On one hand, you could say that the Golden State Warriors should be happy that Latrell Sprewell will be reinstated July 1, given that the team can now trade the three-time All-Star guard and receive compensation in return.
But the club is not at all thrilled with the ruling last week by arbitrator John Feerick, although the Warriors say their displeasure has nothing to do with trying to get Sprewell's $8 million off the salary cap.
"There was no hidden agenda to put us in a better cap situation," said general manager Garry St. Jean.
No, the Warriors said they were taking a "moral stand" in terminating Sprewell's contract after his assault on coach P. J. Carlesimo in December. And you really can't question the team's action, considering Sprewell twice attacked Carlesimo -- although Feerick ruled there was no premeditation, saying the initial choking and the punch 20 minutes later were all part of one act.
Said team owner Chris Cohan: "If you can't terminate a player's contract when you assault a person on two different occasions, you've got to ask the arbitrator, 'When does that apply?' "
The Warriors said they would not challenge the ruling in court. And even though Carlesimo said, "If I had to, of course I would coach him again," the Warriors will deal Sprewell. Even though his reinstatement is scheduled for July 1, the Warriors can trade Sprewell before then -- to any team that has been eliminated from the playoffs.
There will be a great deal of interest, although teams will certainly try to low-ball the Warriors.
"Anytime there's an auction, you're not going to get a steal," said Dallas coach Don Nelson. "But it will be an auction. Now, certain teams will dismiss him, but I think there will be interest from us and a lot of other teams.
"This has hurt his reputation, and his value no doubt," Nelson added. "But I don't think he's in that high-risk category. I really like him as a player and a person. He fits our style perfectly. He's great in the open court. He's a good defender. He's got the whole package."
While there was some surprise about the ruling, it appears many in the league are just happy to finally put the incident to rest -- at least for now.
"I'm glad they got it out of the way," said Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "It's all anyone's been talking about for three months."
Bryant's flip side
During All-Star weekend, many were ready to crown him as the next Michael Jordan. But since his big weekend in New York, 19-year-old Kobe Bryant has played like -- well -- a teen-ager.
Bryant, in his past seven games, has hit just 18 of 68 shots (26.5 percent), leaving his teammates shaking their heads about his shot selection.
Los Angeles coach Del Harris has become so frustrated with the second-year guard that he played him a season-low 12 minutes during Monday's loss to the Washington Wizards. In the six minutes that Bryant ran the point in last Sunday's loss to New York, the Lakers were 1-for-10 from the field (five of the misses by Bryant) with three turnovers.
"I think if he would just slow down, things will come to him," said teammate Derek Fisher.
Harris said the slump might coincide with opposing defenses trying to clamp down on Bryant, who has quickly become one of the league's most popular players.
"He did get a lot of attention at the All-Star Game," Harris said. "I suspect defenses are zeroing in on him. He may be trying a little too hard."
Bryant, after not playing the fourth quarter of the loss to Washington, said the recent tough stretch would not affect his confidence.
"If I come off a pick and I'm open, I'm going to shoot it," Bryant said. "I'm not going to be bashful. I'm not going to lose my aggressiveness."
By the way, the Lakers organization denied printed and broadcast reports that the team voted 12-0 to remove Harris as coach. Los Angeles is 6-7 since the All-Star break.
"I think Del knows we did not have a meeting," Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal said. "I think he knows that was bogus. We're going to be together in this."
Around the league
Miami coach Pat Riley got his 900th win last Sunday, reaching that milestone faster than any other coach in league history. "I've been around 17 years," Riley said. "I'm really fortunate to have had three good teams to coach [Lakers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat]."
Are the Indiana Pacers legitimate? With Wednesday's loss against the Lakers at the Great Western Forum, the Pacers are 5-11 on the road against teams in playoff position. By comparison, they're 15-1 on the road against teams in non-playoff position.
"For us to be a championship-caliber team, we're going to have to compete at a much higher level against contending-type teams," Pacers guard Reggie Miller said. "Looking back at the last month and a half or so, we have not done that."
After the admission by Doug West that he had an alcohol abuse problem, the Minnesota Timberwolves have banned beer from the post-game locker room cooler. West's confession came after he was traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies.
"That's got nothing to do with it," said Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley, who admitted last month that he was cutting back on his drinking. "I played with a guy who was thrown out of the league for drinking, Richard Dumas, and we never saw him XTC do it around us. I guarantee you Doug didn't get his problem from drinking in the locker room or on planes."
Barkley is not talking to the media these days (evidently making the decision after the comments on beer in the Minnesota locker room), apparently out of frustration with the Rockets' inconsistent play.
"Don't take it personally," Barkley told reporters last week. "But I have nothing to say about this team."
There has been some media sparring this season between Barkley and teammates Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Barkley believes the two have reached a comfort level because they already own championship rings.
Sacramento Kings forward Corliss Williamson is making a strong run at the Most Improved Player Award. Williamson, once called "Scoreless," scored a career-high 40 points during Wednesday's win over Detroit. He is averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists (compared to 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists last year).
"Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it."
"Coaches now had better get into the weight room. At least go see the strength and conditioning coach."
-- Orlando Magic coach Chuck Daly, after Latrell Sprewell's suspension was reduced last week.
"We had to do 100 different things wrong to lose that game, and we did them all. This is the most discouraging loss I've ever experienced."
-- Orlando center Danny Schayes, after a triple-overtime loss to Toronto on Feb. 27.
Jerry Bembry's power rankings
1. Chicago (1): Closing in on league's best record
2. Utah (3): Winning with Malone playing a lot at center
3. Miami (4): Playing best ball in league now
4. Seattle (2): Huge win at Miami last week
5. L.A. Lakers (5): Looking to regroup from post-All-Star blahs
6. Indiana (7): Still questionable against top teams
7. Charlotte (--): Geiger shining as starter
8. Phoenix (8): Dropped to fifth in West with recent skid
9. New York (10): Showing a lot of heart despite injuries
10. San Antonio (9): Robinson still not 100 percent
25. Dallas (28): Actually winning a few games
26. L.A. Clippers (25): Austin addition not much help yet
27. Toronto (26): Billups playing decently at point
28. Golden State (27): Even Sprewell couldn't help
29. Denver (29): Let's just give the Nuggets this spot the rest of the season
Pub Date: 3/08/98