NEW YORK — Even before he played his first regular-season game, Patrick Ewing became the first National Basketball Assn. player ever to appear on the cover of Business Week.
Ewing, dressed in the uniform of his new team, the New York Knicks, is holding a briefcase and shaking hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern, who is smiling because the league, in part because of Ewing's presence in the Big Apple, is selling tickets like never before.
"Thanks, Pat," the commissioner is saying.
Thanks, Pat, for putting 19,591 fans in the seats Saturday at Madison Square Garden, a sellout for the Knicks' regular-season opener against Philadelphia.
Thanks, Pat, for bringing Dustin and Woody and Mia, and don't forget Stiller and Meara, back to the Garden.
Thanks, Pat, for bringing CBS back to the Garden.
But when it was time to really get down to business Saturday, Ewing, while no ordinary rookie, was not a match for Philadelphia center Moses Malone in the Knicks' 99-89 loss. It must be the Business Week cover jinx.
Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes. Ewing had 18 points and 6 rebounds in 44 minutes. Both had three blocked shots.
Well, what in the name of John Thompson did you expect?
Moses is a two-time MVP, while Ewing was playing his first regular-season game.
But if Ewing is willing to learn from his mistakes, he should be a better player now than when this game started. He had 15 points at halftime, but, shooting from outside his range, he made only 1 of 7 shots in the second half.
Ewing should have gone to the basket more often and challenged Moses. That's an easier thing to say than to do, but Ewing is getting paid as much as $30 million over the next 10 years to do that sort of thing.
Instead, he preferred to retreat a step and shoot his turnaround jumper, which is still in its developmental stage. As a result, he not only was missing his shots but was fouled only twice. He shot four free throws.
All he had to do was watch Malone, who has all the grace of The Refrigerator but gets the job done. Malone went to the free-throw line 18 times and made 15.
"I would think if Ewing played for us, we'd have him develop a step toward the hoop instead of going away from the hoop," Philadelphia's Julius Erving said.
This, of course, isn't something Ewing hasn't already figured out for himself.
Asked afterward why he didn't go to the basket more, he said, "I think it was because of Moses."
Malone had nothing but kind words for Ewing.
"Give the young man time," he said. "With more experience, he's going to be incredible. He was one of my favorite players when he was in college."
It wasn't Hagler vs. Hearns.
Considering Ewing's record, some people might have expected that. In seven exhibition games, he fouled out three times, was ejected from a fourth and got into three fights. He was fined $1,500 by the league last week for provoking a fight with Indiana's Steve Stipanovich.
Ewing suffered a hyperextended elbow in that incident, and was wearing a pad on his left elbow for protection Saturday.
"See, he played against a big player in the low post, and there were no problems," Knick Coach Hubie Brown said, pointing out that Ewing had only three fouls and acted like a complete gentleman.
"He's played against Jeff Ruland and Darryl Dawkins and twice against Akeem Olajuwon with no problems. His only problems are against guys who are trying to make names for themselves."
Even before anyone asked him about Ewing's play against Moses, Brown defended his center. He said many of Malone's points came when the Knicks were in their trapping defense and someone besides Ewing was guarding him.
"Don't give me that 35-18 crap," Brown said in the same tone of voice he usually reserves for the officials. "Don't be saying Moses whipped his butt, because he sure as hell didn't do that. Patrick more than held his own.
"He's going to be a monster in this game for many years to come."
Malone, of course, already is a monster.
"He was sleepwalking through seven pre-season games," Brown said. "Then, the season starts, and he's on national television, and all of a sudden, he comes out of his shell."
Although the Knicks arranged a postgame press conference for Ewing, he didn't have much to say, other than assessing his play as "pretty good."
Brown has said the rookie will be more effective when Bernard King and Bill Cartwright return from the injured list, giving Ewing a better supporting cast. He agreed.
"I can't do it by myself," he said. "I'm not St. Patrick."
On the few occasions when Ewing has opened up, he has displayed a better sense of humor than he allowed the public to see while playing for Georgetown.
Those were the days when he wore a T-shirt under his jersey, but Stern ruled he couldn't do that in the NBA unless the rest of the Knicks also wore T-shirts. So Ewing goes T-shirtless.
When Ewing and Stern met a few weeks ago in the Hofstra University gym, at the photo session for the Business Week cover, the commissioner, who was wearing a business suit, complained about the cold.
Ewing, who was in uniform, wrapped his arms around himself and began shivering.
"I wouldn't be so cold," he said, "if I was wearing a T-shirt."