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No. 2 NEW YORK KNICKS
Phil Taylor
November 10, 1997
Center Patrick Ewing vows the Knicks will win the championship this season, a declaration most Knicks fans regard as similar to a Manhattan cabbie's guarantee of a leisurely ride—it's nice to hear but hard to take seriously. Ewing's victory promises have become more a source of humor than inspiration, because he and the Knicks rarely make good on them. The Psychic Friends Network has a higher rate of accuracy.
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November 10, 1997

No. 2 New York Knicks

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BY THE NUMBERS

1996-97 TEAM STATISTICS
Record: 57-25 (second in Atlantic)

SEASON AVERAGES

Points per game (rank)

FG pct. (rank)

Rebounds per game (rank)

Turnovers per game (rank)

Knicks

95.4 (19)

.463 (11)

42.5 (7)

17.8 (29)

Opponents

92.2 (5)

.425 (1)

38.2 (3)

16.3 (7)

Center Patrick Ewing vows the Knicks will win the championship this season, a declaration most Knicks fans regard as similar to a Manhattan cabbie's guarantee of a leisurely ride—it's nice to hear but hard to take seriously. Ewing's victory promises have become more a source of humor than inspiration, because he and the Knicks rarely make good on them. The Psychic Friends Network has a higher rate of accuracy.

But this time we are prepared to climb out on a limb with Ewing. It may be that we believe more in the law of averages than in the Knicks, but we think New York will finally fulfill Ewing's 13-year quest for his first NBA title. The Bulls' apparent vulnerability (page 130) isn't the only factor in the Knicks' favor. Here are some others:

Allan Houston is ready to have a breakout year. Houston, the Knicks' shooting guard, hasn't fully recovered from off-season surgery on his right wrist, which could limit his shooting range for at least the first few weeks of the season and is partly why the team made a deal with Boston for swingman Chris Mills on Oct. 22. But at the end of last year, his first with New York, Houston finally began to feel comfortable enough to establish himself as the team's second-best offensive option, after Ewing. "It took Allan some time to realize that he had the freedom to make things happen in the offense," says guard Chris Childs.

Houston is one of the few Knicks with the ability to take a defender one-on-one and get a basket or a trip to the foul line, where he is an 82.5% career shooter.

Chris Dudley will let Ewing rest. Dudley, obtained in a three-way deal with Portland and Toronto, is one of the best backup centers in the league. He's a reliable rebounder and first-rate defender who will allow New York coach Jeff Van Gundy to keep Ewing, 35, fresh for the postseason. He also frees Buck Williams from having to fill in at center, so Williams can concentrate on teaming with Charles Oakley to form one of the better power forward tandems in the league.

They are motivated. New York was playing as well as any team in the playoffs last year before they committed one of the most boneheaded acts in postseason history. Ewing, Houston, John Starks and Larry Johnson were each hit with a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during a brawl against Miami that involved Charlie Ward—who was also suspended for a game. The incident led to the Knicks' blowing a 3-1 series lead. "It's a painful memory, but it's a good one for us to have," says Starks. "We let something get away from us, and we want to make up for it."

They are experienced. It's true that the Knicks are old. After dealing point guard Scott Brooks and forwards Dontae' Jones, Walter McCarty and John Thomas for Mills, New York's youngest player is Houston, at 26. But old teams win titles. The last several champions—the Bulls, the Rockets, the Pistons and the Lakers—all had a core of thirtysomething veterans who had been together for years, as New York does with Ewing, Oakley, 33, and Starks, 32.

The Knicks have their flaws, of course. They begin the season with a banged-up backcourt, with Ward, anointed as the starting point guard (stress fracture in his right leg), Childs (fractured left eye socket) and Starks (left ankle sprain) all having missed parts of the preseason. Despite the Knicks' experience, the team can be erratic. They led the league in turnovers, which is inexcusable for a team that runs so infrequently, and they were 32-9 against clubs with sub-.500 records, a mark they will have to improve if they are to seize home court advantage in possible Eastern Conference playoff matchups with Miami and Chicago.

That inconsistency was due in part to the fact that Childs, Houston, Johnson and Williams were new to New York. "We talked about winning last year, but in the back of our minds, everyone believes this is the year we're supposed to win a championship," Williams says. "I think this is the year." So does Ewing, who delivered his latest guarantee with a smile and a wink. He wasn't taking his prediction seriously, which is ironic because this time everyone should.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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