- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

Trade talks between the Washington Wizards and the New York Knicks concerning Knicks center Patrick Ewing have broken off, and Ewing's desire to play at least three more years very likely could prevent the teams from making a deal.

According to a league source, the Wizards would "jump at the opportunity" to trade Juwan Howard and the more than $54 million he is owed over the next three seasons in exchange for the 38-year-old Ewing. Ewing has one year left on his contract at $14 million, while Howard will be owed close to $16 million next year. A trade would suit the Wizards fine if Ewing retired next year.

However, Ewing, who was in town this week for face-to-face discussions with his close friend and Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan, still expressed an interest in signing a two-year extension at the end this season. Although he would no doubt come cheaper than what is owed Howard over those two years, the Wizards are making a concentrated effort to free up salary cap space in order to pursue top-flight free agents such as Chris Webber, Dikembe Mutombo or Michael Finley next summer.

The Wizards and the Knicks talked about a trade involving the two players before the trade deadline, but according to a source close to the situation the Wizards balked at making the deal. More recently, after the Knicks failed to move Ewing in a four-team deal that crumbled last month, the Wizards and the Knicks talked about a deal that would include Larry Johnson and Chris Dudley. However, Jordan backed away because he did not want to acquire any long-term salaries that might inhibit the team's ability to sign free agents.

"As of right now," a league source said, "Patrick is looking at returning to New York."

Although the deal makes sense for the Wizards, it does not appear to be a good move for the Knicks. For starters, the Knicks would be forced to go with the tandem of Dudley and the fragile Marcus Camby at center. Adding Howard in place of Ewing would make them an even worse rebounding team. And they ranked 24th in rebounding last season,

Last season, Howard, a six-year veteran, averaged 14.9 points and 5.7 rebounds.

The Wizards gave a clear signal last week that they were going to follow, to some degree, the model of the Orlando Magic, which traded away high-priced players so that they could acquire the likes of Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. The Wizards traded malcontent center Ike Austin to Vancouver in exchange for Dennis Scott, Cherokee Parks, Felipe Lopez and former Maryland standout Obinna Ekezie. All four players' contracts either expire or contain buyouts for the upcoming season.

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