Allegations Don't Fit With Gentle Giant
For awhile people wondered if it might eventually keep him from playing basketball, or maybe even cause his premature death. Now Curry's heart has him in trouble again, as the Knicks' big lug of a center finds himself at the epicenter of the latest salacious scandal to rock Madison Square Garden.
It all began in 2005, when Curry, new to New York after being traded from Chicago, needed someone to chauffeur him around town. David Kuchinsky, an ex-con who had served three years for burglary back in the early '90s and was convicted in 2004 for resisting arrest, worked for a local Manhattan car service."Eddy and he hit it off," said Quentin Richardson, picking up the trail.
"Then Eddy wanted to get a driver of his own so he hired him full time. Not just for New York. He took the dude to Chicago for a summer, let him stay in a room in his house. When Eddy and his family ate, he ate. Everything was free of charge, room and board, he got all that. Eddy looked out for him like a brother, and this is how he gets paid back? By someone trying to destroy his reputation, his family, everything good about him? It's insane. Just insane."
A trip around the Knicks locker room before Wednesday night's game against the Washington Wizards elicited the same response, the same shocked and disgusted reactions at the news that Curry's former driver is accusing him of behavior both illegal and tawdry, including sexual harassment. And here's where the story gets really bizarre: reporters, including this one, who sorted through much of the Garden's dirty laundry over the years, are as astonished as Curry's teammates. Those of us who report on athletes for a living are jaded, but we still know a good soul when we see one, and Curry has never given any indication he's anything but a genuinely decent human being.
Curry sat out Wednesday's game with a sore right knee, ducking in and out of the Garden without comment. But in a brief chat with beat reporters in New Orleans Arena Monday night, moments after details of the suit became public, Curry said he was shocked, stunned and above all, innocent of the accusations in Kuchinsky's lawsuit, filed in Southern District of New York. In it Kuchinsky alleges that while he was under Curry's employ, Curry tried to solicit sex from him, twice pointed a gun at him and used racially charged and anti-Semitic language. Kuchinsky is seeking $93,000 in unpaid wages and expenses, along with $5 million in damages.
"He approached my friends a while back, trying to get money. I just never, ever thought it would go past what it did, which was just idle threats, money-or-else kind of stuff. This is a guy who I really thought he was my friend up until the last four, five months," Curry said.
"He tried to contact a friend of mine on several occasions and every time it was something different. First time it was to curse me out. Second time it was to apologize. Third time it was if Eddy doesn't call me, I'm going to sue him. I still don't think he has a case on me. It's absolutely false. I can't even believe it. Everyone who knows me knows I'm not a racist. I've never made a comment like that, playing, or nothing. Aside from the fact I wouldn't do it because I'm not racist, I wouldn't do it because I wouldn't want someone to play with me like that.
"I can't believe it went this far. I can't believe someone would represent something like that. It's incredible to me."
Curry's Chicago-based lawyer, Kelly Saindon, spent much of the day refuting Kuchinsky's lurid claims, insisting her client was the victim of a conniving thief who resorted to the lawsuit only after his attempts to blackmail and extort Curry failed. Saindon said she would move to have the lawsuit dismissed and intends to counter-sue, alleging Kuchinsky changed the locks on two of Curry's storage lockers and was holding his possessions hostage.
"I talked to Dave about a month to six weeks ago where he called and asked for two months' wages," Saindon said in an interview with WFAN radio. "(I asked him), what is that for? He said, 'I didn't like that I was let go and I should've been given some notice.'"
Matthew Bilt, Kuchinsky's lawyer, claims there are witnesses who will support Kuchinsky's charges of sexual harassment and religious discrimination. "Nobody else has ever heard or seen this allegations," Saindon said. "I find it shocking that if this was such a horrible place to work why did Dave stay there for about three years?"
Kuchinsky's suit hit all the hot buttons: sex, race and guns. If what he says is proven true -- if, as the lawsuit specifically states, Curry "on at least two different occasions, pointed a fully loaded, unclipped gun precisely in the plaintiff's direction and saying 'look, the clip's not in it' and 'look, I have one in the chamber," and "on more than one occasion in the last year of plaintiff's employment, Curry approached him, in the nude, and tried to solicit him to engage in homosexual acts with him by telling the plaintiff 'Look at me, Dave, look' and 'Come and touch it, Dave," -- Curry's NBA career is doomed.
Sadly, gun play is often overlooked in the world of sports. Sadly, homosexuality is still considered the ultimate sin.
But if the lawsuit is dismissed, if Kuchinsky is proven to be a money-hungry scum who'd think nothing of defaming and ruining a family man, the episode -- sadly -- will still live on in the blogosphere. Curry's judgment, his big heart, fall into question. Why would he hire an ex-con? What was going on in Curry's head when he allowed Kuchinsky to live in his house with wife and children?
"He's a real outgoing dude, not somebody who keeps people away from him," Richardson, the NY forward who has known Curry for years, told me. "Eddy knew the guy had problems but that's Eddy, he's friends with everybody. He'll be at the mall and see something we'll all like, he'll bring back some for everybody. Video games, phones, you name it."
Two summers ago, Curry and his family were victims of a home invasion in Chicago. The robbers reportedly pistol-whipped Kuchinsky. Is there a connection between this week's lawsuit and that summer's ordeal? Should Curry have headed the advice of friends who said Kuchinsky was bad news?
"I wasn't very fond of him," said Richardson, who often hitched rides with Curry and Kuchinsky. "I mean, he was cool to talk basketball with and small talk, and I definitely didn't think he'd make up something like this. What type of person tries to ruin a guy's life?"
A few years ago, Curry was considered a risky liability, a player whose heart condition scared away teams. There was fear he'd collapse on the court, become the next Hank Gathers. A few weeks ago, Curry's greatest problem was his weight and gimpy knee. Never a good fit for Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system, Curry has missed most of the season and seemed doomed to be shipped to another club once his minutes and health improved. D'Antoni said Wednesday Curry can still be of use, that the game doesn't have to slow down for Curry to succeed. But Curry's limitations haven't always been physical. He sometimes seemed to struggle with the worst malady a New York athlete can suffer: fear of being disliked.
Now Curry's hefty contract -- two years and $21.7 million remain -- is hardly the only impediment to a trade. Now the Knicks and the Garden, through no fault of their own for once, are immersed in the stench of another seedy lawsuit, of more talk about unwanted sexual advances and unbecoming behavior.
Curry, the gentle giant, always seemed hesitant to throw around his weight. It's fair to wonder if Kuchinsky knew Curry's weak spot.