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LA County to pay $2.5M to settle Kobe Bryant crash photo lawsuits; Vanessa Bryant’s case continues

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County agreed Tuesday to pay $2.5 million to two families who lost relatives in last year’s helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people.

The Board of Supervisors approved a settlement of two federal lawsuits filed by the Altobelli and Mauser families alleging they suffered emotional distress over graphic photographs of the scene that reportedly were taken or shared by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters.

A similar lawsuit by Bryant’s widow continues, however.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the others were flying to a girls basketball tournament on Jan. 26, 2020, when their helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills west of Los Angeles in foggy weather. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the wreck.

The settlement, if approved by a judge, will pay $1.25 million to Matthew Mauser, whose wife was killed. Another $1.25 million will be shared by J.J. Altobelli and Alexis Altobelli, siblings who lost their mother, father and 14-year-old sister.

The county already spent about $1.3 million in legal costs in the two invasion-of-privacy cases, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The settlements are “reasonable and fair to all concerned,” said Skip Miller, an attorney representing the county. “We are pleased that the Mauser and Altobelli families, who as private citizens suffered the same grief and loss as others, will be able to move forward after these settlements. We also hope that eventually the other families will be able to do the same.”

Vanessa Bryant continues her own lawsuit over the photos, which weren’t taken as part of the investigation into the crash.

A federal judge on Monday ruled that she won’t have to undergo an independent psychological examination that the county had argued was necessary to determine whether she had suffered emotional distress.

Attorneys for the county had argued that Bryant had never seen the photographs, which haven’t been made public.

According to the lawsuits, they were shared by a deputy trainee with some bar patrons and by a firefighter with a group of off-duty colleagues.

Vanessa Bryant said in a deposition that “for the rest of my life I’m going to have to fear that these photographs of my husband and child will be leaked.”

Last week, the judge ordered that the sheriff and fire chief must provide depositions in the case, which is scheduled for trial in February.

Also pending is a lawsuit filed by survivors of crash victims Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter.

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Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups troubled by team’s effort in blowout loss to Spurs

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PORTLAND, Ore. — New Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups questioned his team’s effort after a 114-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.

The Blazers were without All-Star guard Damian Lillard but still put up little fight against a Spurs teams who came into the contest six games below .500.

“My biggest concern, I think, at the moment, is I want us to compete harder, man. I want us to compete harder,” Billups said. “I want us to be competitive in every game. And I don’t feel like every night we do that. We don’t. And it concerns me. And I’ve felt that way in a lot of our wins. This is not just after a loss, me saying this.”

The Blazers fell below .500 with the loss and will be without their superstar for the near future. Portland announced on Wednesday that Lillard will miss 10 days with lower abdominal tendinopathy before being re-evaluated.

They could be missing third-year guard Anfernee Simons soon as well. Simons, who started in Lillard’s place on Thursday, suffered an ankle sprain in the first quarter and did not return.

The Blazers hired Billups this offseason with the hopes of improving the team’s defense, which has struggled again nonetheless this season. The Spurs, who have the fewest 3-pointers in the NBA, made 11 in the opening half — including the first three baskets of the game.

“We didn’t have enough personal pride defensively in the game tonight,” Billups said.

The loss is just Portland’s second at home this season. They are 1-10 on the road.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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Phoenix Suns set franchise record with 18th straight win

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Even with history looming as his team approached a franchise record win streak, Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said he tried not to bring it up to his team.

But after a 114-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons set a new franchise mark with 18 consecutive wins, Williams allowed himself time to reflect.

“But it is really cool to be a part of something like that,” Williams said following Thursday’s win. “To win like this, the way we’ve won, guys out of the rotation, losing [Devin Booker], the relentless attitude of our team, the way we stick together, it makes it really cool.

“Obviously it’s hard to win in this league. But we’re not satisfied. We talk about stretching it out but it takes the right things to do that. So we’ve taken it one game at a time.”

