Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kobe Bryant injured; Monta Ellis sued

Source : Yahoo Sports
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Lakers say Kobe Bryant won’t play in Wednesday night’s preseason finale because of an injury suffered in the team’s first preseason game against the Clippers.

The team says Bryant is being listed as day-to-day. The Lakers say an MRI revealed that Bryant had torn a ligament in his right wrist.

The Lakers face the Clippers again on Wednesday night.

They open the regular season at home against the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—A former Golden State Warriors employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against star guard Monta Ellis on Wednesday, alleging Ellis sent her unwanted texts that included a photo of his genitals.

In her lawsuit, which also names the team, Erika Ross Smith alleges Ellis began sending her several dozen explicit messages, sometimes several times a day, starting in November 2010 through January while she worked for the team’s community relations department.

The messages included lines such as, “I want to be with you,” and “Hey Sexy,” and periodically asked her what she was wearing or doing, according to the lawsuit.

Smith would often reply with “What do you want?” or “I am sleeping,” the lawsuit claims.

“On a micro level, my client has endured unwanted harassment, has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress and trauma,” her attorney, Burt Boltuch, said at a news conference in his Oakland office. “On a macro level, this type of conduct, especially in the sports world, must stop.

“She was embarrassed. She was intimidated. She felt scared and helpless.”

The Warriors deny the allegations, saying Ellis and Smith had a “consensual relationship.”

At a charity event in nearby Alameda, Ellis would only say that the team has responded.

“It’s a legal matter, we’ll let it play its course,” Ellis told KTVU-TV. “Y’know, what happens, happens.”

Boltuch said his client rejected Ellis’ advances and feared that no one would believe her.

“I was treated unfairly. I was let go,” Smith said at the news conference. “It wasn’t my fault that I was let go.”

Boltuch also showed a photo of what he said was Ellis’ genitalia that the guard allegedly sent to Smith’s work-issued cellphone on Dec. 17, 2010, a day after he complained to the team about her job performance.

When questioned if the photo came from Ellis, Boltuch responded, “We know it came from him.”

Rick Welts, the Warriors’ president and chief operating officer, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the organization takes all harassment allegations seriously.

“When we were made aware of a consensual relationship between Mr. Ellis and the Plaintiff, we did what an organization should do. We told both to stop— promptly, directly and fairly,” Welts said. “The Warriors have never taken any action against the Plaintiff for any inappropriate reason, and we deny the allegations she is making.”

Boltuch rejected the team’s claim.

“It was absolutely, unequivocally 100 percent not consensual,” Boltuch said. “And if it was, why was my client’s job duties removed and nothing was done to Mr. Ellis? To me that smacks of sexual harassment.”

Ellis’ agent, Jeffrey Fried, said Wednesday that he was en route to Oakland and didn’t immediately have a comment.

According to the lawsuit, the Warriors changed Smith’s job description and eventually fired her after Ellis’ wife, Juanika Ellis, learned of the texts and complained to team executives in January.

Smith said she told team executives that Monta Ellis told her he was using a “secret cellular phone” that was being kept by the team’s equipment manager and was in the name of a third party.

Smith, who has worked in similar jobs with the Washington Wizards and the Phoenix Suns, said Wednesday that it was tough to go public.

“It was pretty hard because I knew that essentially my career is over and it would be hard to re-establish myself after working so hard throughout the years,” said Smith, who believes she may be blacklisted in NBA circles.

According to the lawsuit, Smith said she told team officials that Ellis’ wife called her on Jan. 7 and said, “I know about the secret phone.”

Shortly after that, Smith said Ellis told her that he met with team officials and general manager Larry Riley told him “not to worry,” and that “everything would be swept under the rug.”

The following month, Juanika Ellis apparently used her purse to push Smith into a wall during a Warriors home game, the lawsuit said. Smith said she believes that Ellis’ wife believes Smith initiated the texts with the player.

“She was accusatory towards me,” Smith said Wednesday.

