On This Date: Patrick Ewing returns from wrist surgery

May 7th 1998: Patrick Ewing returns from wrist surgery

Patrick Ewing’s wrist surgery in December seemed to doom the Knicks’ 1998 season at the onset. However, Ewing eventually found his way back to face the Pacers in Game 2 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Ewing scored 10 points in 27 minutes in an 85-77 loss in Indianapolis.

Due to rust from the wrist surgery, Ewing was not able to regain his shooting touch as he shot less than 36% from the field. Despite emotions running high due to Ewing’s return, it was not enough to stop the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The younger legs in the Pacers frontcourt proved too much to overcome for the Knicks’ aging big men.

The Pacers series foreshadowed several trades after the season that would dramatically change the makeup of the roster and lead to an unexpected run to the finals in 1999.

On This Date: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning fight in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

April 30th 1998: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning get into a fight with seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

With less than 6 seconds remaining in a 90-85 Game 4 victory, Alonzo Mourning & Larry Johnson got into a fistfight after fighting for position boxing out. Both players threw punches & missed each other. The most iconic moment came when Jeff Van Gundy ran to the floor and held on to Zo’s leg for his dear life to stop the fight. His efforts were ultimately futile, but the photo was an iconic memory in Knick history.

Outside the Knicks/Heat rivalry, both players had tensions rooted from their playing days in Charlotte. While the players formed a dynamic duo in the 1992-93 season, animosity built up after LJ received a 12 year $84 million extension. Mourning thought he was the better player of the two and sought for a long-term extension. Before Zo was due for an extension, the Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat to become new Knick nemesis Pat Riley’s core centerpiece.

This was the 2nd Knicks/Heat playoff fight after the Charlie Ward/PJ Brown brawl. Unlike that brawl, most of the Knick bench remained on the sidelines. Only Chris Mills left the bench area. The NBA suspended LJ, Mills, & Zo one game for their involvement in the fight (and leaving the bench area, for Mills). With Mourning out, the Knicks easily defeated the Heat 98-81 in Game 5 to advance to the Semifinals.

On This Date: Terry Cummings scores 18 to help the Knicks defeat the Bucks

February 26th 1998: Terry Cummings scores 18 to lead the Knicks to victory

With a myriad of injuries in the frontcourt, the Knicks relied on newly acquired Terry Cummings to help propel the Knicks to a 102-90 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cummings came off the bench to score 18 points in 22 minutes.

The Knicks acquired Cummings, the 1983 NBA Rookie of the Year, from the Philadelphia 76ers for Ron Grandison & Herb Williams.1 Neither player played meaningful minutes for the Knicks before the trade.

With Patrick Ewing sidelined with a broken wrist, the Knicks relied on a diverse group of players to fill his minutes. Chris Dudley was the only traditional center on the roster that received a bulk of the starts. In the instance the team played small, the then-38 year old Buck Williams and Chris Mills received a chunk of minutes.

With Buck Williams sidelined until April due to arthroscopic knee injury, the Knicks acquired Cummings to reinforce the frontcourt depth. While a devastating knee injury zapped Cummings of most of his athleticism and scoring prowess, he could still be relied on for playing adequate defense and making the mid-range jump shot. At 37 years old, he was also another elder statesman in the Knick frontcourt.

After the Indiana Pacers exposed the Knicks’ overall age in the 1998 NBA Playoffs, the team shipping Cummings, along with John Starks and Chris Mills, to the Warriors shortly before the 1998-99 season for Latrell Sprewell.

On This Date: David Lee’s game-winning tip-in and Patrick Ewing suffers career-altering wrist injury

December 15, 2006: David Lee defies basketball odds with the game-winning and buzzer-beating tip in

On Trent Tucker’s birthday, David Lee not only defied the Trent Tucker rule, but also most basketball odds with an unbelievable tip in with 0.1 seconds left in double overtime to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 111-109 in double overtime. 

Lee flashed to the top of the key and immediately reversed back to the basket and juked out Gerald Wallace to receive the tip courtesy of a sidelines out-of-bounds pass from Jamal Crawford. Lee, being ambidextrous, deftly reversed and used his right hand to tip the shot in, sending Madison Square Garden in a state of paranoia.

The MSG broadcast crew of Gus Johnson & Walt “Clyde” Frazier previewed the Trent Tucker game and reminded the viewers of the rule.  Once Lee hit the shot, Gus Johnson went in his usual state of frenzy.  

The MSG camera crew focused onto Michael Jordan2 and close friend Ahmad Rashad as Knicks fans heckled them after the victory.  Additionally, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley attended the game with Jordan.  Ironically all three players were active in the Trent Tucker game and re-witnessed history made again courtesy of David Lee.


December 20, 1997: Patrick Ewing suffers broken wrist in an injury that significantly alters the remainder of his career

In a franchise-altering move, Patrick Ewing suffered a broken wrist after attempting to receive an alley-oop pass in a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. Bucks center, and future Knick, Andrew Lang fouled Ewing mid-air and sent him into a dangerous fall. Ewing suffered a dislocated bone and a few torn ligaments in his right wrist, his shooting hand. He immediately had surgery days after and expected to miss the remainder of the season.

This marked the first time Ewing spent a significant amount of the season injured since his sophomore campaign. Over the course of his Knick career to date, Ewing was always reliable and durable. This injury forced the Knicks to quickly consider life without Ewing and to build a foundation not dependent on him.

Despite the injury, the Knicks went 43-39 and made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals to face the Indiana Pacers in another rivalry matchup.  Defying most odds, Ewing made a remarkable comeback to return in Game 3 back home at MSG.  

Ewing’s return resulted in a triumphant victory in Game 3, but wasn’t enough to withstand the feisty Pacers roster. The Knicks lost the series in 5 games.

The wrist injury forever altered Ewing’s career. He was not able to regain his adept shooting much post-wrist injury. He suffered exponentially on offense and later suffered a torn Achilles in the 1999 playoffs. The Knicks acquired Sprewell & Marcus Camby before the 1998-99 season to prepare for life without Ewing.