NEW YORK -- Another season ended in heartbreak yesterday for Knicks captain Patrick Ewing, who will be sidelined with a partial tear of his long-aching Achilles' tendon.
The aging center suffered the injury before Tuesday night's playoff game against the Indiana Pacers -- a contest that ended with Ewing missing what would have been a game-tying basket.
"It's frustrating to work so hard and be so close to something I've dreamed about for so many years," Ewing said. "To not be able to be on the floor to help my teammates is very frustrating and disappointing."
Ewing's injury -- which does not require surgery but will keep him in a cast for six weeks -- won't end his career, and he should be back next season, his doctors said.
But the star-crossed 7-footer will face another uphill struggle to continue his 14-year quest for an NBA championship.
"Patrick's been on this journey for a long time," said Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy. "It's like he's being cheated out of another opportunity, and I feel very bad for him."
Ewing, 36, suffered the injury during pre-game warm-ups for Tuesday night's game in Indianapolis.
The hobbled superstar, who has played in pain all season, told doctors that he felt a "ripping sensation" in the same Achilles' tendon he strained months ago.
Worried doctors ordered an MRI test for yesterday morning, which revealed the partial tear.
Doctors told Ewing he would risk a career-ending rupture of the Achilles' if he continued playing.
"The choices are out of his hands," said Dr. Norman Scott, a Knicks team doctor. "This is not an injury he can play with."
A disbelieving Ewing first said, "You're kidding," before looking at the MRI results.
Ewing, the heart and soul of the Knicks, was despondent at the news -- especially with the team three wins away from a shot at the NBA Finals. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals moves to Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1.
"He was really depressed. Here's something that looks reachable, and now this," Scott said. "I guess he was just saying, `Why me? Why now?' "
After meeting with the doctors, Ewing traveled to the Knicks' training facility in Purchase, Westchester County, where he spoke with Van Gundy and called teammates to break the news.
Chris Dudley is expected to start in place of Ewing in Game 3.
Even as he missed 12 games during the season because of the aching Achilles', Ewing averaged 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds.
The torn tendon is just the latest blow to Ewing, who has played for years with creaky knees.
He missed most of last season with what doctors called a potentially career-ending wrist injury. But Ewing beat the odds and made a dramatic return in the playoffs, in which the Knicks were eliminated by the Pacers in the Eastern semifinals.