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BUCK WILLIAMS ENDS 17-SEASON CAREER; GRIZZLIES TAKE CARE OF FUTURE BY SIGNING ABDUR-RAHIM

Buck Williams, one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history, announced his retirement Wednesday after a 17-year career.

Williams, who spent the last two years with the Knicks after playing seven seasons in Portland and eight in New Jersey, was one of the league's most consistent big men over the past two decades.

"It's been a tremendous journey, but the time has come for me to move on and do other things with my life," Williams said at a Madison Square Garden news conference before the Knicks' first exhibition game. "I feel proud to leave with dignity and honor while there's still something left in the tank."

Williams, the NBA's rookie of the year in 1981-82 and a three-time All-Star, retires in fourth place on the league's list of games played (1,307), eighth in minutes (42,464) and 10th in rebounds (13,017).

He is one of only seven players to amass more than 6,000 points and 13,000 rebounds.

The Knicks beat the Nets, 88-87, at Madison Square Garden as new guard Latrell Sprewell sank his final nine shots and scored 21 of his 27 points in a 12-minute outburst in the second half.

Grizzlies lock up Abdur-Rahim

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Grizzlies, who've suffered through three dismal seasons in their NBA existence, solidified their future by signing Shareef Abdur-Rahim to a $71 million, six-year contract extension.

"It exemplifies the franchise has some stability from a player standpoint," said Stu Jackson, Grizzlies president and GM. "It sends a message to the rest of the league that this is a destination point for very good players. And thirdly, it ensures that we've added to our foundation which we're going to build around."

Abdur-Rahim, who led the Grizzlies in scoring in his first two seasons, was in the final year of his rookie contract and would have been eligible for free agency at the end of this season. His contract extension is the maximum allowable under the newly-negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

Selected third overall in the 1996 draft out of California, Abdur-Rahim, 22, is considered the foundation of the Grizzlies' future. A unanimous choice to the NBA rookie team in his first season, he followed that up with an outstanding second year in which he averaged 22.3 points per game, tied for sixth in the league.

Around the league

Forward Cedric Ceballos, who failed to land a big-money contract in the free-agent market, returned to the Dallas Mavericks with a one-year contract. Nelson had penciled in rookie Dirk Nowitzki as his starting small forward after Ceballos, 29, turned down a three-year offer worth $6.75 million. Ceballos averaged 16.9 points and six rebounds last season.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Armon Gilliam dislocated his right ring finger during the team's scrimmage that was open to the public Wednesday night. Gilliam didn't make the trip afterward to Minneapolis, where the Bucks will face the Minnesota Timberwolves in an exhibition game tonight.

Free agent Gheorghe Muresan failed his physical with the Charlotte Hornets, although the team might still offer the 7-foot-7 center a contract. The tallest player in NBA history, Muresan missed all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back that led to other problems. A Hornets spokesman said Muresan will remain in training camp, and the team will monitor his progress.

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