|Monday, October 7
Updated: October 8, 7:57 AM ET
Union to appeal Sprewell's fine
Sprewell also was banished indefinitely from the team for failing to notify the Knicks that he broke his shooting hand two weeks before training camp. Vowing an appeal, Sprewell said his relationship with the team had been harmed but that he still wanted to play in New York.
"They talk about being a family but they're not sticking with me," Sprewell told the Daily News.
The fine was believed to be the largest ever imposed by an NBA team on a player. The most expensive 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.
"The biggest thing to me is that I'm hurt ... so don't kick me when I'm down," Sprewell told The New York Times. "It's not going to affect the way I play. What it's going to do is affect my relationship with the front office. ... But as bad as I think their decisions are, I still love New York."
Because Sprewell was not suspended, he will continue to be paid his full salary of $12.6 million. The players' union will appeal the fine on various grounds, said executive director Billy Hunter, who called the amount unreasonably excessive.
Sprewell told The Times he was "absolutely certain" he would not have to pay the fine.
"I understand their position that I should have told them,' he said. "I'll give them that. But I really didn't think it was that serious of an injury. And I definitely don't understand how they can fine me a quarter of a million dollars and tell me not to be around the team for something like that. That's excessive.
"If somebody just deserves a spanking, don't bring that whip down on them. That's just petty. ... The whole thing is a farce."
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.
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.
Sprewell had 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.
"We'll decide when it's appropriate for him to rejoin the team," Knicks president Scott Layden said.
Sprewell has a history of run-ins, both major and minor, with his employers. His most infamous episode came when he attacked Golden State 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.
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.
The events Monday 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, OK? We have not been able to get it right so far."
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 with Layden, coach Don Chaney and Madison Square Garden executive Steve Mills lasted about 20 minutes.
"I don't understand why they are alienating me from the team," Sprewell told the Daily News. "I know one thing, they don't want me talking to (the media) and getting out my side of the story."
Sprewell's agent Robert 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," Gist said. "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?"
Sprewell told the team he hurt the 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.
Last week, the New York Post reported that 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.
"Even with all this ... that they're putting me through I still want to be here," Sprewell told the Daily News. "That will never change."