OAKLAND — With a thud heard throughout the NBA, the Golden State Warriors dropped their fighting star, Latrell Sprewell, along with the remaining $23.7 million on his contract, for assaulting Coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Sprewell acknowledged the attacks in a series of interviews Wednesday, apologizing to fans, family and friends but not to Carlesimo.
Not that the Warriors were paying much attention to what he said. There were reports in Bay Area newspapers Wednesday that they were preparing to terminate Sprewell's contract and Wednesday night, after their 95-67 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they made the announcement.
"We did our investigation yesterday [Tuesday]," General Manager Garry St. Jean said. "We discovered multiple unprovoked attacks and death threats. This conduct will not be tolerated by this organization."
Sprewell reportedly attacked Carlesimo twice after the coach threw him out of a practice Monday. In the first incident, Sprewell is alleged to have had his hands around Carlesimo's neck for about 15 seconds.
The issue of provocation, however, is still up in the air. Tuesday, an unnamed Warrior player told the Contra Costa Times: "P.J. provoked it. He could have stopped or walked the other way. But he didn't. He kept going."
According to the player, Carlesimo walked three-quarters the length of the court to confront Sprewell, who repeatedly warned him, "Don't come up on me, don't come up on me."
In an interview with KPIX-TV, Sprewell said he was reacting to "a lot of verbal abuse by P.J. over about a month or so. . . . P.J. and I, I think it's been known for some time now that we haven't been on good terms and it's been over a month or so now and I just couldn't take the verbal abuse that he's been, I guess, just giving all of the guys over the past month or so," Sprewell said.
"It's not just myself, we have other players on the team that he has also verbally abused, and as well as other teams in the past, so it just got to a point where I couldn't take it any more."
Did he regret what happened?
"Of course I do," Sprewell said. "I mean, like I said, I don't condone that behavior. But it's something that happened and I can't change that at this point. The only thing I can do is try to move forward."
When he moves forward, it will be as a free agent, on waivers. Unless the Warriors are reversed, Sprewell will forfeit the $6.4 million of the $7.7 million he was to make this season (he played in 14 games, earning $1.3 million), plus next season's $8.3 million and the following season's $9 million.
He can be signed by other NBA teams, but until the salary cap goes up next summer, teams can only offer as much as they have under the salary cap. Thus the Spurs, who had been trying to trade for him--but who are over the cap--could offer only a one-year deal at the minimum, $272,500.
It is the first time in NBA history a player has had his contract terminated for insubordination. Two players, Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas, have been banned, and their contracts voided, because they violated the league's drug policy.
The Warriors will reportedly assert that Sprewell violated a contractual obligation to "conduct himself . . . by the highest standards of honesty, citizenship and sportsmanship" and not to commit acts "naturally detrimental," to the best interests of the team and the league."
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Events leading up to Latrell Sprewell having his contract terminated by the Golden State Warriors. It was the first time an NBA player has had his contract terminated for insubordination. Two players, Roy Tarpley and Richard Dumas, had their contracts voided because they violated the league's drug policy:
* Nov. 9: Sprewell benched final 20 minutes of 35-point loss to Lakers when he laughed uncontrollably on sideline. When P.J. Carlesimo told him to stop, he cursed the coach.
* Nov. 11: Sprewell ignores Carlesimo at practice, is thrown out.
* Nov. 12: Brian Shaw replaces Sprewell in starting lineup.
* Nov. 27: Sprewell skips flight to Utah, arrives late, is fined.
* Dec. 1: Sprewell suspended without pay for at least 10 games for physically attacking coach.
* Dec. 4: Sprewell has contract terminated for insubordination.