Patrick Ewing, former Georgetown University center and the first choice in last June's NBA draft, signed a multiyear contract yesterday with the New York Knicks. He will earn $16 million over five to eight years, sources said. Donald Dell, director of ProServ, the management firm that represents Ewing, said the contract will make him "the highest-paid rookie ever in the NBA."

At a press conference yesterday at Madison Square Garden, Ewing tried to minimize his potential impact.

"I have nothing to be worried about," he said. "All I can do is play as hard as I can. I don't consider myself a savior. I'm not Jesus, or even St. Patrick."

The Knicks, as well as countless fans in New York, are probably hoping otherwise. Last season the Knicks finished at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with a 24-58 record. Contributing to that was the league-record 329 games that Knicks players missed because of injuries.

Bill Cartwright missed the entire season with a stress fracture of his right foot, Marvin Webster with hepatitis. In addition, power forward Pat Cummings lost 19 games because of tendinitis. Those are the players that one would expect Ewing to be competing against, but according to Knicks Coach Hubie Brown, there will be more than enough room for everyone.

"From day one we intend hopefully to play Cartwright and Ewing together," Brown said. "After a period of time, we'll insert Cummings into that rotation. With these three people, we'll have intimidation, shot blocking, low post scoring and quality performance."

He added that there wouldn't be a problem for Ewing in occasionally playing power forward. "Ewing is a winner and a fierce competitor," he said. "When I think of Patrick Ewing I think of a warrior. He has the physical presence. I've talked to people who have seen him play during his college career, and it's interesting that no one says they ever saw him play a dog game.

"I feel he has considerable talent, the work ethic is there and he's a winner, even if he didn't average 20 points a game. He's been able to totally blend himself into the team aspect."

During his four years at Georgetown, Ewing averaged 15.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, but the Hoyas reached the NCAA championship game in three of his four seasons. Yesterday, he said he feels that his somewhat average individual collegiate numbers will improve in the pros.

"In college I wasn't playing against one man; it was more like five against one," he said. "In the pros it's structured so much different. It will be one on one and that will help me a great deal. I won't have to deal with three men."

The rest of the league, and particularly the Atlantic Division, will have to deal with Ewing. Washington Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry yesterday called Ewing "one of the few players who could possibly pay for himself right away."

Jan Volk, general manager of the Boston Celtics, said the addition of Ewing will heighten the rivalry between the Celtics and Knicks. "It's always been intense," he said. "This will bring it back to where it was a couple of years ago. The competition will be dynamic, partially because he's from here (Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School)."

Ewing's first NBA game will be an exhibition against the Bullets Oct. 4 at George Mason University. "We face good players every night," Ferry said. "You can't sit around and worry about one person."