New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing, who never has won an NBA title in his 14 years in the league, will miss the rest of postseason with a partially torn left Achilles' tendon.
"It's frustrating to work so hard and to be so close to something I've dreamed about for so many years," Ewing said in a statement released by the Knicks. "To not be able to be on the floor to help my teammates is very frustrating and disappointing."
The injury, which is not thought to be career-ending, was discovered yesterday during an MRI exam in New York. Ewing, who played the entire season with tendinitis in his left Achilles' tendon, complained to team doctor Norm Scott of a ripping sensation in the tendon before New York's 88-86 loss Tuesday night to the host Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Ewing, 36, then told Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy before the game that he was unsure how much he would be able to play. He scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds in 25 minutes and missed a 14-foot jump shot at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime. The best-of-seven series between the Knicks and the Pacers, tied at one game apiece, will resume Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I feel badly for Patrick Ewing," Van Gundy said during a conference call. "I've been with him for 10 years and I know what he stands for. All he's sacrificed this year, playing through pain, how hard he worked to get through his rib injury. I'm very disappointed for him. . . . It's like he's being cheated out of another opportunity for a championship."
Ewing missed 12 regular season games because of the tendinitis in his Achilles' tendon. The 11-time all-star also played with a sore right wrist that never fully healed from tendon surgery last season, and suffered a strained rib cage in a series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat in the first round of the conference playoffs.
The former Georgetown center's toughness was hailed and Ewing was deemed the beacon that inspired New York's improbable surge from the No. 8 and final seed in the East to the cusp of playing in the NBA Finals.
However, this injury was too severe for him to overcome, despite the fact that the Knicks have one of their best chances of winning a title during Ewing's tenure. His only Finals appearance came in 1994, when New York fell four games to three to the Houston Rockets.
"If my Achilles' ruptured completely, it would end my career," he said.
Ewing averaged 17.3 and 9.9 rebounds in 38 regular season games and 13.1 points and 8.7 rebounds during the postseason.
"His heart and will to win had a huge impact on the team," Van Gundy said. "Hopefully the last two years on his Knicks contract he will be healthy."
Ewing will wear a cast for six weeks. Scott said he expects Ewing to return for training camp next season.
As for the Knicks, Van Gundy said he had not formulated a strategy to play without Ewing, although it is clear they will have to play with a smaller lineup for much of the time. Chris Dudley likely will start at center but Van Gundy could replace Ewing with forward Marcus Camby or guard Latrell Sprewell and try to beat the Pacers with the fleet-footed lineup that has worked effectively throughout much of the postseason. Indiana probably will counter by trying to keep New York in a half-court game to take advantage of the substantial size advantage provided by 7-foot-4 center Rik Smits.
"I've been just thinking about Patrick," said Van Gundy, whom Ewing has repeatedly said should be re-hired next season. "Obviously you lose a great player, it doesn't help you. He was the one guy on our team who has the respect of the officials where he'll get a call when he gets bumped. But there's a lot of things he does for us.
"We're just going to have to find some answers. I think [his teammates] derived a lot of spirit from the fact of seeing what he was willing to do and play with to try to help us win. As far as a negative impact with him not being there [today] will be a day for the team to figure that out. We've got to bounce back up and regain our spirit. We need to go out and play our best to have a chance of moving on."
CAPTION: Patrick Ewing, 36, is out with a partially torn left Achilles' tendon.