Marbury practices, set to play tonight

The Baltimore Sun

New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury returned to practice yesterday after missing a week while mourning the death of his father.

Marbury plans to play tonight against the visiting Indiana Pacers. He had missed four straight games after briefly trying to return after the Dec. 2 death of his father, Donald.

Looking noticeably thinner, Marbury said he started working out again a few days ago. He has appeared in just two of the past seven games.

"Eventually, I was going to have to get back into it," Marbury said. "So I knew that I was going to have to start working out and getting myself back into it mentally and emotionally."

On Dec. 8, Marbury acknowledged it was difficult going back to Madison Square Garden, where his father was watching New York's loss to Phoenix on Dec. 2 when he began experiencing chest pains. Don Marbury was taken to a hospital and died before the game ended. Stephon Marbury was told of his father's death minutes after the final buzzer.

He missed the next game, then played in the next two after the funeral. The second was at the Garden, and Marbury was not with the Knicks the next day for practice.

"It was kind of tough, and just the whole ambience of what happened and being back in the same position was tough," Marbury said.

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said he would decide today whether Marbury would start, but he noted conditioning could be a problem.

"Physically, he's got a ways to go," Thomas said. "With a world-class athlete, you miss four or five days and it's almost like you've been off conditioning-wise for about two months."

Celtics -- Guard Ray Allen did not travel to Toronto and missed his second straight game yesterday because of a sore right ankle, but he is expected to return when Atlantic Division-leading Boston hosts Detroit on Wednesday. "He'll practice [tomorrow] and play on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure of that," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You never know, but I'm pretty much sure." Allen was injured against Charlotte on Nov. 24 but remained in the lineup until Friday, when he missed his first game of the season.

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