OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder said Tuesday that Chesapeake Energy Corp. has terminated its arena naming rights agreement.
The move was effective immediately, though the team said the name will remain until a new partner is found. The original 12-year agreement was announced in 2011, but the Thunder said the company had made its decision as part of a restructuring.
The Thunder became a Western Conference power while playing home games at Chesapeake Energy Arena, fueled by All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The arena known locally as “The ‘Peake” hosted the 2012 NBA Finals and three Western Conference finals under that name.
“As Chesapeake Energy Arena, our building has been home to so many exciting and historic moments and events,” Thunder chairman Clay Bennett said. “As we look to forge a new partnership for naming rights, we will identify a partner who will help build on that history and be the centerpiece of our growing, modern and vibrant downtown environment.”
The arena, which opened in 2002, also hosts concerts among other events that welcome more than one million guests per year.
Basketball Hall of Fame prepared special exhibit for Kobe Bryant with wife Vanessa’s input
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has created a special exhibit honoring the late Kobe Bryant, one that was toured by his wife, Vanessa, on Friday afternoon and that will become the “most talked about” exhibit in the Hall, according to John Doleva, its president and CEO.
“The family had a time to think about what they wanted to do,” Doleva said during Friday’s news conference for each of the 2020 inductees. “[It’s] about Kobe’s accomplishments, but also about what Kobe was after he left the Lakers, after he left basketball.”
Doleva said the exhibit was created from a collaboration of Vanessa Bryant and the trading card company Panini, among others.
“It almost feels to me like it is the what’s next, what could have been next, for Kobe,” Doleva said. “So it looks backward, looks at the present and has a hint of the future, which I think is fantastic.
“I think it’s going to be the most talked about and enjoyed exhibit at the Hall of Fame.”
Bryant was the only member of the star-studded 2020 class, which includes Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, who wasn’t represented at Friday’s news conference. Instead, Vanessa Bryant prepared a statement in lieu of answering any questions that was read by The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, who hosted Friday’s event.
“Kobe is honored to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame,” Vanessa Bryant said in the statement. “I look forward to celebrating Kobe’s legacy and offering my remarks at the enshrinement ceremony tomorrow. On behalf of our family, we appreciate the continuous love and support from fans all over the world.”
Not surprisingly, much of the discussion Friday was about Bryant, who has a connection to several of the members of the class. Most prominent among them are Duncan and Garnett, two fellow first-ballot Hall of Famers who spent decades battling with Bryant throughout their careers. Both spoke of the admiration they had for their longtime nemesis on the court.
“Your greatest competition brings the best out of you,” Duncan said, “and that’s what he always did. You always had to be at your best and bring your best from start to finish if you were playing against him or any of his teams, and I think that’s what I appreciate about remembering playing against him and being on the court with him.
“[He was] a fierce competitor and always demanding more of him and his teammates than probably was possible. But he wanted to win that much, he wanted it that much, and it was an honor to share the court with him.”
Said Garnett: “You can go through the list of NBA greats, and I couldn’t pick two better players, not just that, but two better people, to go into the Hall with. Both of them are class acts and unbelievable players. I’m very privileged, if I’m being honest. Ever since I stepped in the league, it’s been like a dream, and this is no different. I’m honored.”
“It almost feels to me like it is the what’s next, what could have been next, for Kobe. So it looks backward, looks at the present and has a hint of the future, which I think is fantastic. I think it’s going to be the most talked about and enjoyed exhibit at the Hall of Fame.”
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame president and CEO John Doleva on the new Kobe Bryant exhibit
Duncan spent his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, winning five championships across a 19-year career. He will be presented by fellow Spurs lifer David Robinson on Saturday and said he is excited for the “fellow members” of the Spurs family who will be soon to join him, including coach Gregg Popovich and longtime teammates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
“Throughout my time, throughout our time there, what incredible teammates I’ve had there and teammates I hope to be doing this for in the coming years,” Duncan said. “The city of San Antonio was the perfect place for me. The city, the fans, the organization, all the way down the line, and I’m honored to represent that here.”
Garnett, on the other hand, spent more than a decade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, suffering through quick playoff exits more often than not, before eventually landing with the Boston Celtics in 2007 as the final piece of what proved to be a championship puzzle in 2008 — the lone title of Garnett’s career.
It was a move Garnett was initially resistant to making, but one he now says he wish he had made sooner.
“It meant everything, man,” Garnett said. “You come into the NBA wanting to win, and losing is part of it. Doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Going to a storied franchise like Boston gave me life, gave me breath, gave me purpose, and the players that you’re playing with actually make the experience monumental, make it magical. The city was waiting for something big or something different to happen versus where it was, and when you win, you just never look back. The fan base in Boston was over the top. … The fan love in Boston was another level, but I learned to embrace it.
“My only regret in any of this was I should’ve come to Boston a little earlier. Other than that, it’s magical.”
