Monday, February 28, 2011

Major Roster Upheaval Nothing New for the Miami Heat

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Erik SpoelstraOne of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory resulted in general managers going on a shopping spree like no other with seemingly half the league exchanging players, draft picks and cold hard cash. The Miami Heat already made their big moves during the offseason and while they were indeed poking around for anyone useful in the clearance section, rival teams in the Eastern Conference such as the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics exchanged major players integral to their system deep into the regular season.

The Heat can attest to the difficulties of trying to mesh players in a short amount of time under the spotlight. Before facing the new-look New York Knicks on Sunday, the team encountered a Washington Wizards team that has been in constant change each time they've played against them with Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Kirk Hinrich and others shuffled in and out of the roster.

"These are the challenges in this league," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who's had to face plenty of criticism this season while trying to manage a new team with big personalities as one of the youngest coaches in the NBA. "We have ultimate respect for every opponent. Even the Wizards coming in here, they've been through a lot of injuries and a lot of change but now you can see what they're building around. They have a lot of interesting young talent."

For the Knicks, the goal of adding superstar talent after disciplining themselves to refrain from wildly spending has paid off in surprisingly quick fashion after losing out to LeBron James, their No. 1 target last summer, to the Heat. Nevertheless, the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony came at a huge cost and the glacial pace in which trade talks progressed so late into the season has robbed the team of precious time to jell together. With two All-Stars who must now learn to share the spotlight in New York, Dwyane Wade had the benefit of already having gone through the experience after Shaquille O'Neal was brought in early into his career. Even still, growing pains are still evident as he continues to get accustomed to playing with LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

 

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Michael Vick Cancels Oprah Appearance

by FanHouse Newswire

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will not be appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" after all.

A show spokesman said Wednesday representatives of the NFL star called late Tuesday to cancel his appearance for personal reasons. The daytime talk show host's interview with Vick was set to air Thursday, Feb. 24.

The interview was to cover Vick's time in prison, his work with the Humane Society and his return to the NFL.

Vick missed two seasons and served 18 months in federal prison for a dogfighting operation based on his property in Surry County, Va.

He was reinstated to the NFL for the 2009 season and has been doing public service work, including with the Humane Society.

 

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Tiger Woods Knocked Out in First Round of Match Play

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Tiger Woods MARANA, Ariz. (AP) -- The slow road back for Tiger Woods took another detour Wednesday when he followed a clutch birdie with a shocking shot into the desert and lost to Thomas Bjorn in the first round of the Match Play Championship.

It was only the second time that Woods, the No. 3 seed, had been eliminated in the first round.

But this was stunning even to Woods.

Moments after he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to extend the match, he hit a 3-wood so far to the right that it landed in a desert bush. It took two shots just to get it back onto the grass. After badly missing an 18-foot bogey putt, he conceded to Bjorn.

"I blew it," Woods said.

Twice he had simple chips on the back nine and failed to convert them into birdies, losing his lead on the 13th and falling behind on the 15th. He missed a 10-foot birdie on the 17th that he figured he should make "every time."

And then came No. 1, the first extra hole.

 

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Late Wreck Stops Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Storybook Daytona 500 Ending

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s shoulders may well have borne 500 miles worth of expectations this week at Daytona.

Marking 10 years since the death of his legendary father in NASCAR's most important race, Earnhardt Jr. served as the central beacon of a sport remembering the passing of one of its most legendary drivers.

The sport's most popular driver also has been the most talked about non-factor for most of the last three seasons and has seen his share of changes in the Hendrick Motorsports program around him. A new crew chief -- Steve Letarte -- was in his ear.

Sunday, none of it seemed to be a distraction as Earnhardt sliced his way through the field time and again to find the front -- and occasionally lead -- one of the most unusual Daytona 500s in recent memory.

However, the chaotic nature of NASCAR's season-opening beast, a race marked by the most cautions and lead changes in the event's 53-year history, finally caught up with Earnhardt moments from the end.

