PURCHASE, N.Y. -- The New York Knicks said their goodbyes Sunday and drove off into an uncertain summer, unsure whether management will make big changes to try to improve the team.
"I'm sure they're going to do something. If not, then I think we can win with whoever's here," guard Latrell Sprewell said. "I think we have all the components here, we just need to play together."
Less than 48 hours after their loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Knicks held their final team meeting and cleaned out their lockers.
Some left with their belongings in fancy leather luggage, others departed with plastic garbage bags over their shoulders. None left with a feeling of total satisfaction after advancing so far in the playoffs but failing to put up a good enough fight against the Spurs.
Point guards Charlie Ward and Chris Childs said they were both unsure whether they'll back next season. It has been no secret around the league for a long time that the Knicks would like to upgrade at that position, but very few top-notch point guards will be available this summer.
One possibility would be for the Knicks to select a point guard with the 15th pick in Wednesday's draft, especially if Jason Terry of Arizona or William Avery of Duke falls that far.
Terrell Brandon of Minnesota, Nick Van Exel of Denver and Sherman Douglas of the Los Angeles Clippers are among the available free agents, but the Knicks have no salary cap room and would have to make a sign-and-trade deal.
"If they want a change, it's on them," Childs said. "We made it to the finals, we just didn't win it. What more can you want?"
Coach Jeff Van Gundy and team president Dave Checketts are expected to meet soon to discuss the team's future and the turbulent events of the past few months.
Van Gundy will likely ask for a greater say in future personnel moves, something he didn't have when general manager Ernie Grunfeld was revamping the team. Grunfeld was demoted by Checketts in mid-April when the Knicks were in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
Player personnel director Ed Tapscott is among the candidates to take over the GM duties.
"I'm sure everything will come up," Van Gundy said. "I know Dave's in charge, but I don't know what his plans are. I'll wait until I talk to him."
The Knicks proved in the postseason that they can win with an up tempo, guard-oriented offense built around the talents of Sprewell and Allan Houston. They expect to have a healthy Patrick Ewing back at center when the 1999-2000 season begins.
Ewing missed the final nine games of the playoffs with a partially torn Achilles' tendon. New York was 4-5 in those games.
"I'm tired of hearing all that stuff that the team's better off without me," Ewing said before driving off in a white Mercedes. "My role is not going to change. My role is going to be the same."
Out of all the Knicks, the one who stood around and talked the longest before climbing into his car was forward Marcus Camby.
After being the most maligned member of the team before having a strong postseason and earning a starting spot during the finals, Camby was feeling a sense of vindication as he stood in the sweltering sun and summed up his feelings.
"It was definitely tough sitting there on that bench knowing that you were well deserving to go out there and play. I had to be patient, and now that I've had time to look back on the season, it was fun," he said.
"I proved my point out there on the court, I proved I'm able to be a starter or play significant minutes off the bench. Most important is that I want to win. What San Antonio did Friday night, that's what we want to do next season."
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