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OKC Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association and Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) today jointly announced a long-term naming rights partnership for the home of the Thunder. As a result, the downtown Oklahoma City arena will be named “Chesapeake Energy Arena”. Besides being home to the Thunder, the arena regularly hosts a variety of concerts, sporting and other world-class events, attracting more than a million guests per year. Chesapeake is one of the Thunder’s five Founding Partners, which also include Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE:DVN), MidFirst Bank, The Oklahoma Publishing Company and SandRidge Energy, Inc. (NYSE:SD)

Clayton I. Bennett, Thunder Chairman, said, “On behalf of the entire Thunder organization, we are extremely proud to enhance our already strong partnership with Chesapeake Energy. Besides being a leader in the national and international energy industry, Chesapeake is a dynamic business and community leader in Oklahoma. Together with the Thunder’s commitment to the community, it makes the naming rights partnership a natural fit. The Thunder looks forward to many exciting years ahead playing in Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City.”

kevin durant

Martha A. Burger, Chesapeake’s Senior Vice President - Human and Corporate Resources, added, “This is an exciting day for Chesapeake and its employees. We are thrilled that the arena will bear the name of our company. The Thunder represents the values we embrace at Chesapeake – integrity, teamwork, commitment, hard work and service.  The Chesapeake Energy Arena and the Thunder are both strong reminders of the incredible progress our city has made in the past decade as well as the energy our citizens have demonstrated to keep building an even better and stronger Oklahoma City in the years ahead.”

Burger continued, “The naming rights also provide a powerful natural gas branding opportunity for our company, particularly when you consider the national, and even global, reach of the Thunder. To see Chesapeake’s distinctive and recognizable blue flame logo as a visually prominent part of downtown Oklahoma City supports our commitment to community and our corporate message that the abundance of natural gas offers our nation the best opportunity to  achieve energy independence.  We are pleased to be actively participating in the continued revitalization and transformation of downtown Oklahoma City currently led by the Devon Energy Center, SandRidge Energy Commons, Continental Resources, the Boathouse District, Myriad Gardens, Project 180, MAPS 3 and the City’s ongoing renovation of Chesapeake Energy Arena.” editor Jeff Lenchiner has said that Thunder fans in OKC have been fantastic in supporting their team, and that the arena is definitely worthy of a big sponsorship.

The 12-year naming rights agreement has an initial annual cost of $3.0 million with a 3.0% annual escalation. The agreement includes Chesapeake branding throughout the building including on the basketball court, prominent premium placement on the high-definition scoreboard and new state-of-the-art interior and exterior digital signage. Most of the signage will be in place by the start of the Thunder’s 2011-12 season.

Opened in June 2002, Chesapeake Energy Arena is managed by SMG and owned by the City of Oklahoma City. The arena was the premier project of Oklahoma City’s first capital improvement program (MAPS) passed in 1993 to finance new and upgraded sports, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities with a 1-cent temporary sales tax. In March 2008, Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly approved another temporary 1-cent sales tax to fund significant upgrades to the arena.

By Jeff Lenchiner

Wednesday evening in New York City I paid a visit to Dyckman Park for some streetball action. It was a big matchup of some top teams that has been anticipated for weeks, so the park was packed. Included in the crowd were rapper Jadakiss, Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington, and the head of the NBA Players Union, Billy Hunter, among others.

Before the game, Hunter, bravely attempting to communicate as some top-notch rap music blasted from the park’s booming speakers at full volume, gave a very quick update on the current NBA lockout situation: What’s the latest?

Billy Hunter: We’re trying to find some way to re-open the negotiations. We’re not making very much progress. It looks like we’re going to be where we are, I would assume probably [until] August before we actually end up getting back together. How long might the lockout last?

Hunter: It’s unpredictable. It’s hard to say how long it’s going to go.

It sounds like NBA fans should not hold their breath waiting for positive developments just yet.

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reports:

There will be labor-related meetings in the near future.

