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Union May Appeal For Spre'

The New York Knicks are refusing to utter the word "suspension" when talking about Latrell Sprewell's latest punishment. In fact, they went so far as to deny that they suspended him.

The truth, however, is out.

Sprewell was indeed suspended Tuesday night for New York's first exhibition game a penalty that could cost him an extra $100,000. In response, the NBA players union threatened Wednesday to file a grievance.

"Unfortunately, the Knicks have again disregarded our collective bargaining agreement in imposing discipline on Mr. Sprewell," union director Billy Hunter said.

The union claimed the suspension constituted "an unreasonable monetary penalty that is excessive and goes far beyond anything agreed to (in the collective bargaining agreement)."

Knicks general manager Scott Layden could not explain why the team did not disclose the suspension initially. On Sunday, following Sprewell's 45-minute meeting with Layden and coach Jeff Van Gundy, a team spokeswoman specifically denied that Sprewell would be suspended even when asked if he would lose 1-90th of his salary.

"We used the words `appropriate and significant fine,' and we felt that covered the issue. We wanted to handle it internally" said Layden, the former Utah Jazz executive who since his arrival in New York has come under repeated criticism for being less than forthcoming with information.

Sprewell was on the sideline in street clothes Tuesday night when the Knicks lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in their exhibition opener.

"Personally, I think it was a little severe," Sprewell said after practice Wednesday. "I understand them fining me for maybe not getting back to them right away and maybe for missing some of the practices, but I felt I could have played, and that probably was a little bit more than was necessary."

This is not the first time the union has gotten involved in a disciplinary matter relating to Sprewell.

Last season, Sprewell was fined $25,000 by Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts for comments made by his agent, Robert Gist. The union filed a grievance, and that money has since been returned to Sprewell, according to Gist.

The previous season, the union defended Sprewell after he was suspended for one year by the NBA and had his contract terminated by the Golden State Warriors for his attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo. An arbitrator reinstated his contract and reduced the suspension to 68 games.

Sprewell skipped the Knicks' first week of training camp and did not join the team until Monday. He was excused from the first two days of camp after going through a civil trial in California stemming from a car accdent he admittedly caused, but he then failed to show up and failed to call the team as he drove from Oakland, Calif., to New York, arriving last Friday.

Sprewell's coach and teammates have called on him to explain himself to the team, but he has not done so yet.

"It should happen," tri-captain Allan Houston said, "but we'll just wait and see."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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