NEW YORK -- Stephon Marbury wants to finish his contract with the Knicks, and acknowledged being hurt recently when Isiah Thomas indicated he might have a different plan.
Marbury came to a game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for the first time since having ankle surgery on Jan. 22. He said he doubts he'll be able to return this season, but hopes he's still wearing a Knicks uniform in 2008-09.
"I pray to God that's what happens. I love New York. This is the only place that I want to be in," Marbury said before New York played Cleveland. "This is it. Like I said, there's not too many players that can say when they played on other teams that they were a fan of another team. I can honestly and truthfully say that."
Thomas, the president and coach, may already be planning to move on without his point guard. Before a game last week, Thomas said the Knicks would need a third guard next season to play with Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson, even though Marbury would be in the final year of his deal. He's slated to make about $21 million next year.
"It bothered me, it bothered me a lot," said Marbury, who seemed glum in his first remarks to the media since Jan. 16. "But like I said, I know where my heart is at and I know what I want to do, so I can't speak on what someone else is saying or how they feel. For me, I want to be back here more than anything."
Thomas and Marbury were once close and they are neighbors in Westchester County. But their relationship has seemed strained since November, when Marbury left the team before a game in Phoenix after a dispute with Thomas.
Thomas has recently been cutting short his interview sessions when the topic turns to Marbury, speaking for barely two minutes Tuesday and less than four at Wednesday's shootaround. He seemed to leave room for a Marbury return next season during the latter remarks when he said Marbury "has a contract next year."
"I mean he's the president of this team, so whatever he says, whatever he's saying, is going to go," Marbury said. "I can't change his mind, I'm just telling you how I feel about the organization.
"My heart is here and it's always been here. So things don't work out the way how you want them to work out all the time, so you can't just give up on it. I know for myself I haven't given up."
However, there are still signs the relationship between Thomas and Marbury is in trouble. Marbury twice refused to comment about questions regarding why he was at this game and none of the previous ones since his surgery. There have been reports Thomas ordered him to stay away from the team.
Marbury averaged a career-worst 13.9 points in 24 games this season, with long absences following his father's death in December and after the surgery.
"This has been the toughest, toughest time in my life, from a childhood coach dying to my aunt dying to my father dying, ankle surgery, it's been tough," Marbury said. "But I've been able to weather the storm, I just thank God for me being able to be able to have the mind to know how to stay focused and stay in tune as far as what needs to be done going forward for me to have some sanity, because it's been really tough."