NEW YORK — The Knicks already have planned a gala ceremony to retire Allan Houston’s number from their salary cap. Not that team president Isiah Thomas is glad or anything like that to see Houston hobble away.

Thomas did his best to keep him around, going so far as vowing not to press Allan to voluntarily submit to a DNA test.

Houston remains one of two NBA players (the other being Marty Conlin) during my 36-year writing career who called to thank me for heavily endorsing him on national TV as a rising Pistons free agent.

Come to think of it, they may be the only two I said something nice about, but why quibble?

Charles Barkley has strongly encouraged Eddy Curry to take a DNA test even though it’s not multiple choice.

Curry twice ambled back on defense against the Mavericks in a preseason game on Sunday at the cost of two unmolested layups courtesy of defensive assignment Dirk Nowitzki.

Such lapses into laziness weren’t exactly an irregular (so to speak) occurrence in Chicago.

When it happened at practice, coach Scott Skiles once (that I can confirm) ordered Curry to stand beside him on the sidelines and instructed everyone else to get it into high gear.

A great believer in peer pressure, Skiles told Curry, “I want them to understand the reason they’re running sprints is because you refuse to move your fat [butt].”

The saddest aspect of Larry Brown joining the Knicks is, in all likelihood, he’ll turn Stephon Marbury into a smart, unselfish player.

One thing is for certain: The educating process will have no in between — Brown either will make or break Stephon.

A year ago at roughly this time Rick Pitino told me Louisville product Francisco Garcia was the best small forward he ever coached.

These days the freelance rookie first-round choice is making everyone on the Sacramento Kings better.

One reason the Sonics got away with playing hardball with restricted free-agent starter Reggie Evans (one-year guarantee) is because Nick Collison is on fixed course to becoming a star.

The other reason is the offensively deficient Evans, I’m told, often didn’t play fourth quarters.

Note to Phil Jackson, a no-show (along with four others; one sixth of their fraternity) and a few others at David Stern’s “mandatory” coaches Chicago meeting in late September: your longtime assistant Tex Winter is right, you are uncoachable.

I must say I was impressed (NBA-TV “Training Camps”) that high school import Gerald Green knew which team Tommy Heinsohn played for and coached when Doc Rivers put him on the spot in front of his Boston Celtics teammates and the camera.

Of course, that and an improvement on defense will get you into the rotation.

By all accounts Green is seriously gifted and works hard, but his evolution as a pro player hasn’t pushed past the placenta.

The Raptors wasted no time in making Rob Babcock look good.

Recently, the second-year GM was quoted as saying people shouldn’t expect his team to be any better than last season.

Sunday, Toronto proved it losing by two to Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. It was the first time a European team beat an NBA team (105-103) on its homecourt.

If that’s not embarrassing enough in itself, Maccabi no longer features Sarunas Jasikevicius, signed by the Pacers during the offseason.

This is the kind of success you harvest, I submit, when your team is limited to carrying two or fewer American players and isn’t hindered by a USA-born coach.

According to the game story, “the consular general for Israel in Toronto slapped hands and joined the team in celebration as Stern hurriedly walked off the court.”

To his credit, the commish stopped short of joining the Christian Coalition.

Got to believe if Latrell Sprewell had any gas left in his tank, Marcus Camby would have openly campaigned for the Nuggets to sign his best friend/free agent.

As it stands, Spree’s family and peeps are nervous. The most wealth they can hope to share now is a $1.1 million veteran’s exception.

Or $20 million less over three years than their provider disdainfully rejected last season before Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor snatched the offer off the table.

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