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NBA Media Ventures sued for $1.25M in missed rent on Fifth Avenue store

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NBA Media Ventures is being sued by a landlord who alleges the league has failed to pay $1.25 million in rent on its store on New York’s Fifth Avenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York by a plaintiff identified as 535-545 Fee LLC, which has leased the retail space to NBA Media Ventures LLC for its NBA Store since November 2014.

The rent at the store is $7.5 million per year, or $625,000 per month, the suit says, and NBA Media Ventures did not pay rent for April and May, when the store was closed.

“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,” NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass said in a statement Wednesday. “Under those circumstances, we don’t believe these claims have any merit. 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 suit seeks $1,257,412.96, as well as $20,000 in legal fees.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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Phoenix Suns add guard Cameron Payne to roster

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The Phoenix Suns made an addition to their roster on Tuesday ahead of traveling to Orlando for the resumption of the NBA season next week.

Phoenix, which had an open roster spot, added guard Cameron Payne to its roster. Payne, who was the 14th pick in the 2015 NBA draft, has yet to play in the league this season.

Instead, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard briefly played in the Chinese Basketball Association before joining the Texas Legends in the G-League. With the Legends, Payne averaged 23.2 points, 8.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game in 15 games.

After being drafted by Oklahoma City in 2015, Payne also spent time with Chicago and played in nine games with Cleveland in 2018-19 as well.

In 153 career games, Payne is averaging 6.0 points, 2.6 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game.

Payne, who was picked between new teammates Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre in the 2015 Draft, fills the Suns’ last roster spot heading into Orlando. The team still has one open two-way slot available.

Phoenix opens play in Orlando against the Washington Wizards on July 31. The Suns are six games back of Memphis for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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Lakers GM Rob Pelinka — Orlando bubble will be ‘mental test’

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LOS ANGELES – Sometimes, when Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka sits with his daughter, Emery, he’s reminded just how daunting the NBA’s planned restart in Orlando really is.

“Have I had nights at dinner where I’ll look over and my 10-year-old daughter has tears in her eyes and I ask her why and she says, ‘It’s because daddy could be gone for 3-and-a-half months’?” Pelinka, who is also the Lakers’ general manager, said on a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Yes, that stuff is part of this. But I think she understands the bigger picture.”

It’s the full context that comes with the bigger picture, however, that puts the league’s attempted undertaking in proper context.

The Lakers, in the middle of a pandemic that’s already claimed nearly 129,000 lives in the United States, are preparing to fly 2,500 miles away from home to stay in a state where new coronavirus cases have spiked from less than a thousand a day earlier this month to nearly 10,000 on June 27, and set up camp there until mid-October. And they’re doing so with a 17-man roster — including two-way players and the planned addition of JR Smith to replace Avery Bradley, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — that’s comprised of 16 black men, while the country is in the middle of an unprecedented national movement to correct social injustice and racial inequality.

It’s a lot to take in. And as such, Pelinka believes that the Orlando bubble will challenge his team’s brains as much as it does their bodies, as they attempt to get back into game shape with a week-long individual training camp that opens Wednesday following a 3-and-a-half month hiatus.

“I think Orlando itself is going to be as much of a mental test as it is a physical test just because of the extraordinary circumstances there,” Pelinka said. “I think a team like ours that has such a strong togetherness component will have an advantage at that part. This team of guys love being together and love playing together. I think that’s the significant part of the (first) 63 games.”

The last time anyone saw the Lakers on the court, they were surging. L.A. went 8-2 after the All-Star break, including impressive back-to-back wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers, and held the No. 1 record in the Western Conference at 49-14. With everything that’s happened since — from the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 prompting Bradley to bow out to be with his family, to the team waiting on Dwight Howard‘s decision on Orlando as he continues to mourn the death of Melissa Rios, the mother of one of his sons who died from an epileptic seizure in March, Pelinka is trying to steel his team for the stress ahead.

“We have,” Pelinka said, “put a ton of thought into the mental part of this journey. It is going to be as much as a physical grind as it’s going to be a mental grind. And I think the mental component might even be more paramount. And so, yes … we have mental wellness people on staff here and we’ve been working with them on developing a protocol to address some of the concerns that are going to come up from an extended time away from family or an extended time living in a city that’s not your home.”

Pelinka cited former Lakers coach Phil Jackson’s unconventional approach featured in ESPN’s The Last Dance — specifically embracing yoga and meditation with his teams — as ways the current Lakers can tackle the Florida restart.

“Just keeping guys fresh, keeping life interesting,” Pelinka said. “Keeping everyone’s passions sharpened, I’m sure there will be many, many stories coming out of Orlando about some of the different practices that evolve once we get down there.”

Still, the Lakers GM let it be known that he thinks his group is up for the task. Whether that be leaning on the franchise’s history (Pelinka said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently spoke to players on systematic injustice) or even by cribbing some of Jackson’s coaching methods, he says the team is preparing for its future — as murky as the next few months might seem.

The close bonds the Lakers have already established this season, Pelinka said, will aid them when they are far away from home — whether that be as big picture as navigating the winds of change in the U.S. or as granular integrating three guys in Smith, Dion Waiters and Markieff Morris into the lineup who’ve combined to play just eight games for the purple and gold this season.

“I think that we’re in a unique situation where we’ve had a such a strong chemistry, such a strong team chemistry, that I think that platform is going to be seamless in terms of guys jumping on and being part of that identity and chemistry that we already had formed,” Pelinka said. “I don’t see that changing at all with the new additions, just because it’s such a strong identity. “

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Joe Borgia, NBA’s vice president overseeing referees, retires

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NEW YORK — Joe Borgia, who spent 32 years in the NBA as a referee and executive, announced his retirement Tuesday.

Among the highlights of Borgia’s tenure with the league is the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, which opened for the 2014-15 season and has become a fixture as part of both in-game reviews and analysis of the league’s referees.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to officiate at the top of our profession and then transition to a role committed to the advancement and improvement of our officials,” Borgia said. “I am especially proud of the NBA Replay Center. Its continued evolution in improving our game is an example of the dedication the NBA’s Referee Operations department has to excellence and innovation.”

Borgia was hired to the NBA referee staff in 1988. He officiated 10 seasons before an injury forced him to stop in 1998. He joined the basketball and referee operations department in 1999 and retired Tuesday with the title of senior vice president for referee operations.

“Joe’s imprint on the NBA and contributions to a multitude of officiating platforms will be lasting,” NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said. “We thank him for his leadership, passion and committed service to the game, and wish him the best in his retirement.”

Borgia’s officiating career included two of the most famous games in NBA history — the highest-scoring game, a 186-184 win by Detroit over Denver on Dec. 13, 1983, and a quintuple-overtime game between Seattle and Milwaukee on Nov. 9, 1989.

Borgia’s father was Sid Borgia, who worked in the NBA from 1946 through 1966 as a referee and then the league’s supervisor of officials.

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