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Return is good for 'Spree'

By Al Iannazzone

Bergon County (N.J.) Record

NEW YORK -- Latrell Sprewell promised his Madison Square Garden return would be wild and he delivered.

Giving a vintage 31-point performance, Sprewell showed what the Knicks are missing from a basketball standpoint. But his over-the-line behavior toward Knicks' owner James Dolan and assistant coach Lon Kruger only cemented in management's mind that it was right to trade Sprewell.

In the final minute of Minnesota's 98-92 win over the Knicks on Tuesday night, Sprewell lost his cool and went too far.

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He stood adjacent to the Knicks' bench and shouted profanities at Dolan moments after his three-pointer gave Minnesota a 94-89 lead with 1:14 left. Kruger, trying to calm the situation, told Sprewell to "Just play." Sprewell screamed obscenities at him and drew a technical foul.

His real ire was directed at Dolan. Sprewell doesn't like him because Dolan told former general manager Scott Layden to trade Sprewell and criticized his character in the preseason. Sprewell also believes Dolan appointed Isiah Thomas president of basketball operations on Monday to steal the spotlight away from him in his New York return.

Sprewell, who received a standing ovation during introductions, said if the chance arose, he would glance over at Dolan in his baseline seat. He didn't glance. He glared at least five times, and shouted profanities. This didn't help improve Sprewell's character.

"Hey, I heard he (Dolan) told their players they'd better win tonight," Sprewell said. "I relayed it to my guys. I said if he's going to do stuff like that, we're going to come out and play hard."

Sprewell's actions took away from an otherwise brilliant game, by him and both teams. The Knicks (10-19) played great, led by Allan Houston's 26 points and Kurt Thomas' 16 points and nine rebounds.

The Timberwolves (18-9), who won their sixth straight, received 31 points from Sam Cassell and 22 points and 13 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. Cassell buried a three-pointer with 11.3 seconds left to give the Timberwolves their final margin.

Sprewell was nine-for-20 from the field and made 12 of 14 free throws. After drilling the three with 74 seconds left, Sprewell made a beeline for Dolan. He screamed something at him, and Dolan responded by sticking out his tongue at Sprewell.

Later, Sprewell continued to scream profanities and then got into it with Kruger. After being assessed a technical, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders tried to calm Sprewell. He told the coach to "Leave me the (bleep) alone."

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His former teammates weren't too impressed with his actions.

"I don't agree with what he did," Allan Houston said. "He should have let his performance speak for itself."

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