Associated Press

Excited Lakers provide early look at new training center

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) After Kobe Bryant’s retirement and the worst season in team history, the Los Angeles Lakers’ quest to rebuild a championship franchise is finally beginning in earnest.

Seems like the perfect time to get excited about moving into a shiny new home.

The Lakers provided an early look at their $80 million training complex Wednesday while announcing a naming rights deal with UCLA Health, the multi-hospital academic medical center. Just eight months after construction began in earnest, the Lakers are on schedule to open the 120,000-square-foot UCLA Health Training Center during the 2017 offseason.

“This was really an effort to make sure we had not only everything we needed, but also everything we were going to need in the future,” Lakers President Jeanie Buss said.

The Lakers will spend the next year just two blocks away at the Toyota Sports Center, their home since February 2000, before moving into the state-of-the-art complex in El Segundo, near Los Angeles International Airport.

Coach Luke Walton and the Lakers’ last three draft classes also took a break from working out down the street to tour the complex. D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and Anthony Brown all donned hard hats, fluorescent orange vests and safety goggles to check out the concrete-and-drywall shell of their new home.

“We have a place that players will want to come into,” said Walton, the former Lakers forward, who recalled hour-long waits to use the single-person ice baths at their current training complex. “It’s a place that offers the best of everything, all the best capabilities. It’s a part of creating that culture that you want for a franchise. It’s nice to have this place in our future.”

Although none of the Lakers’ youngsters has known any home except their current cramped quarters, they were still impressed by the project centered around a large gym that will also house the team’s D-League affiliate.

The Lakers’ players will have a spacious weight room and locker room along with three rehab pools, a cryogenics chamber, a theater, a lounge, a large kitchen and a barbershop.

“It’s more than helpful,” Russell said. “With the 82-game season, that’s wear and tear on your body. It starts with rehab and trying to keep your body 100 percent at every practice.”

The Lakers are an iconic sports brand, but their home base has never had the grandeur of their reputation.

The Showtime teams of the 1980s were forced to be nomadic, usually practicing at recreational centers or college gyms.

Shortly after the Lakers moved their games from the run-down Forum to the utilitarian Staples Center downtown in 1999, they leased half of a sprawling recreational complex in El Segundo for their training headquarters. They still share the Toyota Sports Center with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, who have public ice skating rinks in the noisy building.

The Lakers have practice courts and rudimentary training facilities, but the cramped confines forced them to move several business departments to another office building down the street.

“A couple of years ago, we realized that as we grew, we needed to find a new facility,” Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris said. “We wanted to build our own facility and have our own identity. … We want players to treat this place like a second home.”

Buss has already made one executive decision: Just as they do in the old training complex, the 11 shiny Larry O’Brien trophies won during the Lakers’ Los Angeles tenure will still sit in the window of her office, which will still overlook the practice court.

“It’s so the players will always be reminded of the work they need to do to reach that,” she said with a smile.

Basketball Hall of Fame delays enshrining Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Spurs forward Tim Duncan
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The Basketball Hall of Fame originally planned to induct Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in August.

But coronavirus interfered.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, told ESPN Wednesday that enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2020, one of the most star-studded lineups ever which includes Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant, will be moved to spring of 2021.

Colangelo stressed there will be separate ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021, even though both events will now be held in the calendar year 2021. “We won’t be combining them,” he said. “The Class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration.”

I’m so glad each class will be honored separately. Bryant, Duncan, Garnett and the rest of this class – Tamika Catchings, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton and Patrick Baumann – deserve their own night.

So does Paul Pierce and whoever gets selected in the next class.

Life can end at any moment. Bryant’s death was a tragic reminder of that. But there’s no specific urgency here. The Hall of Fame should wait until it’s safe to hold a proper celebration of this class… then the next one.

NBA being sued for missed rent payments amid coronavirus shutdown

NBA Store
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The NBA has been sued by the owners of the building that houses the NBA Store, who say the league owes more than $1.2 million after not paying rent in April or May.

The league responded by saying it doesn’t believe the suit has merit, because it was forced to close the New York store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBA Media Ventures, LLC is required to pay $625,000 of its $7.5 million annual fee on the first day of each month under teams of its lease with 535-545 FEE LLC, according to the suit filed Tuesday in New York.

The NBA entered into the lease agreement for the property at 545 Fifth Ave. in November 2014.

Counting other fees such as water, the owners of the building are seeking more than $1.25 million.

“Like other retail stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the NBA Store was required to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “We have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to work directly with our landlord to resolve this matter in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The NBA suspended play on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and faces hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this season, even as it works toward trying to resume play in July.

NBA latest timeline has games starting in late July, early August in Orlando

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Anyone hoping for a rapid return of the NBA is going to be disappointed (and hasn’t been paying attention to how Adam Silver operates).

The NBA continues to carefully move toward a return to games, likely with 16 or more likely 20 teams in Orlando at the Walt Disney World resort complex. Expect players to report in mid-July with games now looking like they start late July to early August, allowing more time for the league to get medical and testing protocols and equipment in place. This according to multiple reports, including Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated that timeline. While Adam Silver and the NBA owners will be on a conference call Friday, no hard-and-fast timeline decisions are expected at that point.

The format for the NBA’s return also is not yet set, but momentum has shifted in the past couple of weeks away from bringing all 30 teams into the Orlando bubble/campus to finish some portion of the regular season. That would be too many people and too much risk for too little reward.

Instead, the restart likely will have either 16 teams — going straight into the playoffs — or 20 teams, with a play-in tournament of some kind (maybe a World Cup soccer-style group phase). And, as Marc Stein of the New York Times notes (and he is not alone), there is a push to have the clumped 9-12 seeds in the West — Portland, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Sacramento — be the four additional teams brought in (along with the 16 playoff teams).

Teams who last in the playoffs past the first round could be in Orlando for months, which is why the NBA will allow family members to come to Orlando for the later rounds, report Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.

Conversations have centered on the timing of family arrivals at the Walt Disney Resort, which are likely to start once an initial wave of teams are eliminated and the number of people within the league’s bubble decreases, sources said.

Family members would be subjected to the same safety and testing protocols as everyone else living in the NBA’s biosphere, sources said.

Considering how long players on contending teams could be in Orlando — from mid-July until mid-to-late September, and maybe longer — allowing family to join them is the right thing to do.

NBA Commissioner Silver is trying to make a return as safe as he can and build as much consensus as he can, although he will not get anything absolute in either case. It’s in his nature to move cautiously, especially through uncharted waters like these. The NBA will have games again this summer, but earlier timelines have proved to be a bit optimistic.

LeBron James, others around NBA speak out after death of George Floyd

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George Floyd died Monday while saying “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and put his knee on his neck for an extended time. A video of Floyd’s death prompted a severe backlash, including the firing of four police officers, FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigations, and public protests.

Floyd’s death also sparked frustration and outrage among NBA players and they took to social media to speak out, as they have had to do too often in the past with the deaths of black men at the hands of police. Many followed the lead of LeBron James in posting on Instagram an image of a policeman kneeling on Floyd’s neck juxtaposed with Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the sidelines of an NFL game during the national anthem.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

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No one around the NBA was hit harder than former player and current ESPN analyst Stephen Jackson, who knew Floyd and was devastated by the news. He called Floyd by his nickname, Twin.

Other NBA players took to Twitter and Instagram, here is just a sampling.