Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Knicks fine Sprewell $250,000, order him away from team

NBA notebook

Enquirer staff and news services

        Latrell Sprewell was fined $250,000 and told to stay away from the New York Knicks for failing to tell the team he broke his shooting hand two weeks before training camp.

        The fine was believed to be the largest imposed by an NBA team on a player. Sprewell was effectively banished from the Knicks until he can make what team president Scott Layden called “a positive contribution.”

        Sprewell underwent surgery last week to repair a broken bone in his hand and will be sidelined at least five more weeks. The Knicks open the season Oct.30.

        The players' union, which represented Sprewell when he was suspended for 68 games by the Golden State Warriors in 1997 for choking his coach, said it would file an appeal on Sprewell's behalf.

        Sprewell contends he didn't know the severity of the injury until he reported to the team last Monday and had his hand X-rayed. The Knicks initially supported Sprewell's reasoning, citing his high threshold for pain. But the team reversed course during training camp last week and told Sprewell to stay home.

        Sprewell, Layden, coach Don Chaney and Madison Square Garden executive Steve Mills met for 20 minutes Monday.

        “He's upset,” said union director Billy Hunter, who received a call from Sprewell minutes after he was informed of the fine. “He feels he's being scapegoated for the problems that are confronting the Knicks - the diminished value of Cablevision stock, the offloading and sale of Cablevision's assets and resources, the issue of season-ticket holders and the depletion of the 6,000-name waiting list, and the fact that they weren't able to make significant trades to upgrade the team.”

        Sprewell has a history of run-ins, both major and minor, with his employers. His most infamous episode came when he attacked Warriors coach P.J.Carlesimo during a practice, leading to a suspension that cost him $6.4 million.

        Sprewell left the team's practice facility without speaking to reporters. He released a statement through his agent, Robert Gist, vowing to appeal the fine.

        The amount of the fine was staggering by any standard. The largest penalty ever imposed by the NBA was a $500,000 fine against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban last season for his repeated criticism of officiating.

        Sprewell will continue to be paid his full salary of $12.6 million. The players' union will appeal the fine on various grounds, said Hunter, who called the amount unreasonably excessive.

        PIERCE TRIAL VERDICT: Three men were acquitted of trying to kill Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce in a nightclub attack two years ago. Two of the defendants were convicted on lesser charges. William Ragland, 30, Trevor Watson, 35, and Anthony Hurston, 33, were found innocent of armed assault with intent to murder in the Sept.25, 2000, attack in Boston's theater district.

        SUPERSONICS: Seattle forward Rashard Lewis has a sprained left shoulder and will miss today's exhibition game against Golden State in Missoula, Mont. He reinjured his shoulder Sunday in his first game since he signed a seven-year, $60 million contract.

        CHARLOTTE UPDATE: The NBA's future in Charlotte will reach a critical stage today at the league Board of Governors' semi-annual meeting, and one potential franchise owner expects the talks to advance expansion efforts.


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