 

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Report: Bud Selig Vetoes Proposed $200M FOX Loan to Frank McCourt, Dodgers

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Bud Selig vetoed a proposed loan of about $200 million from FOX to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Selig made the decision several weeks ago, according to the Times, denying McCourt a much-needed source of financing as he continues to struggle through a messy divorce and attempts to maintain control of the storied franchise.

McCourt planned to use the Dodgers' cable television rights as collateral for the loan, proposing to extend the team's contract with FOX for as many as four more years if he was unable to repay the money.

McCourt already has received an advance on television rights fees owed to the team by FOX, the Times has reported.

 

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Brandon Jacobs Might Play Bigger Role in Giants' Offense in 2011

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Brandon Jacobs isn't at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.

But there seems little question the New York Giants running back probably likes what he hears from Indianapolis this week.

On Friday, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he'd like to get the seventh-year veteran more involved in the offense after he averaged 5.6 yards on 147 carries last season, rushing for 823 yards and nine touchdowns.

"You look at the end of the year numbers, you'd want him to have a few more carries," Coughlin said. "Brandon was fresher than he's ever been, healthier than he's ever been and probably needs to carry the ball a little bit more."

On Saturday, Giants general manager Jerry Reese agreed.

 

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Tiger Woods Knocked Out in First Round of Match Play

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Tiger Woods MARANA, Ariz. (AP) -- The slow road back for Tiger Woods took another detour Wednesday when he followed a clutch birdie with a shocking shot into the desert and lost to Thomas Bjorn in the first round of the Match Play Championship.

It was only the second time that Woods, the No. 3 seed, had been eliminated in the first round.

But this was stunning even to Woods.

Moments after he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to extend the match, he hit a 3-wood so far to the right that it landed in a desert bush. It took two shots just to get it back onto the grass. After badly missing an 18-foot bogey putt, he conceded to Bjorn.

"I blew it," Woods said.

Twice he had simple chips on the back nine and failed to convert them into birdies, losing his lead on the 13th and falling behind on the 15th. He missed a 10-foot birdie on the 17th that he figured he should make "every time."

And then came No. 1, the first extra hole.

 

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Pat Onstad Q&A

Last night, Pat Onstad made his second preseason start for the Black-and-Red following last week's announcement that he would be returning to the playing field. Playing 45 minutes in a 1-0 victory over the University of California Santa Barbara, Onstad is slowly regaining fitness as he competes for a starting job in United's goal.

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NASCAR Makes Another Small Rule Change for Daytona 500

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- NASCAR has made another change to cars for the Daytona 500, this one because temperatures are expected to reach 80 degrees Sunday during the season-opening race.

Sprint Cup officials say teams can add an extra inch to grill openings, allowing more air to flow to engine-cooling radiators.

The change was made following the final practice session Saturday and should help drivers keep their engines cooler at speeds nearing 200 mph around Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

NASCAR made three changes earlier in the week, reducing the size of the horsepower-sapping restrictor plates, adding a pressure-relief valve to cooling systems and reducing the size of grill openings. The moves were made to slow downs cars after speeds topped 206 mph.

The 43-car field will take the green flag at about 1:15 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks and other supplemental copy have been inserted by AOL.

 

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Zayner welcomes new child, new season with DC

While some of his teammates were relaxing and on vacation during the offseason, D.C. United defender Jed Zayner was busy welcoming a new member to his family.

His wife Katie gave birth to the couple?s first child on Nov. 24, and for the following two months Zayner quickly made a big adjustment to fatherhood, caring for his wife and newborn child.

?It?s a full-time job,? Zayner told MLSsoccer.com. ?I told her I was her nanny for the next couple of months. She definitely utilized that. I swear those first two weeks were a blur in my head and still are.?

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Tiger Tees it Up in Dubai with Serviceman

Tiger WoodsLt. Col. Michael Rowells, a nine handicap, found himself shanking balls from the rough and dropping shots into the water Wednesday in Dubai. The serviceman was nervous and rattled by his surroundings.

