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Charlotte Hornets’ Gordon Hayward to miss at least four weeks with sprained foot

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Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward will miss at least the next four weeks with a sprained right foot, the team announced Saturday.

Hayward, who signed a four-year, $120 million contract to join Charlotte as a free agent in November, was set to make his return to Boston for the first time since leaving the Celtics in the offseason before he suffered the injury during Friday’s 114-97 win at Indiana.

He will be reevaluated in about four weeks, the team said.

Embracing a bigger role in Charlotte than he had in Boston, Hayward has excelled for the Hornets this season, averaging 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 41.5% from 3-point range.

The Hornets — already without star rookie LaMelo Ball, who is out indefinitely with a fractured wrist — have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season. Heading into Sunday’s game in Boston, Charlotte sits two games over .500 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets enter Saturday night’s action projected by ESPN’s Basketball Power Index to finish sixth in the East, which would allow them to avoid the play-in tournament and make the playoffs for the first time since losing in seven games to the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.

Since returning to the league as an expansion team for the 2004-05 season, Charlotte has made the playoffs only three times and has yet to advance out of the first round.

The Hornets are 1-3 in the four games Hayward has missed this season (24-20 with him), allowing 9.5 points per game more than when Hayward plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

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Oklahoma City Thunder downtown arena renamed Paycom Center

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder have announced an exclusive 15-year naming rights partnership to rename the city’s downtown arena after Paycom, a local company that offers online payroll and human resources services to employers.

The arena was renamed to the Paycom Center effective Tuesday, according to The Oklahoman. Terms of the deal were not released.

The Thunder said exterior signage changes, including Paycom’s green logo, will be completed by the start of the 2021-22 NBA season in October.

“We are especially proud to enhance our alignment with this innovative and visionary Oklahoma company that is not only a top job creator, but a nationally recognized technology leader,” Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett said in a statement.

Paycom Center will be the 16th NBA venue with “center” in its name.

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New Orleans Pelicans gathering information after Jaxson Hayes reportedly arrested in Los Angeles area

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New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes was arrested in the Los Angeles area early Wednesday morning following an alleged altercation with a police officer, TMZ Sports reported.

“We have been made aware of the incident involving Jaxson Hayes,” the Pelicans said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “We are working in conjunction with the NBA and Jaxson’s representatives to gather more information and will have no further comment at this time.”

According to TMZ’s report, police were called to a Los Angeles area home because of a domestic disturbance, and Hayes tried to prevent officers from entering the property.

A fight reportedly ensued that sent Hayes, who was tased, to a local hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. An officer involved in the incident also sought treatment. The officer’s condition is unknown.

Hayes, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, averaged 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Pelicans last season.

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Jason Hart to become new head coach for G League Ignite

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The G League Ignite is finalizing a deal with USC associate head coach Jason Hart as the program’s new head coach, sources tell ESPN.

Hart, a nine-year NBA veteran, takes over an NBA-run program that produced two of the top of the picks in Thursday’s NBA draft — forwards Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.

Hart, 43, replaces Brian Shaw, who is joining the LA Clippers as their top assistant.

The G League Ignite has been signing top American and international prospects to play with and against G League veterans to prepare them for entry into the NBA draft. The Ignite are based in California, but are expected to play a more traditional G League schedule this year after participating in the G League bubble in Orlando last year.

Hart has been at USC since 2013, including the past four as associate head coach. He was a second-round NBA draft pick in 2000 after leaving Syracuse as the school’s all-time leader in steals and second in assistants.

As a USC assistant, he worked with several NBA players, including Atlanta’s Onyeka Okongwu, DeAnthony Melton and Chimezie Metu.

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