In the wake of the Timberwolves reaching an agreement for a sale to billionaire businessman Marc Lore and legendary baseball player Alex Rodriguez this week, Garnett was asked about his complicated relationship with the team over the years, including specifically with owner Glen Taylor.
But Garnett said he has no regrets about his time in Minnesota and thanked Taylor, former general manager Kevin McHale and the late Flip Saunders for taking a chance on him in the first place.
“Nothing is with regret,” Garnett said. “I think everything I learned in Minnesota I was able to carry to Boston and make myself a better player and a better teammate. I had a better relationship with [Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck] because of the situations and stuff I went through in Minnesota.
“Minnesota took a chance on me. I don’t have any regrets. I thank Glen, I thank Kevin, I thank Flip Saunders for blessing me with the opportunity to be drafted and giving me the canvas to come out here and give me the chance to actually come out here and show the world. Kevin McHale was a great teacher. Having great teammates like Sam Mitchell and Terry Porter, that kind of gave me bearings. So no, I don’t regret none of that. Without [Minnesota], I don’t know if I’m the same player going to Boston, you know?
“So no, I don’t regret anything. If anything, thank you.”
Another inductee, WNBA legend Tamika Catchings, also has a long and unique tie to Bryant: Their fathers played together with the Philadelphia 76ers and against each other in Italy, so the two future Hall of Famers knew each other as children.
“It’s a blessing,” Catchings said. “I mean, it’s crazy to think, and a lot of people will ask as far as Kobe goes, a lot of people will ask what it was like growing up. And we were just kids. I don’t think either one of us at that point in time would ever dream about the road we were on and the opportunity we had, both of our fathers playing, being in a foreign country, being not necessarily the typical life for any child.
“I just remember calling my parents [when he was drafted out of high school] and saying, ‘This is the Kobe were just in Italy with, right?’ And yeah, it was.
“So he went to the pros, I went to college, four years after that I went to the WNBA, and the rest is history.”
Philadelphia 76ers’ Dwight Howard draws one-game suspension after 16th technical foul of season
The league said he will serve the suspension Friday night when the 76ers play the first of two home games against the Orlando Magic to close the regular season. If Philadelphia wins one of those games, it will be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2001.
The one-game suspension will cost Howard $17,688, and the 76ers will get a tax variance credit of $8,844.
Howard’s technical came with 10:19 left in the second quarter of a 106-94 loss to the Heat in Miami on Thursday night. Howard knocked forward Udonis Haslem to the floor while the two were going for a rebound. Haslem got up and followed Howard down the court and confronted him.
A player or coach is automatically suspended without pay for one game once he accumulates 16 technicals during the regular season. For every two additional technicals during the regular season, a one-game suspension without pay follows.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Los Angeles Lakers unsure to have full roster to wrap up regular season, coach Frank Vogel says
LOS ANGELES — As the Lakers look ahead to their final two games of the regular season this weekend, coach Frank Vogel said, “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible,” when asked if he would have his full roster together on the court.
LeBron James, sidelined the past six games to continue to recover from a high ankle sprain, practiced Friday before the Lakers’ flight to Indianapolis, but Vogel said James is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.
“We want to see how he feels in response to today’s work, like always,” Vogel said, “but there’s a chance that he plays if things go well.”
Dennis Schroder, out the past seven games because of the league’s health and safety protocols, was cleared to return and is available to play against Indiana, but he did not participate in the group practice Friday, opting for individual work.
“We’ll make a decision tomorrow as to whether he’s able,” Vogel said.
On a positive note, Anthony Davis is listed as probable for the Pacers game, according to Vogel, even though he didn’t join in the group work either. Davis missed the Lakers’ 124-122 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday because of tightness in his groin.
“I feel fine. I feel great,” Davis said. “Went through some things during practice, not everything, but got some work going on, got some work in on the side. So felt great, felt great today.”
Los Angeles, on a three-game winning streak for the first time since mid-March, is currently the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Lakers can move up to No. 6, at worst, and avoid the play-in tournament if they finish 2-0 in Indiana on Saturday and New Orleans on Sunday and the Portland Trail Blazers lose to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
If the Lakers finish the season as No. 7, they will host a play-in tournament game against the No. 8 seed — which will be either the Golden State Warriors or Memphis Grizzlies — with the winner moving on to play the No. 2 team, currently the Phoenix Suns, in a first-round playoff series.
If the Lakers lose their first play-in game, they will host another play-in game against the winner of the 9-10 game, with a first-round berth against the No. 1 team, currently the Utah Jazz, on the line.
If Los Angeles goes 0-2 in the play-in tournament, the season is over.
“Anytime you’ve had guys that have been out for extended absences and they’re returning to play, it’s always going to be a little bit imperfect,” Vogel said. “So the more minutes you can get those guys the better off it’s going to be for us, in terms of the readjustment period. So if we’re able to do that, that would be great.”
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