Together again: Sprewell and Carlesimo, two years later

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The Independent Online

Latrell Sprewell's anger still smolders two years after he wrapped his hands around P J Carlesimo's throat.

Latrell Sprewell's anger still smolders two years after he wrapped his hands around P J Carlesimo's throat.

The only retribution Sprewell seeks now is on the court.

"I'd love it if we just killed them," he said as he prepared to return to Oakland on Saturday night when the New York Knicks play the Golden State Warriors.

This will be the first time the star guard will be on the same court with Carlesimo since he choked his former coach at practice 1 December, 1997.

Sprewell lost some $6 million in wages while serving a 68-game suspension. But his career, saved by a long arbitration process, is back on track with the Knicks. They went to the NBA Finals last season and recently signed Sprewell to a $61.8 million contract.

Still, some of his former teammates were taken aback by the harshness of Sprewell's comments this week.

"Hmmm, no love, baby," said center Adonal Foyle, one of three Warriors players who were with the team at the time of the assault. "I'm surprised he brought it back. I thought it was laid to rest, that he had enough time to vent and get everything out of the way. Two years is a long time."

Carlesimo has refused to respond to Sprewell's remarks. He said he's trying to move on and intends to speak to Sprewell before the game, which is expected draw a capacity crowd to Oakland Coliseum Arena.

"The last thing I want to do is revisit something that happened a couple of years ago," Carlesimo said. "I want to make every effort to treat this as another game."

Sprewell has said he, too, wouldn't mind speaking to Carlesimo and perhaps even shaking hands. But he has no plans to make another apology beyond the one he offered Carlesimo in a telephone call four days after the attack.

Terry Cummings, traded from New York to Golden State with John Starks and Chris Mills in the Sprewell deal last January, said while the circumstances might be different players often want to "crush" their old team.

"Players have that when they leave teams; nothing you can do to get away from that," he said. "But the tendency is when you put forth so much effort to get bitter like that, you don't normally have the energy to concentrate on playing."

Sprewell, whose actions prompted debate across the United States on the often antagonistic nature of coach-player relations as well as structure in the workplace, still insists he was mistreated by Carlesimo.

He also remains angry that Warriors management ignored player complaints about what some regard as Carlesimo's overbearing coaching style.

Sprewell also blames for Warriors for being stigmatized as the player who choked his coach.

"I think they could have handled it better," he said. "It happened behind closed doors in practice. No one knew. I don't know how it got out. It was an in-house thing and it could have stayed that way."

Initially, the Warriors did try to keep it a secret but called a late night news conference after it became apparent the story was about to get out.

At the time, the Warriors said Sprewell would be penalized for assaulting Carlesimo but refused to explain the welts on the coach's neck.

To this day, Carlesimo refuses to talk about the attack in detail.

"I'm the same person," he said. "I don't want to be so naive to say that you're not changed by any incident that occurs in your life, much less a tremendously significant one.

"But I'd like to think that my values are the same. I'd like to think that my effort or my dedication, whatever you want to call it, is the same. Really, I don't see any difference at all and I don't think people changed toward me as a result of this."

Yet, some of his players believe he's become less contentious and has loosened his micromanaging.

"He's more relaxed now," Foyle said. "The way he changed was he gave the players more latitude on the court."