MINNEAPOLIS -- The season opener arrived and Latrell Sprewell was still with the Minnesota Timberwolves, unhappy with his contract situation but determined to give the team his best.
Earlier this week, Sprewell lashed out at his lack of an extension -- stirring up criticism by threatening to ask for a trade and suggesting he didn't owe the organization anything this year because it hadn't taken care of him.
His most-maligned comment, "I've got a family to feed," became instant fodder for talk-radio and water-cooler rants. Speaking before Wednesday night's game against the New York Knicks, however, Sprewell did his best to downplay those prior statements.
"The stuff I'm going through is minute compared to a lot of things people go through on a daily basis," he said.
The 34-year-old swingman, who will make $14.6 million this season in the final year of his current deal, blamed media spin for most of the backlash against him. Sprewell's pregame introduction, somewhat surprisingly, brought no audible boos.
"I've never cried poverty," he said. "That's why you have to be careful, as a player, what you say. Certain people like to run with it and use your statements against you. That's exactly what happened in this case."
Commissioner David Stern was among the critics.
"The commissioner has criticized me before," said Sprewell, whose infamous choke of then-Golden State coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997 drew him a year-long suspension. "I'm not really concerned about the commissioner at this point and what he says."
Sprewell threatened to push Minnesota fans' disdain for pariah Stephon Marbury to the background. The former Timberwolves point guard, now with the Knicks, declined comment following the morning shootaround on Sprewell's situation and the matchup with his old team.
"It's just another game to me," Marbury said.
New York's Allan Houston, a teammate of Sprewell's for five seasons, gave a diplomatic analysis.
"I understand what he means by it," Houston said. "He's working hard to do a job. I understand, because I'm doing the same thing he is. But I also understand why a guy making $30,000 a year wouldn't understand."
The Wolves would much rather worry about winning the Western Conference than talk about contracts, but they're squarely behind their teammate.
"We're like brothers in here," said league MVP Kevin Garnett.
Minnesota has no question, either, about this being a distraction.
"His head's going to be in the game," coach Flip Saunders said. "Spree's like all of our players. He's going to give it 100 percent. He's going to play with the same emotion he played with last year, the same emotion he played with three years ago and he'll play with in two weeks."
In an unrelated twist to this soap opera, Sprewell was given a misdemeanor citation Tuesday night for arguing with a Minneapolis police officer after the vehicle he was riding in was pulled over.
Though he wondered Wednesday why owner Glen Taylor hasn't "taken any steps" to meet with him about his contract, Sprewell insisted there was no rift between him and vice president Kevin McHale.
"I think he understands my position," Sprewell said. "He's just doing his job to save the team as much money as possible. It's my job to get as much as I can."
Taylor said there were no new developments on a deal.
Sprewell, who has assumed negotiation responsibilities from agent Robert Gist, wants at least a two-year extension. He denied earlier reports that he wouldn't accept a yearly salary less than what he's getting now. A pay cut is possible.
"I'll be open to it -- looking at everything," Sprewell said. "I wouldn't want to. It's part of negotiating."