
Ewing play was when Wade took him to the 1982 NCAA Final Four in
New Orleans. At the time Ewing was a freshman at Georgetown and
Houston was 10. The Hoyas defeated Louisville in the semifinals,

In the preseason Houston found himself deferring to Ewing, who
for years has been the team's No. 1 offensive option. "I've
never played with a [dominant] big man," Houston says, "so that
was different for me. Instead of shooting, I wanted to throw it
to Patrick all the time. But he just wants to play his game, and
he expects me to play mine. I realize the Knicks haven't had an
outside threat like me to open things up. I think I fit what the
Knicks need."

But no more than the Knicks, with their championship potential,
are tailor-made for Houston.


COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ICONS BY MICHAEL CUSTODE [Drawing of spotlight shining on basketball]B/W ILLUSTRATION: MICHAEL CUSTODE Houston believes his defense is up to tough New York standards. [Drawing of Allan Houston]