A new big man in town

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Monday, September 25, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Ewing’s intro to Seattle is jovial and filled with promise

Larry Henry

Sports Columnist

SEATTLE — Somehow, it didn’t fit.

This giant of a man holding up a Seattle SuperSonics jersey.

This would take some getting used to. It shouldn’t take long.

The first time he scores 15 points, yanks down 10 rebounds, blocks some shots and brings intimidation to the pivot for the Sonics, then the No. 33 with the name Ewing on the back will look like a perfect fit.

Until then, the perception people have of Patrick Ewing will be as a New York Knicks player. How could it not be? He made his home in Madison Square Garden for 15 years.

This coming season, his home will be KeyArena, his team will be the Sonics and his floor leader will be Gary Payton, and Patrick Ewing is looking forward to all three. "I haven’t played with a point guard of his ability in a long time," Ewing said Monday afternoon.

Ewing was making his first visit to Seattle since becoming a SuperSonic in an ambitious four-team trade last week.

You always knew Ewing was a big man. But when he walked into the room, he seemed much larger than his listed height of 7 feet and his shoulders seemed unusually broad. They’ll have to be — he’s packing the hopes of an entire region.

Championship hopes? He’d like to think so.

"When will we have the parade?" he quipped, when someone asked him what the best case scenario of his coming to Seattle would be. "Win a (NBA) championship and get to ride on the float in a parade, not up Fifth Avenue …"

And here he looked around for help, and a man sitting to his left provided it. "Fourth Avenue," said team owner Barry Ackerley.

"Fourth Avenue," Ewing continued, "and have graffiti dumped on our heads."

Ewing didn’t win an NBA championship with the Knicks. And much of what he got dumped on him was scorn for failing to do so.

Yet, Ewing didn’t utter one negative word about his stay in New York.

"I will definitely miss the Garden," he said. "It’s like leaving your home. I’ll miss a lot of fans and I’ll miss my friends."

Since the Knicks believe they can get along without him — this man who left buckets of sweat on many an NBA court — you might think he would have an unkind word or two about them. Not even a hint of one.

"I have no ill feelings toward the Knicks," he said. "The Knicks have compensated me very fairly over the years. I wish I could have brought them a championship, but it didn’t happen. I’m not mad at them. I wish them the best, except when we play them."

He asked for a trade soon after the season ended. "I just felt it was time for a change," he said. "Both sides felt the same so we parted on great terms."

He thought a trade might take place early in the summer, but when it didn’t, he began preparing himself for a return to the Knicks.

"I don’t think it (returning) would have been difficult," he said. "That was my job. I would have gone and done my job and played to the best of my abilities."

In 1984, as a member of the Georgetown University team, Ewing came West for the second round of the NCAA Tournament, in Pullman. At each press conference, he would utter the same old refrain: "I just go out and try to do my job and help the team win."

It might have been trite to reporters, but to Ewing, that was what he was all about. Nothing eloquent. Nothing cute and quotable. Just bread and butter, meat and potato remarks.

In the end, he dined elegantly with an NCAA championship feast at the Kingdome and won the Most Outstanding Player Award.

It left him with warm feelings about Seattle. Maybe, he said, he could rekindle those memories this season. But not in the Kingdome.

Just as buildings get torn down, so do bodies get worn down, and Ewing’s is a month into its 38th year, obviously not as fresh as it once was, but still effective when it gets on the floor. Ewing has missed 88 regular season games the last three years, but he considers the injuries that have sidelined him as "flukes."

"They tell me I’m old, but I left my wheelchair in New York," said Ewing, who looks about the same as he did when he played for Georgetown. "I still feel I have a lot of basketball left in me."

He showed that last season when he averaged 15 points and almost 10 rebounds a game. The latter mark would have led the Sonics.

One guy especially happy to have Ewing join the Sonics is Vin Baker, who has had to play center when his natural position is power forward. The Sonics showed a video of Baker and Payton from Sydney, Australia, where they are playing for the U.S. team in the Summer Olympics.

"Thanks big fella," Baker said, "for making my job easier."

Ewing was also advised to trade some of his fur coats for rain gear and to keep a lot of ice handy as the Sonics plan to run more. Ewing said that was fine with him. "When I have to run, I’ll run," he said.

Ewing admitted that athletically he isn’t the player he once was, but "mentally I’m much better.

"I have a lot of basketball in me," he said. "I can make a contribution. I’ll be ready when they throw the ball up."

As for the change from East Coast to West Coast, from one team to another, he mused, "Sometimes it could be like the Fountain of Youth, getting a fresh start, a breath of fresh air. I’m not going to kid you. I am nervous. But this is a challenge I’m willing to accept and I’m looking forward to it."

No. 33, Ewing, in a Sonic uniform.

It’s still hard to believe.

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