Newspaper offices in the Baltimore-Washington area were inundated this week with pictures of New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing wearing a Washington Bullets uniform.
It was bogus, of course. Despite Ewing's protestations over his current contract and veiled threats of playing elsewhere next season, he will be playing for New York at the Capital Centre tonight.
It is the first of back-to-back games between the Knicks and Bullets that could have a big bearing on their battle for the final playoff berth in the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference. Both teams have been playing as if they prefer a shot at the June lottery to qualifying for the playoffs.
The Bullets (22-32), a half game behind New York, have lost eight of their last 10 and are coming off their dullest effort of the season, losing at home to Miami, 104-90, Tuesday night.
The Knicks have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. Even more embarrassing is their 11-17 record at Madison Square Garden.
Knicks general manager Al Bianchi, who has become accustomed to hearing the Garden crowd chanting "Al Must Go," tried desperately to make a deal before Thursday night's trade deadline, but came up empty.
Bianchi used Mark Jackson, Kenny Walker, Trent Tucker and rookie Jerrod Mustaf as bait, singly and in combinations, but found no takers in efforts to land Minnesota guard Tony Campbell or L.A. Clippers playmaker Gary Grant.
"I absolutely thought we could get something done," said Bianchi, realizing his time in New York is running out, "but we couldn't make a trade for a multitude of reasons. Some of it had to do with numbers [the salary cap]. Some of it were trades we wanted and the other team didn't and vice versa. We had some things cooking and came close, but couldn't make the final step."
In essence, it left Knicks coach John MacLeod with the same collection of ill-fitting parts and a continual headache trying to appease Jackson, who was suspended yesterday for four days, apparently for voicing his displeasure at his role as a back-up for point guard Maurice Cheeks.
John Cirillo, the team's director of public relations, did not specify the exact reason for the suspension, but according to broadcast reports, Jackson had an altercation with MacLeod before practice Friday.