Latrell Sprewell addressed the NBA players association on Saturday, and officials emerged saying his suspension and contract termination had galvanized the once-troubled union.
Sprewell, who was suspended for one year by the league and had his contract torn up by Golden State after his attack on coach P.J. Carlesimo, has unilateral support from fellow players as he fights the penalties, union director Billy Hunter said."They support Latrell," Hunter said. "To a man, there's nobody that disagrees with that."
Sprewell, Carlesimo and NBA commissioner David Stern were among those who testified in arbitration hearings on whether the penalties should stand. Closing arguments will be made on Feb. 16 in New York, and arbitrator John Feerick will have 30 days to rule on Sprewell's grievances against the Warriors and the league.
"(Sprewell) informed them that much of what they read in the media was not consistent with what really happened," Hunter said.
Russ Granik, the league's deputy commissioner, said the penalty fit the offense.
"It's now in the hands of an arbitrator," Granik said. "He'll render a ruling as he sees fit."
Hunter called for a further investigation of whether Sprewell's second altercation with Carlesimo on Dec. 1 was premeditated. He said it wasn't, and for that reason the penalty should be softened.
Hunter also accused the Warriors of using the Carlesimo incident as a way to get out of paying what was left on Sprewell's $32 million, four-year deal.
"It was only after they realized they couldn't trade Latrell and they found out that the NBA was going to suspend him that they elected to cancel it," he said.
Hunter said the Sprewell case and the league's crackdown on big, baggy shorts has strengthened the union three years after it faced threats of decertification.
"The fashion issue, where they were enforcing the issue of the long pants, I think that was the beginning," Hunter said. "... Shortly after that comes Latrell Sprewell. I think the NBA miscalculated."