Pat Cummings, Rugged N.B.A. Forward, Dies at 55

The cause was apparently a heart attack, his mother, Delores Cummings, said from her home in Johnstown, Pa. Preliminary results of an autopsy on Wednesday were inconclusive, said Grace Burgess, a spokeswoman for the chief medical examiner.

When the Knicks signed Cummings as a free agent before the 1984-85 season, he was coming off two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks in which he routinely scored in double figures after three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Knicks gave him a four-year deal worth more than $2 million. Dave DeBusschere, their director of basketball operations at the time, said Cummings gave the team “a dimension we have long lacked, a big strong body.”

Cummings seemed rugged enough at 6 feet 9 inches and 230 pounds, he had a good outside shot and he got his share of rebounds, though he was slow coming down court. He averaged a career-high 15.8 points and more than 8 rebounds in his first season as a Knick, under Coach Hubie Brown.

Only Bernard King had a better scoring average (32.9) on a team that also included Louis Orr, Darrell Walker and Ernie Grunfeld. But Cummings missed all but two of the Knicks’ last 19 games with an ankle injury, and they finished last in the Atlantic Division. In his second Knicks season, he again averaged more than 15 points a game, this time second to the rookie center Patrick Ewing’s 20-point average. But he was injured once more, and his role diminished after that.

He joined the expansion Miami Heat as a free agent before the 1988-89 season, played two seasons for them and then briefly for Utah before retiring with a career average of 9.6 points a game.

Patrick Michael Cummings was born on July 11, 1956, in Johnstown. He was the Metro Conference player of the year in 1979 at the University of Cincinnati and averaged 17.1 points a game with the Bearcats over four seasons. He was picked by the Bucks in the third round of the 1978 .

By February 1987, when he was in his third Knicks season, playing for Brown’s successor, Bob Hill, who liked a fast-paced game hardly suited for Cummings, he expressed his unhappiness.

“The one thing I respected about Hubie was that he may hate your guts, but once the game started everybody got their shot,” he told The New York Times. “Maybe I don’t fit in here, or the coaches don’t think I can play anymore, but I know what I can do.”

He showed the expansion Heat what he could do when he contributed to a modest milestone. On Dec. 14, 1988, Cummings scored 15 points to help lead the Heat past the Los Angeles Clippers, 89-88, for the franchise’s first victory after it opened the season with a then-N.B.A. record 17 consecutive losses.

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