Sprewell 'absolutely' will play this season, team says

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

NEW YORK -- Latrell Sprewell will "absolutely" play for the New York Knicks this season, despite a strained relationship that took an ugly turn with a series of bizarre events on Monday.

"Certainly yesterday was a New York moment," general manager Scott Layden said before Tuesday night's exhibition game against Utah at Madison Square Garden.

When asked whether Sprewell would play again for New York this season, Layden responded, "Oh, absolutely."

Even jaded Big Apple fans were surprised by Monday's weirdness.

First, Sprewell's agent said at a Manhattan hotel that a $40 million lawsuit had been filed against The New York Post for its account of how Sprewell broke his right pinkie.

Later, Sprewell ripped Layden and executive Steve Mills, who earlier this month fined the player $250,000 for not promptly reporting the injury. Sprewell also argued that his banishment from the team was unfair and possibly a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.

A few hours after his impromptu news conference, the Knicks suspended Sprewell for Tuesday night's game -- costing him another $137,500 in salary -- for disobeying the team during his rehabilitation.

Aside from announcing that a surgically inserted pin had been removed from Sprewell's right pinkie Tuesday, Layden had little new to offer. He refused to respond to Sprewell's caustic remarks, and he didn't say when his star might rejoin the team.

Coach Don Chaney said a meeting with Sprewell would be forthcoming, but didn't say when.

Sprewell said Monday that he could be playing a week into the regular season, which begins Oct. 30 at Detroit. A team spokesman said Tuesday that Sprewell will begin physical therapy to restore full movement in his right hand, and he'll be evaluated in another week.

Chaney and the rest of the Knicks want him back badly. There's only one exhibition left, and with Antonio McDyess out for the season, Sprewell's scoring might be the team's only chance to avoid the draft lottery for a second straight year.

"We all want him back so we can win some games," Chaney said. "We realize that with him out, it hurts our chances for winning."

Guard Allan Houston, weary of the persistent distraction the Sprewell story has caused, just wants both sides to settle their differences.

"So many things have been said back and forth that this has been turned into a soap opera," Houston said. "I'm not getting caught up in who's right and who's wrong, because he's a teammate. Let's hope they come to some kind of understanding."

Sprewell has angered the Knicks before, but the team usually looks the other way. The Knicks fined him $125,000 for missing a shootaround in Miami in April, but Sprewell convinced them to rescind all but $2,500 of it.

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