EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Acknowledging “it’s good to be home,” Patrick Ewing made it within a few miles of Manhattan on Friday to prepare for his first New York-area appearance since leaving the Knicks.
“It was time for me to go,” he said of his departure from New York after 15 seasons. “The feeling was mutual, and I’ll make the best out of the rest of my career.”
Ewing’s new team, the Seattle SuperSonics, play the New Jersey Nets today in the fourth stop of a five-game road trip. Following a game in Detroit on Sunday, the Sonics return home to face the Knicks on Tuesday night at KeyArena.
About 6,000 of 20,000 tickets were still on sale Friday for Ewing’s appearance at the Meadowlands, located about six miles due west of Madison Square Garden.
Ewing doesn’t return to the Garden until Feb. 27.
“Either way, I have to come back and play,” he said. “I don’t really think about that, I try to do the best job I can and help my team win.”
The Sonics have struggled to a 2-4 start, with Ewing averaging slightly less than 10 shots per game as the third or fourth option in Seattle’s offense.
It’s the type of reduced role Ewing was being forced into with the Knicks that brought about much of the discomfort and eventually led to the four-team trade that sent the 7-footer to Seattle.
Ewing is averaging just 10.8 points – more than four points lower than his career-low average of 15.0 from last season.
“I’m enjoying it. We’re not winning as much as we would have liked, but it’s still early,” he said.
Fewer than two dozen media members – a small crowd by local standards – were on hand as the Sonics held a workout Friday afternoon at the Nets’ nondescript practice facility nestled in a neighborhood of industrial buildings a few miles from the Meadowlands.
Ewing seemed in good spirits, calmly answering many of the same questions he’s heard all week while being followed up the East Coast by writers from the two main New York tabloids.
“After reading what all you guys write about him, I expected him to be a jerk. That’s a joke,” Sonics coach Paul Westphal said. “He’s a great guy. The thing that has been pleasing is that he really does have a lot of basketball left in him. He can still play.
“When we saw what he did in Game 7 against Miami – 15 points and 18 rebounds against Alonzo – three months later you’re not all of a sudden old after that. The only concern was whether he’d have a lot of injuries, and so far he’s been real healthy; his knees are holding up well.”
Ewing, who lived in New Jersey when he played with the Knicks, did not stay with the rest of the team at their hotel in Manhattan. He said it was good to be able to see family and friends.
It will be a strange sight for folks in the New York area to see Ewing wearing another uniform, but at least they’ll have company. Ewing himself did a double-take.
“I didn’t really look in the mirror, but when I first saw a picture of myself it looked weird,” he said. “I was still accustomed to being in the Knicks’ colors.”
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