They just aren’t the kind that typically lead to collective bargaining progress.

According to sources close to the situation, the National Basketball Players Association is planning a series of player sessions in as many as six cities over “the next month or so,” as a way to help with its planning during the lockout and update players on the state of negotiations with the NBA. Unless things unexpectedly change, there won’t be much to report on that front.

While mid-level staffers from both sides met on Friday to finalize the numbers related to basketball-related income (BRI) for the 2010-11 season, no negotiating sessions involving commissioner David Stern or NBPA executive director Billy Hunter have been scheduled. Sources said the BRI numbers were not finalized Friday and more similar sessions are forthcoming to that end, but the union is focused on fortifying from within rather than exchanging proposals with the owners, who are pushing for a hard salary cap as part of a drastic overhaul to the current system. editor says: Basically, the two sides are considering their various options and possible proposal changes, amongst themselves. There’s no way of knowing if either side plans to make any changes the next time they make offers to each other, when they do eventually meet again. I’m just guessing here but it sounds like the earliest the NBA lockout could even possibly end is early August. But that’s not expected, because it sounds like both sides remain pretty far apart.

The following is an official release from the NBA:

The information from Forbes that serves as the basis for this article is inaccurate and we do not know how they do their calculations. Forbes does not have the financial data for our teams and the magazine’s estimates do not reflect reality.

Precisely to avoid this issue, the NBA and its teams shared their complete league and team audited financials as well as our state and Federal tax returns with the Players Union. Those financials demonstrate the substantial and indisputable losses the league has incurred over the past several years.

The analysis that was posted this afternoon has several significant factual inaccuracies, including:

“(The NBA) is a fundamentally healthy and profitable business”

• The league lost money every year of the just expiring CBA. During these years, the league has never had positive Net Income, EBITDA or Operating Income.

“Many of the purported losses result from an unusual accounting treatment related to depreciation and amortization when a team is sold.”

• We use the conventional and generally accepted accounting (GAAP) approach and include in our financial reporting the depreciation of the capital expenditures made in the normal course of business by the teams as they are a substantial and necessary cost of doing business.

We do not include purchase price amortization from when a team is sold or under any circumstances in any of our reported losses. Put simply, none of the league losses are related to team purchase or sale accounting.

“Another trick…moving income from the team’s balance sheet to that of a related business like a cable network…”

• All revenues included in Basketball Related Income (”BRI”) and reported in our financial statements have been audited by an accounting firm jointly engaged by the players’ union and the league. They include basketball revenues reported on related entities’ books.

“Ticket revenues… are up 22% compared to 1999-2000 season”

• Ticket revenues have increased 12% over the 10 year period, not the 22% reported.

“17 teams lost money according to Forbes … Most of these losses were small…”

• Forbes’ claim is inaccurate. In 2009-10, 23 teams had net income losses. The losses were in no way “small” as 11 teams lost more than $20M each on a net income basis.

“The profits made by the Knicks, Bulls and Lakers alone would be enough to cover the losses of all 17 unprofitable teams.”

• The Knicks, Bulls and Lakers combined net income for 2009-10 does not cover the losses of the 23 unprofitable teams. Our net loss for that year, including the gains from the seven profitable teams, was -$340 million.

“Forbes’s estimates — a $183 million profit for the NBA in 2009-10, and those issued by the league, which claim a $370M loss…”

• Forbes’s data is inaccurate. Our losses for 2009-10 were -$340 million, not -$370 million as the article states.

“The leaked financial statements for one team, the New Orleans Hornets, closely matched the Forbes data…”

• This is not an accurate statement as operating income in the latest Forbes data (2009-10) is $5M greater than what is reported in the Hornets audited financials.

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

The AP reports:

“It’s an odd position, when the game is the best it’s ever been, when the ratings are the highest they’ve ever been, when the excitement is the greatest it’s ever (been),” Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler said last week. “It’s sort of odd to see the owners say we’re going to destroy this game unless you change this whole system. Players just want to play.”

