SI Vault
Tim Crothers
October 30, 2000
The Post-Patrick era finds them light at center, bloated at guard and far from the comfort zone
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October 30, 2000

4 New York Knicks

The Post-Patrick era finds them light at center, bloated at guard and far from the comfort zone

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Latrell Sprewell


18.6 ppg

4.3 rpg

4.0 apg

1.33 spg

43.5 FG%


Larry Johnson


10.7 ppg

5.4 rpg

2.5 apg

0.60 spg

43.3 FG%


Marcus Camby


10.2 ppg

7.8 rpg

1.97 bpg

0.73 spg

48.0 FG%


Allan Houston


19.7 ppg

3.3 rpg

2.7 apg

48.3 FG%

43.6 3FG%


Charlie Ward


7.3 ppg

4.2 apg

3.2 rpg

1.32 spg

42.3 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Glen Rice


15.9 ppg

4.1 rpg

2.2 apg

43.0 FG%

36.7 3FG%


Kurt Thomas


8.0 ppg

6.3 rpg

0.64 spg

0.53 bpg

50.5 FG%


Chris Childs


5.3 ppg

4.0 apg

2.1 rpg

40.9 FG%

35.6 3FG%


Luc Longley


6.3 ppg

4.5 rpg

1.1 apg

0.58 bpg

46.6 FG%


Travis Knight


1.7 ppg

2.0 rpg

0.4 apg

39.0 FG%

60.7 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

When Patrick Ewing was traded to the Sonics in September, not one of his former Knicks teammates telephoned him to commiserate. Indeed, comments after that monumental swap suggest that none of them really wanted Ewing back in New York—and that Ewing himself was far from eager to return. Only in the Big Apple could an 11-time All-Star with more than 23,000 points and 10,000 rebounds be best remembered for another stat: zero NBA championships.

Ewing's critics point to last season's conference finals against the Pacers, in which the Knicks won the two games that Ewing missed with a foot injury and lost all four games in which he played. Even in a recent homage to Ewing in The New York Times, longtime Knicks season-ticket holder Woody Allen couldn't resist voicing what many New York fans had been asking for a while: "Will the Knicks be better without him?" (His answer was no, which he acknowledged put him in the minority.) While no Knick has dared to answer that question directly, on the opening day of training camp several players admitted to a sense of excitement—and trepidation—at the outset of the post-Ewing era. "It's kind of eerie not seeing him around," says Marcus Camby. "For such a long time when you thought of the Knicks, you thought of Patrick. You wonder, Who will be the team's new identity?"

A more pertinent question is, Who will be the team's new center? With the rumored trade for the Hawks' Dikembe Mutombo not happening anytime soon, the Knicks will attempt to replace Ewing with a center-by-committee consisting of Camby, Travis Knight, Luc Longley, Felton Spencer and Kurt Thomas. "They're all capable," says coach Jeff Van Gundy, "but when you need a huge rebound or a stop in the fourth quarter, you miss a player of greatness."

The Knicks would settle for goodness, and Camby is the most likely candidate. He has yet to live up to the expectations he brought as the NBA's second overall pick in 1996 and is still battling a nagging knee injury, but Camby is the one Knick capable of blocking a shot, and he's by far the best rebounder on a team that ranked last in the league in that category a year ago—before trading Ewing. When Ewing missed the first 20 games of last season with an Achilles tendon injury, Camby averaged 12.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. "Fortunately, whoever plays center for us just needs to control the paint," Camby says. "We already have a lot of scorers."

Which brings up another stumbling block for these Knicks: their congestion at shooting guard. The arrival of Glen Puce from the Lakers in the Ewing deal, added to Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell, gives the Knicks a trigger-happy trio, and maybe a contentious one. Sprewell stated repeatedly during the preseason that a trade might be needed to maintain team sanity. "It makes all of us uncomfortable," Knicks president Dave Checketts said of his guard-heavy roster, "but I'm comfortable with the discomfort."

Van Gundy insists that just because Ewing is gone, nobody should expect his blue-collar club to morph into the Showtime Lakers. And while Ewing was always the team's most convenient scapegoat, the Knicks' coach is determined to see that he does not continue in that role in absentia. "We can't use Patrick's absence as an excuse," Van Gundy says. "I've told the guys, 'It's very hard to run forward if you're looking back.' "

New York has the NBA's longest current streak of trips to at least the second round of the playoffs (nine), but if that run ends in this year after Ewing, everybody's discomfort will become much less comfortable.

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