The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, March 10, 1998

Sprewell's story is just too hard to swallow

NOW that I've heard his explanation, I am not sure the NBA should have been so harsh with Latrell Sprewell.

After all, he did tell us on CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday what really happened at that Dec. 1 practice.

For one thing, he did not - repeat - did not choke Golden State Warriors' head coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Got that?

"I wasn't choking P.J. I mean, P.J., he could breathe. It's not like he was losing air or anything like that. I mean, it wasn't a choke, I wasn't trying to kill P.J."

Sounds good to me.

If the guy can still breathe, you're not really choking him hard enough.

Remember that at your next road rage counselling session.

And Sprewell gave us some forensic evidence to back his contention, and you'd better pay attention to this.

"If you're choking someone, you don't get scratches. You get welts totally around your neck."

I'm not sure how he knows that, but I have to assume it was in a course he took somewhere along the line.

The most important point Sprewell made had to be this one: "It's not like I was going to sit there and kill the man. No, I would have stopped."

There you go, you people who assumed the worst.

He would have stopped.

SPREWELL was asked if he told Carlesimo that he was going to kill him, and Sprewell said that yes he did mention that to his coach.

But just because he had his hands around the man's neck, you can not assume he meant it.

When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. Remember that.

So, now don't we all feel like idiots to have jumped on Latrell Sprewell with such gleeful abandon?

If we'd only known that this all resulted from the inconsiderate remarks that his coach had been directing at him.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t was all he ever wanted.

Now that I think of it, there are a lot of basic training drill sergeants out there who are darned lucky they're still alive.

Including mine, who had no sense of respect when he made us lie in the wet snow one December night in 1973 at Fort Dix (N.J.) for two hours with our M-16s under our bellies waiting for God-knows-what.

So, Latrell Sprewell, you are understood.

And, no, you don't need counselling.

"It's like I've been in counseling watching TV, you know," he said in Sunday's interview. "I've been counseled so much."

THE NBA saw a need to mete out a degree of punishment in this case, but we have Sprewell's word to consider. His amazing version of logic to consider.

Such logic, if applied by defense lawyers in jury trials, could revolutionize the judicial process.

In fact, O.J. could have admitted he was the guy with the knife at the scene and still gotten off when he explained to the jury that, "Hey, they were still breathing when I was stabbing them." And while he might have acted like he wanted to kill them, that's an awfully big assumption.

Of course, the NBA did decide Sprewell did something wrong. But that leaves a question:

If the league penalty for attempted murder is now established as a 68-game suspension and a $6.4-million fine, what should be the penalty for actual murder?

Got to clear that one up.

I think David Stern ought to put it in writing so that millionaires like Sprewell can decide whether or not it's worth the effort.

Possibly a two-season suspension and $12.4 million fine?

What do you think? E-mail the commish.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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