PARIS -- Patrick Ewing Jr. said he got a call in the morning from his mother, who had heard on the news back in the States that a terror plot had been foiled by French police and seven men linked to al Qaeda had been arrested this morning. According to CNN, the total increased to 12 and talk of increased activity throughout Europe has everyone on edge.
But Pat Jr. was safe and sound at practice in Bercy Arena, where the only real terror threat appears to be the laminate flooring (Pergo-style hardwood) that they're using for the basketball court for tomorrow night's game here against the Minnesota Timberwolves (more of that in a bit).
"I just got off the phone with her," he said. "I told her, 'I don't know anything about it, but as long these guys - the security guys here - tell us everything is all right, I believe them.'"
The Knicks were briefed before practice about the arrests and continually update the players about the State Department's warnings to Americans currently visiting Europe. But the players haven't been told to avoid any of the popular tourist spots. Instead, they're being encouraged to enjoy the city and take in the culture. The team even gathered at the base of the Eiffel Tower this morning for a group photo. The Tower is a prime target among terrorist groups, as two bomb threats have been made on Paris' beloved landmark this year.
Raymond Felton said he didn't think twice about it.
"That's a picture you'll have forever," he said.
"You're supposed to be alert, but you're not supposed to live your life in fear . . . All that stuff's in God's hands."
Ronny Turiaf took his teammates out to dinner at a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower. He shrugged at the suggestion that the terror threats may cause people to be afraid of his beloved city.
"This is life," he said with his usual energetic sincerity. "I mean, I can't control what other people want to do." Of the arrested alleged terrorists, he pointed to himself and said, "Iwasn't trying to do that!"
Now, granted, the team and the players have been shuttled to and from the arena in a bus that is escorted by security detail. There is also plenty of security presence in the hotel. But even for average people like those of us in the media, who take the Metro (subway) to the arena, there hasn't been a feeling that people are at all nervous or concerned. The streets are crowded with people and all of the popular tourist sites are bustling with energy.
What I have noticed is, much like in Milan, it seems no one here has any idea that the NBA is here in Paris. There is almost no signage around town and they were only getting to putting up signs outside the arena this morning.
And the floor could be an issue. It's not a typical hardwood surface, but instead a pre-fab laminate made to look like hardwood, but instead resembles the floor you'd find in Ikea. It was extremely slippery this morning during practice, to the point where Mike D'Antoni shut things down after Felton took a hard fall.
The arena operators said they would go over the floor with another layer of coating to give it better traction, but there's still reason for concern when you have a $100 million player in Amar'e Stoudemire with a knee you want to protect, not to mention players with healthy knees that you don't want to see go down because the floor wasn't right.
But the issue could be isolated to just this morning's practice because of the fact that the players came in directly from the Eiffel Tower photo and wore their sneakers on the gravel for the shoot.
In Milan, Ewing Jr. tweeted that he wasn't impressed with the Italian food -- though he then was taken to a local eatery that blew him away with some fine, authentic cuisine -- and this morning he told me he hasn't really gone out much to see the sights in Paris. And it's not because he is worried about the terror warnings. He just prefers the comfort of his bed as he fights off a cold.
"I can see the Eiffel Tower from my window," he said with a shrug. "That's enough for me."