SEATTLE (AP) â€” Patrick Ewing acknowledged he'd probably be taking another crack at a championship ring in New York instead of trying to help turn around a disastrous early season with the Seattle SuperSonics.
The Eastern Conference could be the Knicks' for the taking, especially with Miami's Alonzo Mourning out for the season with a kidney ailment, Ewing said after practice Monday. The Sonics play the Knicks on Tuesday for the first time since Ewing was shipped west in a four-team trade Sept. 20.
``But I can't worry about that right now,'' Ewing said. ``I'm here in Seattle, and my goal is to help this team win.''
That's been tough so far.
The Sonics are 2-6 after a dismal 1-4 Eastern road trip whose low point was a 126-91 drubbing Saturday by the New Jersey Nets.
Ewing said the New York game was more important to halting the Seattle slide than because he's be facing his old team. But he still has trouble not thinking of himself as a Knick.
``It's going to be very strange,'' he said. ``I've been a Knick, or, I was a Knick for 15 years, and now I'm a Sonic. I've just got to forget all the sentimental things and just go out there and play basketball.''
The Knicks have opened 5-2 without the 7-0, 255-pound center who was their first option on offense and the cornerstone of their defense. Marcus Camby has filled in effectively down low.
Ewing said facing up against Camby would be nothing new for him.
``It's going to be just like it was in practice,'' Ewing said. ``Marcus is more finesse, and I'm stronger and bigger than he is, so we're both trying to use our skills to our advantage.
``He's going to try to outrun me and outquick me, and I'm going to try to use my strength and whatever I bring to the game.''
Ewing's new teammates had a sense of what the reunion would mean to him.
``We don't want to deal with the big fellow if we lose to the Knicks,'' Vin Baker said. ``This is a huge trade and a huge market we're playing against, and Patrick being an icon, we want to get this win for him.''
Baker wasn't alone.
``I couldn't imagine, the team you played for all those years, now getting a chance to play against them,'' said David Wingate, also a teammate of Ewing in New York and on the Georgetown squad that won the NCAA Division I championship in 1984. ``It's going to be exciting. I know he's getting a little excited about it,''
Ewing has displayed flashes of his old brilliance on the occasional baseline jumper or no-look, behind-the-head pass to a cutter, but his numbers are down through the first eight games. He's averaging 10.6 points in 33 minutes, and he has shot less than 40 percent from the field. He has grabbed a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game, but he also has 27 turnovers.
The team also has to have more from its core of Baker, Ewing and Gary Payton, coach Paul Westphal said.
``With the kind of confidence that we've put in them, they need to take the responsibility to make this team produce,'' he said. ``They've been challenged to do that, and I believe they will.''
Ewing hasn't been afraid to assert himself in the locker room, Baker said.
``He's gotten on Gary and I twice,'' Baker said. ``He's just really encouraged us to be leaders and help the young fellows along. He sat us down and talked to us about things like that, and we responded to it. We haven't, Gary and myself, had a leader like that. He's our leader right now.''
Payton, the team's undisputed leader on the floor, declined to talk about the New York game. He challenged Westphal and Ewing after the New Jersey game to work out some way to make the big man more effective on offense.
``Gary's just used to winning a lot. To get a slow start like this can mentally drain somebody of his caliber,'' Wingate said. ``But we're just going to work through this little period.''
Ewing said the Sonics have too much talent to stay down long.
``We're still in that gelling process,'' he said. ``Even though some of the guys were there last year, we're a new team, and I think it's just going to take a little time for us to get used to one another.''