Championship hopes for New York go down the drainThe surgery took place in the dead of night, the news arrived several hours later with definitive and ruinous finality.

Out for the season.Goodbye, Patrick Ewing. And goodbye, perhaps, to the New York Knicks' chances of ever winning a championship with their franchise center.

Ewing underwent emergency surgery early Sunday to repair a dislocated bone and several torn ligaments in his right wrist. It was a colossal blow to the team's continual, unfulfilled quest to win an NBA championship.

"It's devastating," coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

"I don't think there's anyone out there who can fill the void," said general manager Ernie Grunfeld.

Ewing, the foundation of the Knicks and in his 13th season with the team, fell hard on his shooting wrist during Saturday night's loss at Milwaukee and lay sprawled on the court in agony.

He had surgery about 4 a.m. EST Sunday after being taken to a hospital in Manhattan following the Knicks' arrival from Milwaukee after their 20-point loss.

"It's a football or motor vehicle type of injury. He fell with tremendous force onto his wrist," Knicks team physician Norman Scott said Sunday during a conference call. "It's a high-speed, high-force type of injury."

The 35-year-old star center dislocated one of eight bones in his wrist and tore several ligaments. His right wrist will be in a cast for two months before he begins rehabilitation.

There is no chance of Ewing returning for the playoffs, Scott and Grunfeld said. Nor are there assurances he will be fully healed by next season.

Ewing will remain in Beth Israel Hospital for at least two days, and now the Knicks must attempt to regroup without their most durable and indispensable player.

"He's determined to come back. That's the best word I can use - determined," Van Gundy said. "I've seen it happen before to other teams - it happened last year to the Spurs and David Robinson - and it's devastating."

Ewing, attempting to dunk an alley-oop pass from Charlie Ward with 24.9 left in the second quarter, was fouled by Andrew Lang and broke his fall with his arms before landing on his tailbone. Grimacing and writhing in pain, he stayed on the floor for some two minutes.

Ewing managed to go to the foul line. But all he could do was cradle the ball and shoot with his left hand, missing both shots.

The Knicks lost 98-78, leaving them with a 15-11 record and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Grunfeld said he doubted the Knicks could acquire anyone to replace Ewing, an 11-time All-Star who signed a $68 million, four-year contract extension last summer. Among the centers available are Olden Polynice of Sacramento and, oddly, Lang, whose foul ripped a hole in the Knicks' season.

"We'll have to look around, but we have a lot of competent players on our roster. There's no one of Patrick's caliber, but I have confidence," Grunfeld said. "We have a lot of depth and we expect to be a competitive club despite this. It's not going to be up to one player. We have several guys who can play center and everyone's going to have to take up some of the slack."

Van Gundy said the team will use Chris Dudley or Buck Williams at center, depending on the opponent, and pointed out that eight of the next 10 games are at home.

"After those 10 games, we'll evaluate where we'll go from there," Van Gundy said. "I'm not trying to hide what we'll do because I really don't know yet."

Ewing was taken to a Milwaukee hospital where X-rays disclosed a dislocated lunate bone. The Knicks' medical staff was waiting for Ewing at the airport in New York.

He was rushed to a hospital in Manhattan, with Van Gundy close behind, and had emergency surgery to prevent the dislocated bone from causing nerve damage.

Drs. Susan Craig Scott and Charles Melone performed the two-hour procedure. Dr. Norman Scott said the dislocated bone was reset and the torn ligaments were stitched. He said there was no guarantee Ewing would be fully recovered by the start of next season, although "it's all guesswork right now."

He is the seventh prominent player to be injured this season following Penny Hardaway of Orlando (knee), Alonzo Mourning of Miami (knee), Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston (knee), Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers (abdomen), Scottie Pippen of Chicago (foot) and John Stockton of Utah (knee).

"Here's a guy who has done everything that a champion is supposed to do," Van Gundy said. "And now a season he's put so much into is cut short by something as freakish as being cut down in the middle of the air."

Ewing had missed only 20 games over the last 10 seasons, including four last season because of a strained groin.

He missed 32 games in 1985-86, his rookie season, because of arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and the final 17 games of the following season because of a sprained left knee.

The Knicks' leading scorer and rebounder, he averages 20.8 points and 10.2 rebounds.

"It's killing me," Ewing, wearing a splint, said after the game. "There was so much pain. Pain in my wrist. Pain in my back. I've hurt it before, but never like this."

Ewing has been the heart of the Knicks since arriving in 1985 from Georgetown and hailed as a potential savior for a franchise that last won a title in 1973. But the closest the Knicks have come was in 1994 when they lost in seven games to the Houston in the finals.

The team was retooled two summers ago when Grunfeld signed Chris Childs and Allan Houston and traded for Larry Johnson, but New York was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season for the third straight year.

Grunfeld last summer acquired Dudley as Ewing's backup - a move that now could determine whether the Knicks even make the playoffs.