Knicks honor past best players
NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks have been so bad for so long, even their own players apparently didn't realize their team was once among the NBA's best.
"David Lee came to me one day," Walt Frazier said. "He goes, 'Did you have 36 points and 19 [assists] in a game once?' I mean, they don't even know the past, what the guys have done here, that in the '70s we were an elite team, won a couple of championships. And they're not cognizant of that."
The Knicks reminded everyone Monday with a halftime ceremony during their game against Orlando, honoring some of the top players from their history. Along with Frazier, the Knicks gave "legends awards" to Carl Braun (1940s), Richie Guerin ('50s), Willis Reed ('60s), Bernard King ('80s) and Patrick Ewing ('90s), voted by a panel as the Knicks players who made the biggest contributions during their decades.
Dick McGuire was also presented with the Knickerbocker Legacy Award. Each player was introduced individually -- Braun was represented by his daughter, Susan -- and came to center court to receive an award from Knicks president Donnie Walsh.
Dwight Howard and Orlando's big men came out from their locker room in time to watch Ewing, who works with them as a Magic assistant coach. The current Knicks did not attend.
Frazier's 36-19 performance came in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, best known for Reed's pregame return from injury to join his teammates on the floor and play in an eventual victory over the Lakers. The Knicks won again in 1973 and fell short in two other Finals appearances but haven't been close in a decade.
"If you would have asked me if I would have ever thought that we would have gone through this many years from 1973 and would not have won a championship, I would have said, 'No way,'" Reed said before the game.
Reed thought the Knicks would win one under Ewing, and they were a perennial contender during most of his 15 seasons in New York. But the Knicks have been among the NBA's worst teams since they traded Ewing in 2000, and a loss Monday would secure their eighth straight losing season, tying a franchise worst.
"Right now, my focus is on the Orlando Magic, trying to get us where we need to get, hopefully help us win a championship," Ewing said. "The Knicks, I'm very sorry and disappointed the way things have been going. You know when I was off, I was watching a lot more closely because I was back here. But like I said, my focus is on Orlando. I want them to do well. I wish them the best."
Braun was the only one who could not attend the ceremony, though King also nearly missed it. He said he was home in Atlanta resting after his morning walk Saturday and suddenly felt weak and was barely able to make it home before spending 1½ days in the hospital.
"I had EKGs, MRIs and CT scans and blood work and X-rays and everything else that you can imagine. I had a precursor to the stroke," said King, who led the NBA in scoring in 1984-85. "I'm very blessed and fortunate to be here. You go from having bubbles shot to my heart this morning at 10 o'clock to be sitting here before you."
The former Knicks said they saw reason for hope under coach Mike D'Antoni, finishing his first season in New York. Frazier watches them the most as an analyst calling their games on the MSG Network and has witnessed them perform so poorly that he prides himself "on trying to be good in bad games."
He said the players have a better attitude this season, adding they had bad body language in recent years when they fell behind. Still, it's probably at least a couple more years before the Knicks are title contenders again.
The recent struggles for respectability make Ewing even more appreciated in New York. While coming close but never delivering the title that was expected from the No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft, he had such a love-hate relationship with the fans that he asked to be traded not long after the last Finals appearance in 1999.
The Hall of Famer now hears loud ovations every time he's back in Madison Square Garden, where his No. 33 was retired six years ago.
"I think they had, pretty much, an appreciation for what I did when I was here. Sometimes it didn't seem like it, but they did. I think the night when they raised my jersey to the top of the building, they showed that," Ewing said. "I have no ill feelings toward the fans or the people here in New York. As a matter of fact, I love it here. I still have my home here. I'm definitely saddened, like I said, that things have not been going well for the franchise."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press