Boltuch said the team in February reduced Smith’s responsibilities, including interaction with Ellis and other players after she refused to resign.

“They offered her what I believe is a bribe,” Boltuch said. “They said, `It’d be best if you resign and we’ll give you some money.’ She rejected it.”

Boltuch said the team eliminated Smith’s position in August, more than a week after she notified the team that a reporter contacted her inquiring if Ellis was “stalking” her.

The lawsuit alleges retaliation, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks unspecified damages.

Ellis was the Warrior’s leading scorer last season, averaging 24.1 points per game. His acrobatic layups and ball handling skills have made him a fan favorite though he is known to be reticent and has few endorsement deals and less notoriety than other players of his stature.

Ellis signed a $66 million, six-year deal with the Warriors in 2008 not long after winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

He then sustained a serious ankle injury that summer on his motorized scooter and missed most of the season, earning a 30-game suspension without pay because he wasn’t supposed to be riding such a vehicle.

Ellis was recently selected as a team captain for this season.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Kris Humphries is getting back together with— the New Jersey Nets.

The power forward was back in New Jersey on Wednesday after re-signing with the Nets, a one-year deal worth a reported $8 million.

I’m excited to be back,” said Humphries, who was working out in Minneapolis while trying to secure a new contract. “It’s good to see the guys again. Although it’s a one-year deal, I’m happy and motivated. I think if you ask any player, they all would want a max contract with the longest terms. But I’m happy with the deal and glad to be back.”

The 26-year-old Humphries went through an eventful offseason, despite an NBA lockout that kept players away from their jobs longer than expected.

Humphries married reality TV star Kim Kardashian, and 72 days later the couple split up.

Asked what was different now than when he was last with the Nets in April, Humphries said: “Well, there is a lot less paparazzi here.”

“I definitely had a lot going on. It was a learning experience. I hadn’t been through anything like that before. Life just happens. As long as you’re focused and pay attention to life, everything is easier. I learned that I put my faith in God, my family and basketball. I feel now like I’m home again.”

The 6-foot-9 Humphries enjoyed a breakthrough season with the Nets last year, averaging 10 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his second season with New Jersey, more than doubling his career averages. He was fifth in the NBA in rebounding.

He went through the free agent process and fielded offers from other teams.

“But this is where I wanted to be,” Humphries said. “There were other options, but I was just waiting for things to come together here.”

Humphries said that he had several conversations with Nets general manager Billy King throughout the negotiation process. Nets head coach Avery Johnson said that he also spoke to Humphries a few times over the last two weeks.

“I talked to Billy throughout the whole free agency process,” Humphries said. “We both always wanted this. It was all about just figuring it all out. I’m happy to get it done.”

Humphries said that he had been working out regularly while waiting to see where he would end up. Johnson said that he didn’t know if Humphries could play in the final preseason game Wednesday night and if he did, “it would only be about three minutes or so, just to get him out there,” Johnson said.

“I could only run sprints in a gym for so long,” Humphries said. “I’m anxious to get back out there. I definitely feel good and ready to go.”

Johnson said that he was glad to have Humphries back, because the Nets were thin at power forward.

“It’s going to take the next few days of practice to get him back, but we’re thrilled to have him back,” said Johnson, who guided the Nets to a 24-58 record last year in his first season in New Jersey. “It goes with the plan of having continuity. By no means are we in the mode of being satisfied with our roster. We have some work to do. But I think we’ll be more ready for Opening Day now.

“It’s a relief to have him.”

Humphries’ teammates felt the same way.

“It’s good to have a guy who knows the system and knows what we’re doing,” point guard Deron Williams said. “We know he’s going to be in good shape and ready to go. We know he’s going to get rebounds and play good defense. He’s a high energy guy in many ways.”

Humphries said that he’s ready to put the circus atmosphere involving his failed marriage and the free agency status behind him.

“I’m a positive thinker about everything in life,” Humphries said. “I always want to think positive about the things I can control. I am moving forward with everything just being here.”

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