On This Date: Ewing & Sprewell help the Knicks finish the Heat in Game 7

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May 21st 2000: Latrell Sprewell & Patrick Ewing help the New York Knicks close out the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Knicks & Heat faced off against each other in a rematch of the previous year battle. Similar to 1999, both teams fought until the final deciding game where the Knicks once again defeated the Heat on the road in a close matchup. This was the 3rd time in the previous 4 seasons where the Knicks defeated the Heat in Miami.

Patrick Ewing & Latrell Sprewell scored a combined 44 points to help defeat the Heat 83-82. Ewing had a double double with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 5-10 from the field and 10-12 from the free throw line. Spree led the Knicks with 24 points, scoring 20 in the 1st half, and 5 assists. The duo helped withstand Alonzo Mourning’s 29 points, 13 rebounds, & 5 blocked shots.

Game 7, like the entire series, had a seesaw feeling to it. The Heat ended the 1st quarter up 9, but the Knicks stormed back to take a 6 point lead by halftime. The Heat eventually tied the game by the end of the 3rd and showed signs of extending the lead early on the 4th. Chris Childs turned out to be an X-Factor for the Knicks in Game 7 scoring 15 points, including the first 10 Knicks points in the 4th quarter, to keep the team in the game.

Ewing had one of the most pivotal plays with less than 1:30 left in the game. Down 1, Ewing received the ball in the post as Mourning gambled to steal the ball from him. Ewing deftly turned around for the go-ahead dunk that put the Knicks up 83-82. Those were the final points scored in the game.

On This Date: Allan Houston’s Game Winner shocks the Heat and the NBA

May 16th 1999: Allan Houston hits the game-winning basket to upset the #1 seed Miami Heat and shock the NBA

Allan Houston made his mark in Knicks history with the game-winning basket with less than 5 seconds remaining to sink the Miami Heat 78-77. The Knicks became the 2nd #8 seed to upset the #1 seed in NBA history.1

The original play did not involve Houston hitting the game-winning basket. Latrell Sprewell originally had the ball in isolation, expecting to hit the game-winner. However, Spree nearly turned the ball over and the Knicks consequently reset possession with less than 5 seconds remaining. Charlie Ward fed Houston behind the three point arc. Houston then threw up a running floater that bounced off the front rim, then hit the back rim, and went in to put the Knicks ahead by 1 with 0.8 seconds.

The most iconic moment was Houston running to the other side of the floor pumping his fists in celebration with his teammates. The Heat crowd, teammates, and coaching staff were all left in shock after that basket. The Heat got one final opportunity to win the game, but Terry Porter missed the 35 foot heave and the Knicks clinched the ultimate playoff upset.

The Knicks were the underdogs throughout the entire regular season. The combo of a relatively new roster, shortened season, and an aging Patrick Ewing led to significant growing pains. There was a significant risk that the Knicks would miss the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1987. Additionally, there were rumblings regarding Jeff Van Gundy’s job security due to disagreements between him and Ernie Grunfeld. This victory calmed a lot of nerves within the Madison Square Garden faithful. For Van Gundy, this victory most likely helped secure his job with the organization.

On This Date: Spree hits the go-ahead basket to sink the Raptors in Game 2

April 26th 2000: Latrell Sprewell hit the go-ahead jumper to defeat the Toronto Raptors in Game 2

Unlike Game 1, Vince Carter had an offensive outburst with 27 points on 7-13 from the field. However, Latrell Sprewell scored 25, including 13 in the final 7 minutes of the game, to help the Knicks erase a 16 point 3rd quarter deficit. With the Knicks down 83-82, Spree hit the game-winning basket with less than 8 seconds left over Vince to put the Knicks up 84-83. On the last possession, Vince ended up passing the ball to Dee Brown who missed the final shot. The victory put the Knicks ahead 2-0 on the road to a sweep.

On This Date: Latrell Sprewell shuts down Vince Carter in the Raptors’ first ever NBA Playoff game

April 23rd 2000: Latrell Sprewell shuts down Vince Carter in his first NBA Playoff game

Latrell Sprewell gave Vince Carter & the Toronto Raptors the toughest initiation into the NBA Playoff environment with a crushing defensive effort to help the Knicks defeat the Raptors 92-88 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Spree held Carter to 16 points on 3-20 from the field. His main scoring output came from the line where Carter made 9-10 from the stripe. Spree, on the other hand, scored 21 points on 9-16 from the field.

