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Stern Final Witness In Sprewell Case

In a high-profile ending to the eight-day Latrell Sprewell case, commissioner David Stern testified for almost four hours Thursday in an effort to uphold the harshest non-drug penalty he has ever imposed.

"I'm very comfortable with our action," he said of Sprewell's one-year suspension. "My job is to protect this league and the 400-plus players who never get involved in activity like the kind we are litigating, and I feel comfortable that I've acquitted myself the way I'm supposed to."

Stern's testimony, which followed the questioning of three NBA security personnel, brought a conclusion to a hearing that lasted eight days over two weeks in Portland, Ore., and New York.

Post-hearing briefs are due by Feb. 13, and closing arguments will be made on the morning of Feb. 16 in New York.

Arbitrator John Feerick will then have 30 days to rule on Sprewell's two grievances -- one against the Warriors for terminating his contract; the other against the NBA for what he contends is excessive punishment.

Sprewell, who was suspended by the league and had his contract terminated by Golden State for his attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice Dec. 1, will know the outcome of his grievance by March 18 at the latest.

Horace Balmer, the league's director of security, testified for two hours Thursday morning and was followed by two of his deputies, Jim Wilson and Alicia Parker.

Stern then answered questions from lawyers representing the league and the players association -- as well as the arbitrator himself -- as he testified from 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

With a limited gag order lifted for the weekend, Stern stopped in the lobby to talk to reporters.

"I can't go into specifics, but it was not difficult," he said. ``I don't want to appear to be influencing the outcome, so I'm not going to comment on the testimony. The core issues have stayed the same, and I'm sure the arbitrator will give it his full attention and come to a conclusion," Stern said.

Among the questions Sprewell's attorneys probably asked Stern:

  • Why did Sprewell receive a one-year ban that was by far the longest in league history?
  • Were his actions that much more egregious than those of Kermit Washington, who broke Rudy Tomjanovich's jaw with a punch and was suspended for 60 days, or those of Vernon Maxwell, who ran into the stands and punched a spectator (10-game suspension) or those of Dennis Rodman, who kicked a cameraman in the groin (11 games) and head-butted a referee (six games)?
  • Why didn't he give Sprewell a chance to tell his side of the story at the league offices?
  • Did Stern influence the Warriors' decision to terminate his contract, thus preventing a trade?

    Stern did reveal one snippet of information, saying his testimony had nothing to do with Sprewell's claim that he had not received due process.

    "We were focusing on things other than that," he said.

    © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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