Join Date: May 2001
Location: Where nerds gather
New York Times
JUL 13, 2001
Knicks' Longley Likely to Retire
By CHRIS BROUSSARD
For Luc Longley, the telltale moment came Feb. 1 when Todd MacCulloch, the Philadelphia 76ers' slow-moving center, beat him on a backdoor cut for a layup.
"That's when I knew it was over," he said. "I was never a speed demon to begin with, but when I lose what I have, then I'm really in trouble."
After that, Longley played only seven minutes in the Knicks' final 39 games of the regular season. They might have been the final seven minutes of his career.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, Longley, 32, said that he would probably be forced to retire before next season because of a degenerative condition in his left ankle. Longley, a 7-foot-2 center, is almost certain that he cannot play, but he has not yet made a final decision because he wants to address the situation with the Knicks first.
"I'm being a realist," Longley said. "I don't know what we're going to do, but I don't think I can really play. I've seen the best specialists in the country and they've told me that I shouldn't play. But I don't want to burn any bridges. If the Knicks want me back despite my physical problems, then I'll be back."
Longley, who was not on the Knicks' playoff roster, said he was examined a month ago. There is a deformity in the ankle, he said, and bone is rubbing bone. He said doctors told him the ankle could not be surgically repaired. He is already looking into prosthetics and fusion alternatives to help him walk in the future.
Scott Layden, the Knicks' president and general manager, would not comment yesterday on Longley's situation.
"I've been working out, but nothing's changed," Longley said. "The ankle's arthritic and it feels terrible. I can't jump or land on it."
Longley has three years left on his six- year, $32.4 million deal. He is scheduled to make $6.3 million next season. To retire and be paid the remainder of his contract, he would have to be ruled medically unable to play by the league's doctors.
If that happens, or if it is determined that Longley cannot play this season, the Knicks will be eligible for a medical exception of $3.15 million. They would have until Oct. 1 to sign a free agent with the exception.
Longley did not rule out retiring if the league's doctors refused to say he could not play. But retirement in that case would be highly unlikely because he would be forfeiting the final $20 million of his contract.
Longley, who played in 25 games last season, said he was damaged goods when the Knicks traded for him. Though he played in 72 games, averaging 19.7 minutes, for Phoenix during the 1999-2000 season, he said the Suns knew his ankle was getting worse. He played for Australia in the Sydney Olympics but did not practice because of his physical condition.
"Phoenix knew what was going on," Longley said. "That's why they traded me. Their doctors had seen the X-rays and giggled at them. I brought up my ankle in my physical with the Knicks, and they said, `Have you been playing?' I said, `Yes,' and that was it."
Longley's situation is further evidence of the failure of the Patrick Ewing trade last September. The four-team deal sent the Knicks Longley, Glen Rice and Travis Knight, all of whom are signed through the 2003-4 season. Only Rice contributed last season, and all three are virtually untradeable because their contracts total $90 million.
If the Knicks had kept Ewing, they could have taken his $16 million salary off their payroll this summer. While that would not have put them beneath the salary cap, it would have enabled them to avoid paying such a large luxury tax next season and left them more flexible. As it is, the Knicks have only the $4.5 million midlevel exception to offer free agents.
The Knicks like Clarence Weatherspoon, but he will probably re-sign with Cleveland because the Cavaliers can pay him more and can start him.
The Knicks need to add depth to their front line because of Marcus Camby's frailty and Larry Johnson's bad back, but it is unlikely that any free agent they sign will be able to break into the rotation, especially since Johnson plans to play next season.
"If Larry were considering retirement, I would think he would talk to me about it, and he hasn't said anything to me about that," George Bass, Johnson's agent, said. "He's been working out six days a week and he's been fine."
Longley wished he could say the same.