The New York Knicks got the first pick in the NBA draft as a result of the league's unprecedented draft lottery today, and immediately said, as expected, they would select Patrick Ewing, Georgetown University's three-time all-America center. As a result, Ewing and the league itself likely are to be big winners, too.
General Manager Dave DeBusschere, who brought along a Knicks jersey with "Ewing 33" on the back, said he foresees his team starting a front court of Ewing, 7-foot Bill Cartwright and league scoring champion Bernard King if those two can return from serious injuries.
The Knicks' logo, in a sealed envelope, was the first one NBA Commissioner David Stern pulled out of a clear drum during the lottery, televised from the Waldorf Astoria's Starlight Ballroom during halftime of the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers playoff game. The seven envelopes had been sealed and placed in the drum by John Wagner of the Ernst & Whinney accounting firm.
Stern opened the envelopes, representing the teams that failed to make this year's playoffs, in reverse order. There was cheering from the crowd of several hundred when Stern announced Indiana as having the second pick, leaving the Knicks with the top choice.
In Washington an hour later, Ewing seemed to take in stride his fate of ending up in the country's biggest media market, thereby maximizing his value in terms of salary and potential endorsements.
"I wasn't hoping for a particular team," Ewing said in an exclusive interview with CBS Sports' James Brown. "I just wanted to get it over with. I was anxious and keyed up. I just wanted to get it over with."
Outside McDonough Arena, television crews from each local station stood in front, cameras poised, just hoping to get a shot of Ewing exiting.
The only people allowed in were representatives from CBS and Sports Illustrated, who spent several hours shooting pictures for a cover story on Ewing.
Ewing's representative, David Falk of the Washington firm ProServ, said Ewing would not be available for anyone other than CBS until Monday, when he will hold a 3 p.m. news conference. Today was a national day for Ewing and he would be making only one national appearance, Falk said.
Several hours after the draft, Ewing went with Georgetown Coach John Thompson, academic adviser Mary Fenlon, teammate Ralph Dalton and Falk to celebrate at Duke Zeibert's, a downtown Washington restaurant.
"We all jumped out of our chairs when we saw it was New York," Thompson said. "I'm so pleased over what happened because of what Patrick sacrificed to stay in school." Thompson said he was pleased that Ewing's father, who lives in Boston, would be within driving distance of his son's games.
When asked about reports that he would have gone to the Seattle SuperSonics to coach had Ewing gone to Seattle, Thompson said, "I can still go."
Following Indiana in the June 18 draft will be the Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle, Atlanta, Sacramento and Golden State, which had the league's worst record. Under the old two-team coin flip for the No. 1 pick, the Warriors would have selected no worse than second. General Manager Al Attles left quickly and was not available for comment.
Herb Simon, who owns the Indiana franchise with his brother Mel, said he was uncertain whether the Pacers, who have the No. 2 pick for the third straight year (they lost out to Houston on Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon in successive years), would take Oklahoma forward Wayman Tisdale or Creighton center Benoit Benjamin, both juniors who will pass up their final year of college eligibility.
Carl Scheer, general manager of the Clippers, said his team would choose whichever of those two players Indiana didn't.
Washington Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry, whose team will have the 12th pick in the draft and will play the Knicks six times next season, three at Capital Centre, was unhappy over the lottery outcome.
"I'm totally against it (the lottery). The teams that needed help the least were helped the most," said Ferry. "It's another big obstacle (for us). We're facing a potential dynasty."
Ewing, who gave few interviews while leading Georgetown to one NCAA championship and three championship game appearances in four seasons, said he anticipated no problems in dealing with the New York media.
"I'm ready and capable of handling any challenge that will come," he said. "I think Coach Thompson has prepared me very well for the future."
Ewing is expected to command the highest salary of any rookie in league history, and it is not inconceivable that he and ProServ could negotiate a five-year contract worth as much as $8 million to $10 million.
Knicks officials declined specific comment. Ewing's presence "probably will resurrect intense interest in pro basketball in New York," team President Jack Krumpe said. "To assess the immediate impact at the gate or otherwise I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't hazard a guess."
The Knicks, who won NBA championships in 1970 and 1973, had their worst record in 30 years last season, a result of injuries to a number of key players. As Coach Hubie Brown said today, "The excitement will return to the Garden. The addition of Patrick Ewing means we are going to be a force to reckon with."
Falk said, "Pat would have had an impact on any of the seven teams that would have drafted him. But, in New York, with Bill Cartwright and Bernard King coming off very serious injuries, he's going to have a particularly high impact. And with the league being centered in New York, he's going to have a major impact on the entire league."
The Knicks sold only 5,100 season tickets and averaged 10,500 spectators last season in Madison Square Garden, which seats 19,594 for basketball. According to the New York Times, the Knicks netted $5 million in after-tax gate receipts, with the potential for another $3.5 million in after-tax gate receipts by filling the remaining empty seats.
Asked if today's scenario were the best possible one for the league from a business standpoint, Stern said, "We're going to do great no matter where Ewing plays. If you ask me whether it's easier when teams are successful in the large cities, the answer is probably yes."
DeBusschere, who held a lucky horseshoe given to him by harness driver Buddy Gilmour, became tenser and tenser as Stern opened each envelope. "I couldn't even look after I saw we weren't No. 3," he said. "I'd rather take a last-second shot in a game than sit through what I just did."
At Boston Garden, a sustained buzz filled the stands at halftime when the order of selection for the draft was placed on the scoreboard.
"I wished he had gone to the Midwest or California or Alaska, anywhere but on the East Coast and in our division," Boston Coach K.C. Jones said after his team's playoff game with Philadelphia. "I can see them going to the drawing board now."
Pat Williams, the general manager of the 76ers, wasn't as concerned for the Knicks as he was for some of the losers in the lottery. "Indiana, in effect, lost a coin flip but I'll never forget the look on Al Attles' face," he said. "It looked like he had been hit in the face with an ax handle.
"It was like he was saying, 'We won 22 games and all we're going to get is (Jon) Koncak or (Joe) Kleine.'"