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Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault

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Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault

Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton is being accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed by sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, according to court documents first obtained Monday by TMZ and confirmed by the Los Angeles Times.

TMZ, which originally reported that the incident occurred in May 2017, later corrected the timing to "sometime before Walton became head coach of the Lakers." The Times' Tania Ganguli reported the alleged assault happened when Walton was a Warriors assistant coach, a position he held from 2014 to 2016 before leaving for LA.

Walton's lawyer denied the allegations against his client in a statement released late Monday night.

"Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations," said Mark Baute, whom the Times noted also represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a lawsuit in which he was accused of raping a woman. "The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom."

KCRA-TV's Michelle Dapper tweeted four pages from the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which outlined Tennant's relationship with Walton and detailed the alleged sexual assault, although it didn't provide the exact date of the incident.

According to the suit, Tennant knew Walton and his wife through the competitive volleyball circuit, as both women played in college. Tennant also worked with Walton when he was a Lakers analyst on Spectrum SportsNet and later covered him when he started coaching. Tennant, according to the suit, received "mentorship and advice" from Walton, whom she viewed as "a trusted colleague, mentor and even friend."

Tennant asked Walton to write the foreword to her book, "The Transition: Every Athlete's Guide to Life After Sports," which he did. The book was published July 8, 2014, just before Walton's first season as a Warriors assistant coach, and she later wanted to give him a copy when he was in Los Angeles for a Warriors-Lakers game.

Tennant met Walton at his Santa Monica hotel, where he told her to park her car so they could "catch up." Tennant did, but she was surprised, the suit says, when Walton went to the elevators to the rooms instead of the lobby, and told her: "It's fine. Come on up. It's me." 

Once in Walton's hotel room, Tennant and Walton talked about the book, his job with the Warriors and their families (Tennant knew Walton was married and had children). Then, the suit alleges, Walton "suddenly and out-of-nowhere" assaulted Tennant, pinning her to the bed, groping her and forcibly kissing her.

Tennant told Walton to stop, but he "laughed at her pleas," the suit alleges. Walton eventually let go, and after being restrained again, Tennant left the room once he finally released his grasp.

Tennant did not report the incident, though "she confided in certain people," the suit says. She also still had to interact with Walton because of her job, and he "would impose him" on Tennant with "with a big hug or kiss," instead of a handshake, according to the document.

Ganguli and ESPN's Ramona Shelburne confirmed via sources that Tennant's allegations never were reported to the Lakers. The team later said in a statement that the incident occurred before Walton was an employee and it indeed wasn't reported to them.

Tennant worked for Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles for five years, and covering the Lakers was among her many duties. An August 2018 profile of Tennant in The Press-Enterprise noted she had left Spectrum after the Dodgers' 2017 season ended and "shut down her social media accounts for a few months, and regrouped even as viewers wonder[ed] where she went."

The Times cites a second incident, months before Tennant's departure from the TV network, in the suit. According to the paper, Tennant spoke at a May 24, 2017, charity event in which Walton and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss were honored, and the then-LA coach "made lewd noises and looked at her suggestively before hugging her in an unwanted way." The Times said the suit used that incident as an example of a “pattern of mistreatment.”

[RELATED: Kings reportedly didn't know about accusations against Walton]

The Kings, who hired Walton last weekissued a statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

The Warriors also provided a statement: "We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time."

ESPN cited sources in reporting that the NBA opened an investigation into the case, although the league hasn't officially commented.

NBA rumors: Kings part of plan for 22-team season restart in Orlando

NBA rumors: Kings part of plan for 22-team season restart in Orlando

We're going to Disney World.

That is what more than two-thirds of NBA teams are waking up to Wednesday morning. According to the reporting of both Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN and The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA has a plan in place to recall 22 teams and get the season going again.

The details still are coming in, but reports suggest that 13 Western Conference teams and another nine from the East will fly to Orlando where they will each play eight games. If after the eight games, the eighth seed has a four-game lead, the league will go straight to the postseason. If not, there will be a play-in format to decide who the eighth seed will be.

All of this is music to the Kings' ears. They currently sit in a virtual tie for ninth place in the Western Conference standings, three-and-a-half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

If NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s plan is ratified Thursday, as expected, the Kings will be part of a group that will battle it out with a chance to snap their 13-season postseason drought.

A handful of players have been at the Kings practice facility for weeks now, working out under stringent rules. They have yet to be cleared for full contact and still have to play on individual courts.

The rest of the team is scattered across the US and eventually will have to make their way back to Sacramento for a training camp followed by a long stay at the Magic Kingdom.

According to reports, the league is scheduled to start up on July 31 with Game 7 of the NBA Finals taking place on October 12.

[RELATED: Can Holmes and Bagley play together on Kings' frontline?]

In addition to the Kings and 16 teams currently in the postseason picture, the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards will join the festivities as the league attempts to restart during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We will have more on this story as more information becomes available, but it appears that the NBA is on its way back and the Kings are going to be part of the fun.

Kings' Harrison Barnes shares funny origin of 'Black Falcon' nickname

Kings' Harrison Barnes shares funny origin of 'Black Falcon' nickname

If you know Harrison Barnes as "The Black Falcon," the Kings forward is a bit bewildered as to why.

That's what happens when you give yourself a nickname largely as a joke, as Barnes revealed to Howard Beck "The Full 48" podcast last week.

“It was funny, I was a huge Kobe (Bryant) fan, as so many people were, and he was always known as the 'Black Mamba,' " Barnes recalled (H/T Sactown Royalty). (Michael Jordan) was his favorite player, MJ was the Black Cat. So we were in New York my senior year (of high school) getting ready for Elite 24, and I was with (then-ESPN anchors) Mike Hill and Jay Harris, and we were just talking, talking about just different nicknames. We came up with that one, and I was like, 'Oh, okay.' ...

"... So I jokingly said that and when I got to [the University of North Carolina,] like one of my first days on campus, I saw this magazine that was like ‘The Black Falcon’ and it had a picture of me. I was like, 'Oh man, this nickname’s gonna stick for a while,' and it’s been around ever since. I mean, I don’t use it or do much with it, but it’s around.”

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Barnes' nickname was in far more regular rotation during his time with the Warriors, and he told the team website in 2013 he hoped to be nicknamed after an animal a la Bryant and Jordan. The moniker didn't stick around, nor did Barnes stay put with Golden State. He joined the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent in 2016 when the Warriors signed Kevin Durant, and the Mavericks traded Barnes to the Kings ahead of last year's trade deadline.

Sacramento's Twitter account only referred to Barnes as "Black Falcon" once, on the day he officially joined the team.

[RELATED: Barnes wants chance for Kings to make playoffs upon restart]

Barnes also picked up the nickname "The Senator" from Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett, and he has expressed interest in heading into politics after his playing days are over. Former Warriors teammate asked Andrew Bogut during a Twitter Q&A if "The Black Falcon" moniker would follow him to Capitol Hill.

If the NBA season resumes and the Kings return to the court, the more pressing question is if the nickname will even follow him to Orlando.