Nobody can predict when they’ll get that chance again. When the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Miami Heat on Sunday night in Game 6, it sent the NBA into a most uncertain offseason.

Owners and players are nowhere close on a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires June 30. Without a new deal, players say they have been told by the owners they will be locked out.

The NBA was reduced to a 50-game season by a work stoppage in 1998-99, and the loss of games is a threat now. Citing leaguewide losses of about $300 million this season, the league hasn’t budged on its desire for significant changes to the financial structure, ranging from reductions in the length of contracts and the amount of guarantees, to an overhaul of the salary cap system that would prevent teams from being able to exceed it, as they can now under certain exceptions.

And Stern said the record TV ratings and all the other positive attention the league has received doesn’t make him any more motivated to get this settled, since he’d want to do it anyway.

“I don’t need any external prod to want to be able to make a deal,” he said…

The sides are scheduled to meet twice this week and say they hope for frequent discussions before the end of the month. Should those fail, the NBA could follow the NFL’s labor situation right into the court system, which both sides say they want to avoid. So although a work stoppage in July wouldn’t seem to have much effect since games aren’t going on, Stern insists “we very much feel the weight of the deadline.”

Full 2010 preseason schedule

The NBA today released its 2010 preseason schedule, which is highlighted by a comprehensive international slate of games that includes seven contests in China, Europe and Mexico. The preseason slate tips off on Oct. 3, when the New York Knicks visit Armani Jeans Milano – the former team of Knicks forward Danillo Gallinari and head coach Mike D’Antoni – in Milan, Italy, and the New Jersey Nets host Maccabi Haifa.

As is the case these days, the action starts overseas, with a few NBA squads heading to Europe.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about teams playing preseason ball overseas. Because generally it’s just a warmup. I think if NBA fans overseas are going to get a rare taste of live NBA action, it should be the best basketball possible, and we usually don’t see that before the regular season begins.

See the complete 2010-11 NBA preseason schedule.

The Portland Trail Blazers have named Rich Cho as the team’s new general manager, Trail Blazers President Larry Miller announced today. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

“Rich is the perfect fit for our organization,” said Miller. “He has the right balance of basketball knowledge, business acumen and tremendous people skills. Everyone I spoke to about Rich commented not just on his qualifications but on who he is as a person. He is well known for his ability to connect genuinely with people. Rich will be a great fit for our organization and for Portland. He is an executive on the rise and we’re thrilled to have him as a Trail Blazer.”

Cho, who becomes the ninth general manager in Trail Blazers history, joins the Trail Blazers after spending the past nine seasons as assistant general manager of the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and I will do everything I can to help this great team get even better,” said Rich Cho. “When I met with Mr. Allen, Larry Miller, and coach McMillan, it was immediately apparent to me that this organization has an incredible commitment to winning. As someone who grew up in the northwest, I’m aware of the unbelievable passion and support that Trail Blazers fans have, and I’m excited to be a part of this rich tradition.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman reports:

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant will grace the cover of NBA ELITE 11, the EA SPORTS videogame formerly known as NBA LIVE.

An action shot of Durant dribbling while donning a white Thunder jersey appears on the cover of the game. It is the second time in Durant’s career that he’s been featured as a cover athlete for a mainstream videogame. He appeared on the cover of NCAA March Madness 08 as well, sporting his Texas Longhorns’ No. 35 jersey. Durant becomes only the third player in EA SPORTS history to be featured on an NCAA and an NBA licensed product.

“I’ve always been a fan of EA Sports,” Durant said in a release. “This has been an exciting year for me and the team, and capping it off with being on the cover of NBA ELITE 11 is cool.”

Good NBA seats are expensive. Fans shelling out big money to sit near the court should expect a good view of the action.

But what about when players get off the bench and remain standing for a while? On the one hand, it’s nice to see guys cheer their teammates. On the other, these giants prevent fans from seeing what they paid to see.

The Cavs are one team with players who remained standing a lot, and now the league office has reportedly taken action.

