On This Date: Latrell Sprewell trade, Knicks defensive streak, Remembering Ned Irish

January 21, 1999: The New York Knicks acquire Latrell Sprewell 

On the first day after the end of the 1998-99 NBA Lockout, the New York Knicks acquired the talented, but highly controversial Latrell Sprewell from the Golden State Warriors. In return, fan favorite John Starks, Chris Mills, & Terry Cummings departed for the Warriors. Sprewell spent most of the 1997-98 season suspended as a result of choking his coach PJ Carlesimo in practice. The Warriors shopped Sprewell to teams since the suspension. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were the other potential suitors in trade rumors, but the Knicks ultimately provided the best offer.

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On This Date: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning fight in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

April 30th 1998: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning get into a fight with seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

With less than 6 seconds remaining in a 90-85 Game 4 victory, Alonzo Mourning & Larry Johnson got into a fistfight after fighting for position boxing out. Both players threw punches & missed each other. The most iconic moment came when Jeff Van Gundy ran to the floor and held on to Zo’s leg for his dear life to stop the fight. His efforts were ultimately futile, but the photo was an iconic memory in Knick history.

Outside the Knicks/Heat rivalry, both players had tensions rooted from their playing days in Charlotte. While the players formed a dynamic duo in the 1992-93 season, animosity built up after LJ received a 12 year $84 million extension. Mourning thought he was the better player of the two and sought for a long-term extension. Before Zo was due for an extension, the Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat to become new Knick nemesis Pat Riley’s core centerpiece.

This was the 2nd Knicks/Heat playoff fight after the Charlie Ward/PJ Brown brawl. Unlike that brawl, most of the Knick bench remained on the sidelines. Only Chris Mills left the bench area. The NBA suspended LJ, Mills, & Zo one game for their involvement in the fight (and leaving the bench area, for Mills). With Mourning out, the Knicks easily defeated the Heat 98-81 in Game 5 to advance to the Semifinals.

On This Date: Terry Cummings scores 18 to help the Knicks defeat the Bucks

February 26th 1998: Terry Cummings scores 18 to lead the Knicks to victory

With a myriad of injuries in the frontcourt, the Knicks relied on newly acquired Terry Cummings to help propel the Knicks to a 102-90 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cummings came off the bench to score 18 points in 22 minutes.

The Knicks acquired Cummings, the 1983 NBA Rookie of the Year, from the Philadelphia 76ers for Ron Grandison & Herb Williams.1 Neither player played meaningful minutes for the Knicks before the trade.

With Patrick Ewing sidelined with a broken wrist, the Knicks relied on a diverse group of players to fill his minutes. Chris Dudley was the only traditional center on the roster that received a bulk of the starts. In the instance the team played small, the then-38 year old Buck Williams and Chris Mills received a chunk of minutes.

With Buck Williams sidelined until April due to arthroscopic knee injury, the Knicks acquired Cummings to reinforce the frontcourt depth. While a devastating knee injury zapped Cummings of most of his athleticism and scoring prowess, he could still be relied on for playing adequate defense and making the mid-range jump shot. At 37 years old, he was also another elder statesman in the Knick frontcourt.

After the Indiana Pacers exposed the Knicks’ overall age in the 1998 NBA Playoffs, the team shipping Cummings, along with John Starks and Chris Mills, to the Warriors shortly before the 1998-99 season for Latrell Sprewell.