After intercepting an outlet pass thrown by David Greenwood of the San Antonio Spurs, Patrick Ewing is on the left wing of a two-on-one fast break. The New York Knicks center passes to Darrell Walker, who, harassed by Greenwood, misses a layup.
Ewing, moving through what rapidly has become a thicket of players, misses a tip-in but is able to bat the basketball into the hands of another teammate--who has the ball stripped away. Moments later, the Spurs on are their way down court, but not before Greenwood has pushed Ewing to the Madison Square Garden floor.
More often than not, the morass that has entangled the Knicks, who were 7-19 at one time before winning four straight, has made such efforts by Ewing almost imperceptible. The only tangible result is the wear and tear on his body of the nightly bump and grind.
Mike Saunders, the Knicks' trainer, says he looks forward to seeing the former Georgetown center each day, that he "enjoys the kibitzing." And there surely is much for the pair to discuss.
There is the left elbow, an injury that has lingered since a preseason altercation with Steve Stipanovich of the Indiana Pacers. There is the left ankle that he twisted in his regular-season debut against Philadelphia and sprained on Nov. 19 against the Washington Bullets just 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
The ankle injury caused him to miss the remainder of that game as well as the next two games, one of which would have been his first trip back to the Washington area.
Instead, Ewing's homecoming occurred Sunday night, when the Knicks visited Capital Centre.
In compensating for the ankle, Ewing has put stress on his knees. As if that weren't enough, he must use drops for an eye infection and medicated cream for his legs.
Both legs got a workout two nights before the San Antonio game, when the Knicks suffered a 108-85 blowout loss to the New Jersey Nets. In that game, Ewing was four of 13 from the field but still managed to tie his career high of 20 rebounds.
Afterward, one of the Knicks' ball boys tells Ewing excitedly that he had played 43 of the game's 48 minutes.
Ewing, straining to push himself up from his locker stall and into the showers, doesn't have to be reminded. He smiles and says, "It sure feels like I did, too."
Patrick Ewing, the first rookie chosen in the June draft and the man who came into the league touted as a franchise-saver, has played in eight exhibition games and 24 of the Knicks' 26 regular-season contests-nearly an entire collegiate season crammed into three months of violent collisions.
During the regular season, he has averaged 36.4 minutes per game, which ranks near the top of the league's statistics, up among such behemoths as Philadelphia's Moses Malone and Washington's now-injured center, Jeff Ruland.
He is the team leader in scoring (19.2 points) and blocked shots (2.14) and is second in rebounds (9.7).
According to New York assistant coach Bob Hill, Ewing is "the first or second option on almost every play we call.
"He's hurt and tired now, but we go to him a lot and are asking him to carry this team," Hill says. "There aren't a lot of positive things to say about what it's doing to him, except maybe in the future. But right now, it can't be much fun for him."
At least the Knicks haven't made him carry the bags and basketballs on the road, traditionally one of the chores of a rookie. Then again, that may be just one more area in which Ewing is being cheated.
Part of the joy that comes from being in the NBA--besides the money, of course--is the camaraderie of the road. Away from New York, however, the Knicks are 1-10, which makes for some pretty somber plane and bus rides.
This wasn't quite the scenario envisioned by the Knicks when they drafted and signed Ewing. The team's media guide has drawings of Ewing in uniform along with forward Bernard King and center Bill Cartwright, both of whom have missed the season with injuries, prompting one New York writer to comment that all the sketch needed for total accuracy was a drawing of Coach Hubie Brown lying in bed dreaming of all three on the court at the same time.
Bill Stricland, one of Ewing's advisers at ProServ, the management firm that represents him, says the almost nightmarish early-season experience will be helpful to Ewing if Cartwright and King return. In the meantime, Ewing says he's doing just fine, anyway.
"I get away from it all every time I go home at night," says Ewing.
Ewing says that during the ride to his home in New Jersey, he thinks about the just-completed game, about what he did and didn't accomplish, about the NBA.
While at Georgetown, he enjoyed painting, but so far this season, "I just haven't had the time," Ewing says quietly.
"I'm still getting adjusted to the life style, all the traveling. Friends told me about it, but until I started to go through it, I couldn't understand it."
Perhaps if Ewing created a turbulent landscape, dark with lightning flashing across the sky, that would represent the Knicks' season up to now.