Garden History: Latrell Sprewell’s tenure with the New York Knicks

New York Knicks Latrell Sprewell (Photo by: Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Latrell Sprewell (Photo by: Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images) /

Latrell Sprewell is one of the most exciting players in New York Knicks history. We revisit his turbulent past with the franchise.

Latrell Sprewell is one of the most interesting players in New York Knicks history. People tend to forget that he was one of the better scorers during his time in the league.

His reputation will always be tainted by the PJ Carlesimo incident. This was a different time in basketball. Players weren’t all friends with each other through AAU or Olympic teams. Sprewell certainly didn’t get a long with his coach, and he openly acted on those emotions.

After leaving the Golden State Warriors, he joined the Knicks. Knicks fans reacted with extreme negativity. Many of us believed that Sprewell was too big of a liability to have on the team. Sprewell implored that he was a changed man.

During the 1998-99 season, Sprewell, mostly playing as a bench player, helped lead the Knicks into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They got past the rival Miami Heat in the first round, in one of the storied upsets in NBA history.

After drubbing Alonzo Mourning and the Heat, the Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers to reach the NBA Finals as a No. 8 seed. They squared off against the San Antonio Spurs, and we know how that went.

During 1999-2000 season, Sprewell became a full-time starter for Knicks. Sprewell, Patrick Ewing, and Allan Houston were the core of a Knicks team that went back to the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

They made it past the Raptors and the Heat again, but couldn’t punch their ticket to the Finals against the Pacers. Spree averaged 19.7 points per game against the Pacers in the Conference Finals.

The Knicks then offered Sprewell a five-year, $62 million extension

Ahead of the 2000-01 season, the Seattle SuperSonics traded for Patrick Ewing, and the Knicks’ transition of power went over to Sprewell and Houston. Sprewell made his first and only All-Star game as a Knick, averaging 17.7 points per game.

The Knicks ended up losing in the first round to Toronto.

Fast forward to the 2002-2003 season, amd Sprewell reports to Knicks training camp with a broken hand, saying he slipped on a boat. Highly improbable knowing his past. The Knicks fined him $250,000 for not disclosing the information.

Sprewell then sued The New York Post for writing that he broke his hand in a fight. He lost that legal battle.

This was a quick downturn for Sprewell’s career in New York. The highlight of the season was Sprewell hitting nine three-pointers in a row against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Knicks, however, missed the playoffs.

The Minnesota Timberwolves traded for Sprewell after that season, and he helped Kevin Garnett build a short-lived contender.

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Latrell Sprewell ended his career as a solid basketball player, but his off-court issues remain in the minds of many.

Nevertheless, he helped the New York Knicks produce one of the best seasons in franchise history.