Reactions vary on Sprewell Warriors issue practice ban; Not all players surprised; contract clause is eyed


WASHINGTON -- To a fellow coach, Monday's Latrell Sprewell-P.J. Carlesimo incident was a "black eye" for the sport. To a couple of Carlesimo's former players, Sprewell's alleged assault actually wasn't all that surprising.

So it went as the news spread: Golden State Warriors All-Star guard Sprewell twice attacked coach Carlesimo at the team's practice facility and reportedly threatened to kill him.

On Monday, the Warriors announced they were going to suspend Sprewell for at least 10 games -- which would force him to forfeit approximately $940,000 of his salary.

Yesterday, the Warriors banned Sprewell from the team's practice facility, and there were signs the team might move to terminate the balance of his four-year, $32 million contract.

In a letter to Sprewell informing him of the suspension, the team said it reserved the right to terminate his contract under Section 16 of the Uniform Player Contract, which says players must "conform to standards of good citizenship and good moral character" and prohibits "engaging in acts of moral turpitude."

"I think it's a black eye for basketball," Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl said. "I think it's a black eye for everybody."

"They thought it was me. I guess it wasn't me," said Washington Wizards guard Rod Strickland. "I wasn't surprised at all."

Carlesimo has had problems with players in the past. Two years ago, as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, he had a running feud with Strickland.

Strickland, who was traded after that season to Washington, said he was not shocked that the altercation occurred.

"When [Carlesimo] signed with Golden State, I knew it was going to be a problem," Strickland said. "I know how [Carlesimo] tried to deal with players, and I didn't think that was going to work with Spree."

Asked what his specific problems were with Carlesimo, Strickland said: "He's annoying, that's the bottom line. He's not really a yeller or a screamer; he's just annoying.

"He doesn't know how to deal with men. He's used to dealing with college kids. He just has an annoying personality. It's hard to describe."

Annoying to a point where Strickland and Carlesimo argued with their faces little more than inches apart.

"We've been face to face on many occasions," Strickland said, "so I can kind of understand Spree. It was very hard [to restrain], believe me."

Tracy Murray, who also played in Portland with Strickland, said the incident didn't surprise him, either.

"Obviously, it wasn't the first time it happened," Murray said. "If you asked me, more than once, more than twice, you have to ask, 'What's going on here?' "

Wizards coach Bernie Bickerstaff expressed surprise at the incident.

"On the outside, you don't know what's going on, but there has to be self-restraint and discipline where sometimes you have to walk away," Bickerstaff said.

"In life, you have to handle things better. What's steady and standard is, if you give respect, you get respect."

Karl has had his share of problems with players in the past, and yesterday his team even joked about the incident.

"They told me that I should get more insurance, and the assistants wouldn't have pulled [the player] off me because they wanted my job," Karl said.

But he added that the incident was no joking matter.

"It just seems like there's more disrespect for authoritative figures," he said.

And how much punishment does Karl think Sprewell should receive?

"My personal feeling is if it's ugly, the hammer should come down hard," Karl said. "But I don't know the details to predict the hammer should come down hard."

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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