Imagine coming into league and playing on the same team Shaq took to the NBA Finals. Then, after a couple of seasons, mentored by one of the best centers of all time in Patrick Ewing and are now in the Finals yourself. Not to belabor the point, but this is why I expect a lot out of Dwight. He has a Hall of Fame mind talking and working with him every day. One who has been thrown Chicago and Miami wars…Dream escapes and John Thompson ESPN Classic tapes. All of that wisdom and knowledge is at Dwight’s disposal. As young and bright as Dwight is, he is definitely going to have the opportunity to thrive. Coach Ewing is cool and always has time for me before games. We’ve had some deep chats about basketball history and he was cool to give me 5 minutes of his time here:
Michael Tillery: Coach, do you ever think about getting out there are helping out your protege?
Patrick Ewing: (We laugh) Nah, nah, I’m too old for that.
MT: What can Dwight learn from you? You played in some epic physical battles over the course of your career. Physical play in the NBA has since diminished. Why do you think the league doesn’t let players bang like they used to?
PE: It’s a guard oriented game now. They NBA wants to see the little guys flourish. All the rules seemed geared towards perimeter players and also there’s not a lot of big men. You have Dwight, Yao Ming…Bynum. There’s just not many dominant big men. If you look around the league, most of ones are European and play more of a perimeter game.
MT: Coach I forget from time to time that Dwight is just 23 years old. He gets a lot of criticism because look at the dude. He’s huge and has no peer in the league in strength and arguably athleticism. What has he learned these playoffs? Seems like the elbow to Dalembert and sitting out was a seminal moment in his young career.
PE: It seems they are letting players get away with a lot more. They are beating the hell out of the young man. There letting them get extra hits. They are pushing. They are grabbing and sometimes you get frustrated as a man when this is happening.
In terms of the elbow, he’s gonna have to get them back in other ways (Coach Ewing smiles).
MT: Seems like you’ve worked with him a lot. You can definitely see an improvement in footwork and the seeds of a post game developing. I’ve said it many times the last couple of weeks, but when I look at him, I see a 40/30 player from time to time in this league. If Rodman can get 18 rebounds for an entire season, Dwight can get 30 right now.
PE: You are right about that. Damn right. It’s possible. It’s possible. Physically he’s a man child. He’s so athletically gifted like you said. The sky is the limit for Dwight. He has to continue to learn his profession. He can be the best player in this league.
MT: Jameer Nelson is from my hometown of Chester, PA. I know it’s been difficult for him to watch from the sidelines. As a coach…of course I know you have a job to do during games to keep the players prepared and aware of game situations…but does your mind ever wander back to the times when this was your show?
PE: Naturally. This is the playoffs. These games get the juices flowing. This is when I feel like damn I can get out there and get 20 tonight. In that respect, of course. I’m a competitive person. The marathon season is over. This right here is what you work all season long for. This is the real season. Forget that, I could go out there and get 30 (We laugh)!
MT: Coach, you probably could in this league because of how young the league is. Speaking of which, the league is a lot younger than in decades past obviously because cats are taking advantage of the Spencer Haywood rule. LeBron, Flash and even Dwight are considered veterans way before their conventional prime.
PE: The Europeans are younger also. There are a few older vets. Theo Ratliff…Dikembe Mutombo before he got hurt probably will retire. Tony Battie for us has been around a while. Rashard has been around for how many years?
PE: Damn, seems like 13 or 14 doesn’t it?
PE: So that makes him 29. That’s young. He’s right out of high school. A lot of them are coming out after one year.
MT: Can you do it this year?
PE: Yeah, if we play are game and keep our composure then of course.
MT: Your old franchise. What’s it gonna take for them to get it together.
PE: I don’t know. I stay outta that (smiles).
MT: One last question. (Pause) Damn what was I gonna ask you? You kinda fouled me up with that answer coach. (Pat laughs) Oh! You gonna be a head coach in this league or what?
PE: That’s the game plan. That is definitely my goal.
MT: Good luck coach. Get that shine and raise my Chester young boy right!
PE: You know I will!