PHOENIX (AP) -Stephon Marbury has left the New York Knicks and there is no word on when, or even if, he might rejoin the team.
Marbury was absent from the team's morning shootaround, and failed to show up when the Knicks played the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Coach Isiah Thomas would only confirm Marbury had left and that the guard would be welcome back.
``That is an in-house matter, and we'll continue to keep it in-house,'' Thomas said after the shootaround. ``However, he is welcome back, and we want him as a member of this team.''
WNBC New York and The New York Post reported Marbury sent them text messages to say he had Thomas' permission to leave the team.
``I would never leave my team on my own,'' Marbury told The Post. ``What I'm telling you is that I got permission to leave from Isiah. He said I could go home.''
Thomas would not confirm that he allowed Marbury to leave. In fact, the Knicks' coach avoided the subject altogether in his meeting with reporters before the Suns' game.
``We'll talk about the Phoenix Suns and the game at hand,'' he said. ``Whatever matters we have in-house we'll try to keep in-house.''
The Post reported on its Web site that Marbury had flown back to New York and did not plan to join the team in Los Angeles for its game against the Clippers on Wednesday night.
Marbury's absence followed a story in Tuesday's New York Daily News indicating the Knicks were trying to reduce his role or get rid of him. A trade seems unlikely, because Marbury is scheduled to earn $42 million over the next two seasons.
Several of Marbury's teammates said his departure took them by surprise, but they expressed no hard feelings.
``You always support your teammates,'' forward Jared Jeffries said. ``A lot of people on the outside don't understand what guys go through with their family, their friends, with this team, with anything. Whenever somebody goes through a tough time you support your teammate.''
Mardy Collins got the start in Marbury's place, but said he would love to have him back.
``Yeah, definitely. He's been nothing but good to me ever since I've been here. There's not a bad thing I can say about Steph,'' Collins said. ``Whatever happens, happens. I'm just here and whenever my number is called I go out there and compete.''
At the shootaround, Thomas said this was not the first time this kind of incident has happened.
``It seems like he and I go through this every November, then a couple of weeks go by and we kind of kiss and make up, then we go back to the business of trying to win basketball games.''
Following a contentious relationship with former coach Larry Brown, Marbury soon learned playing for Thomas would not be any easier.
Early last season, Marbury found himself spending extended time on the bench in the second half of games, including some in which he didn't start the third period.
``... Make no mistake about it, if I don't get exactly what I want, then there'll be consequences,'' Thomas said then.
As president of the Knicks, Thomas brought Marbury back to his hometown in 2004 and the two seemed to be close. That changed, however, when Thomas also became the head coach last season.
``My relationship as a coach is definitely a different relationship as president,'' Thomas said. ``When you're coaching, I don't think there's a player that I've ever coached that hasn't at some point in time not liked me. But that's what coaching's all about.''
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