Sprewell and Carlesimo first met at Golden State's training camp in October 1997. By the third or fourth game of the season, as the team began losing, Sprewell testified, he and his friend Donyell Marshall were scapegoated by Carlesimo. Around this time, Carlesimo says he noticed a change in Sprewell's attitude. He stopped playing hard in practice and sometimes in scrimmages refused to shoot.
Sprewell, in his testimony, appears immature and prideful but also genuinely embarrassed by Carlesimo's disdainful treatment of him in front of the rest of the team. "A lot of time," Sprewell testified, Carlesimo would "be on me for things that weren't really the reason we were losing games and not having success. So I just felt really offended by that."
On November 3, Golden State played at Indiana. During the pregame stretching, Carlesimo saw Sprewell and Joe Smith chatting and said, "Come
"Here we go again," Sprewell said.
Carlesimo began walking toward him. "Yeah, here we go again."
"Get the fuck out of my face," Sprewell said. "You need to go talk to the other guys."
"That will cost you a grand," said Carlesimo, fining Sprewell for the obscenity.
"I don't give a fuck," Sprewell said.
On November 9, as Golden State was losing badly to the Lakers, Warriors guard Bimbo Coles said during a timeout, "I'm gonna foul out of this motherfucker." Sprewell started laughing and hid his head in a towel.
Carlesimo benched Sprewell.
"You're a fucking joke," Sprewell said.
And yet in the next sentence, Sprewell asserts he was the one who was slighted. "He said he thought it disrespectful to be taken out of the game and that Carlesimo did not shake his hand after the game," it reads. Carlesimo testified that he didn't shake Sprewell's hand because he feared some kind of confrontation. By late November, Sprewell had asked to be traded, and the Warriors were close to a deal with the San Antonio Spurs.
December 1, 1997, was the blowup, at a moment when the Warriors' record was 1-13. "We all seen it coming," Coles says. During practice, Sprewell was running a three-man, two-ball shooting drill with the point guard Muggsy Bogues and Mark Grabow, an assistant coach. Sprewell's job was to keep passing, rapid-fire, to Bogues, who in turn was to try to get as many shots off as possible in a 55-second span.
Carlesimo stood and watched, dissatisfied by the pace. "Get Muggsy some more shots, Spree," he said.
Sprewell didn't think there was anything wrong with his passes, so he kept passing exactly as he had been.
"Come on Spree, give him a sharper, crisper pass," Carlesimo said, a bit louder.
He called Sprewell's name again.
Sprewell wheeled around. He slammed the ball to the floor. "Get off my back, motherfucker."
"You're the fuck out of here," Carlesimo said. "Just go, Spree. Just leave."
Sprewell walked over to Carlesimo and grabbed him tight around the throat. "I'll kill you," Sprewell said, pushing Carlesimo backward.
"Do it," Carlesimo said.
It was about ten seconds until two assistant coaches pulled Sprewell off and led him out of the gym. "Get me the fuck out of here!" he yelled. "Trade me! I hate you!" He knocked over a water cooler.
Coles joined Sprewell in the hallway because he hoped to calm him down, but was called back; Carlesimo wanted to resume practice without a break.
If only he'd let Coles have his way. About fifteen minutes later, Sprewell returned to the gym. Two coaches tried to grab him, but he was already around the baseline and under the basket, where Carlesimo was monitoring a full-court drill.
"Don't touch me," Sprewell said. And then to Carlesimo: "I'm going to fuck you up." He grazed Carlesimo's cheek with an overhand punch as a swarm of coaches and players again pulled him away.