NEW YORK -- Dominating games has become second nature. Patrick Ewing does it naturally. He scores, he rebounds, he blocks shots. He is almost unstoppable offensively and impenetrable defensively.
His effect on his team's success is as great as any player's in the National Basketball Association. In a large way, Ewing is the New York Knicks. And the Knicks are Ewing's.
The bond continues to grow, but as it does, the relationship becomes more complicated. The Knicks have asked for big statistics from Ewing, and he has provided them. The Knicks have asked for leadership from Ewing, and he has begun to give it to them.
In return, Ewing wants respect and cash. He has demanded a huge contract and although no dollar figures have been leaked, it is safe to assume Ewing wants to be the highest-paid player in the game.
Ewing is in the sixth season of a 10-year contract that will pay him more than $30 million, but unless he is one of the four highest-paid players in the game, he could become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Ewing is earning $4.2 million, but by the end of this season, he will not be among the top four.
Ewing also wants the off-court respect accorded a player of his stature. He would like to be more involved in some of the important decisions made by the team. He would like to be the elder statesman, the player team owners consult when they are contemplating a significant move. Before the Los Angeles Lakers make a big deal, Lakers owner Jerry Buss asks for input from Magic Johnson. Before the Detroit Pistons make a big move, Pistons owner Bill Davidson consults with Isiah Thomas.
Ewing said that is not the case in New York.
"No," he said, "unfortunately that doesn't happen here. I'd love for them to come to me. I think they need to make the effort."
Knicks officials say the opposite is true. After the season ends, Ewing is not always available. In the past, it has been difficult to get Ewing to attend face-to-face meetings, where general manager Al Bianchi said every player is asked for input on the team.
When coach Stu Jackson wanted to discuss Ewing asserting himself in a leadership role, Jackson had to drive to Ewing's home in Washington twice to discuss it with him. Jackson said Ewing is becoming more of a force in the organization, but that this is only Ewing's sixth season and it is not unusual for such a role to develop slowly.
"That's a new area for him," Jackson said, "and it's one that I think myself as well as management would encourage him to do. We're a team this year, but he's our superstar. And I think anything he says will be listened to. He's not done it in the past . . . but with guys like Isiah and [Michael] Jordan, that's come over time. It's something that is steadily built. In Patrick's case, it will continue to build each year. It's not something that just happens instantly. Even Magic had to work his way into that role. It didn't take him quite as long as most people, but he's Magic."
"I wish [the Knicks had done] like San Antonio did with David Robinson," Ewing said. "When they got him, they went out and got the talent they needed to get to field a great team around him. Unfortunately, that did not happen to me when I came here."