The trade scenarios involving Ewing shrunk considerably Tuesday after the Detroit Pistons pulled out of a four-team deal that would have sent Ewing to Seattle.
Now, it's a question of whether the Knicks will find another way to divorce themselves of the franchise cornerstone for the past decade and a half.
There were reports that a backup Seattle-New York deal would be completed Tuesday, but as the day came and went, it became obvious the trade was simply dead.
Executives around the league said the Pistons pulled out of the original four-team trade because they weren't benefitting to the same degree as the Knicks, Lakers and SuperSonics, or if they were even benefitting at all.
Seattle would have gotten Ewing while also completing a side deal for free-agent forward Maurice Taylor Los Angeles would have gotten Christian Laettner and Chris Dudley and the Knicks would have gotten a pair of former All-Stars and a backup center in Glen Rice, Vin Baker and Travis Knight.
Detroit, though, would have walked away with seven marginal players at least two of whom still have two years left on their contracts and thus would hinder the Pistons on the free-agent market next summer by remaining on their salary cap.
It remains possible that the Lakers could end up with Laettner. The Dallas Mavericks have offered the Pistons a package that is believed to include Cedric Ceballos and $3 million, and they would be expected to immediately reship Laettner to the Lakers for Rice.
"We made Detroit an offer prior to this that we were surprised they walked away from," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "Our offer is still on the table, but we haven't talked to Detroit for several days."
The Pistons did manage to pull off a different deal Tuesday, sending guard Lindsay Hunter to Milwaukee for forward Billy Owens.
General manager Joe Dumars said the four-way trade with the Lakers, Knicks and Sonics was never as close to being completed as people thought.
"I hope that (Ewing) does tay, and that he'll be appreciated like he should be," teammate Allan Houston said.
Appreciation, however, was a scarce quantity in some sectors of New York as word of the mammoth trade that fell apart dominated the sports talk scene.
Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the deal. Some felt it was positive that the Knicks were trying to move past the disappointment of the Ewing years and rid themselves of a player whose unfulfilled quest for a championship personified the franchise for so long.
"Good Riddance," screamed the New York Post.
Others questioned how the Knicks ever expected to win a title by trading their top two centers while simultaneously creating even more of a glut at the small forward and shooting guard positions. One issue raising red flags around the league was whether Seattle had made some sort of under-the-table handshake agreement with David Falk, the agent for Ewing and Taylor.
Ewing is seeking a two-year contract extension that the Knicks have balked at giving, while Taylor went into this summer's free agent market looking for a lucrative contract that has not been forthcoming.
If Taylor were to sign with Seattle for one year and $2.25 million, it would be expected that the Sonics would have a wink-wink deal to give Taylor a new, long-term contract after the upcoming season.
Seattle could have $17 million of salary cap space next summer. But if Taylor's contract took up the bulk of that money, there wouldn't be enough to give Ewing the type of lucrative extension he wants.
A Sonics official stressed that the team had made no financial promises to Ewing. Falk did not return calls seeking comment.
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