Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton in the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Luke Walton’s lawyer responds to sexual assault accusations

Former Warriors assistant Luke Walton’s lawyer has responded to lawsuit alleging sexual assault

Following practice on Tuesday in Downtown Oakland, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked about the sexual assault accusations against his former assistant and close friend Luke Walton. He merely shook his head, and did not offer comment.

In a recently-filed lawsuit, Walton, who was a Golden State assistant from 2014 to 2016 before becoming head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, is accused of assaulting former Spectrum SportsNet LA television reporter and studio host Kelli Tennant during his time as an assistant for the Warriors. Late Monday night, Walton’s attorney Mark Baute responded to the allegations.

“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Baute told The Sacramento Bee. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”

Baute has, in the past, represented NBA star Derrick Rose, who was also accused of sexual assault, but was cleared by a Los Angeles jury in federal court in October of 2016.

In the suit, Tennant claimed that she visited Walton’s Santa Monica hotel to drop off a copy of her book on making the transition from sports to real life for former athletes. Walton had written the foreward for the book, which came out in 2014. He allegedly invited Tennant — with whom he had worked as an analyst on Spectrum SportsNet LA — up to his room to “catch up,” and, according to the suit, pinned her down on the bed in his room, forcibly kissed her face, neck and chest, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.

The Warriors issued a team statement on Monday night, once the story broke: “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.”

The Kings also released a brief written statement: “We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.”

Walton served as Golden State’s interim head coach while Kerr was recovering from back surgery during Golden State’s 73-win season in 2015-16. He parlayed his 39-4 start to that season (including a 24-0 stretch) into the head coaching job for the Lakers. After three years, Walton and the Lakers parted ways, and three days later, he was hired by Sacramento.

Tennant, who spent five years with SportsNet LA, leaving in the fall of 2017, covered the Lakers during Walton’s tenure as head coach, and claims in the lawsuit that he continued to taunt her, forcing hugs and kisses on her.

The Lakers, too, issued a statement: “This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers,” the team said in its statement. “At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”

Guard Stephen Curry, who played under Walton during his two seasons as an assistant, did not comment on the accusations directly, but did speak about Walton after Tuesday’s practice.

“I know the team had a comment on it, and that’s pretty much all we can say right now, but in terms of Luke, I’ve known him for a long time,” Curry said. “Hopefully, everything works out.”

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