The reason? His playing partner was Tiger Woods.

Rowells beat 16,000 other golfers in a draw and was given the opportunity to play with Woods. Stationed in Afghanistan, Rowells had to scramble in order to get a passport and borrowed a set of golf clubs from Emirates Golf Club.

"I came in wanting to play decent and I really didn't," Rowells said. "But it didn't matter. The experience was so far beyond what my score would have been. The time with Tiger, and the time here at Emirates Golf Club, has just been tremendous regardless of how many balls I put in the water."

Though his overall game was lacking, Rowells was able to cozy up a few approach shots and drain some long par putts during the round, drawing some praise from one of the world's top golfers.

Woods is familiar with the military, as his father did a couple of tours in Vietnam, so the two spoke mainly about Rowells' service.

"He understands the services, and that is always a plus," Rowells said. "A lot of people don't quite understand what we do. I think he has decent respect for the military and that is always nice. We spoke a little about his dad, some of the places he had been, like Fort Bragg, where I'll be ending up in the next year and a half or so."

Overall, Rowells with smitten with the experience and left impressed by the golfer, who has been dealing with some trying circumstances over the past year.

"I played with a Tiger that struck the ball very well, was a complete gentleman, a class act, easygoing and put me at ease," he said. "One of the larger-than-life figures was very down to earth and very accommodating to somebody that came in to do this."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

 

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Stern Not Enthralled With Rampant Speculation About Anthony, Howard

by Chris Tomasson

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LOS ANGELES -- It seems even David Stern is getting tired of all the Carmelo Anthony drama.

In an interview at All-Star Weekend on Thursday night with FanHouse's Sam Amick and Chris Tomasson, the NBA commissioner was asked if the constant speculation about where the Denver star, who is on the trading block, soon might be playing has become somewhat of a negative for the league.

"Yes, I think that,'' Stern said. "Honestly, it can't be helpful getting to the place where the sport is so popular now and the ruminations about it in the media so over the top, in a good way, I suppose, that if a player doesn't sign a new contract, the speculation begins.

"In fact, it's now gone to the next level. Poor Dwight Howard (of Orlando). He's out there playing his head off and the media is, 'Oh, where's he going next?' What is that all about? It's ridiculous.''

There has been speculation about where Howard might play after his contract could expire in the summer of 2012. Stern was asked how he might change the situations involving Anthony and Howard.

"I have some great ideas,'' Stern said. "But it would be less employment for the (Fourth) Estate (the media). It's what we live with. That's what we do.''

 

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Americans Abroad: Maurice Edu Scores for Rangers

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maurice edu us national teamThe U.S. national team's central midfield depth chart seems to get more and more crowded by the week.

Presumed starters Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley recently left less-than-enviable club situations for new homes in the English Premier League, with Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa (still to be finalized), respectively.

Stuart Holden has been starring at Bolton, Sacha Kljestan has been contributing at Anderlecht, and despite playing different positions for much of their careers, Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein are getting minutes in the middle for their clubs.

Then there's Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and José Torres, who went to the World Cup, and up-and-comers like Mikkel Diskerud and Dax McCarty.

Amid it all, Maurice Edu is doing his best to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.

Making his second start for Ranters since returning from a two-month injury layoff, Edu scored the opener in Saturday's 2-1 win over Motherwell in the Scottish League Cup semifinals.

 

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United in California: Day 8

CALIFORNIA WINDING DOWN

With only two days remaining on the West Coast, the Black-and-Red are excited to return home to Washington for a few days before departing once more for the Carolina Challenge Cup on March 3 in Charleston, S.C.

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NHL Trade Deadline: Calgary Flames

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About six weeks ago, most teams in the NHL were probably looking ahead with anticipation to see what gems the Calgary Flames would be offering up for sale at trade deadline time. Not anymore.

