On the other side of the curtain on another night in San Antonio, in another basketball place, Patrick Ewing was filling notebooks speaking of his plight. This was at the old Alamodome, June 15, 1999. The next night the Knicks would begin an ill-fated NBA Finals against the Spurs of David Robinson and Tim Duncan and Avery Johnson.

On this day, Ewing was being philosophical.

“We have other guys,” he said. “They’ve had to step up for us to get here.”

On the other side of that curtain one of those guys, Marcus Camby, was drinking from a bottle of water and talking about his strange 1999 journey from pariah to people’s choice, unloved by fans because his arrival had cost the Knicks Charles Oakley, unwanted by his coach, Jeff Van Gundy, because he was a little different kind of player — and personality — than Van Gundy preferred.

Until Jeff Van Gundy realized something late that year.

And Van Gundy started leaning on Camby. And as a result the Knicks found themselves unlikely participants in the Finals after earning the eighth and final seed in the East and both Van Gundy and Camby had heard Madison Square Garden chant their names at various times in the playoffs.

“Patrick told me this the last couple of days and he’s right,” Camby said. “He said I need to be more than just a feel-good story anymore. I need to be the biggest story.”

Camby’s emergence was just one piece of proof that Jeff Van Gundy — generally perceived as being stuck in his own ways, better or worse, that whole year — had understood in the nick of time the lessons of trying new things when the old things don’t work, or when circumstances dictate the need for a difference.