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Arbitration set; will Steph, Walsh talk buyout?

Could Stephon Marbury's rocky career with the Knicks officially end today?

Knicks president Donnie Walsh insists that he's not looking to come to a buyout agreement when he and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni meet with Marbury and his representatives in an arbitration hearing today in Manhattan.

The hearing was called to arbitrate the $400,000 fine Marbury received for refusing to play in a game against the Pistons the day before Thanksgiving, but it is hard to believe the two sides wouldn't use it as an opportunity to talk buyout.

That's because today's meeting marks the first time that Marbury and Walsh have met face-to-face since Marbury stormed out of a meeting with the Knicks on Dec. 1.

It also comes at a crucial time for Marbury; to be eligible to play in the postseason with another team, he must be bought out and put on waivers by the Knicks by Sunday.

The Celtics, who have two open roster spots, are said to be very interested in signing Marbury. Other possible destinations are the Lakers and Heat.

Walsh indicated yesterday, however, that the Knicks aren't all that interested in freeing up Marbury to sign with a possible playoff opponent.

"Those are the things you have to put in your head," Walsh said. "It's all a part of the general picture. It could impact on you. It's a competitive issue."

When asked if he thinks the buyout can be resolved by Sunday, Walsh said he did not have an answer.

"You want to do the right thing by the player and you and the team," Walsh said.

D'Antoni, who replaced Isiah Thomas as Knicks coach this season, made it clear from the start that Marbury was not in his plans, at least not until Nov. 26.

That's when the Knicks - who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday - contend they asked Marbury to play in a game in which the team was shorthanded and he refused. Marbury has contended that he never refused to play but simply said he preferred not to.

The he-said, he-said drama will be hashed out today in front of an arbitrator. D'Antoni will miss his team's practice in order to tell his side of the story.

Said D'Antoni: "It's not a great situation for anybody. I hate it for Steph, I hate it for the Knicks, I hate it for everybody."

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