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Basketball Notes

Ewing baffled by non-call

By Marc J. Spears
May 10, 2009
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Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing is considered one of the greatest centers of all time and played on the esteemed "Dream Team" in the 1992 Olympics. He is now an assistant coach with the Magic, studying under head coach Stan Van Gundy and tutoring All-Star Dwight Howard. He has played for coaches such as Hubie Brown, Rick Pitino, Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy, Nate McMillan, and Doc Rivers. In his six years as an assistant, he has paid his dues in Orlando, Houston, and Washington.

Not a bad résumé, right? But Ewing, 47, hasn't received even one inquiry about being an NBA head coach.

"This is my sixth year coaching and no one has called," Ewing said. "I really don't know why. I've put in my work. That's all I can do to make sure I'm ready."

The former Cambridge Rindge and Latin star made a name for himself by becoming the Knicks' all-time leader in points, steals, and blocks. But he hasn't even received a call from his former team. It wouldn't be fair for first-year Knicks president Donnie Walsh to be blamed, since he is new and hired a successful coach in Mike D'Antoni.

But Stan Van Gundy made it a point during the season to let the Knicks know he wasn't happy about their lack of interest in a player who was the face of their franchise.

Following Orlando's game at New York March 23, in which Ewing was honored at halftime, Van Gundy said, "What's amazing is they honor the guy, I don't know, every year. They honor him, but while they've got a lot of ex-players in their organization, they've never made any move to try to hire him. That to me is amazing."

Ewing left the ripping of the Knicks to his boss.

"I take the high road," Ewing said. "I appreciated that. He is looking out for me and for my best interest. But I'm taking the high road and not stirring up anything."

There is a perception that former NBA greats don't make great coaches. Hall of Famers such as Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Jerry West had their ups and downs.

But Ewing hopes to be judged on his own merits.

"All I can do is the best I can," Ewing said. "Everyone is different. You expect people to have the same work ethic and belief. But everyone is different and takes things different ways."

While Ewing says your personnel dictates what kind of offense you run, he professes that any team he coaches will be tough defensively.

"My style will be predicated on the team," Ewing said. "You can have a style, but if you don't have the players for the style, it will be no good. But I will stress defense."

Magic general manager Otis Smith joins Van Gundy in support of Ewing's hopes to be a head coach. But time will tell how many opportunities there will be to even put his name in the hat. Sacramento will have a new coach, Philadelphia and Minnesota are expected to make changes, but Oklahoma City and Toronto will likely stand pat.

"He has a good chance," Smith said. "He has a good head on his shoulders. He's smart. He picks up things fairly quick. I think he has a pretty good rapport with the players, so he can communicate with them.

"He should get a shot. There aren't a lot of jobs now because everybody is staying put. But I think he deserves a shot."

Ewing isn't the only Hall of Famer who hasn't had an NBA head coaching opportunity despite making overtures and paying dues.

Lakers assistant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raptors assistant Alex English, Heat assistant Bob McAdoo, Nuggets assistant Adrian Dantley, and former CBA and USBL coach Rick Barry have all expressed interest. None has gotten a chance.

Will Ewing's efforts ever pay off? It's hard to say. But with a background like his, it certainly wouldn't hurt to bring the 7-footer in for an interview.

"I'm making sure that if I get the opportunity, I'm ready," he said.

Extra home games in this series for Rivers

When Celtics coach Doc Rivers is back in his suburban Orlando residence in the offseason, the weary traveler makes a point of spending a lot of time at home.

"We don't go anywhere," said Doc's wife, Kris Rivers. "We might go on one family trip a year. But we really like to hang out at home. I'm a big homebody and the last thing Glenn wants when he comes home is to hop on a plane. I appreciate that.

"He does lose a lot of sleep taking the plane rides home just to watch the kids play during the season."

Doc, who coached the Magic from 1999-2004, lives in downtown Boston during the season, while his family stays in Winter Park, Fla.

He was glad to be able to sleep in his own bed while the Celtics are in Orlando for this playoff series. Kris, too, was pleased about her husband being back in his offseason home this weekend instead of staying at the Celtics' downtown hotel.

"That will be awesome," Kris Rivers said last week. "It will be nice having my husband home. I don't have any bad feelings about the Magic at all. You just move on.

