Originally created 12/11/97

Sprewell case: Compromise possible?



NEW YORK -- While talk died away of a possible boycott of the All-Star game in response to Latrell Sprewell's suspension, the head of the players' association said the NBA raised the prospect of a compromise.

Union director Billy Hunter said Golden State officials notified him that "some sort of olive branch might be extended or the door might be left ajar somewhat to give us the opportunity to work something out."

Hunter said he had not spoken directly to commissioner David Stern or anyone else from the league office, but he was "obviously open to discussions."

NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said Stern was not available to discuss the issue Wednesday.

"I haven't heard anything about it (a compromise)," McIntyre said.

A twist was added to the Sprewell story Tuesday night when Charles Barkley called for a boycott of the All-Star game in February or the world championships in Greece next summer unless Sprewell's one-year suspension was reduced.

"It's something we should look into," said Jason Kidd, the union's player representative for the Phoenix Suns. "Those are just ideas and there are no bad ideas."

"I don't know what I would do yet. What he's saying sounds feasible," said Eddie Jones of the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the Seattle SuperSonics' locker room Tuesday night following a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the players turned up the sound when Barkley's boycott idea was being reported. All of the Sonics in the room burst out in long, loud laughter.

On Wednesday, Barkley, appearing on CNN's "Crossfire," backed off, saying there would be no boycott.

"We're not going to boycott anything for Latrell Sprewell," Barkley said. "I like Latrell, but what he did was stupid. It was wrong. And under no circumstances can we accept that."

Many players were angered when Stern announced last week that Sprewell would be suspended for a calendar year. It was by far the longest suspension in NBA history, more than six times as harsh as the previous longest non-drug suspension of 60 days to Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1977 for a punch that broke the jaw of Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets.

The union has filed grievances over the suspension and Golden State's termination of Sprewell, which has nearly $23 million remaining, but the case will not be heard until Jan. 4 at the earliest.

That leaves almost four weeks for the controversy to fester unless a compromise can be worked out.

NBC basketball commentator Peter Vescey said on the "Today" show Wednesday that he had spoken with Stern about what will happen next.

"He said they're not locked into anything and not precluded from doing anything. Anything's possible and they could compromise," Vecsey said.

Union president Patrick Ewing rejected two requests for interviews and slipped out the back door at practice in Purchase, N.Y., on Wednesday while his teammates were finishing shooting drills.

With Ewing ducking comment, teammate Allan Houston, a member of the 1998 world championship team, was left to speak for the team.

"I think the league reacted quickly, and hopefully something can be done to where it (the suspension) can be retracted a little bit. As big as this thing has gotten, the league and the players have to sit down and talk about this. Somewhere there has to be some talk, some dialogue.

"I think the league wanted it to look like they made a stand, but if something happens where they let Latrell come back, they still would have made a stand," Houston said.

Houston would not comment on whether he would support a boycott. Shawn Kemp of the Cleveland Cavaliers said he would be against one.

"I think we need to find a better solution to the situation than (a boycott)," Kemp said. "I don't know what it is, but if people get together they can find a better solution. That's what needs to be done."

In the absence of a compromise, the union will go into the grievance hearing prepared to argue that the length of Sprewell's suspension was out of line with precedent.

The union plans to bring up the case of an altercation a few weeks ago between Tom Chambers, then of the Phoenix Suns, and strength and conditioning coach Robin Pound in which Chambers punched Pound.

Neither the Suns nor the league took any punitive action, and Phoenix general manager Bryan Colangelo said the subsequent trade of Chambers to the Philadelphia 76ers was unrelated to the fight.

The union also will be expected to bring up a fight several years ago between Detroit director of player personnel Billy McKinney and player Alvin Robertson, which also involved no disciplinary action.

"David (Stern) has to look very closely at this one," Hunter said from Oakland, Calif., where he remained Wednesday one day after Sprewell broke his post-suspension silence with a press conference in which he appeared with Hunter, several of his former teammates and lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

"It's imperative that we get together on this. The objective has to be preserving the prestige and integrity of the game," Hunter said.