Ewing can still play the game

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Wednesday, October 25, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Nothing is more sleep-inducing than an NBA exhibition game.

On second thought, yes, there is – an NFL preseason game.

But having not seen the Sonics since last spring, you felt as if you should check them out at least once before they started playing games that count, if for nothing else than to see if the old guy they got to play center can still get up and down the court.

And, yes, he can. Not swiftly. But swift has never been Patrick Ewing’s game.

This is Ewing’s game. In the opening moments of Wednesday night’s practice game against the Sacramento Kings, he expertly used his 7-foot, 255-pound body to back in for an easy two-pointer against the Sacramento Kings’ 7-1, 260-pound Vlade Divac.

Then, at the other end of the court, he used his 747 wing span to swat away a Divac shot.

This is Ewing’s game. When the Sonics’ Jelani McCoy missed the second of two free throws, Ewing and the Kings’ Scot Pollard battled for the rebound. Some battle. Ewing grabbed it away like Pollard was a 5-foot-11 guard rather than a 6-11, 265-pound center.

This is Ewing’s game. He had the ball at the free-throw line with an open shot. But he patiently looked around to see what other options might be developing and there, sneaking in along the baseline, was Ruben Patterson. Ewing fired a perfect pass, Patterson shot and missed a layin, but was fouled.

This is Ewing’s game. Kings all-star forward Chris Webber went to shoot late in the half and Ewing put a good deal of body on him. The referee stood with his whistle silent in his mouth. Webber squawked that he was fouled. Ewing loped towards the other end of the court, a self-satisfied, “got-away-with-one” expression on his face.

That’s what 13 years in the NBA will get you. It’s what Vin Baker was talking about in the locker room before the game.

“He’s a great player,” Baker said, “and great players get respect from the officials.”

Great players also get respect from their teammates. Patrick Ewing gets respect from everyone on his new team – even the self-important, all-star point guard, Gary Payton.

It seems as though coach Paul Westphal designated Payton, Baker and Ewing to mete out fines for minor rules infractions. One day Payton and Baker came late to practice. There to greet them as they walked into the locker room was Ewing – with his arms extended and his palms up. The tardy duo slapped his hands and said, “You got it, big fella.”

The Big Fella is making his presence felt. “With Patrick,” Baker said, “you see what a real star is.”

There is his approach to the game. He brings a work ethic to practice that is unmatched.

There is his bigness in the locker room. “He’s kind of like a father in the house,” Baker said. “If anything goes wrong … “

He didn’t complete the thought. He didn’t have to. It’s understood. Patrick takes care of things.

“He lays down the law,” Baker said.

As in “pay your fines right here, boys.”

It’s that kind of example that makes young players sit up and take notice. It’s that kind of example that makes all players respect Patrick Ewing.

It is the large shadow he casts and the ability he has that will make the Sonics a better team than they were a year ago, if – and this is a huge if – he can stay healthy. So far, so good.

The 38-year-old Ewing is averaging 25 minutes a game in the preseason, but Westphal would like to increase that to 32 minutes when the regular season begins. The old knees have put in hundreds of miles over the years, but as long as they get him up and down the court, you can expect nothing but an all-out effort once he gets into position to bang.

Baker is almost giddy to have Ewing as a teammate for now he can vacate the post and move back to power forward. “It’s the first time in my career I get to play my natural position,” he said.

Baker hasn’t measured up to his abilities the last two years. First, he was out of shape. Then, last year, he suffered from depression.

There can be no more excuses for lame play. He is teamed with one of the greatest centers in NBA history. He has an up-and-coming small forward in Rashard Lewis. He is back at his old position.

No more alibis. Baker must come up big this season.

He has had a good summer. He has a gold medal from the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

“It’s been a long year,” he said, “but it’s been a good year.”

The gold medal is the second best thing that’s ever happened to him. “Right behind having my son,” he said.

The importance of the medal didn’t really hit Baker until he got back to the United States. He was sitting in a restaurant in the airport in Los Angeles with the medal around his neck when people started coming over wanting to get an up-close look at it. “I took it off and let them hold it,” he said.

Has he weighed it? “No, but it’s heavy,” he said. “And it’s real gold, I’m convinced of it. It’s the real deal.”

Only one thing could top the gold medal.

“That’s to stand out there in the middle of the floor,” he said, “and hold an NBA championship trophy.”

That’s Patrick Ewing’s dream, too.

Talk to us

More in Sports

The Everett Elite Flag Football 14-under team practices Sunday morning at Harbour Pointe Middle School in Mukilteo, Washington on January 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Community roundup: 3 Jackson grads to D-I baseball tournament

Plus, Jayden White is headed back to the NCAA track and field nationals, the Silvertips sign their first-round picks and more.

Washington's Sami Reynolds runs the bases against McNeese during an NCAA softball game on Saturday, May 20, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Local softball stars Reynolds, Mahler set for WCWS

Washington’s Sami Reynolds (Snohomish) and Stanford’s River Mahler (Monroe) each play prominent roles on their Pac-12 teams.

Alberto Rodriguez.
Rodriguez puts on power display, leads AquaSox to series win

The 22-year-old outfielder mashed 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs, as Everett took five of seven from Eugene.

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for May 22-28

The Athlete of the Week nominees for May 22-28 Voting closes at… Continue reading

Daniel Kim, left, and Ben Borgida, right, chat between holes during the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament at the Everett Golf and Country Club in Everett, Washington on Monday, May 29, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Kim soars to 4-shot win in 92nd Snohomish County Amateur

The WSU freshman and Kamiak graduate’s 12-under final total was the historic tournament’s lowest since at least 2010.

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge gestures after hitting a solo home-run against the Seattle Mariners during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)
Judge strikes again, Mariners lose to Yankees

Seattle falls 10-2 for a second consecutive lopsided loss.

Cooper Cummings from the United States celebrates after winning a men's downhill during the Cheese Rolling contest at Cooper's Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, Monday May 29, 2023. The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event where participants race down the 200-yard (180 m) long hill chasing a wheel of double gloucester cheese. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Arlington High School grad is the big cheese after winning UK race

Cooper Cummings, who grew up in Lake Stevens, defeated a world record-holder in Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake.

Jackson High School is awarded the 2023 WIAA class 4A softball championship trophy in Richland, Wash., on Sat., May 27. (TJ Mullinax/for The Herald)
Jackson wins state title over GP after game called by weather

The Timberwolves win 5-1 to hoist their third state softball trophy since 2018 after a game that ended in unusual fashion.

Lake Stevens’ Grant Buckmiller takes a peek at the clock as he runs to the title in the 4A boys 200 meter dash during the WIAA State Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State track: Lake Stevens sprinter Buckmiller blazes to multiple titles

Also, Kamiak’s Kalia Estes and Jaedyn Chase claim championships and more on local title winners and state placers.

Most Read