Ewing set for reunion vs. Knicks

  • RICH MYHRE / Herald Writer
  • Monday, November 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

SEATTLE – For 15 years, Patrick Ewing’s home and heart were tagged with New York addresses.

Which is why, Ewing said, “it’s going to be very strange” to face his former ballclub, the New York Knicks, tonight at KeyArena.

That was about all Ewing would admit on Monday afternoon, even when he was urged on by a crowd of both Seattle and New York media types. During his brief get-together with the press, Ewing fielded questions in a polite but stoical manner.

Whatever emotions he has about this game – a contest that has loomed since his Sept. 20 trade to the Seattle SuperSonics – were kept closely in check.

Of course, no one doubts that this will be one of the most meaningful nights of Ewing’s long and distinguished basketball career.

“I can only imagine what it will be like for somebody who played in a city for 15 years,” said Seattle teammate Vin Baker. “Playing against Milwaukee the first time (after being traded to the Sonics in 1997) was a big game for me, and I only played there four years. So I can imagine that it’s probably to the eighth power for him wanting to win this game.”

Though Ewing has said nothing to his teammates about tonight’s game, his excitement was evident at Monday’s practice, according to Baker.

“(The other Sonics) were going half speed, but Patrick was going full speed,” he said. “So I know he’s excited. I know he wants this game.”

“We don’t want to deal with the big fella if we lose to the Knicks,” Baker added with a smile. “We want to come out and give a great effort. With Patrick being on our team, we want to win this game for him.”

Ewing was the centerpiece of the late-summer trade that was the biggest in NBA history. A total of four teams and 13 players were involved, with Seattle sending four players to the Los Angeles Lakers and three more to the Knicks. In return the Sonics received Ewing, the team’s first top-notch center (albeit one who is 38) since Jack Sikma in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

The swap was expected to produce significant dividends for Seattle, though the benefits to date have been marginal. The Sonics have staggered through their early schedule, losing six of eight games including four of five on a recent East Coast road trip. The season is young, but a prompt turnabout is paramount if Seattle hopes to bid for a Pacific Division title.

That was the message Ewing emphasized to the gathering of reporters and broadcasters.

“I was a Knick for 15 years and now I’m a Sonic,” he said. “But now I just have to go out there and forget all the sentimental things and just play basketball. … We’ve been struggling of late, and my main concern is just to try and help this team get a win. We have to get back on track.

“That’s the only thing I’m looking at,” Ewing said, managing a slight grin. “I’ll let y’all build it up as anything else.”

Sonics coach Paul Westphal took a similar approach. He has been plainly unhappy with his team’s recent play, and in particular Seattle’s showing on the eastern road swing. The Sonics could have – perhaps should have – won each of the games on the trip, but instead won only Thursday’s game in Charlotte. They opened with losses at Orlando and Miami, then capped the journey with defeats in New Jersey and Detroit.

Tonight’s meeting with the Knicks “is a big game for us regardless of who we’re playing,” Westphal said. “Obviously, there are a lot of people in New York who will be watching the game. They’re going to be interested in the game, and that’s as it should be. But as far as what it means to our team, it really doesn’t affect the way that we prepare.

“There’s no question that Patrick Ewing is identified with the Knicks,” Westphal went on. “After 15 years, it’s going to seem weird (seeing Ewing in a rival uniform). But be that as it may, this is a game for the Sonics that we care about.

“Our main focus is to just get the win,” he said. “You can always find all kinds of reasons to get a win. But when you’re 2-6, that’s about as good a reason as I can find.”

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