PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Patrick Ewing stood before his teammates, his injured left leg strapped into a thick, black walking cast, and directed them to deliver something he's craved for 14 years.
"They have to go out and get me my ring," Ewing said. "They're ready to go get it for me."
Life without Ewing began anew Thursday for the New York Knicks, right in the middle of the Eastern Conference finals. A partial tear of the Achilles' tendon will keep Ewing sidelined for the rest of the postseason.
The series against the Indiana Pacers, tied at one game apiece, resumes Saturday.
"I still feel we have an opportunity to win it," Ewing said.
Ewing's teammates echoed that confidence, bouyed by the fact they already know what it's like to win without him. Tendinitis in the same tendon kept Ewing out of 12 games during the regular season, and he missed most of the previous season because of a broken wrist.
Coach Jeff Van Gundy said he had not yet decided how he will change his starting lineup, although Latrell Sprewell said he expected to continue coming off the bench.
"You can start big with (Chris) Dudley, you can start big with (Marcus) Camby, you can start small," Van Gundy said. "I just have to decide what's best for our team in Game 3, and I haven't decided yet."
Most of the initial shock from Wednesday's news about Ewing had worn off by the time the players arrived for practice. After they finished stretching, Ewing stood before them and spoke.
"He basically said he still believes in us as a team and he still wants his ring, so we better keep competing and get the job done," Sprewell said. "It's a setback, but it's a challenge, too."
Ewing's role with the Knicks, especially on offense, has diminished during the playoffs because of a multitude of injuries. He scored 16 points during 40 minutes in Game 1, then had 10 points in 25 minutes in Game 2 after feeling a "ripping sensation" in his Achilles' tendon during pregame warmups.
"I was told it was unlikely that when you have tendinitis it leads to a tear. Unfortunately, it happened," Ewing said. "I don't regret playing. It was rough enough for me last year to sit and watch."
The loss of Ewing will be especially troublesome if the remaining Knicks big men get into foul trouble. Van Gundy will be reluctant to press 40-year-old backup Herb Williams into service behind Dudley and Kurt Thomas.
Thomas has been getting the early defensive matchup on Rik Smits, while Ewing was guarding the less-dangerous Dale Davis.
Van Gundy said he expects Smits to see more playing time since he can avoid foul trouble by not having to guard Ewing.
"The formula for winning is the same no matter who plays: Play defense, rebound and get quality shots," Van Gundy said. "We can't turn into a jump shooting team."
What they can turn into is a run-and-gun team that pushes the ball upcourt and tries to get into the paint before Indiana sets up its defense. The Knicks had 22 fast-break points in their Game 1 victory but only seven in the Game 2 loss.
When Ewing sat out 12 games earlier this season, that was the strategy the Knicks used successfully.
"I'm feeling a little confident because we have played without him and we've been successful without him during the regular season. He's going to be missed a lot, but we'll play a more uptempo style," Camby said. "Everyone's in an uptempo spirit, everyone's ready to raise their level of play."
In Indianapolis, the Pacers said they know what to expect of the Ewing-less Knicks.
"You can look at it one of two ways," Davis said. "Either they're going to respond to him or it is going to hurt them badly. Knowing the character of that team, I think they'll respond positively. I look for them to push the ball more. They're going to be home, so I look for them to be more of an uptempo team."
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