"I look at the team the same way fans do. Any fan that's my age is going to remember the same things I remember. I'm not sure these guys in here were Knicks fans back then, but everyone in New York was a Knick fan back then and they remember what it was like at the Garden, in the Eastern Conference Finals going up against the Bulls, the Finals against the Rockets and the Spurs. This place was jumping." - Patrick Ewing Jr.
He has a famous name, but, really, he's more one of you than he is one of them. Patrick Ewing Jr. waved the towel, roared with every basket and agonized with every defeat. He had the same optimism before every season, hoping this will finally be the one.
And he was the only one in the room who had firsthand knowledge when the Knicks players were assembled in a video room early in training camp to watch a motivational film that showed the championship parades of the Yankees, Rangers and Giants and also the history of this franchise and what the Garden -- what New York -- was like when the Knicks were a winning team and going deep into the playoffs every spring. The common theme throughout the entire film?
The passion and energy that can light up the entire city. The incomparable Garden roar that, at one time, used to literally scare the crap out of an opponent.
Ewing Jr. felt compelled to speak up and offer his first-person experience to players whose mostly know of this franchise for the self-destructive Y2K NYKs and vaguely remember the Roaring 90s.
"I was like, 'That's what it's like at the Garden when we win'," he said.
He told them about when the famed copper ceiling almost blew off the cables when Larry Johnson hit that famous four-point play against the Indiana Pacers in 1999, or the euphoria of finally getting past the Bulls in '94 (who cares it was without Michael?) and then how his father famously outstretched his long arms to hug the entire crowd when they beat the Pacers to reach the NBA Finals.
And as Patrick Jr. talked about it, he did something so many of you do when you talk about the team: he said "we".
"I don't ever remember this team being bad," he told me. "We were always in the playoffs."
Despite being cut for the second time in three years, I find it impossible to believe Patrick Jr. won't still maintain that deep emotional connection to the franchise. Like you, he grew up here. Like you, he wants to see the return of the glory days.
And yes, there can be glory without winning a championship. There is glory in just winning and doing it consistently.
I was stunned at the decision to cut him, especially when you consider the 15th player on an NBA roster spends most nights on the inactive list. But when he did dress, he'd happily play the role of the towel-waving mascot. When he did get in for garbage minutes in a blowout, he'd bring smiles to the faces of the Garden faithful, who know good karma when they see it.
But there was a choice made that was based not on karma or to appeal to ghosts of the past, but based on basketball skill and appealing to a future of winning. Shawne Williams, a former first round pick, has a legit offensive skill set. He fits in the system and, if they needed him, Williams can play effective minutes.
Of course Shawne's off the court issues are well documented and if he falls back into bad habits and gets arrested again, which he promised me on Friday that he won't do ("That ---- is over with," he said. "It's out."), the choice to go with him over the gallant younger Ewing will be a public relations nightmare.
In some ways it already is, but that's not fair to Williams. Maybe this is one of those rare times when emotion gets the better of reason. This is kind of like seeing your son cut. There's a part of you that, even though you know it was probably the right choice, just wanted to see it work out for him.
If Pat doesn't catch on with another NBA team -- it's worth noting that the Magic do have a roster spot open -- I say there's no shame in trying a third time to follow your father's legacy. What I'm trying to say is, I hope to have the fortune of covering him again.