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Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers welcoming fans back for home games in April

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers are planning to welcome fans back to Staples Center for a game for the first time this season.

The Lakers are finalizing plans to have fans in attendance when they play the Boston Celtics on April 15. The Clippers are planning on fans returning for their home games starting on April 18 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Both teams announced plans for fans to return to Staples Center with the state of California announcing that Los Angeles County has transitioned into the orange tier. The Lakers and Clippers said that they will work with the L.A. County Department of Public Health and Staples Center to determine guidelines for hosting fans safely at home games this season. The Clippers said their plan is for “a certain number of fans” to be in attendance at the game against the Timberwolves.

“That’s going to be super exciting for our whole community,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before his team faced the Kings in Sacramento. “I know our guys, our coaches, our organization internally will be really excited about it. I think the players on the floor will notice the energy that our fans bring.

“Obviously we don’t know exactly how many fans will be there yet, but just having some in there will bring us great energy, and I’m just happy for the L.A. community. It’s one of everybody’s favorite things to do is go to Lakers games, and they haven’t been able to do that during this pandemic. So just really excited about this news.”

The Lakers and Clippers recently received permission from the L.A. County Health Department to have 50 guests at games in accordance with protocols for TV and award show productions in L.A. County.

Starting with the game against Minnesota, the Clippers have six home games that could have fans, including a home game against the Lakers on May 6. With the game against Boston, the Lakers will have nine home games remaining that could have fans in attendance.

The Kings issued a statement Friday saying the team “looks forward to safely welcoming fans back to the arena in the near future.”

The Golden State Warriors said the team is “in ongoing conversations” with city health officials about safely returning fans to Chase Center and hoped to have details soon.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.

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Nets announce Mike D’Antoni’s departure from coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Mike D’Antoni announces departure from Nets coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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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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