With an amazing resurgence -- which coincided with the turfing of general manager Darryl Sutter -- the Flames are among the hottest teams in the league, jockeying for position in the ever-shifting West Division standings. With 70 points in 62 games, Calgary is currently in eighth spot, but just two up on three teams, all of whom have games in hand. So, despite their dramatic turnaround, their situation is still precarious.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who had his own little stretch of mediocrity, is back being the major stopper for the team, while offence has come from varied sources, most recently off the stick of winger Curtis Glencross. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have been consistent through this last stretch, while Mark Giordano and Robyn Regehr have anchored the defence steadfastly.

Making the playoffs, after last year's dismal 10th place finish, is paramount.

 

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Americans Abroad: Maurice Edu Scores for Rangers

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maurice edu us national teamThe U.S. national team's central midfield depth chart seems to get more and more crowded by the week.

Presumed starters Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley recently left less-than-enviable club situations for new homes in the English Premier League, with Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa (still to be finalized), respectively.

Stuart Holden has been starring at Bolton, Sacha Kljestan has been contributing at Anderlecht, and despite playing different positions for much of their careers, Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein are getting minutes in the middle for their clubs.

Then there's Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and José Torres, who went to the World Cup, and up-and-comers like Mikkel Diskerud and Dax McCarty.

Amid it all, Maurice Edu is doing his best to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.

Making his second start for Ranters since returning from a two-month injury layoff, Edu scored the opener in Saturday's 2-1 win over Motherwell in the Scottish League Cup semifinals.

 

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marcell Dareus, Da'Quan Bowers Battling for Top Defensive Lineman Honors

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama's Marcell Dareus (photo above) is battling with Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers (photo below right) and Auburn's Nick Fairley for the title of best defensive lineman in this draft class. He likes to compare his game to that of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who has gone on record as labeling Dareus the best three-technique lineman in the draft.

"Watching Warren Sapp made me want to play football," said Dareus, who at 6-foot-3 and 319 pounds has the ideal build for either tackle or end. "I really got good at it when (the Bucs) won the Super Bowl (after the 2002 season). I was in middle school and I really looked up to him as a person and a player and I like the fact that Warren Sapp thinks that highly of me and recognizes me as the best three-technique."

In a moment of levity, when Dareus was asked to describe himself as a player he smiled and said without hesitation, "I would describe myself as a nice guy." He was quick to point out that he always helps up every player he tackles and he likes to have fun on the field.

The fact that he grew up as the sixth of seven children in a single-family home after his father passed away when he was young is something Dareus attributes to his humility. He is the second youngest and learned early on about the importance of hard work. He also showed respect to Fairley and said he holds nothing against him but he did admit he feels he is the safest pick at the position because he can play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3.

Bowers joins Dareus and Fairley as the consensus top three defensive linemen in this draft class, while Oregon inside linebacker Casey Matthews is considered one of the top prospects at his position. Both players commanded a crowd in the afternoon during the anticipation leading up to the Cam Newton press conference and handled it well.

Bowers (6-3, 280) is excited to do everything at Lucas Oil Stadium to show how well rounded he is as a defensive linemen and in the individual interviews with the teams he intends to prove he has no character issues. With the need for quality pass rushers an important one for most of the teams around the league, Bowers feels he fits that mold.

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Andy Gray, Richard Keys Taken Off Air for Sexist Comments

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LONDON (AP) -- Two of Britain's leading soccer commentators were reprimanded by their TV network and taken off the air Monday after making sexist remarks about two female game officials and a team executive.

Andy Gray and Richard Keys were disciplined Monday for derogatory comments about Sian Massey's suitability as a lineswoman for a Premier League game the commentators were working Saturday for Sky Sports.

Gray and Keys have been respected voices in soccer for the past 20 years. They also criticized the ability of former Premier League official Wendy Toms and a column written by West Ham executive Karren Brady in the Sun newspaper that day.

The men have privately apologized to their employer. Sky said the two have been warned and "reminded of their responsibilities." They will not work the show Monday night when Bolton hosts Chelsea in the Premier League.

