The history was there to savor, cherish and maybe even rub off. But while the Knicks greats of the past were being honored during a halftime ceremony last night at the Garden, the present-day Knicks remained in the locker room.
The disconnect between yesterday and today is so evident, even the legends sitting along celebrity row - Willis Reed, Richie Guerin and Bernard King - didn't seem to wholeheartedly get into the drama down the stretch for this tailspinning team, which lost, 106-102, to the Orlando Magic.
With the loss, the Knicks (28-42) clinched an eighth straight losing season, tying the longest run of futility in franchise history (1959-60 to 1966-67).
David Lee said the current Knicks' snub wasn't intentional; the team was discussing second-half adjustments.
"I talked to a couple of those guys before the game and it's a great thrill we got to play in front of those guys," Lee said.
Howard, who is Ewing's prized pupil, had 29 points and 14 rebounds for Orlando (52-18). His tip-in with 3:53 to go gave the Magic the lead for good at 91-90.
Nate Robinson led the Knicks, who blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, with 19 points, but he shot 6-for-23 from the floor and missed a potential game-tying three with 8.2 seconds left.
Coupled with last night's win by the Bulls (33-38), the Knicks fell 41/2 games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. A half-game behind the Bulls just over a week ago, the Knicks have lost five straight while the Bulls have gone 4-1.
Notes & quotes: Larry Hughes did not play because of a jammed big toe . . . Danilo Gallinari returned from Italy and will meet with the Knicks' medical staff to discuss his options regarding his back issues . . . The Knicks signed 6-11 center Courtney Sims out of the D-League for a 10-day contract to replace Cheikh Samb, whose second 10-day contract ended . . . Patrick Ewing Jr. was in attendance. The final cut by the Knicks at the end of training camp, he played well for Reno in the D-League but is out for the rest of the season with a sprained left knee.