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Basketball All-Star Latrell Sprewell Admits He Made Mistake by Attacking Golden State

December 4, 1997

Basketball All-Star Latrell Sprewell Admits He Made Mistake by Attacking Golden State Warriors Coach P.J. Carlesimo, but Was Provoked After Verbal AbuseBy ROB GLOSTER

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Latrell Sprewell admitted he made a mistake but did not apologize to P.J. Carlesimo, saying his attack on the Warriors coach was provoked ``after a lot of verbal abuse by P.J.″

In interviews Wednesday, Sprewell admitted grabbing Carlesimo by the throat and threatening to kill him _ and said he’s prepared to play basketball overseas if the Warriors and other NBA teams shun him.

``I want to apologize to my fans, my family and friends of mine who saw this. It’s definitely not something that I condone, but it did happen. And that’s a mistake I made,″ Sprewell said in an interview with San Francisco’s KPIX-TV at his home.

``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 giving all the guys over the past month or so.″

Sprewell was suspended for at least 10 games following his attack on Carlesimo during practice Monday. He sat out the first game Wednesday night as the Warriors hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Golden State began the game with a 1-13 record and winless in five games at its newly remodeled Oakland Arena.

Carlesimo, a three-inch scar on his neck slowly starting to heal, was given a standing ovation by a few fans Wednesday night during pre-game introductions in the half-empty arena.

Brian Shaw started in place of Sprewell. It was just the second start Sprewell has missed this season _ the other came Nov. 12, three days after Sprewell was benched for laughing in a team huddle while the Warriors were being blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two fans had pro-Sprewell signs taken away from them before the Cavs game. One sign said ``Free Spree″ and the other said: ``Confucius Say, `If the coach don’t fit, you must aquit (cq).‴

The fans, who asked that their names not be used, said they were told by security officers that the signs were not ``politically correct.″

Sprewell attacked Carlesimo in two separate confrontations about 15 minutes apart Monday. He told the San Francisco Chronicle he warned Carlesimo ``I’ll kill you″ and grabbed him by the throat after the coach threw him out of practice.

But Sprewell denied reports he punched Carlesimo, saying he never got close enough because teammates and coaches held him back.

``It would be kind of obvious if I’d really gotten to him,″ Sprewell told the Chronicle. ``If I really went after P.J., he’d look a lot worse than he did on TV.″

``All the frustrations had built up to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore,″ Sprewell said. ``I just wanted P.J. to leave me alone, basically.″

In the KPIX television interview, Sprewell smiled frequently as he talked at his home in the Hayward Hills area south of Oakland.

``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,″ Sprewell said.

``Basically, after a lot of verbal abuse by P.J. over about a month or so, we got in a physical altercation, as he would call it.″

``Oh my God,″ agent Arn Tellem said upon hearing that Sprewell had gone on television. Tellem had been busy all day trying to craft a public apology in the hopes that it would help further a trade of his client.

The suspension would cost Sprewell about $940,000 in salary. He has been banished from practices, games and other team functions.

Carlesimo said he won’t even guess at Sprewell’s future.

``I don’t know the answer to this,″ he said. ``I’ve stopped trying to figure out what’s going to happen.″

One thing that could happen is a trade.

The Warriors were continuing their efforts to trade Sprewell, although general manager Garry St. Jean acknowledged some teams may have been scared off by the attack.

``The negotiations and discussions are going forward. Nothing has escalated, though,″ St. Jean said. ``I don’t think anybody on our team is untouchable, so we’re looking at a lot of things and trying to go forward in the process.″

Sprewell said he prefers to be traded and that he’ll never feel comfortable around Carlesimo again. But he said he’s prepared to play outside the NBA _ or nowhere at all.

``I’ll go overseas to play if I have to. And my life will go on if I never play basketball again,″ he told the Chronicle. ``Basketball didn’t make me what I am. I’ll be OK. I’ll be man enough to deal with whatever happens.″

Earlier Wednesday, a Warriors worker carefully wrote ``SPREWELL″ on a piece of tape and stuck it above a deserted locker at the Oakland Arena.

It was strictly for appearances, replacing the permanent nameplate stolen a few games ago. The rest of Sprewell’s locker was desolate _ no game uniform, no sneakers.

Bill Hunter, executive director of the players’ union, said the union doesn’t plan to appeal the suspension and that Sprewell was aware he had committed a ``grave, extreme″ act.

``He’s painted himself into a corner,″ Hunter said. ``We don’t condone what he did. I don’t condone it.″

NBA commissioner David Stern was quoted in Wednesday’s New York Times as saying it was unfortunate to have to focus ``on something as unthinkable as what appears to have gone on in Golden State.″

``We recognize that sometimes people step over the line and sometimes they step very far over the line,″ Stern said. ``This one looks _ without having all the facts _ that someone went into the stratosphere.″

In addition to trading Sprewell, the team’s options include terminating his four-year, $32 million contract signed two summers ago or trying to patch things up between player and coach.

The Warriors reportedly have been listening to offers for Sprewell from teams including Miami (for Jamal Mashburn or P.J. Brown and Dan Majerle), San Antonio (for Sean Elliott and Will Perdue), the Los Angeles Clippers (for Brent Barry and Loy Vaught) and Philadelphia (for Clarence Weatherspoon and perhaps Jerry Stackhouse) since his is dislike for Carlesimo became public three weeks ago.

One league source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Detroit Pistons were exploring the possibility of acting as a conduit for Sprewell in a three-way trade with the Spurs.

If Sprewell went to Miami, he would be teamed again in the backcourt with Tim Hardaway. The two feuded publicly when they were teammates on the Warriors, but Henry Thomas, Hardaway’s agent, said the two players have patched up their differences.

Thomas also disputed a report that Hardaway had told Heat management that he would refuse to play on the same team as Sprewell.

``I asked Tim about it and he never even spoke to anybody about Spree,″ Thomas said Wednesday.

Carlesimo said the Warriors will be a ``dramatically different team″ without Sprewell, who led Golden State with 21.4 points per game and also was the team’s best defensive player.

``It’s going to be very different for us on the floor when you lose a player who’s as much a focal point offensively as Spree is,″ Carlesimo said.

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