Patrick Ewing's 15-year career with the Knicks ended last night as New York sent him to the Seattle SuperSonics as part of a four-team, 12-player trade that also involved the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
The Knicks sent Ewing to Seattle and received Glen Rice from the Lakers and Luc Longley from the Suns. Among the other major players moving are Horace Grant, who will be sent from Seattle to Los Angeles and Chris Dudley who moves from New York to Phoenix.
Various trades involving Ewing and Rice have been in the works for the past month, including one involving the Detroit Pistons that fell apart at the last moment in mid-August.
The Knicks, Lakers and Sonics discussed a three-team deal, but the Knicks wouldn't pull the trigger, because they felt they weren't getting enough in return.
Once the Suns entered the picture, the talks heated up again.
Rice, a free agent, received a one-year offer from the Chicago Bulls earlier this week. But he wavered on signing it, as his agent, David Falk, tried to broker another deal, and the Bulls finally pulled the offer off the table yesterday afternoon.
Rice ended up with the Knicks as part of a sign-and-trade transaction in which he gets a multiyear contract from the Lakers before being shipped immediately to New York.
Several other players were to be included in the trade to make it work under league salary-cap guidelines. The Knicks got Vernon Maxwell, Vladimir Stepania and Lazaro Borrell from Seattle and Travis Knight from Los Angeles.
New York also gets the Lakers' first-round draft pick in 2001 and two second-round picks from Seattle.
The Lakers also get Greg Foster, Chuck Person and Emanuel Davis from Seattle. Phoenix gets the Knicks' No. 1 pick in 2001, Sonics general manager Wally Walker said.
"Getting Patrick accomplishes a big off-season goal of ours," said Walker, adding that 48 different trade scenarios were discussed between the Sonics, Knicks and Lakers. "Until we got on the conference call with the league this afternoon, I had no confidence that the deal would get done."
The trade brings a close to Ewing's career in New York, where he arrived as the overall No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft. He was expected to be the type of franchise player who could bring the Knicks their first championship since 1973, but it never happened. Ewing's only appearance in the NBA Finals came in 1994 when the Knicks lost to the Houston Rockets in seven games.
The Knicks made it back to the finals in 1999, but Ewing was injured and did not play.
Ewing has one year remaining on a four-year, $60-million contract and has said he would like to play two more years beyond this upcoming season. The Knicks expressed no interest in giving Ewing an extension, and they started exploring the possibility of trading him earlier this summer.
Ewing has a no-trade clause in his contract, but had said he would waive it if he was traded to a team of his liking. He met with Walker in August when the first four-team trade was being discussed.
"There were many times we thought the deal was completely dead, but it got resurrected and here we are," Walker said. "We feel great about it. The trade is not without risk given Patrick's age and injury history. But he's still one of the top half-dozen players in game. We think it gives us a complete and excellent team.
"If it doesn't work out, we'll have some cap flexibility next summer in the off-season."
With the Sonics, Ewing will take over the starting spot at centre that was manned by Grant and Vin Baker last season. Baker was part of the first four-team trade that fell through, and now he'll end up alongside Ewing with the Sonics.
The NBA champion Lakers, who were on the verge of losing Rice on the free-agent market and getting nothing in return, come out of this trade looking like the big winners. Grant would fill their void at power forward, while Toronto-born forward Rick Fox would presumably move back into the starting lineup to replace Rice.
The Knicks, who said they wouldn't trade Ewing unless it improved their team, received six players and three draft picks for a 38-year-old centre with bad knees and a surgically repaired wrist. But they no longer have a top-calibre centre to contend with the other big men in the Eastern Conference, and they now have a glut at small forward and shooting guard with Rice, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Maxwell on their roster.
"Patrick Ewing will forever be a New York Knick in the minds of everyone associated with this franchise -- his contributions to this team have been unparalleled," Knicks general manager Scott Layden said. "It became clear that he was looking for a change and when he requested a trade, we respected his request.
"It was important in doing so, however, that we had the ability to add value, and with Glen and his all-star credentials, as well as two veteran big men and draft picks, we believe we have done that."
Said New York coach Jeff Van Gundy: "Patrick is one the hardest-working, most loyal players I have ever been around. I have told him more than once that he is a champion even if he hasn't won a championship. He practised and played like a champion every day he was here. Seattle is fortunate to get a player of his talent and character."
The trade was only the second four-team deal in NBA history.
At one point, a five-team deal was discussed, Walker said.