Police: Gas pedal floored before McClendon crashed at 78 mph

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Chesapeake Energy founder Aubrey McClendon had the gas pedal floored in his SUV moments before it slammed into a bridge support at 78 mph earlier this month, police said Monday.

McClendon tapped his brakes multiple times before impact, but not enough to slow his vehicle significantly, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said at a news conference. There was no evidence McClendon tried to veer away or brake completely before impact.

Citty wouldn’t say whether he thinks the former Chesapeake CEO intended to crash or had full control of his Chevrolet Tahoe.

“We’re not going to speculate. We don’t know what was going through his mind at the time. We don’t know what was going on in the cab of that vehicle,” Citty said.

McClendon died March 2, a day after a federal grand jury indicted him on a bid-rigging charge. The part-owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder had vowed to fight the accusation.

The vehicle’s data recorder showed McClendon was driving 88 mph and then tapped his brakes, but not enough to significantly reduce speed. As far as police could tell, the brakes were fully operative, Citty said. Police have said previously the speed limit on the isolated road in northeast Oklahoma City was 50 mph.

McClendon had his gas pedal floored until 1 1/2 seconds before impact, when he reduced it from 99 percent to 25 percent depressed, the police chief said.

McClendon was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, although at that speed it wouldn’t have mattered if he had, Citty said.

Investigators found tire tracks but no skid marks. Police are checking McClendon’s cellphone records to determine if he was on the phone.

The medical examiner’s office said previously that McClendon died from multiple blunt force trauma, but it has yet to reveal the official manner of death or the toxicology test results, which usually take four to six weeks to complete.

The Tahoe simmered after the collision before it caught on fire, a witness told police.

Medical examiners identified McClendon’s body using dental records, spokeswoman Amy Elliott said. The body retrieved from the burning vehicle was unrecognizable, Citty said.

A federal grand jury indicted McClendon on March 1, alleging he conspired to rig the bidding process for natural gas leases in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2012, when he led Chesapeake Energy.

In the charging document, prosecutors alleged that McClendon, two unnamed companies and an unnamed co-conspirator would decide who would win the bid to certain drilling rights and then give the “loser” a share in the lease.

McClendon said shortly after being indicted that he was the first person in the oil and gas industry to be accused of improprieties involving the joint bidding on leases, in which companies work together to solicit work.

He died the next morning.

McClendon founded Chesapeake Energy with Tom Ward in 1989. Ward later left and formed SandRidge Energy Corp., which has disclosed it was subpoenaed amid an investigation into the awarding of land or mineral rights from the same time period covered in the McClendon indictment.

Prosecutors have not identified SandRidge as one of the unnamed companies from the indictment. Separately, Sandridge has said the Justice Department told the company it was the target of an Oklahoma federal grand jury investigation.

McClendon resigned as CEO at Chesapeake in 2013 after a revolt by activist shareholders including Carl Icahn. He started a new company, American Energy Partners, less than a mile from Chesapeake’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. SandRidge investors ousted Ward the same year after a proxy fight; he later formed Tapstone Energy.

This story has been altered to correct the police chief’s name on first reference. His name is Bill Citty, not Bill City.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.