Thursday's NBA: Kings, league join in Luke Walton inquiry
The Sacramento Kings and the NBA began a joint investigation Thursday into allegations that coach Luke Walton sexually assaulted a woman.
The Kings and the league said they will be looking into the accusations from a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles by former sportscaster Kelli Tennant.
Walton’s attorney, Mark Baute, has called the allegations “baseless” and says the coach will prove that in court.
The 31-year-old Tennant contends Walton attacked her when he was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, which was from 2014 to 2016.
Tennant said she confided in people at the time but never filed charges because she was scared. Her lawyer, Garo Mardirossian, said because years had passed, he believed it would be difficult now to file a police report and put together a criminal case.
Tennant said Walton continued to harass her after he became coach of the Lakers and she was working as a broadcaster in Los Angeles for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA. She now does a wellness podcast.
Tennant said she considered the 39-year-old Walton, the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, to be a longtime friend and mentor. The coach had written the foreword to a 2014 book she had written and she went to give him a copy while he was at a Santa Monica hotel during a Warriors road trip to Los Angeles.
Tennant said Walton met her in the lobby and invited her to his room. After discussing the book, Tennant said Walton suddenly grabbed her, pinned her to the bed and forcibly kissed her. Tennant said that when she asked him to get off “he laughed at me.”
Tennant said Walton relented and she started to leave the room when he grabbed her again and kissed her ears and neck. She said he finally stopped, laughed and said “good to see you” before she left.
The Kings investigatory team will be led by Sue Ann Van Dermyden and Jennifer Doughty. Van Dermyden is founding partner of the Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux and an expert on employment law. Doughty is a veteran investigator and senior associate attorney at Van Dermyden Maddux.
The NBA’s investigatory team will be led by Elizabeth Maringer, the senior vice president and assistant general counsel of Integrity and Investigations. Previously, Maringer served 12 years as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Though LeBron James didn’t make the playoffs in his first season in Los Angeles, his move to the Lakers paid off in jersey sales.
The NBA announced James had the most popular individual jersey during the regular season and that the Lakers sold the most team merchandise. They knocked off Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, who had been the most popular player and team for three consecutive seasons.
The top five players for jersey sales were James and Curry followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 3, Kyrie Irving at No. 4 and Joel Embiid at No. 5. Antetokounmpo and Embiid both reached their highest rankings. Dwyane Wade, who retired at the end of the season, concluded his career at No. 11.
The top five teams for merchandise sales were the Lakers, Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.