Thursday, September 20, 2007 Updated: September 21, 2:28 PM ET
Houston: 'I believe I can still have an impact on the game'
By Chris Broussard ESPN The Magazine
I had a heart-to-heart this week with Allan Houston about his return to the NBA. For those of us who have never been professional athletes, it's a good glimpse into what makes a topflight athlete tick.
Chris Broussard: Why do you want to return to the NBA?
Jump shots don't come much prettier than Allan Houston's.
Allan Houston: 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 (but this time I won't take too long to say my piece!). Of course I want to win, but this quest to me is more about being able to play again while I still can.
I also feel like I've been blessed with so many experiences in the game on and off the court, as well as with a general knowledge of the game -- from my father coaching me, to playing for a championship in New York -- that I want to share it with whoever I'm playing with.
Ultimately, it's about having an impact. Wherever I go, 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.
Broussard: Who have you sought out for advice on your comeback?
Houston: I've spoken to friends like Grant Hill, Cris Carter, J-Kidd, John Starks, Clyde Drexler, and even my old coach Jeff Van Gundy. I have gotten some sound advice. To sum it up, the consistent feedback is this:
"Make sure you're at peace and know in your heart that this is what you want.''
"If you don't go for it, you'll always look back and wonder 'What if?'"
"Make sure you get in the right situation for you. You don't have to feel obligated to go back to the Knicks.''
"Make sure you monitor your practice time.''
Broussard: What convinced you that you were ready to return and could complete a grueling 82-game season?
Houston: I know how far my body has come. When I retired, I really was in bad shape. Nobody but those who were around me truly saw how bad I was. I really denied it, because I wanted to play. But since retiring and getting some real rest for my knee, my progress has been at a steady pace. When I train, I tend to overtrain. In my case, preparing for the grind by overtraining is OK because it's putting my knee to the test. But when the season comes, overtraining would not be smart.
When I worked out for the six teams [Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Spurs, Mavericks, Heat], I don't think they knew what to expect. When they saw that I could functionally move again, it got a good response. I just know my body, and I know I feel great right now. I have to be smart as I go into this season. I don't think it's a matter of sustaining 82 games then the playoffs. I feel that will be fine. I think it's a matter of being smart in managing each day.
Broussard: How effective do you think you can be as a player at age 36?
Houston: I know the game is faster now and guys are probably even more athletic than they were when I played. But I still feel like I will be able to have an impact doing what I did, just not for as long. I don't plan to play the amount of minutes I played when I was in New York. Robert Horry, Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Finley are perfect examples of how someone can have an impact at a different stage of their career.
Broussard: How much interest have teams shown in you?
Houston hasn't suited up in the NBA since the 2004-05 season.
Houston: A lot of teams have shown interest by making phone calls. I've spoken the most with the Knicks and the Nets. The Cavs and Mavs have also shown interest. I realize this is a risk for teams, but there are risks in any business. They just have to be calculated. I know these teams know I can still play, but they want to be sure I can stay healthy. If I were them, I would say the same thing.
On the other hand, when I do start playing again, all I can say is that everyone will soon see what I believe. I want to make sure that whichever team puts its trust in me will be rewarded.
Broussard: How do you think Knicks fans would react to you playing in Jersey?
Houston: Knicks fans are loyal, but they're also smart! I'm sure the true Knicks fans, those who are with the Knicks through thick and thin, would not like to see me in a Nets uniform. I also think that most people in the area see the Nets as the better environment for me.
No matter what, I will always be a Knick. We've had so many memories. After all those memories, it would feel funny being in a Nets uniform. But having the opportunity to play with a future Hall of Famer like J-Kidd, as well as Vince and RJ is huge. Winning would make it that much better.
In the online poll on my Web site, I've been shocked to see the amount of people who are saying the Nets are the best place for me to go out of all the teams in the league. I'm interested to see why they believe New Jersey is a better fit than Cleveland, or even Miami. I find that very interesting.
Broussard: Why, with everything going on with the Knicks' organization, would you even consider rejoining them since playing with the Nets would keep you from having to move?
Houston: I think I could help the Knicks by providing a stabilizing presence, leadership and by just helping guys learn how to win. Everybody knows they're talented, so the next step for them is developing habits that promote winning. Who's going to bring that? I know it sounds crazy, but if (and right now it could be a big if) they can develop those habits, they are not far away from being really good.
Broussard: What are you looking forward to the most about being back in the NBA?
Houston: Just playing again. The feeling of doing what God has blessed me to do. I enjoy those moments at the end of the game when you have an opportunity to make plays that win games. That is what I missed the most.
Broussard: How soon do you expect to make a decision on which team you'll go to?
Houston: I'm not in a rush. I'm just waiting on the best offer and the best situation to present itself. I'll probably make a decision before training camp, but again, I'm not going to rush into anything just to meet a certain deadline.
Broussard: Now for the big question: What do your wife and kids think about your comeback?
Houston: At first my wife was like WHY???!! She saw everything I did to come back with complete failure. She was concerned. Now she sees that it is a reality. She just wants me to be in the right situation, where I can enjoy it again and have fun. Once she saw that this was really going to happen, she became VERY supportive. I love the Roger Clemens commercial where he asks his wife if he can start pitching again. I felt just like that. But it wasn't over that easy. We still had to finish the conversation!
Broussard: What are going to be the factors that ultimately make the decision for you?
Houston: I really want to enjoy playing. I want to have fun again. I also want be in a place where I'll fit. As we get closer to training camp, it's starting to hit me that I'm going to be on the road a lot, so being home [in New York or New Jersey] could play a big factor. It's not about a crazy amount of money, but I definitely am not going to turn up my nose at a good offer.
In the end, prayer is what will determine everything. After all, we will only take our faith to work if we know that our work is valuable to God!
Anyone who wants to vote on where they think I should play can do so on my Web site: www.allanhouston.com