Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Ailing back forces Johnson to retire

Jordan reverses decision, will make Wizards debut tonight against Pistons

October 11, 2001

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— The New York Knicks and Larry Johnson finalized a buyout agreement Wednesday that ends the 10-year veteran's NBA career. Johnson will receive the remaining $28.8 million owed on his contract, his agent said.

Back problems forced Johnson's retirement. He did not report to training camp with the rest of the team, and his locker stall has already been given to Shandon Anderson.

Johnson, who along with Allan Houston had been with the team longer than any player except Charlie Ward, was one of the Knicks' captains.

"You cannot measure Larry's importance to this team over the past five seasons by just looking at his statistics," Knicks general manager Scott Layden said in announcing the move.

The 32-year-old forward was drafted by Charlotte out of UNLV in 1991. He was traded to the Knicks for the 1995-96 season.

He signed a 12-year, $84 million contract after his rookie season that still had three guaranteed years remaining.

Johnson, a two-time All-Star, averaged 16.2 points. His playoff average was 14.2 points in 66 games, although he was unable to play for the Knicks last May during the postseason because of his back pain.

"It's not going to get any better," said his agent, George Bass.

The Knicks have applied to the NBA for a medical exception that would allow them to sign a replacement player at a starting salary of as much as $4.53 million. The Knicks received an injury exception last month when center Luc Longley retired but did not use it before it expired on Oct. 1.

The highlight of Johnson's career with the Knicks came in Game Three of the 1999 Eastern Conference finals when he made a rare four-point play to lead New York past the Indiana Pacers and into the NBA Finals.

Kurt Thomas is expected to replace Johnson as New York's starting power forward.

Clarence Weatherspoon and Othella Harrington are the backups.

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Jordan to make debut Ready or not, Michael Jordan will make his Washington debut tonight against Detroit Pistons.

A few hours after he said he would not play in the first two exhibition games, Jordan changed his mind because he did not want to disappoint thousands of fans who had already bought tickets in Detroit and Miami.

A Pistons official said the team sold more 19,000 tickets in anticipation of Jordan's first preseason game tonight, and Miami officials said only about 1,000 tickets were left for Saturday's game.

Jordan is expected to start both games, but his minutes will be limited, said Wizards spokesman Nick Brown.

Jordan initially decided not to play because he was still trying to get back into playing condition.

He retired for a second time more than three years ago, but started working toward a return this summer by playing pickup games with NBA players.



Artest to miss 10 weeks Chicago Bulls forward Ron Artest will miss 10 weeks after having surgery on his right ring finger Wednesday. Artest injured ligaments in his finger in mid-August when he smashed it during a drill.



Mason deal snagged Length of contract is holding up Anthony Mason's signing with the Bucks. Mason, who will be 35 years old in December, is adamant about wanting a four-year deal, which would be the last contract of his career. Naturally, the Bucks are wary about paying almost $5 million per season to a player who will be 39 when the pact expires.

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