Spree simply hounded Vince all game. His defense suffocated any opportunity Vince could get to score the basket. Each one of his shots were heavily contested. On the rare occasion that Carter eluded Spree, he was swarmed by an army of big men ready to block his shots. He was forced to take a lot of rushed shots and did not have an opportunity to get any easy baskets. Through the 3rd quarter, Vince was held without a field goal and only scored his points from the free throw line.

The Toronto Raptors made it to the NBA Playoffs for the first time in their short NBA history. However, their lack of playoff experience and youth proved to be too much of a obstacle as the Knicks handily swept them in 3 games. However, the Raptors came back next year, sans Tracy McGrady, to ultimately upset the Knicks in 5 games.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG with the Orlando Magic

April 9th 2002: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG as a member of the Orlando Magic

In what will always be a weird sight in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing played what would be his last game in Madison Square Garden, but with the Orlando Magic. Ewing started for the Magic, for purposes of recognizing the moment, and had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes. The Magic defeated the Knicks 108-97.

After playing sparingly throughout the game, Ewing re-entered the game with a minute remaining as the Magic were up 9. Ewing received a roaring ovation from the MSG faithful as his former teammates Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas, Allan Houston, & Latrell Sprewell were on the floor. Ewing finished the final minute of the game as the crowd roared once again after the buzzer to commemorate Ewing’s career.

Ewing’s final season with Orlando was quite strange to almost any fan of the NBA. The sight of the Orlando Magic uniform and not seeing him in his signature #33 (Grant Hill wore the jersey at the time) was even more bizarre. Interestingly enough, Ewing played with perhaps the most talented and athletic teammate ever in Tracy McGrady. He also reunited with former teammates Monty Williams & Doc Rivers (as coach of the Magic).

The Magic victory helped them clinch a playoff spot and gave Ewing one more opportunity to taste the playoffs. The Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time since Ewing’s sophomore season.

On This Date: Ewing scores 37 to squeak victory against the Pacers

March 30th 1999: Patrick Ewing scores 37 points to lead the Knicks past the Pacers

Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with 37 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots to help the Knicks secure a 94-93 victory at home against the Indiana Pacers. The 37 points were the most Ewing scored since March 1997, before he tore his Achilles. The game was very close over the the entire game, with neither team securing more than a 5 point lead.

With less than 2 minutes left, the Knicks trailed 93-90. Latrell Sprewell, who scored 18 points off the bench, scored the final 4 points in the game to help the Knicks secure the victory. Spree first scored a layup off a Miller miss to cut the deficit to one. After the Pacers missed their next 3 shot attempts, they fouled Spree after grabbing a rebound to send him to the line to hit the go-ahead free throws.

In what was just another norm in the Knicks/Pacers rivalry, Ewing got into an altercation with Jalen Rose. The two players tussled with each other grabbing a rebound. Ewing pushed Rose down after grabbing the board and Rose subsequently tripped Ewing as he ran up the court. The two went to confront each other with referee Dick Bavetta attempting to mediate. Rose went to throw a punch, but instead accidentally struck Bavetta in the nose, requiring surgery. Ewing didn’t throw a punch. The NBA only fined Ewing $2,500 for the altercation, but suspended Rose for 1 game and fined him $5,000.

The win put the Knicks at 17-14 as they continued to fight for a playoff seed. The loss still kept the Pacers 1.5 games behind the Orlando Magic with the best record in the Eastern Conference. As we know quite well, the Knicks would face the Pacers again in the playoffs and would upset them on the way to an unprecedented NBA Finals trip.

On This Date: Knicks broke team record for most 3s made in a game

March 17th 2011: Knicks set record for most threes made in a game

On St. Patrick’s Day 2011, the Knicks broke a team record with 20 three pointers made in a 120-99 blowout victory against the Memphis Grizzlies at MSG. Leading the way for the Knicks was Toney Douglas, who led the Knicks with 29 points and 9 three pointers made. The 9 threes tied John Starks & Latrell Sprewell for most threes made in a game. JR Smith eventually broke the record 3 years later with 10 three pointers made.

