ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The lifelong basketball journeys for Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing and his son, Patrick Ewing Jr., are at a crossroads this week at the NBA’s Orlando summer league.
They’re both leading the Orlando Magic’s squad — one on the sideline, the other on the court — and making strides toward their ultimate goals.
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Father and son.
Coach and player.
Two dreams so close to reality.
“Wouldn’t that be great? I’m waiting for the day we do it,” said the elder Ewing, now 47. “I’m chomping at the bit.”
The former New York Knicks great, Ewing heads into his sixth season as an NBA assistant coach. The last three have been with the Magic, helping mold Dwight Howard into an All-Star center who has won two straight defensive player of the year awards.
Ewing is still hoping to land his first head-coaching job, believing it’s only a phone call away and he merely has to pay his dues as an assistant. Despite several openings this offseason, though, that call didn’t come again.
“I’m waiting,” he said, smiling.
Ewing Jr. has never shied away from his father’s shadow.
His dad wanted him to play football — he chose basketball. He went to Georgetown, where his father once anchored those legendary Hoyas teams. And after being drafted in the second round by Sacramento in 2008, he was traded to Houston and later New York.
Yes, the Knicks.
But he never played in a regular-season game, was sent to the NBA Developmental League and tore a ligament in his right knee in March 2009 — originally misdiagnosed as a sprain — and hadn’t played an organized game again until this week.
So fate would have it that the Magic would give him a shot, and that his father would be the one coaching him to reach his goal.
He led the team in scoring in its first two summer league games with performances of 17 and 15 points, and had 11 points and seven rebounds in the Magic’s 94-91 loss to New Jersey on Wednesday as his father roamed the sideline.
“I always wanted to be just like him,” said the 26-year-old Ewing. “I developed a post game because he was a post player. I’m sure if he was a point guard, I would have tried to be a point guard.
“He was such a great player. I never expect to be a top 50 player of all-time, but I’m going to strive for it. It’s something that’s making me work harder.”
Growing up in NBA locker rooms didn’t hurt.
Ewing Jr. had a chance to watch Pat Riley coach. Or shoot with Allan Houston and Larry Johnson after practices. Or even meet Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson before games.
Even though his dad was often traveling, he still managed to watch his son from afar and keep in touch by phone. When Dad was home, basketball always came first.
“I remember him getting very upset after losses, especially in the playoffs,” he said. “I would make sure to stay out of his way and not get in trouble in school those weeks.”
They kept in touch by phone when Ewing Jr. was playing at Georgetown, too.
While Ewing was traveling as an assistant coach, father often watched game tapes and coached by phone. It wasn’t until this week that Ewing finally got to coach his son.
“It’s good, but it’s different,” he said of coaching his son. “I thought it would be a lot harder, but he’s been working and he’s played well for us. Sometimes I think he’s too unselfish and I get on his butt about passing up open shots. He can shoot the 3 better than people think.”
Both have shown progress toward their goals.
Ewing Jr. has been one of the best players on the Magic’s summer squad — that includes draft picks Daniel Orton and Stanley Robinson — but has no contract for this season. He said he won’t go back to the developmental league, and would instead go to Europe or somewhere overseas if he doesn’t make an NBA roster.
“He’s not that far away from being an NBA player. He’s shown that in the last few days,” Magic general manager Otis Smith said.
His father believes he’s ready for the NBA — and now.
“I don’t subscribe to the patience theory,” said Ewing Sr. “I’m not into that Aristotle philosophy that patience is a virtue. I see the talent in the league today, and there’s no way my son shouldn’t be in the league. He’s talented enough. There should be a job in the league for him now.”
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound small forward appears athletic and strong enough to match NBA-caliber players. And he may very well get a chance to play in the NBA one day.