Man convicted of murdering former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, sentenced to life in prison

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A jury on Monday convicted a Tennessee man in the slaying of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, whose bullet-riddled body was found in a field nearly 12 years ago in his hometown of Memphis.

The 12-person jury deliberated for about two hours before it found Billy Ray Turner guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the death of Wright, a 6-foot, 11-inch center who played 13 seasons in the NBA before he retired after the 2008-2009 season. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee sentenced Turner, 51, to life in prison for the murder conviction. He will be sentenced for the other charges at a later date.

Coffee called Wright “a sacred son” of Memphis and told his mother, Deborah Marion, that the trial might not bring her closure but to “celebrate the good” about her son.

The slaying is one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Memphis history. Wright’s decomposing body was found riddled with bullet wounds in a swampy field in east Memphis on July 28, 2010. The 34-year-old father of six had been missing for days before his body was discovered.

Turner had already pleaded guilty to possessing a weapon as a convicted felon after he was found with two guns when he was arrested in Wright’s killing in 2017. Turner is serving a 16-year prison sentence on the separate gun charge.

Prosecutors allege Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright, masterminded a plan to kill her ex-husband and recruited Turner and her cousin, Jimmie Martin, to help her.

Turner and Sherra Wright were indicted in December 2017, more than seven years after the killing. Sherra Wright entered a surprise guilty plea to facilitation of murder in July 2019 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Turner is a landscaper who knew Sherra Wright from church and, according to prosecutors, had a secret romantic relationship with her.

At the time of Wright’s slaying, Martin was facing charges of killing his girlfriend, and he said his cousin helped pay part of his legal fees. Martin was convicted and is currently serving prison time, in that case. He has received immunity from prosecution in the Wright case.

Martin testified that Sherra Wright recruited him and Turner to kill Lorenzen Wright. Parts of his testimony were challenged by defense attorney John Keith Perry, who said the information Martin gave to investigators was a farce and full of lies.

Martin testified that he and Turner met with Sherra Wright to plan the killing and went to Lorenzen Wright’s condominium in Atlanta to shoot him, with an understanding that he would get paid.

Armed with handguns, Turner and Martin went to Wright’s condo in Atlanta, entered through a window and found someone sleeping on the couch in the living room – but it was not Lorenzen Wright, Martin testified. Turner and Martin returned home without killing anyone.

Martin told prosecutor Paul Hagerman that he was in Batesville, Mississippi, at the time of the shooting just after midnight on July 19, 2010. Martin said he went to the Memphis field with Sherra Wright some days after the shooting and she essentially confessed.

Lorenzen Wright was visiting Memphis from Atlanta. Sherra Wright said she lured her ex-husband to the field by telling him that she was going to meet someone there to get some money, Martin testified. According to Martin, she said that she and Turner ambushed and chased Lorenzen Wright, who jumped a fence and tried to run away before they shot him in the field.

The jury has heard a gunshot-filled 911 call made by Lorenzen Wright the night of the killing.

Martin also said Turner and Wright got rid of evidence from the shooting scene and he went with Turner to dispose of the weapon by dumping it in a north Mississippi lake. Martin said he told detectives in 2012 where the gun was located. It was later found by FBI divers.

In closing arguments, defense attorney John Keith Perry said Martin’s “crazy, contrived” story was not believable. Perry said Martin – not Turner – was in Memphis the night Lorenzen Wright was shot.

“You can’t really give him much credit,” Perry said of Martin.

Prosecutor Paul Hagerman defended Martin’s testimony, saying Martin’s immunity agreement required him to tell the truth and statements given to investigators and prosecutors have been consistent.

“It’s been the same, literally, for 10 years,” Hagerman said.

Neither Turner nor Sherra Wright testified during the trial.

Watch Donovan Mitchell drop 43, upstage LeBron return as Cavs top Lakers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — As a kid growing up in New York, Donovan Mitchell idolized LeBron James. On Tuesday night, he upstaged him.

Mitchell scored a season-high 43 points and Jarrett Allen returned from injury to add 24, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 116-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in James’ only visit home this season.

With Anthony Davis missing the final three quarters because of illness, the Cavs improved to an NBA-leading 11-1 on their floor, their best start at home since 2015-16, when James led them to a championship.

Mitchell, who has Cleveland fans dreaming of another title run, took over in the second half and scored 29 points with the kind of performance James had routinely during his 11 seasons for the Cavs.