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

The NBA has issued a memo to its teams directing players on the bench to remain seated during games. Game officials will be keeping a closer eye and will issue faster warnings and possible technical fouls if not followed. Players are permitted to cheer, but standing during regular-game action and blocking the fans’ views apparently isn’t going to be allowed.

That goes for Tuesday night’s first preseason game at The Q, where the Cavs will host the Charlotte Bobcats in the first of eight practice games before the season opener.

The Cavs weren’t exactly thrilled that their custom has been legislated.

“It is hard to take that out of the game,” LeBron James said. “Part of the game is emotions, your teammates are all you have. That was part of the reason we played great basketball, because we cheered each other.”

I support the league protecting the paying fan’s view.

Randy Rigby, Utah Jazz team president announced today that David Locke has been selected as the radio play-by-play announcer for Jazz broadcasts on 1320 KFAN beginning with the 2009-10 season. Locke becomes only the second radio voice in franchise history, following “Hot” Rod Hundley who retired after 35 seasons with the Jazz.

“When I was a young kid I would leave Jazz games at the Salt Palace with my dad and when we would listen to Hot Rod on the way home, I would tell him ‘I want to be a broadcaster,’” said Locke.  “To be offered that opportunity from the franchise whose posters hung on my wall as a kid is an amazing thrill. I am excited to go on the journey through the season with Jazz fans. Combining both the radio show and the play-by-play should bring fans closer to the team than ever before and give them a new glimpse inside the season.”

Locke brings more than 15 years of broadcast experience to the Jazz. His NBA play-by-play résumé includes one season as the radio voice of the Seattle SuperSonics (2006-2007). In addition Locke spent seven seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (2000-2006), one season as the television play-by-play voice for University of Washington football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball (2002-2003) and one season as the TV/radio announcer of the WNBA’s Utah Starzz. Locke also filled in for “Hot” Rod Hundley, calling the Jazz game at Toronto on March 8, 2009.

“We are very excited to have David on board as the radio voice of the Utah Jazz,” said Rigby. “Following a legend like ‘Hot’ Rod Hundley is not an easy task but we are confident we found the best equipped person for the job. David is a dedicated professional who is very passionate about Jazz basketball and we believe Jazz fans will embrace his broadcast style.”

The Palo Alto, Calif. native currently hosts the top-rated sports radio show “Locked On Sports,” which will continue as scheduled from 3-6 p.m. (MT) each weekday. For the past two seasons Locke has also served as host of the Jazz’s pregame, halftime and postgame radio shows on 1320 KFAN.

“David brings a unique perspective to our fans,” said Jazz Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Chris Baum. “Much like he has with his radio show, Locke will continue to implement social media into his broadcasts, making information on the Jazz available 365 days a year.”

Locke originally began his radio career in Los Angeles in 1992 at KIEV before moving to Salt Lake where he hosted the morning show at The Score. Locke then left for KISN as the station’s mid-day radio host where he also was a pre and postgame reporter for Jazz games. In 1995 he was hired to develop 1320 KFAN, serving as program director and afternoon drive host while also hosting the Jazz’s pregame, halftime and postgame shows. With Locke at the helm, 1320 KFAN was the highest rated sports station in the Salt Lake City demographic of men 25-54. Locke’s show reached its peak in the spring of 1998, ranking first in both FM and AM radio with adults 25-54 in the country. In 1998 Locke moved to the Northwest, spending eight years as the host of “Sonics Talk,” the Sonics’ radio pregame, halftime and postgame shows on Sports Radio 950 KJR AM. Locke also wrote a weekly column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

The National Basketball Association and the NBA Development League, the official minor league of the NBA, today announced the affiliation system for the 2009-10 season, including the announcement of a direct single-affiliation partnership between the Houston Rockets and Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  For the fifth consecutive year, each NBA team has one NBA D-League affiliate to which it may assign players in their first or second NBA season.

