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Sprewell to sit out again with injury; Heel fracture to idle new Knick 3-6 weeks


PURCHASE, N.Y. -- In fulfillment of pessimistic prophecies that Latrell Sprewell was bad news about to happen, the New York Knicks learned last night that their controversial new headliner will miss from three to six weeks of this 12-week NBA season with a stress fracture in his right heel.

Team physician Norman Scott said that after X-rays and a CAT scan failed to show a break, an MRI late yesterday revealed a "microscopic fracture of the heel [calcaneus bone]." Scott said no surgery is required, but Sprewell will be fitted with a removable cast called a "walking boot."

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Sprewell said in a statement. "I had every intention of suiting up to play [tonight against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden], but the injury was more than I thought. I will do everything I can to remain in the best shape possible while my heel improves to get back on the court as soon as possible.

"It's going to be frustrating to watch from the sidelines after such a long time away, but we have a great group of players whom I'm confident will be successful."

Sprewell, acquired Jan. 21 from Golden State for John Starks, Chris Mills and Terry Cummings, received the longest non-drug related suspension in league history last season -- 68 games -- for attacking and choking his former coach, P.J. Carlesimo.

Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who earlier in the day had predicted players "will be going down like flies at some point" during the tightly packaged game schedule in the wake of the lockout, said the team "will miss Latrell but the reality is we have to get ready for Washington without him."

The Knicks were in the process of finding an identity with Sprewell, and getting away from the decade-long post-up offense that revolved around Patrick Ewing.

Now, the Knicks will have to regroup and find a new mix -- or return to the old one -- in order to work themselves out of the struggles that have left them with an 0-2 record.

Sprewell came to New York apologetic and polite, working mightily at fitting in with his new teammates.

His 27-point performance in the Knicks' first preseason game on Jan. 27 triggered a general open-arms reception from fans, and Van Gundy saw him as the key to a younger, quicker, more uptempo offense.

Sprewell shot poorly in his last game, Sunday's 83-79 home loss to Miami, but after two games, he was third on the team in scoring (14.5), second in steals (three) and tied for fourth in rebounds (12).

His teammates praised the three-time All-Star's unselfishness even more than his talent.

Guard Chris Childs echoed the ongoing sentiment again yesterday, saying Sprewell "is trying to be perfect. He can't be perfect. He's trying to do all the right things. He has to just go out and play."

Now he can't, for at least three weeks.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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