The 20 team three pointers made broke the record of 19 set in the 2008-09 season ironically against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. It’s not a coincidence that Mike D’Antoni coached both those teams as the Knicks emphasized high paced scoring and high volume threes.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the Knicks wore green uniforms. The team eventually discontinued those uniforms after the 2011-12 season.

On This Date: Melo hits game-winner against the Grizzlies

March 9th 2011: Carmelo Anthony hits the game-winning basket to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies

Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points, but hit the biggest shot of the night with half a second left over Tony Allen to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 110-108. Melo received the ball in the post on the weak side and went to work against Tony Allen, the Grizzlies’ best defender. All it took was a couple jab steps and Melo had enough room to hit the midrange shot over him. This was Melo’s first official game-winning basket as a Knick. As he made the basket, Melo famously yelled “I Do This” to the Grizzlies bench.

Melo also received help from Amare Stoudemire who scored 26 points on 13-22 from the field. Toney Douglas, starting in place of the injured Chauncey Billups, had a double double with 18 points and 10 assists.

The Knicks led by 14 at the end of the 3rd, but allowed the Grizzlies to come back and tie the game with less than 15 seconds remaining in the game. Melo’s game-winner prevented a potentially embarrassing collapse on the road.


March 9th 2003: MJ’s last official game in MSG

Michael Jordan played his last ever game in Madison Square Garden with the Washington Wizards. The game was nationally televised on ABC and was obviously a sold-out crowd in the Garden. Jordan had a vintage-like performance with 39 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists, but the Knicks won the game 97-96. The duo of Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell combined for 48 points and helped the Knicks squeak victory.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing’s number retired and Anthony Mason passes away

February 28th 2003: Patrick Ewing’s number retired

Patrick Ewing’s number 33 was finally retired on this date in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have not retired another number since this date. The ceremony was conducted during halftime of the matchup between the Knicks and the Magic. Marv Albert was the MC of the event.

The Knicks brought back some of Ewing’s coaches from John Thompson to Stu Jackson to Jeff Van Gundy. Additionally, Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, and Jeff Van Gundy were in attendance for the ceremony. Several of Ewing’s teammates were there including Bernard King, Louis Orr, Gerald Wilkins, Xavier McDaniel, Kenny Walker, Johnny Newman, John Starks, Doc Rivers, and Charles Oakley.

Furthermore, several Knick legends were in attendance including Cazzie Russell, Dick McGuire, Dick Barnett, Clyde Frazier, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere, and Willis Reed. DeBusschere drafted Ewing in 1985 and this was one of his final public events before his death in May of 2003.

The Knicks invited various NBA legends from Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Chris Mullin, Dikembe Mutombo, Charles Barkley, and Alonzo Mourning. Most of these players were Ewing’s arch rivals during his playing career. At the same time, Ewing, Zo, and Mutombo were Georgetown alums.

For the game itself, the Knicks won 118-110 in a double overtime thriller. Clarence Weatherspoon had 15 points and a career high 24 rebounds. However, it was Ewing’s former teammate Latrell Sprewell who stole the show with a triple double of 28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and 5 steals. He made 6-8 from three as well.


February 28th 2015: Anthony Mason passed away

Anthony Mason passed away on this date due to congestive heart failure. He suffered a massive heart attack earlier in the month. He was 48 at the time of his death.

Mase made his home in New York after spending the first few years of his basketball career shuffling between the NBA and various international basketball leagues. While being a pivotal role player for the Knicks with his tenacious defense, he blossomed into a nearly All-NBA player later in his career with the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat. He showed adept point forward skills during those years, scoring, rebound, and pass the ball with ease. To an extent, Mase set the precedent for players such as Draymond Green having success in the modern NBA.

On This Date: Knicks defeat the Spurs in Spree’s return to MSG

February 12th 2017: Latrell Sprewell and James Dolan bury the hatchet as the Knicks defeat the Spurs

The Knicks snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 94-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on a nationally televised broadcast. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points (including 3 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points and blocked 4 shots. Willy Hernangomez made his second start of the season and had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Willy’s minutes increased steadily after a shoulder injury sidelined Noah for the remainder of the season.