The Rockets became the first NBA team to enter into a direct single-affiliation partnership with an NBA D-League team, granting the Rockets full control over the basketball operations of the Vipers.  With the move, the Rockets will be the only parent-club of the team.

In a structure similar to other minor leagues, this new partnership model, previously referred to as the “hybrid affiliation,” allows for NBA teams to secure control over and cover the expenses related to the basketball operations of an NBA D-League team, while partnering with existing local ownership, who maintain responsibility for the off-the-court business operations of the team.

The list of affiliations is on our NBA D-League page.

Los Angeles, a city with a reputation for producing highly successful sequels, and STAPLES Center, considered one of the world’s best arenas for sports and entertainment, have been selected to host NBA All-Star 2011, marking the fifth time The City of Angels and the second time STAPLES Center will be the site of the annual celebration, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced at a press conference today in Los Angeles. AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Stern at the announcement.

The 60th NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, February 20 at STAPLES Center which will also host the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam and NBA All-Star Saturday Night. NBA All-Star Jam Session, the hugely successful interactive basketball celebration, will return to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Additionally, the NBA has the ability to activate the great hospitality and event spaces across the street from STAPLES Center within L.A. LIVE including the new Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels. Los Angeles becomes the first city to host five NBA All-Star Games.

“Its state-of-the-art facilities, passionate fans, and first-class hospitality and entertainment options make Los Angeles an ideal host for NBA All-Star,” said Commissioner Stern. “We thank the city and STAPLES Center for welcoming us once again.”

The 2010-11 season will mark the 27th year that Turner Sports will provide NBA All-Star coverage, and the ninth consecutive year the All-Star Game will be televised in primetime on TNT. The All-Star Game will be seen by a worldwide television audience in more than 200 countries and will be broadcast in more than 40 languages.

“L.A. LIVE was truly designed to be a home for great events like the NBA All-Star game,” said Leiweke, President & CEO AEG, owners of STAPLES Center and L.A. LIVE.  “We are fortunate that this will be the second All-Star weekend STAPLES Center will host in the last ten years and our ability to incorporate one of the best weekends in all of sports into our 100-acre campus is exactly what L.A. LIVE was created for.  We are privileged to be partners with the NBA and welcome them back to Los Angeles and L.A. LIVE.”

“There is no better place to host the action and drama of the NBA All-Star Game than the stage of so many award winning performances,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “On behalf of the City of Los Angeles, we look forward to welcoming NBA fans and players from across the country and around the globe to the entertainment capital of the world.”

STAPLES Center last played host to NBA All-Star in 2004, when the Los Angeles Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined for 44 points as the West edged the East 136-132. O’Neal earned MVP honors with 24 points and 11 rebounds. L.A. also hosted the All-Star Game in 1963, 1972 and 1983. The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena hosted All-Star in 1963, while the Forum hosted the other ’72 and ’83 games. The 1972 classic saw the Lakers’ Jerry West thrill the hometown fans with a last-second jumper that gave the West a 112-110 victory and netted him MVP honors.

NBA All-Star competitions will get underway on Friday, Feb. 18, as the league’s top rookies and second-year players square off in the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam. The following day’s festivities will feature an

all-inclusive skills showcase known as NBA All-Star Saturday Night, which is comprised of Haier Shooting Stars, a competition featuring NBA and WNBA players and NBA Legends; PlayStation® Skills Challenge, a contest of

top guards working against the clock to complete a series of passes, free throws, lay-ups and agility drills; the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, a long-standing staple of the evening; and the ever-entertaining Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

During NBA All-Star 2011, the NBA will continue to celebrate its tradition and commitment to social responsibility with a schedule of NBA Cares events. NBA Cares will partner with schools, government, and local non-profit organizations in Los Angeles and surrounding areas to highlight the league’s grassroots and community initiatives that reach millions of young people and their parents while providing critical resources to community-based programs.

