Latrell Sprewell refiled his dismissed lawsuit on Monday, with new accusations that three NBA security employees shredded evidence that would have exonerated him.
Sprewell's original $30 million lawsuit against the NBA and the Golden State Warriors was dismissed July 30 by a federal judge. At the time, the judge left room for the suit to be revived but urged the player to drop it.
Instead, Sprewell refiled the suit in U.S. District Court, bolstered by charges that NBA security chief Horace Balmer and two associates destroyed notes of interviews with Sprewell's teammates and "intentionally suppressed important evidence for the purpose of perpetrating fraud."
Said Jeffrey Mishkin, the NBA's chief legal officer: "Every one of Mr. Sprewell's increasingly bizarre claims has already been raised and rejected by both an arbitrator and a federal court. This has now become a pathetic sideshow."
Sprewell admits he choked Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo during a Dec. 1 practice, and that he returned to the gym about 15 minutes later to confront Carlesimo. He claims he never hit the coach, or tried to hit him, during the second confrontation.
" I came back out to basically let P.J. know I wanted to be traded, I wanted out," Sprewell said at a news conference Monday. "I got close to P.J. and guys started grabbing me to keep me from getting close to P.J."
Sprewell said Balmer and his associates got a similar version of the incident from telephone interviews with Golden State teammates, but destroyed notes of those interviews. Instead, Sprewell's lawyers contend, the NBA told arbitrator John Feerick that Sprewell tried to attack Carlesimo a second time.
"The most crucial thing that was wrong was the shredding of documents by the NBA. They prepared a document for the arbitrator that wasn't fair to me," Sprewell said. "The league and the Warriors haven't played by the rules."
The suit also seeks to cap Sprewell's punishment at $1 million, the amount the former All-Star guard claims he lost because of a 10-game suspension by the Warriors.
Sprewell doesn't contest that suspension.
" I deserve to be punished for what I did," he said Monday but aded that the subsequent one-year ban by the NBA was unfair and cost him $6.4 million.
The suit also renews the claim that Sprewell is a victim of racial discrimination, pointing out that most NBA team owners are white and most players are black and that "defendants have a double standard whereby whites and Caucasians are treated more favorably than blacks and African-Americans."
Robert Thompson Jr., one of Sprewell's lawyers, said he hoped there could be a hearing on the refiled lawsuit within the next few months. Sprewell has asked for a jury trial.
After suspending him for 10 games, the Warriors terminated the final three years of his contract - potentially costing him $24 million. The NBA added a one-year suspension to those penalties, lasting until December 1998.
But Feericr ruled in March that the league's punishment was excessive and ordered Sprewell reinstated July 1, cutting his suspension to 68 games. Feerick also voided the Warriors' termination of the contract.
Sprewell apologized again Monday for attacking Carlesimo.
"I was wrong in what I did and I really should have done a better job of handling my temper," he said.
And Sprewell said the lawsuit above all was an effort to regain his reputation as an All-Star player and not as a hothead.
"People think I'm almost like a maniac on the court," he said. "People have this perception of me as an evil person, a bad person. People look at me now like I'm the symbol for the bad boy of the NBA."
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