HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —Patrick Ewing was impressed. And jealous.
Now an assistant coach with the Magic, then a superstar with the Knicks, he got an up-close look at his former team and wondered why he didn’t have what Amar’e Stoudemire has. He made that clear to the New York Post before Tuesday’s game between his current employer and his old one:
“My second-best teammate? John Starks. Allan (Houston), Spree (Latrell Sprewell), Oak (Charles Oakley). But they’re not Carmelo. They’re not Carmelo.”
No they are not. Ewing said those words with gusto and the feelings are said to run deep that he never won a title in New York and that he — not former Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld or Garden president David Checketts — took the blame for it.
As the years have gone on, Ewing has grown to accept he never had that second guy. The Knicks were one game away from a championship in 1994, leading the Rockets in the NBA Finals 3-2, until Starks had one of his worst-ever shooting nights in Game 7, going 2-for-18 — 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
“I can’t worry about that now,” Ewing said. “I’ve been retired 100 years. It feels like 100 years.”
Ewing said Anthony and Stoudemire should have no problem with coexisting on and off the court, even though both need the ball a lot and have terrific egos.
“They both have to share it,” Ewing said. “You can’t worry about it. The city’s big enough. There’s enough spotlight to go around.”
Well, if nothing else, Ewing can comfort himself with this: These Knicks won’t go as far as his Knicks until they find themselves a Ewing, or someone close enough.
Not saying the Knicks need a center, although they’ll sigh and grudgingly take Dwight Howard if he insists. They just need another ‘Melo-type addition in the coming years in order to arrive at the same destination Ewing did, when he took the Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1994.
Ewing never did win a championship, and that stigma still haunts him many years later. Just the same, the Knicks haven’t won anything since 1973, which explains the depth of frustration within Knick fans.
You know the future blueprint, at this point. Assuming the salary cap doesn’t apply a chokehold to their plans, the Knicks will make a run at Howard or Chris Paul in two summers and hope Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees hold up. And then we can start discussing the Knicks in championship terms.
Right now, weakened considerably by the trade with Denver, the Knicks are merely pacifying their entertainment-starved fans, an accomplishment in itself. But more than the fans, and more than Ewing, they want to impress a future free agent.