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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Sprewell fined by Knicks

GREENBURGH, N.Y (REUTERS) — 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 ever imposed by an NBA team on a player. Although he was not officially suspended, 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 for at least five more weeks. The Knicks open the season Oct. 30.

“We’ll decide when it’s appropriate for him to rejoin the team,” Layden said.

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 did not 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 pending a meeting Monday.

The sit-down between Sprewell, Layden, coach Don Chaney and Madison Square Garden executive Steve Mills lasted about 20 minutes.

“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 coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice, leading to a suspension that cost him $6.4 million in salary.

After being traded to New York, Sprewell skipped all of training camp in 1999 without explanation. He also was routinely late, often by a half-hour for home games.

Monday’s events showed that the Knicks have had enough.

“Frankly, we’ve tried other things, and we’re going to try something different this time,” Layden said, trembling as he delivered the news. “He’s a member of this organization, and we want to get it right, okay? We have not been able to get it right so far.”

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.

Because he was not suspended, 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.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the Knicks were within their rights to fine Sprewell such a large amount. League and union officials said they could not recall a larger team fine on a player.

The collective bargaining agreement allows a team to fine or suspend a player for failing to report an injury, although it does not specify a maximum penalty.

“It’s a gray area,” Hunter said.

Gist said the Knicks were diminishing the value of a player they are seeking to trade, although he expects Sprewell to play for the Knicks again.

“I’m concerned about the relationship and healing it. This is a terrible way to start the preseason, telling the public he has to stay away, suggesting that he is a cancer to the other players. How do you amend that?” Gist said.

Sprewell told the team he hurt his hand when he slipped and fell aboard his yacht. In justifying the team’s punishment, Mills pointed out that Sprewell immediately told the trainer about the injury when he reported to practice.

According to a report last week in the New York Post, Sprewell might have broken his hand by throwing an errant punch at the boyfriend of a woman who vomited on his yacht. The newspaper, citing two eyewitnesses who asked not to be identified, said Sprewell was injured when he slammed his right hand into a wall during a skirmish at a late-night party aboard the yacht in Milwaukee.

Gist said in a statement Monday that Sprewell has asked him to explore litigation against the Post for running “grossly irresponsible and false” stories.

Layden and Chaney insisted Sprewell will remain an important part of the team, which missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 15 years. Sprewell was the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, averaging 19.4 points.

He was suspended for one game late last season after he missed a pre-game shootaround in Miami. But after Sprewell met with chairman James Dolan of Cablevision, the team’s corporate owner, the fine was cut from $125,000 to $2,500.

“We’ve tried the other steps, and clearly it just hasn’t worked. So now we’re trying this,” Layden said. “And let me say this: This fine will not be rescinded. This fine will stand as it is.”

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