One of the event’s most popular attractions is NBA All-Star Jam Session, which will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. At Jam Session, fans can have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of participating in the NBA All-Star excitement, with the chance to meet and collect free autographs from NBA Players and Legends. Jam Session is nonstop basketball action, as fans can shoot, slam, dribble, and drive all day; compete against their friends in skills challenges; or get basketball tips from NBA Players and Legends. Young fans can hang out at Kids Zone – with hoops and interactive activities that are the perfect size for kids’ slam dunks, three-pointers, and jump shots. For fans who want NBA entertainment, Jam Session features the NBA’s favorite players, celebrities, mascots, and dance teams as they hit Center Court in a variety of basketball competitions, including the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and the NBA All-Star Practice.

NBA luxury tax to continue

The Deseret News (Tim Buckley) reports: If the Jazz choose to wade into NBA luxury-tax territory — something they’ve said they’re willing to do if need be next season — they won’t be getting a bailout. League Commissioner David Stern told reporters covering the NBA Finals in Los Angeles this week that there are no plans to temporarily shelve the tax, even in light of the country’s current economic plight. “No,” Stern said when asked at his annual Finals news conference, “there’s no contemplation of eliminating or reducing luxury tax.” The tax — part of the current collective-bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players union — is levied upon teams that exceed the league’s maximum team-payroll threshold, which has not yet been determined for next season. It amounts to a fine of $1 for every dollar over the threshold, plus a ban from sharing with under-the-threshold teams in distribution of the taxes that are collected.

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), the nation’s leading provider of entertainment, information, and communications products and services, has entered into a long-term agreement with NBA Digital to expand its distribution of NBA TV,  providing live games, original programming, and exciting video on demand (VOD) and broadband content to millions of customers.

Comcast will make NBA TV, the league’s 24-hour digital television network that offers more than 100 live NBA games, available to millions of Comcast’s Digital Classic customers before the 2009-10 NBA regular season.  Additionally, these customers will have access to a wide array of NBA content On Demand, including Top 10 Plays of the Night, nightly game recaps, basketball news of the day, and NBA Entertainment-produced specials.  Comcast will also offer NBA content on its online properties, including

“We appreciate the commitment of our longtime and valued partner Comcast to expand NBA TV’s distribution and provide more of its customers with the network’s wall-to-wall NBA coverage and innovative programming,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner and COO Adam Silver. “Through this agreement, millions of additional fans will be able to experience NBA TV’s more than 100 live NBA games, its signature studio shows and Emmy award-winning on-air talent.”

“We are excited to bring more NBA action live, on demand, and online to our Digital Classic customers,” said Matt Bond, Executive Vice President of Content Acquisition at Comcast Cable.  “Whether a fan of the hometown team or one of the NBA’s incredible players, our customers will have access to all of the great NBA moments in time for next season.”

Comcast will continue to offer NBA LEAGUE PASS, the league’s subscription package that provides subscribers with up to 40 out-of-market, live NBA games each week. As part of the package, subscribers will have access to NBA games online at no additional cost through NBA LEAGUE PASS BROADBAND.

“This is a perfect marriage of two multiplatform strategies,” said NBA Digital Senior Vice President and General Manager Bryan Perez. “Through this expanded agreement, NBA Digital and Comcast will deliver millions of fans the finest in NBA content via broadcast, VOD, and broadband distribution.”

The New York Times reports: The Phoenix Mercury’s new uniform no longer has the words Phoenix or Mercury. Instead, the W.N.B.A.’s Mercury appears to have been renamed LifeLock, with the 10-inch-by-4-inch name of the identity-theft protection company stretching across the team’s jerseys. A small Mercury logo (the planet, with an M) appears like a badge on the upper left of the jersey. Taking a cue from international sports, where displaying corporate names on jerseys is standard, the Mercury on Monday will announce a three-year deal with Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock that is worth at least $1 million annually… During an off-season when one franchise, the Houston Comets, folded and the remaining 13 cut their rosters to 11 players from 13, the W.N.B.A. authorized its teams to let companies place their names on the players’ jerseys as part of broad sponsorship agreements. At least one other team is close to a similar deal. editor says: There isn’t anything surprising or shocking about this, though it’ll still be interesting to see with my own eyes for the first time. Because, while viewing it, I’ll be pondering the obvious: Will NBA teams do this, eventually?

