Autumn of discontent
Sprewell sues paper, while Knicks impose suspensionPosted: Monday October 21, 2002 12:52 PM
Updated: Tuesday October 22, 2002 7:02 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Latrell Sprewell sued a newspaper, spouted off and got suspended Monday.
On a day filled with developments related to Sprewell's injured right hand and his relationship with the New York Knicks, the rift between everyone involved only seemed to worsen.
In the morning, Sprewell's agent announced a $40 million lawsuit against the New York Post for its account of how he got hurt. Sprewell later met with reporters and denounced the way the Knicks have treated him, which was followed by an announcement from the team that Sprewell had been suspended one game for failing to follow his rehabilitation procedures.
"They keep pushing me further away," Sprewell said.
Knicks president Scott Layden announced the suspension, which will cost Sprewell $140,000 -- 1/90th of his $12.6 million salary. Already banished from the team until he can make "a positive contribution," Sprewell will now be officially banned from Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when the Knicks play the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game.
"We are very disappointed that we have to take these steps with Latrell, but his actions with regard to his rehabilitation have left us no choice," Layden said.
The Knicks said Sprewell had failed to begin supervised workouts last week and had removed the splint from his hand without consulting team doctors.
"The team has no choice but to take this action at this time," Layden said.
Sprewell's lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks an additional $250,000 from the Post for the amount Sprewell was fined by the team for not promptly reporting his injury.
Sprewell has filed an appeal of that fine through the players' union. A union spokesman said it was too soon to say if Sprewell also would contest Monday's suspension.
Named in the suit was Post staff writer Marc Berman, who quoted two anonymous sources in an Oct. 4 story that said Sprewell was injured when he hit a wall while throwing a punch at a man whose girlfriend vomited aboard Sprewell's yacht.
"Those accounts are false and contributed to a breakdown in relations with the team, and contributed to the size of the fine," agent Robert Gist said.
Berman defended his story, saying it was accurate.
Sprewell called the Post account "ridiculous."
"I slipped and tried to brace my fall on the deck of my boat," Sprewell said. "If I was trying to hit somebody, I think I would hit them. I would find a way to get at them if I was that angry about it. I wouldn't just miss a guy and not do anything."
Sprewell reported the injury to the Knicks when he arrived at the team's training facility on Sept. 30. Less than a week later, and after initially defending him, the Knicks fined and banished him.
Sprewell said the exile is what upset him the most.
"I play hurt, I've played sick. I've done everything I needed to do to help this team get better. I've played out of position. I've never said anything about the organization. So for them to treat me this way is totally unfair," he said.
X-rays revealed a displaced fracture of the pinkie bone below the knuckle, and Sprewell had surgery and a pin inserted. The pin will be removed Tuesday, and Sprewell believes he can return by the second week of the season.
Sprewell did not attend the news conference announcing the lawsuit, instead driving to suburban Greenburgh after the Knicks summoned him to their practice facility. Gist said he had received several angry calls late Sunday night from Layden after the Knicks learned that Sprewell had removed his splint.
"It is essential that Latrell follow the rehabilitation program developed for him by our medical and training staffs so his injury heals and he gets back in playing shape as soon as possible, and to date he has not done that," Layden said.
Sprewell was New York's second-leading scorer last season, averaging 19.4 points. His absence has left the Knicks without two of their best players, as Antonio McDyess went down with a season-ending knee injury in the team's third exhibition game.
Sprewell took a few shots at Layden and Knicks executive Steve Mills, who along with coach Don Chaney informed him of the fine when the team returned from training camp.
"I want you guys to look at those guys and everything they've done, look at their decisions since they've been here," Sprewell said. "You've all dug up my past, look at Scott's track record since he's been here."
Layden took over the Knicks following the lockout-shortened 1999 season when they went to the NBA Finals. They have been on the decline ever since and missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 15 years, despite having the league's highest payroll -- about $92 million.