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Jay-Z to blame for Kevin Durant quitting Team USA?

Kevin Durant Jay-Z

Kevin Durant pulled out of Team USA two weeks ago much to the shock of USA Basketball coaches, players and executives. Durant cited mental and physical fatigue as his reason for quitting the team during the middle of training camp, only weeks away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

“After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint,” Durant said in a statement. “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Though many took Durant for his word — and he certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt — there has been a lot of skepticism about KD’s reason for quitting the team.

USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo said Durant pulled out because of contractual obligations, but he later issued one of those “clarifications.”

We speculated that Durant pulled out because he’s concerned with his next big shoe/apparel endorsement contract. It sounds like that is the case.

In a long, rambling, and at times incoherent opinion piece, Chris Sheridan says Jay-Z, who is the man behind Durant’s new agency Roc Nation Sports, is to blame for KD withdrawing from the team.

Though Sheridan never explicitly states what Jay-Z did, he says Durant’s agent is behind the surprising decision.

And what I have discovered in talking to members of the U.S. federation over the past two days is this: Durant and his agency, Roc Nation, are more interested in cashing in on his MVP award and his expiring Nike deal than they are in having Durant keep his word to the people who were with him in 2010 in Turkey at the World Championship and in 2012 in London at the Olympics.

Sheridan points out that since signing with Jay-Z, Durant has ended many of his previous business relationships. He ended his endorsement deal with Gatorade in favor of Sparkling Ice. He is now shopping around shoe/apparel companies even though he’s been with Nike since entering the NBA.

The implication is that Durant/Jay-Z/Roc Nation are more concerned with setting up his business deals than having him participate with Team USA.

For instance, Durant spent the day at Under Armour’s headquarters on Wednesday. UA is a Maryland-based company and reportedly was preparing a monster offer for the reigning NBA MVP. Sheridan also says adidas is preparing a big offer for Durant and that the Thunder forward re-signing with Nike is still a possibility.

Sheridan mentions that Durant may not have wanted to spend several weeks around Nike people (Nike sponsors USA Basketball) while he is shopping for a new deal.

Overall, it comes across as though Sheridan has more inside information on the subject than he can share, but he feels strongly enough to write a very opinionated piece on the matter.

The bottom line is this: participation on USA Basketball is voluntary. Durant is well within his right not to play for the team. He just handled the timing of his leave very poorly.

ESPN screws up big time with Kevin Ward Jr. funeral tweet

ESPN sent an extremely unfortunate tweet from their NASCAR account on Thursday afternoon. Funeral services for the late Kevin Ward Jr. were held on Thursday in upstate New York, where more than 700 mourners flooded South Lewis Senior High School to pay their respects. Here is the tweet NASCAR on ESPN sent and quickly deleted, courtesy of Deadspin:

ESPN-Kevin-Ward-Jr-tweet

We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but that is a pretty drastic one. A typo with the name would be bad enough given the sensitive nature of the subject, but the photo of Stewart made it really brutal. Realizing that plenty of people had seen the tweet, ESPN later issued an apology:

Again, everyone makes mistakes. Some are just more cringe-worthy than others.

NFL considering harsher penalties for domestic violence

Roger Goodell

The NFL has been roundly criticized for letting Ray Rice off with just a 2-game suspension despite the domestic violence he allegedly committed against his wife, and they appear to be ready to respond.

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske says the league is considering harsher penalties for those who have committed domestic violence. The penalty would be a 4-6 game suspension for a first-time offender and possibly a one-year ban for a second offense.

These are penalties that are currently being considered and have not been put into effect. The NFLPA has not been included in these discussions yet, Maske reports.

Though Rice pleaded not guilty to the alleged domestic violence, video showing him dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City sparked public outrage. Even if we don’t have the complete picture of what happened between Rice and his wife, the appearance was that the NFL did not take domestic violence as serious as it should. When guys are being suspended four games for taking Molly while on vacation, domestic violence suspensions should not be for half the amount of games.

NBA announces sale of Clippers to Steve Ballmer has been finalized

Steve BallmerThe NBA announced on Tuesday that the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been finalized. The $2 billion transaction had previously been approved by the NBA Board of Governors, and Tuesday’s closing officially makes Ballmer the team’s new governor.

The finalization of the sale was made possible by a California court confirming that Shelly Sterling had the power to sell the Clippers on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust. Sterling was previously deemed mentally incapacitated by two doctors and was removed as co-trustee. The 80-year-old fought the ruling in court but was unsuccessful.

