Denton: Ewing Finally Gets to Coach Son

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Denton: Ewing Finally Gets to Coach Son

By John Denton
July 6, 2010


Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

ORLANDO – Patrick Ewing Jr. had just played an exceptional summer league game, making seven of 12 shots including a go-ahead 3-point in the final minutes. But as he left the Orlando Magic’s complex Tuesday afternoon, he braced for the call that was invariably coming a few minutes later.

``My dad can be hard on me sometimes and I’m sure that he’ll be calling me tonight and complaining some that we lost and telling me what we could have done better,’’ Ewing Jr. said of his famous father, Patrick Ewing. ``But that’s OK because he’s my coach.’’

The Ewings are together for the first time ever this week in the AirTran Airways Orlando Pro Summer League with Senior serving as the Magic’s coach and Junior as an aspiring NBA small forward. Because Patrick was a Hall of Fame Player throughout the 1980s and 90s and later an assistant coach with the Wizards, Rockets and Magic, this summer league is the first time he’s ever coached his son at any level of basketball.

Ewing Jr. gave the Magic their only lead of the day Tuesday with a clutch 3-pointer with 2:55 to play, but errors down the stretch doomed Orlando in a 78-73 loss to the Utah Jazz. The Magic dropped to 0-2 with games still ahead against New Jersey, Oklahoma City and Charlotte.

Ewing Sr. was obviously happy about his son scoring 17 points and shooting the ball better than he has shown in the past, but he was torn about another poor Magic start and another loss.

``I’m happy that he’s doing well, but I also want us to win the games,’’ Ewing Sr. said. ``He’s my son and I love him and I want to see him succeed just like I want everybody on our team to succeed as well.’’

Ewing Jr., 26, might have played his way into a NBA contract with his improved shot from the outside and his improved health. He tore his medial collateral ligament in his knee in March of 2009 – an injury originally misdiagnosed – and he hasn’t played organized basketball since, instead working to improve his individual skills.

And that drilling done mostly in Orlando under the watchful eye of his father is paying off now. In two summer league games, Ewing has made 14 of 29 shots, hit four 3-pointers and averaged 16 points. Ewing Jr. is hoping that he’s cleared up some of the doubts about his game and has done enough to earn a true shot at playing in the NBA and in a sense following in his father’s enormous footsteps.

``I don’t think not playing for the past 16 months was a bad thing because I think I got a lot better in the time that I had off,’’ said Ewing Jr., a 6-foot-8, 240-pound small forward. ``Offensively, I feel like I got a lot better in the time off. This summer league is helping me show teams all of the work that I did. People who thought that I couldn’t do much stuff offensively are getting to see now some of the stuff that I’ve added to my game.’’

With the Magic possibly about to lose scrappy, defensive-minded small forward Matt Barnes in free agency, Ewing Jr. is hoping that he might get a shot on Orlando’s roster. Ewing was a second-round pick in 2008 by the Sacramento Kings and traded twice and only played in three preseason games with the New York Knicks before being waived.

Wearing a Knicks jersey, as his father had several years before, was a dream come true, but now he wants an opportunity to stick with a NBA team. And that chance could be close to becoming a reality.

``Patrick is a really good player,’’ Magic general manager Otis Smith said. ``He’s not that far away from being an NBA player. He’s shown that in the last few days. It’s a tough situation where you have the father-son duo, but they’ve handled it better than most others have.’’

Ewing Sr. was worried about the prospect of coaching his son, fearing that he might be accused of showing favoritism. But the reality is, he said, that he’s actually much tougher on his son than other players. He’s repeatedly chided Junior for being too unselfish and passing up shots, and the postgame phone calls usually are about him playing harder on defender and working to rebound better.

``It’s good, but it’s different,’’ Ewing Sr. 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 three better than people think.’’

Ewing Jr. said all he’s wanted to do since he was 2 years old was play basketball, but he never fell into the trap of trying to match his father’s legendary career. For now, all he wants to do is prove he belongs in the NBA. And he’s confident that he’s shown scouts and executives this week that he’s on his own merit and not just because of his famous father.

``I’m sure people see me playing for the Magic and think it’s because my father is the coach,’’ Ewing Jr. said. ``But I’m here because I’ve made myself a better player. He doesn’t pick the players for the team. They asked me to play because they thought I was a good enough player.’’

John Denton writes for Orlandomagic.com. His Magic ``Behind the Scenes’’ segment can be heard each week on ESPN 1080 AM. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com.