Ralph Sampson and the Houston Rockets failed to reach terms in the final round of contract negotiations, leaving the 7-foot-4 forward to decide whether to accept the club's offer or pursue free agency.

For Sampson, free agency could be risky; the NBA and its players association agreed yesterday to bar new player contracts between June 1 and Oct. 17 unless a new labor contract is finalized sooner.

Sampson probably will make his decision and issue a statement by Friday, said advisor Art Wilkinson.

"Both sides feel they have put forward the best offer they are going to give," Wilkinson said. "As it turned out, we have some serious valuation problems."

Although figures were not disclosed, the Rockets are believed to have offered Sampson a deal roughly equivalent to the 10-year package signed by center Akeem Olajuwon in November . . .

Detroit Pistons General Manager Jack McCloskey said he interviewed to become New York Knicks general manager and would consider accepting the job if it were offered to him. "But right now we're not close to that yet," he said.

Another interviewee, the Detroit Free Press reported, is Utah Jazz President David Checketts, 31, who has a business administration background.