Knicks' Ward turns jeers into cheers
NEW YORK (AP) -- Charlie Ward turned the home crowd's jarring jeers into forgiving cheers by making his latest statement on the court.
The Knicks' guard, criticized by Jewish groups for comments in a magazine article this weekend, was booed repeatedly early in New York's 92-85 playoff victory over Toronto on Sunday.
The Madison Square Garden crowd let him hear it when he entered the game as a reserve about two minutes into the second quarter, and again the first several times he touched the ball. They even booed when the above-court video screen showed a tape of him kissing his wife.
"I was a bit shocked by the booing," Knicks guard Mark Jackson said. "It's surprising when you look at how he's represented the team and the city."
It was a completely different story down the stretch, though.
The crowd screamed support when, with under 10 minutes left, Ward hit a long jumper -- his first field goal of the game -- to put New York ahead 72-68.
And standing ovations greeted Ward when he sank a 3-pointer four minutes later to make it 81-75, and then when he made a steal and sank two free throws in the last 20 seconds to seal the win.
"I'm grateful that I had great team support. My teammates were supporting me and there were also people in the crowd that were supporting me, regardless," said Ward, who finished with nine points and two assists. "Believe it or not, that's not the first time I've been booed here."
Allan Houston, also quoted in the article, was jeered some during player introductions.
"For us it was on the back burner," Houston said after scoring a game-high 23 points Sunday.
"We didn't want it to be a distraction, and I can speak for Charlie and everybody to say that we didn't mean anything by it and apologize if anybody took it the wrong way."
In an article in The New York Times Magazine, Ward said Jews are "stubborn" and persecute members of their faith who become Christians.
The article recounts that Ward and several teammates took part in a Bible study class before a game against Milwaukee and questioned the author, who is Jewish, about the Old Testament, cultural identity and dietary laws.
Ward is quoted as saying: "Jews are stubborn. Tell me, why did they persecute Jesus unless he knew something they didn't want to accept? They had his blood on their hands."
Houston is described as pulling out a Palm Pilot and indexing a passage from the Bible. "Matthew 26, Verse 67. Then they spit in Jesus' face and hit him with their fists."
The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Congress were among those to chastise Ward and Houston.
"What goes on off the court is off the court," Ward said. "When I go on the court, I go out and play to the best of my ability."