Starks first to admit his play was miserable

June 23, 1994|By Malcolm Moran | Malcolm Moran,New York Times

HOUSTON -- After all the stops on a long road, after the bold trip through the anonymity of basketball's minor leagues all the way to the game of his career, John Starks said he never experienced anything close to what happened last night. On a night for a game to remember, his was one to forget.

"I'm putting it all on myself," Starks said quietly and calmly, long after his 2-of-18 shooting became a central factor in Houston's 90-84 victory over the New York Knicks for the NBA Championship. Starks spent a long time in the shower, thinking about what had happened, but the conclusion never changed.

"In a key game like this, going out and playing like I did, you can't give any excuses," he said. "I just have to shoulder this loss."

His teammates had been quick to support him even as they sat before their dressing stalls, even as Starks remained behind in the showers. The only critical words in the room came from the shooter who had kept shooting.

"I blame myself," Starks said. "To have a bad game in this situation is inexcusable."

Starks missed all 11 three-point shots he attempted. His second field goal of the night, his last one of the season, came off an offensive rebound. Patrick Ewing had just missed a shot from the left baseline when Starks found an opening in the middle, took the rebound and scored to bring the Knicks within five, 78-73, with 3:29 to play. He still was trying to create on a night that was becoming a nightmare. But most of his persistent effort came from the outside, where the shots never began to fall.

"When things are not going right for you, you want to be in there doing something positive," Starks said. "I found myself pressing to try to make things happen."

That may be the type of night that quickly can become forgotten in mid-January, but not here and not now. "There's no reason for John to blame himself at all," said Charles Smith. "This is a team effort. We as a team don't blame any individual. He had a tough night. So what? He's crushed like we all are."

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