French Fried

by Matt Caputo

When all was said and done, the New York Knicks needed nine years and a guy named Patrick Ewing to rid their organization of Frederic Weis. But when they acquired the son of their former franchise player yesterday for the rights to Weis, who never played a day in the NBA, the team took it’s biggest step toward erasing a draft choice that some New Yorkers still believe might have cursed their troubled NBA squad. Without ever suiting-up, Weis became one of the most talked about draft picks in Knicks history because of who the team didn’t select in his place.

At 7-foot-2, Weis’ game was only beginning to grow into his massive frame when the Knicks took him with the 15th pick in the 1999 draft. He’d played well in the top professional league in France, his native country, the year before he was picked. Weis averaged 13 plus points and 7 plus rebounds in the 98-99 season. Although he’d sustained a back injury at the end of the season, Weis appeared to be making the right progress toward being in the NBA.

The Knicks were coming off a run to the championship in the labor dispute shortened season. After 50 games and a record of 27-23, the Knicks hung around the playoffs long enough to be beaten by the Spurs in the Finals. The series gave David Robinson his first title and kept Patrick Ewing Sr. that much further away from the chip that had eluded him his entire career. Although it was a short season, the Knicks were on a high and their position in the draft was only going to help them.

1999 was a solid draft that did birth a few stars. Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Richard Hamilton are among some of the top players to come from via the ’99 draft. However that same draft class included William Avery, Leon Smith, Trajan Langdon and Aleksandar Radojevic, who are numbered among several others who didn’t pan out in the League.

When it came to the 15th pick, the Knicks still had options. The typical objection of Knick fans was that the team didn’t take local beast Ron Artest. However, James Posey, Devean George, Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili, who was not selected until second to very last pick, were all still in the player pool waiting to hear their names called.

At the time, the Knicks were so high on Weis they felt he was too good to be floating around Europe another year. Even Weis himself wasn’t sure he was ready. He didn’t play well in Summer League and earned the nickname “French Toast” in the process.

Weis was a no-show at Summer League in 2000. He chose instead to be forever posterized in the hearts and minds of hoop fans everywhere at the Sydney Olympics. Vince Carter didn’t so much as dunk on the Frenchman as he did totally leap over him with a blatant disregard. It was like Weis wasn’t even there.

After the 1999 NBA Summer League, Weis went home and played in the French ProA league, but his numbers dropped a bunch. He signed a two-year contract worth $1.3 million to play in Greece in 2000, but left after only five games. He has played the majority of his career in Spain having never averaged 10 points or 10 rebounds in a season since being drafted by the Knicks.

Weis made an unexpected return to the French National Team in 2007 to help them through EuroBasket’07. Although the French finished 8th, he did play alongside Tony Park, Ronnie Turiaf and Boris Diaw, providing tough post defense. Aside for being totally humiliated by Vince Carter, he helped France to a Silver Medal finish at the 2000 Olympics. So, in all fairness, Weis has played fairly well in International competition and his strong defense and massive post presence might not always show up in stats.

Ewing Jr., 6-8, 240-pounds, was taken by Sacramento with the 43rd pick in the 2008 draft. He was traded to the Rockets on Aug. 14 as part of a multi-player deal. A 24-year-old Boston native, Ewing Jr. played his first two collegiate seasons at Indiana University before transferring to Georgetown. As a senior, Ewing averaged 6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 34 games, winning the Big East Sixth Man of the Year award.

The Knicks acquisition of “Young Ewing” probably won’t make or break their playoff chances. But if the kid makes the team it might be another reason to leave the game on this season, seeing as going to a Knicks game is out of the question. As it is likely that Ewing Jr. knows he’s got some work to do before he fills his father’s uniform, especially considering he’s a bit shorter than his dad, Knicks rookie Danilo Gallinari, an Italian import via first round draft pick, can take a lesson from this trade. The last thing the Knicks need right now is another Frederic Weis.