Despite the victory, it off-the-court headlines dominated the story. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson sent veiled shots at Carmelo Anthony expressing disappointment that he’s not a “star” in the realm of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Days before the game, Phil sent a cryptic tweet aimed at Melo:

Additionally, Charles Oakley was arrested only a few days earlier after an altercation with security personnel during the Knicks/Clippers game. Oakley allegedly hurled some parting shots at James Dolan. Dolan subsequently alerted security to escort him out. Oak was subsequently banned from MSG for one year.

To quell the PR backlash, Dolan decided to reconcile with Latrell Sprewell and ended their 13+ year feud. Spree sat courtside with Dolan, Bernard King, and Larry Johnson. Since the moment, Spree has spent plenty of games courtside at Madison Square Garden and participated in various Knicks charitable causes.

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.

Sprewell, then 28 years old, provided a combination of explosive scoring, youthful athleticism, and tenacious defense. He definitely had baggage, which included question marks about his character, his position on the team (Allan Houston was the starting shooting guard), and overall team chemistry. However, no one could question his potential and overall ceiling to a team on the cusp of contention trying to claw back into the NBA Finals in the waning years of the Patrick Ewing era.

Starks was undoubtedly a fan favorite and one of Ewing’s closest friends. Cummings & Mills were both serviceable bench players for the team. Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld performed a significant facelift of the roster before the 1998-99 season. He noticed how the Miami Heat (Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Alonzo Mourning) and Indiana Pacers (Antonio and Dale Davis) outhustled the tired legs of the older Knicks. Grunfeld determined it was necessary to sacrifice some veteran savvy for youthful athleticism to push for another NBA Finals run. As a result, the team swapped John Starks & Charles Oakley for Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby.

Sprewell came off the bench2, but became a pivotal player in the playoffs, especially after Patrick Ewing suffered a torn Achilles. He later became a starter for the Knicks and made the 2001 NBA All Star team.


January 21, 2001: The New York Knicks hold opponents to under 100 points for the 33rd straight game

As a testament to the defensive mentality in the Jeff Van Gundy era, the Knicks pulled off a 33-game streak of holding opponents to under 100 points. Their last game was on this date in a 87-74 loss against the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks began the streak by holding the Charlotte Hornets to 67 points on November 11, 2000. During the streak, the Knicks held opponents to 70 points and below three times and held ten additional opponents to under 80 points.

The streak remains as the 2nd longest streak in modern NBA history (post-1960). Only the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons held opponents to under 100 points longer (38 games). As the NBA emphasizes more scoring and a pace-and-space game, I don’t believe any team will match the Knicks streak.


January 21, 1982: Ned Irish passed away

Ned Irish, the founding owner and president of the New York Knicks, passed away on this date at the age of 77. He started his career covering basketball games and promoted games at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. His role as promoter helped spread awareness of the game heading into the 1940s.

Irish was one of the founders of the Basketball Association of America which later became the NBA in 1949. He was behind naming the Knicks as the New York Knickerbockers. The word “Knickerbocker” was used as a reference to New Yorkers and their Dutch heritage.

As owner and president of the Knicks, Irish left a lasting legacy in the NBA. He was responsible for allowing teams to keep their share of admission revenues. This proved beneficial for a major market team such as the Knicks. He was also instrumental in urging the American Basketball Association (ABA) to merge with the NBA.

Irish was originally a more hands-off owner, but became more hands-on in the 1950s heading into the early 1960s, similar to other familiar NY team owners (George Steinbrenner, James Dolan). His greatest move was convincing Red Holzman to coach the Knicks. He ceded control to Red and the Knicks won 2 championships under his ownership.

Irish was not an owner with much personality or candor. He was known to be unapproachable and cold at times, as discussed in Alan Hahn’s 2012 book “New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History.” However, his legacy is unquestionable. He became a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1964.

On This Date: Latrell Sprewell returns to MSG to taunt James Dolan and Micheal Ray Richardson records a franchise record with 9 steals in a game

Decenber 23, 2003: Latrell Sprewell returns to Madison Square Garden to taunt James Dolan

Latrell Sprewell returned to Madison Square Garden as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves and got the last laugh in a 98-92 victory against the Knicks. Spree scored 31 points and combined for 84 points with Kevin Garnett & Sam Cassell2 in the victory.  