“You always want to spoil the homecoming,” Mitchell said with a smile.

With Cleveland leading by 12 in the fourth, Mitchell buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to finish the Lakers. After dropping the shot, the All-Star guard strutted around the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse floor nodding his head as James helplessly watched.

“He’s Mitchell,” James said. “He’s a special kid.”

Darius Garland added 21 points and 11 assists for Cleveland.

James finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, losing for just the third time in 20 games against the Cavs.

Dennis Schroder and Russell Westbrook added 16 points apiece as Los Angeles had its four-game winning streak stopped.

Davis went out after eight minutes with flu-like symptoms. The eight-time All-Star had scored 99 points in his previous two games and had been playing as well as he has in several seasons after being plagued by injuries.

Davis didn’t attempt a field goal and scored just one point before leaving.

“It got progressively worse as the day went on,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “His temperature was 101 and some change. A-D wanted to try to play, but he felt too weak. He’s drained and dehydrated.

“That’s a huge loss, obviously, with the way he’s been playing lately.”

Without Davis clogging the middle, Allen, who missed the last five games with a bruised back, made his first 10 shots and helped the Cavs take a 57-49 halftime lead.

“Next man up,” James said when asked how he reacted to losing Davis. “That’s a tall task – literally and figuratively.”

The Cavs welcomed James back with a video tribute during an early timeout. After a montage of clips, including some from 2016, James waved to the crowd and then blew kisses to show his appreciation.

The warm scene was in contrast to what happened almost exactly 12 years ago, when he came back with the Miami Heat and was met with boos and worse on a night James has said he’ll never forget.

James said he was caught off guard by the tribute.

“It’s always love coming back here,” he said. “The memories I have here will never be forgotten.”

 

Ben Simmons targeting Friday vs. Hawks to return from calf strain

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Ben Simmons has missed the Nets’ last three games with knee pain tied to a left calf strain, and he will be out Wednesday, too, when Brooklyn takes on Charlotte.

However, he plans to return on Friday (Dec. 9) against the Hawks.

Simmons was adjusting to a new role in Brooklyn. In Philadelphia he was a point-forward with the ball in his hands playing off Joel Embiid (at least at first), but in Brooklyn the ball needed to be in the hands of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the halfcourt. Simmons is playing more small-ball five, and is asked to be aggressive and attack when he gets the ball — not shoot jumpers — and to push the rock in transition. It took a while for Simmons to settle into that space, but he seemed to in games against Philadelphia (11 points, 11 assists), Toronto (14 points, six assists) and Indiana (20 points). Then the injuries hit.

Brooklyn sits at 13-12, with a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense for the season. While there are doubts about the ceiling for this team, it has a talent level that should be better than this record, it’s just been beset by injuries, controversy causing Kyrie Irving to miss time, and a coaching change. The Nets have yet to hit their stride.

But they could have a clean injury report on Friday night, and maybe that can be the start of this team getting on a run.

Suns, Hawks reportedly show interest in Kuzma trade, Wizards see him as cornerstone

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Kyle Kuzma was the kind of quality, two-way role player the Lakers needed around LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the 2020 NBA title (the type of player the Lakers wish they had now).

In Washington, his role has been elevated — he’s a 20-point-a-game scorer (20.6 points per game this season, to be precise) who is a key part of generating offense, not just playing off the stars of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. As he told Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told The Athletic.

It’s been enough to draw the interest of a couple of teams looking for a trade, Charania adds. The Wizards are not necessarily interested in moving on, however.

Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added…

However, the Wizards’ front office, led by general manager Tommy Sheppard, has made clear that it views Kuzma as a cornerstone moving forward as the franchise has seen him thrive since the mega-trade in the 2021 offseason. The Westbrook trade provided future flexibility and assets for the Wizards, who have been known to be aggressive and active in research across the league.

Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent in search of a healthy raise (north of $20 million a year, although expect something more in the ballpark of the four-year, $104 million Jalen Brunson contract). If the Wizards are willing to pay they likely can keep him (they have his Bird rights). But if Washington isn’t sure it wants to pay market value, or if management sees a shifting path for future seasons, it should consider trading Kuzma at the deadline.

If he becomes available, far more teams than the Hawks and Suns would be interested, quality two-way forwards are in demand around the league. Kuzma would have some leverage over where he gets sent because he can leave as a free agent (teams would offer up less if they believed Kuzma would only be a rental for this season).

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
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There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.