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

Marvin Webster dead at 56

The AP reports: Marvin Webster, a fierce shot-blocking centre who helped lead the Seattle SuperSonics to the 1978 NBA finals, was found dead in a hotel bathtub. He was 56. His body was discovered in his room Monday morning in the downtown Ambassador Hotel, police said yesterday. Foul play is not suspected and the death apparently stemmed from an illness, police spokesman Jason Willingham said. Webster had been living at the hotel and employees grew concerned after not seeing him for several days.

Kevin Durant likes Oklahoma City

The Boston Globe (Marc J. Spears) reports: There were a lot of unknowns for Kevin Durant concerning what basketball and life would be like in Oklahoma. But in a short time, the budding superstar has come to a conclusion. “I love it,” said Durant in a telephone interview. “The weather is unpredictable. You don’t know when it’s going to snow or rain. But the people here are nice. Nice people. I didn’t know anything about it other than playing here in college [at the University of Texas]. Flat land. “But after coming here and seeing the city, I love Oklahoma. The fans have been with me every night. What more can you ask for?” What Thunder fans can ask for are more wins, as the former SuperSonics visit TD Banknorth Garden tonight with a 20-52 record. But with Durant, other talented young players, plenty of draft picks, and money to use in free agency, Durant believes the future is bright.

The NBA Board of Governors voted to approve a playing rules change in regards to “too many players on the court”, which will take effect beginning Friday, March 27.

Under the playing rules change, when a “too many players on the court” violation is called, a technical foul will be assessed against the offending team and the non-offending team will have the option of either accepting or nullifying the game action that occurred during the violation.

Option 1 — Accept Game Action

The non-offending team can opt to ACCEPT all play that occurred during the violation, including any points scored, with no adjustment of the game clock.

Option 2 — Nullify Game Action

The non-offending team can opt to NULLIFY all play that occurred during the violation, other than any acts of unsportsmanlike conduct or flagrant fouls or any points scored from free throws as a result of such actions.

Under this option, following the technical foul, the game clock would be reset to the time when the ball was put into play with too many players on the court and, depending on how the ball was originally put into play, play would resume in accordance with the following:

1) If the original play commenced with a throw-in, then the ball would be returned to the original throw-in spot and play commenced with a throw-in.

2) If the original play commenced with a missed free-throw attempt where the ball remained in play, then play would be commenced with a jump ball held at center court between any two players who were on the floor at the time play was suspended due to the violation.

3) If the original play commenced with a jump ball, then play would be commenced with a jump ball held at the original jump-ball spot between the same two players who participated in the original jump ball.

Best Shawn Kemp dunks

Former NBA star Shawn Kemp was a dunk machine on the Seattle Sonics.

Playing power forward, Kemp threw down nasty dunks on anyone who came even remotely close to him.

Nicknamed “Reign Man,” (not “Rain Man”), Kemp in his prime years (around 1992-2000) was good for around 18 or 19 points and 10 or 11 rebounds per game. And at least one highlight dunk each night.

Here is a video of the best Shawn Kemp dunks of all time:

Kevin Durant’s college jersey retired

The Oklahoman (Darnell Mayberry) reports (via blog): Kevin Durant had his No. 35 jersey retired last night at the University of Texas and called it an “unbelievable” experience… “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry,” Durant said. ”But once they played a video of highlights from when I was there and then unveiled the jersey I got real emotional. It was one of the best days of my life. I’ve come a long way. A lot of people doubted me when I was growing up. A lot of people doubted me and said I wasn’t going to be anything when I went to Texas. So it feels good to prove all those people wrong and shine some light on the university and also Oklahoma City. So I was excited and it was a great time for me and my family.”

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