Spree repeatedly hurled profanities toward Knicks owner James Dolan during his patented revenge game. It came to the point where Spree received a technical near the end of the 4th quarter for sparring with Knicks assistant coach Lon Kruger. Kruger told Spree to quit the taunting. The NBA later fined Spree $25,000 for excessive taunting.

Spree & Dolan have had an acrimonious relationship during the latter’s tenure as principal owner of the Knicks. Spree angered Dolan by leaving early from several team-mandated media training sessions. He also suffered the inexcusable boating accident shortly before the 2002-03 season. Dolan had enough of Spree’s “character issues” and ordered then-GM Scott Layden to trade him.

Fortunately, Spree & Dolan reconciled in 2017. We now see Spree courtside at Knicks games or attending various team alumni and charitable events.


December 23, 1980: Micheal Ray Richardson sets a Knick record with 9 steals in a game

In the 117-114 loss against the Chicago Bulls, Micheal “Sugar” Ray Richardson set a Knicks record with nine steals in a game. Sugar Ray had a statline of 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 9 steals.

Despite his short tenure with the Knicks, Sugar Ray was adroit in passing the ball and showed a penchant for stealing the ball. His 2,244 assists in four seasons still remains the 10th highest mark in team history. His 810 steals is remarkably 3rd all-time in Knicks franchise history.

On This Date: Richie Guerin scores 57 points and Latrell Sprewell scores 49 points

December 11, 1959: Richie Guerin scores career-high 57 points in a victory against the Syracuse Nationals

Richie Guerin became the first Knick player to eclipse the 50 point mark by scoring 57 points in a 152-121 victory. In addition to the 57 points, Guerin had 12 rebounds and 8 assists.

The 57 points was a then-record high for any guard in the league. Only Elgin Baylor & Wilt Chamberlain, both of whom were big men, scored more points in the game. Ironically, Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks in 1962.  After the game, Guerin quipped that the 76ers were intentionally fouling the Knicks to give Wilt more opportunities to score.

Guerin’s 57 points remained a Knicks record until Bernard King scored 60 on Christmas Day in 1984. Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points in the 2013-14 season to hold the Knicks points record in a game.

Guerin was eventually enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.


December 11, 2001: Latrell Sprewell scores a career high 49 points in a loss against the Boston Celtics

Fresh off Jeff Van Gundy’s abrupt resignation, Latrell Sprewell exploded for a career high 49 points in a 102-93 overtime loss against the Boston Celtics.

Sprewell scored 49 on 18-32 from the field and an impressive 6-10 from three. Paul Pierce, former Knick Erick Strickland, and rookie Joe Johnson all attempted to guard Sprewell at times and didn’t have luck doing so.

Despite the offensive outburst, it wasn’t enough to stop the Celtics in the loss. Spree had a chance at the free throw line to put the Knicks up by 4 and hit the 50 point mark with less than 9 seconds left in the 4th quarter. However, he only made 1/2 free throws and Antoine Walker tied the game with seconds left in regulation.

Spree was held scoreless in overtime and the Celtics outscored the Knicks 13-4 in overtime. Antoine Walker matched Spree with 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Paul Pierce had an all-around game with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, and 2 blocked shots.

On This Date: Knicks crush Cavs and Latrell Sprewell remains with Knicks

December 2, 2002: The New York Knicks crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-93 and Latrell Sprewell remains a Knick for the remainder of the season

The Knicks capped a three-game winning streak, crushing the Cleveland Cavaliers by 32 points. For the Cavs, this game marked the 15th straight loss for the team which further put them in greater odds to win the LeBron James sweepstakes.

Latrell Sprewell had a double double with 20 points and 11 assists. Allan Houston led the team with 29 points and 5 three pointers made. Kurt Thomas scored 22 points and set a career high with 6 blocked shots.

The day also marked the expiration of the Disabled Player Exception (DPE) granted after the Antonio McDyess season ending injury. The NBA granted the exception to the Knicks on October 18th (the day after the injury) for $4.55 million.

Per the 1999 CBA, the NBA could grant a DPE to players who definitely will be out for the entire NBA season.  The value of the DPE was the lower of 50% of the player’s current year salary or the average player’s salary during the preceding season. The average player’s salary ($4.55 million) was less than 1/2 of McDyess’ 2002-03 salary of $12.6 million.