"It will be fun. It's going to be a similar to Chicago, the nail-biters. [The Magic] are a very good team."

Doc says his wife and family do a great job making sure he has a quiet environment at home on game days.

"Whenever I come home for games, they know it's like I've come home for work," he said. "My wife is phenomenal with that. During the afternoons, she tries to keep the house clear. She's known me long enough to know that on game day I don't like anyone in my box.

"I'm a loner on game day. I go ride a bike or hit balls from a golf range."

Etc.

Nelson a no-show
As Celtics fans are hoping the injured Kevin Garnett walks through that door in the playoffs, Magic fans are hoping for the return of Jameer Nelson. Neither scenario looks likely, especially in Nelson's case. The Orlando guard had labrum surgery in his right shoulder Feb. 19 and was slated for six months for recovery. He was averaging a career-high 16.7 points and shooting 50.3 percent from the field while dishing 5.4 assists per game. Magic fans get excited when they see him dribbling during pregame workouts, but he maintains he has zero shot of playing in the postseason. "I'm on target. I can't do anything other than to rehab and do the treatment they give me to do," Nelson said. "There is really no reason for me to be super-aggressive with it because I'm not coming back no matter what. People have been saying that I have a chance to come back and you've been hearing stuff in the media. But there's nothing in my mind that says I'm going to come back. You have to be mentally prepared, right? I'm not sure I can take a hit. They see me on the court dribbling on the court, see me lay the ball up and they get anxious and say, 'Yeah, he's coming back.' No, I'm not coming back. I'm just trying to do a little conditioning and incorporate a little ball-handling into my drills." Nelson has increased his physical activity of late and has been working on floaters with his left hand. He says he can dribble fine with his right hand and has most of his range of motion back. But his shoulder is too weak to shoot jumpers. He said he should be able to shoot again in mid-June and probably won't begin playing again until August or September. With each passing game, watching becomes tougher and tougher for Nelson. But as painful as it may be to be in a suit on the sideline, he maintains there is no way he is coming back this season. "Each game, whether it's the playoffs or the regular season, it's been tough," Nelson said. "I wish I can help out there."

Next step for Cassell
An NBA source said ex-Celtics guard Sam Cassell will accept an assistant coaching job within the next two weeks, having come to terms with the fact that his playing days are over. Another NBA source said the Wizards were hoping to hear from Cassell soon in hopes of solidifying new coach Flip Saunders's staff, whether it's with him or going in a different direction. Cassell played for Saunders in Minnesota from 1999-2005. Cassell, 39, didn't play in one game with the Celtics this season before being dealt Feb. 17 to Sacramento, which waived him. Cassell has expressed interest in being an NBA coach. In a preseason poll of general managers, he finished second to ex-Cavs guard Eric Snow among players they thought would be the best coach one day. Doc Rivers has also said he believes Cassell could be a very good coach.

Looking ahead
At the beginning of the season, the Cavaliers expressed hope of a rematch with the Celtics in the playoffs, and it's still possible. But the Celtics are not at full strength with Garnett rehabilitating his right knee injury and Leon Powe out for the season after left knee surgery. "You respect them because they're the champs," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe mean a lot to them. It makes them a different team. At this time you don't want anyone hurt. But it's part of the process. Knock on wood, but it can happen to us. It doesn't make them a better team, no doubt about that. But if we play them, we will attack them as if they're healthy."

Bucking up
An NBA source said injured Bucks center Andrew Bogut is expected to be back to full activity in August. Milwaukee announced April 4 that the Australian would miss the rest of the season because of an incomplete stress fracture in his lower back. He is progressing well with his rehabilitation and strength training. Injured Bucks guard Michael Redd is also ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. He had surgery to repair a torn left ACL Jan. 24.

Summer plans
Boston, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Utah, Indiana, and New Jersey-Philadelphia (dual squad) are slated for summer league action at the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando from July 6-10. Each team is expected to play five games in the league, which is closed to the public. Boston didn't have a summer league team last year and last played in the one in Orlando in 2004. Potential Celtics summer league players include Gabe Pruitt, Bill Walker, and J.R. Giddens and 2008 second-round pick Semih Erden.

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com

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