It turns out that the Knicks suspended Latrell Sprewell for their first exhibition game, and the NBA players union threatened yesterday to file a grievance over the matter.

On another day of fallout from Sprewell's unexcused absence from training camp, the latest revelation left the Knicks being called liars.

The team explicitly said Sunday that Sprewell had been fined but not suspended, but the union -- which must be notified of all player discipline penalties -- later disclosed that Sprewell had been suspended.

If upheld, the suspension would cost Sprewell $100,000 in salary, or 1/90th of his $9 million salary. The Knicks also fined him at least $30,000 for missing the first week of training camp.

Sprewell was on the bench and in street clothes Tuesday night when the Knicks lost to the 76ers in their exhibition opener.

The union said the suspension constituted "an unreasonable monetary penalty that is excessive and goes far beyond anything agreed to" in the collective bargaining agreement.

"Hopefully, the Knicks will correct their error. If not, we will file a grievance," union director Billy Hunter said in a statement.

"Personally, I think it was a little severe," Sprewell said after practice yesterday. "I understand them fining me for maybe not getting back to them right away and maybe for missing some of the practices, but I felt I could have played, and that probably was a little bit more than was necessary."

HARPER SIGNS: Free agent G Ron Harper, 35, signed a two-year, $4.2 million contract with the Lakers. . . .

The Clippers waived former Maryland F Rodney Elliott.