GWT will only do something if you somehow "tell" it to do it: it won't try to optimize images unless they are in an ImageBundle or ClientBundle.--
Note however that the default behavior for ClientBundle is actually not to create a "CSS sprite" but to use data: URIs directly embedded in the JS (and/or in the CSS for a CssResource, which is also embedded as a String in the JS) for all browsers that support it (all but IE6/7, also, IE8 will fallback to loading images from the server –without any optimization at all, IIRC– when using HTTPS, because data: URIs in an HTTPS-served page would result in a "mixed content" warning)
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