The Knicks were trying to package Sprewell along with the DPE to acquire another player, specifically a big man who could provide some necessary rebounding and shot blocking.  However, the market for big men was in high demand and the Knicks weren’t able to find a deal that made sense for the roster.

The league revised the DPE guidelines in future CBAs to state that the value of the DPE was the lower of 50% of the player’s current year salary or the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.

On This Date: Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell score 30 points each to lead Knicks

November 27, 1999: Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell score 30 points each to beat Orlando 99-96

Latrell Sprewell & Allan Houston displayed their potential as a dynamic duo in the victory against the Orlando Magic. In addition to 30 points scored, Sprewell had 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and made 9-9 free throws. Similarly, Houston had 6 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 60% from the floor and making all 4 of his free throw attempts.

Additionally, Chris Childs bounced back from a slow start to the season and scored 15 points, making 3 three-pointers, and dished 6 assists in 27 minutes.  Childs hit a crucial three pointer near the end of regulation to help push the Knicks to victory. Similar to other players, Childs was mired in an early season slump highlighted by a lack of effort.  The post-NBA Finals hangover kicked into Childs and this game helped refocus him.

The Knicks started the season off slowly due to a myriad of injuries that hampered the front court. Patrick Ewing remained sidelined due to the torn Achilles tendon suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Marcus Camby was out due to a lingering knee injury and Larry Johnson was sidelined due to a pinched nerve in his back.  Back injuries persisted throughout Larry Johnson’s career and eventually forced him into retirement in 2001.

 

On This Date: Knicks beat Warriors and Sprewell returns to face old team

November 20, 1999: The New York Knicks get a 86-79 victory in Golden State in a game that marked Latrell Sprewell’s return to Oakland and John Starks’ first matchup against the Knicks

Two years after Latrell Sprewell infamously chocked his coach in practice, he returned to Oakland for the first time wearing a New York Knicks uniform. In Sprewell’s return, he posted 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in 39 minutes in an 86-79 Knicks win.

John Starks, in his first matchup against his former team2, had a Starks-ian line with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in 30 minutes. Chris Mills & Terry Cummings, the other former Knicks included in the trade that brought Sprewell to New York, scored 17 and 10 points, respectively.

For Sprewell, this was a highly anticipated matchup against his former coach PJ Carlesimo, who he attacked in practice. The choke seen around the world 2 led to a year-long suspension and eventual trade to the New York Knicks.

Despite the choking incident, the Sprewell trade worked out very well for the Knicks. While Jeff Van Gundy’s plodding offensive system prevented Sprewell from exceeding 20 points a game, he was a fearless scorer that added much needed athleticism to an aging roster and brought the same level of defensive intensity that personified the Knicks teams of the 90s.  His clutch play in the 1999 playoffs resonate with Knick fans to this date.

 

 

On This Date: Latrell Sprewell returns to lineup after mysterious hand injury

November 16, 2002: Latrell Sprewell returns to the Knicks after suffering a broken right hand before training camp

Latrell Sprewell returned to the Knicks after missing the entire preseason and first eight games of the regular season with a right hand injury. Spree came off the bench to score 16 points in a 93-92 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers. Current assistant coach Howard Eisley (then Knicks point guard) had a double double with 16 points and 10 assists. The Knicks had an 8 point lead at the middle of the 4th quarter, but gave up the entire lead as the 76ers scored 17 of the final 25 points of the game. The loss dropped the Knicks to a 1-8 record.

Spree infamously came into training camp with a broken right hand suffered in a boating accident. There were conflicting reports on what exactly happened on the boating trip. Spree’s agent claimed it was due to dealing with choppy waters. However, other witnesses claimed Spree got into a fight with someone on the boat after an argument.

Sprewell would later try to sue Marc Berman and the New York Post for reporting that he broke his right little finger in a fight on his boat, but the case was dismissed.

Sprewell was consequently fined $250,000 for not informing the team of the injury and was told to stay away from the team until further notice. The fine eventually ballooned to $437,500.

The boating accident was the final straw in the front office’s dealings with Sprewell. While Spree was popular with fans, he often angered the front office and Dolan with failing to show up to mandatory events, including a media training session (leading to the infamous media policy) and team shootarounds.