When the New York Knicks finally get around to addressing their glaring point guard questions, Charlie Ward hopes he will be the answer.
Ward, who opted out of the final year of his contract and became a free agent shortly before the NBA lockout began July 1, said Saturday night his first choice would be to return to the Knicks.
"That's where I've been for my first four years, and I'm not big on change," Ward said before playing in Ray Allen's charity game at the Hartford Civic Center. The man he replaced in New York's starting lineup, Chris Childs, was a no-show at the exhibition game.
"There's a good chance I'll be back, and hopefully everything will work out where I'm back. But you have to understand I'll do what's best for my family," said Ward, who acknowledged he opted to become a free agent so he could receive a multi-million dollar, long-term contract.
Ward took over as the Knicks' top playmaker last season and started all 82 games, averaging 7.8 points and 5.7 assists. In the playoffs, however, his defense was a major liability that led to Indiana's Mark Jackson scoring almost at will when Ward guarded him during the Pacers' 4-1 victory over New York in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
And while the Knicks made one major off-season move before the lockout, trading Charles Oakley for Marcus Camby, they did not make a move for a new point guard as many had expected.
One of the people watching those developments closely was Ward, resigned to playing elsewhere if the Knicks change directions. Terrell Brandon of the Bucks, who also played in the charity game, said he had heard the Knicks were trying to acquire him from Milwaukee in a three-way trade.
"He (general manager Ernie Grunfeld) is looking for a better point guard, somebody who he thinks is better. And some of he fans might think there's someone better there," Ward said. "You listen to those things, but whatever they come up wth, like I said, I just have to do the best I can."
"I've enjoyed my experience in New York, being a part of it. No one else has really given me a chance outside of that organization. I'd like to be successful there."
There's one thing Ward is certain of -- he won't be returning to his old life as a multi-sport star. Ward won the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback for Florida State in 1993.
"No more football," he said, even if the lockout forces the cancellation of the entire 1998-99 season.
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