LANDOVER -- Patrick Ewing was not among the NBA all-stars performing in a charity basketball game at the Capital Centre last night, but the disgruntled New York Knicks star still was one of the major topics of conversation.
Players and coaches were speculating as to whether Ewing, a 7-foot center who lost an arbitration case last month, will be traded.
The arbitrator ruled he was one of the NBA's four highest-paid players. Had he ruled otherwise, Ewing would have been declared a free agent under a stipulation in his contract.
Ewing had rejected a two-year extension worth $5.4 million a year. He has four years left on his Knicks contract, worth a total of $14.2 million. Through his agent, David Falk, he said his arbitration fight was "a freedom issue." Knicks president Dave Checketts said Thursday that the team was "actively exploring the possibility of trading Patrick Ewing." Although he is not in a position to overrule a trade, Ewing has expressed a "wish list" that comprises the Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers.
"There's no way we could get him," Bullets owner Abe Pollin said last night. "There's a 12.5 million salary cap, and he's a $6 million player, or close to it."
General manager John Nash also said it was highly unlikely the former Georgetown All-American would wear a Bullets uniform this season.
"First of all, I haven't had a bit of conversation with the Knicks about Ewing," Nash said, "but I told Checketts just like I did
[former Knicks general manager] Al Bianchi, that I'm always willing to listen.
"In reality, getting Ewing is almost an impossibility. We're capped out, and we'd have to give up an awful lot to salary to get him.
"It's a Catch-22 situation. Everyone would like to have him, but we don't want to mortgage our future by giving up young players like Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant. They're part of our future in Washington. My guess is Ewing will play in New York this season."
Lakers superstar Magic Johnson, who was instrumental in organizing last night's game that raised money for underprivileged students, said the idea of Ewing's becoming a teammate was "very intriguing."
"Everyone can be traded," Johnson said. "They traded Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], didn't they? We've obviously got guys that the Knicks would want, but I don't think [general manager] Jerry West would want to trade a James Worthy or Vlade Divac, and they would be high on New York's list."
Two teams who might be more willing to deal for Ewing are Phoenix and Golden State. The Knicks apparently covet Suns point guard Kevin Johnson, but general manager Jerry Colangelo is reluctant to part with him. Suns forward Xavier McDaniel may have to be part of the package.
The Warriors probably would have to trade multi-purpose Chris Mullin, a former St. John's star who has been sought by the Knicks since he first turned pro. Golden State needs a proven center, but Mullin is a favorite of coach Don Nelson's.