The 18th win topped the previous franchise mark of 17 set by the 2006-07 Suns who went on to finish 61-21. The streak also ties the 2019 Bucks for the longest win streak of any NBA team in the last five seasons. The longest streak in NBA history belongs to the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won 33 straight games.

Suns players tried to downplay how much they thought about the streak on a day-to-day basis.

“It feels good but at the same time, I don’t know, I guess it feels good but we got another tomorrow,” Cameron Payne said. “We have to keep going. It’s 1-0 today. That’s how I feel.”

Suns point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 12 points and 12 assists, said it was a nice piece of history for the team but the focus remains on the bigger picture.

“But for us I think it’s always about the feeling of making sure we’re playing the game the right way,” Paul said. “We always talk about we have a standard. We say this every night and a win is a win but we feel like we could have played better.”

Phoenix was without their leading scorer in Booker, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Without him, Phoenix focused on a more balanced scoring effort with seven players in double figures. Payne and reserve forward Cameron Johnson led the way with 19 points each off the bench.

“We have guys that can score the ball across all the lineups,” Johnson said. “Book puts a lot of points up on the board every night. We’re a team that we’re going to find buckets other ways when we need to and that’s what we did tonight.”

Phoenix, who picked up win No. 17 against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, play the Warriors again Friday night on ESPN — a matchup Johnson is looking forward to.

“A team that we just played and beat at home, we get to go to their place, a division game. It’s a lot on the line,” Johnson said. “This is what playing in the NBA is about. Going into these environments with these implications. Granted it’s a December game, but it means a lot. It means a lot to us to continue this streak. It’s gonna be a fun one.”

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Memphis Grizzlies set NBA record after beating Oklahoma City Thunder by 73 points

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies broke the NBA record for margin of victory on Thursday night, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79.

The 73-point margin easily topped the previous mark, which was Cleveland’s 68-point win over Miami. The Cavaliers topped the Heat 148-80 on Dec. 17, 1991.

“Tonight is not necessarily who we are,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think we’ve definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn’t indicative of who our team is.”

Memphis used 12 players and nine of them reached double figures in scoring, with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 27 points leading the way. Memphis was without its best player, injured guard Ja Morant.

It was 72-36 at halftime, and the Grizzlies just kept adding to the lead, eventually pulling ahead by as many as 78 — the largest lead in any game since at least 1996-97.

The Thunder flirted with being on the wrong end of the record last season, trailing Indiana by 67 points on May 1 before rallying — such as it was — to lose by merely 57 points, 152-95.

This was worse. Historically worse.

The Grizzlies set a franchise record for shooting, making 62.5% of their shots. De’Anthony Melton scored 19 points, Santi Aldama scored 18 and John Konchar scored 17 for the Grizzlies, and none of those three players even started.

“Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,” Melton said. “And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it’s always a blessing.

“We knew with [Morant] going down what we had to do. We had to step up.”

No Memphis starter played more than 21 minutes. The Grizzlies’ bench contributed 93 points, outscoring Oklahoma City’s entire team by 14 points.

Lu Dort led the Thunder with 15 points, and Oklahoma City shot only 33%.

It was 12-8 after five minutes. From there, there was no stopping Memphis. The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder by 15 points in each of the four quarters.

It was the third straight game the Grizzlies have led from start to finish. The Thunder lost their eighth straight as they continued to play short-handed with a number of players unavailable, including leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered concussion protocol earlier Thursday.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 39 points against the Rockets on Wednesday night but suffered a blow to the head late in the game. Point guard Josh Giddey, who averages 10.4 points and 5.5 assists, sat out with a non-COVID-19 illness, and the remaining players couldn’t fill the void in Oklahoma City’s offense.

The Thunder had been competitive in their seven straight losses before Thursday night. Their largest margin of defeat was 13 points.

“When you compete, you have exposure to the highs and lows of competition,” Daigneault said. “And competition comes with great joy, and it also comes with grief and frustration and anger. And when you step in that ring, that’s what you expose yourself to is all of those things.

“It’s why the joy feels so good, because when you get punched and you taste your own blood, it doesn’t feel right.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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