While it would not be surprising if Sterling continued to explore avenues to sue the NBA, it sounds like he does not have much legal ground to stand on.

The Clippers are planning to hold a fan festival at the Staples Center on Monday to introduce Ballmer as the team’s new owner. Doc Rivers and the Clippers players will be in attendance.

“This is an amazing new day in Clippers history,” Rivers said Tuesday. “I couldn’t be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve’s passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well.”

Ballmer said in a statement that he will be “hardcore” in trying to put the Clippers in a position to win.

“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” he said. “Clipper fans are so amazing. I will be hardcore in giving the team, our great coach, staff and players the support they need to do their best work on the court. We will do whatever necessary to provide our fans and their families with the best game-night experience in the NBA.”

Adam Silver was confident the NBA would force Sterling out from the second his racist audio rant went viral. The new NBA commissioner made good on his promise.

Kevin Ward dies from injuries after being hit by Tony Stewart

Kevin Ward Jr

Kevin Ward Jr. died from injuries sustained after being hit by Tony Stewart during the Empire Super Sprints race at Motorsports Park on Saturday night in New York.

Ward and Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion, got into a collision that knocked the 20-year-old racer out of the race. Ward was so upset he got out of his car and began pointing and gesturing wildly at Stewart.

Stewart ended up hitting Ward — one witness believes it was accidental — and the injuries were enough to kill the young man.

[Also see- Friend and witness Tyler Graves does not think Stewart did it on purpose]

Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero said in a press conference that Ward died at 11:15 p.m. The incident took place at 10:30 p.m.

Stewart is being investigated for a crime and has been cooperative. He is not currently being charged.

Here are some quotes from Povero via WROC-TV reporter Prescott Rossi:

“This is an ongoing investigation of an on-track crash. Mr. Stewart has been fully cooperative… He is very upset and confirmed his contiunuing cooperation. People that witnessed it were horrified. They were extremely shocked.. The people at Canandaigua Motorsports have cooperated fully.”

Kevin Ward Jr driver

Video from the incident is here but be warned that it is disturbing.

Greg Oden has classic mug shot after arrest for allegedly punching woman

Greg-Oden-mug-shot

Greg Oden was arrested early Thursday morning in Lawrence, Ind., after he allegedly punched a female. According to the probable cause affidavit obtained by WTHR, a witness claims to have seen the NBA free agent punch a woman in the face.

When officers arrived at the scene, they observed “blood, swelling to the nose, lacerations to the forehead and nose area of the victims face.” The victim was reportedly being uncooperative and claimed she fell but could not recall any details of her supposed tumble.

Oden, who said he dated the victim for two years but that the couple has been broken up for two months, admitted that he hit the woman.

“Things got out of control and I started to go after the victim,” he said. “My relative and witness tried to hold me back, but I swung my arms to move them out of the way, then punched the victim in the face. I was wrong and I know what has to happen.

A relative who lives at the home where the incident took place told police that she woke up when she heard Oden and the victim arguing. She said they argue frequently.

Oden has been booked on a Class A misdemeanor for battery with injury and a Class B misdemeanor for battery. This probably won’t help his chances of signing with an NBA team this offseason.

As for the mug shot — Ohio State must be cringing.

Wayne Gretzky told Dustin Johnson to clean up his act?

dustin-johnsonDustin Johnson has supposedly had problems off the golf course for quite some time now, and it sounds like his behavior was a cause for concern for his future father-in-law. Did Wayne Gretzky have a chat with Johnson to tell him to tone down the partying?

According to Hollie McKay of FOX411, the Great One did just that. Gretzky, father of Johnson’s 25-year-old fiancee Paulina Gretzky, reportedly told Johnson at one point to “clean up his act” or there would be no wedding. The Gretzkys are said to be well aware of Johnson’s party boy antics, and Wayne has tried to be a positive influence.

[Related: Alli MacKenzie denies Dustin Johnson broke up her marriage]

Johnson and Paulina Gretzky got engaged last summer and were initially planning a Fall 2014 wedding. Wayne Gretzky later said in an interview that the wedding has been postponed due to Johnson’s busy schedule, but it would be fair to wonder if there was more to it than that.

Johnson has taken a “voluntary leave of absence” from golf and the PGA Tour insists he has not been suspended, though a report from Golf.com claims he was suspended for six months after testing positive for cocaine. In addition to the drug allegations, Johnson has also been accused of sleeping with at least one other PGA Tour golfer’s wife.

It is unclear what effect, if any, Johnson’s troubles will have (or have had) on his relationship with Paulina.