"They (the comments) are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority," said Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports.

 

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Capitals Deficiencies Exposed by Rangers Once Again

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Good thing Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee is one of the most deliberate executives in the NHL.

If not, Friday's 6-0 loss to the New York Ranges -- Washington's worst loss at home since November 2006 -- could mean plenty of changes ahead of Monday's trade deadline.

"George is not a knee-jerk guy at all," said Capitals forward Mike Knuble, one of four players available to the media after the game. "Whether we won 5-0 or lost 6-0 like tonight, it probably wouldn't have changed his approach to the deadline. He's had last summer to think about it and a lot of this season. He's probably already formulated his plans."

And this game for the fifth-place Caps exposed the same sorts of elements that were absent when they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season despite winning the Presidents' Trophy for the league's best regular season record.

 

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Panthers Taking Look at Cam Newton

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Ron Rivera, new head coach of the Carolina Panthers, told reporters at the NFL Combine that the Panthers have to "come up with our own" in terms of a franchise quarterback. Rivera was looking around the NFC South at the Saints with Drew Brees, the Falcons with Matt Ryan, and the Bucs with Josh Freeman and he understandably feels left out.

This was the same day the Panthers said Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is among the eight or 10 players they could possibility choose with the first pick in the draft.

They can't be serious can they?

There are red flags all over Newton's career, from his departure at Florida to his father's issues with asking Mississippi State for money.

The Panthers are desperate, though. They are not sure if Jimmy Clausen is their guy or not and they are way behind division rivals at that position.

"Look at it throughout the league and franchise quarterbacks are what's happening in this league in terms of it becoming a passing league," Rivera said. "Teams that have those guys that can attack you vertically really I think are tough.''

There was also some of his behavior in games with Auburn where he would pose with fans and celebrate with fans after a touchdown before jumping into the arms of his teammates.

 

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LeBron Admits Concern Over Current State of NBA Collective Bargaining

by Chris Tomasson

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LeBron JamesLOS ANGELES -- LeBron James, the two-time defending MVP and the NBA's most recognizable player, is taking a more active role than he previously has during collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

And he's somewhat worried.

"It does. It does,'' the Miami Heat star said Saturday when asked if it concerns him that NBA owners haven't changed their proposal at all in one year since the one that was immediately rejected during last February's All-Star Weekend in Dallas.

Still, James is trying to stay as optimistic as he can even though NBA commissioner David Stern said there's a "huge gap'' between the players and owners. With the CBA expiring June 30 and many believing there then will be a lockout, James was among a number of NBA stars to take part in a Friday negotiating session in Beverly Hills, Calif., and was said to have been a very active participant.

 

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Clint Bowyer Wins Pole for Nationwide Race at Daytona, Danica Fourth

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Up until the final few minutes of Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying, it looked as if IndyCar star-turned-NASCAR newbie Danica Patrick may just have landed herself the pole position at stock car's most famous track, Daytona International Speedway.

Midway through the session Patrick laid down the fastest lap of the afternoon bumping veteran Carl Edwards off the top spot and igniting a buzz around the garage area. Had her lap stood, she would have been the first woman to win a Nationwide Series pole since Shawna Robinson did it in March 1994.

Instead, another newcomer, Landon Cassill, knocked Patrick out of the top spot only to have Sprint Cup Series veteran Clint Bowyer come in and better them both. Bowyer's lap of 180.821 mph in the Kevin Harvick-owned No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet earned the former series champ the pole position for Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 and stifled the building frenzy around a possible Patrick front row start.

Cassill will start alongside him while another late qualifier Dale Earnhardt Jr,. took the third position. He'll start next to Patrick on the second row; he owns both cars.

This is only Patrick's 13th Nationwide Series start in her highly-publicized racing double as a full-time driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and a part-timer in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide circuit.

"It's been a fast car the whole time we've been here,'' Patrick said, as she watched the remaining few cars qualify. "No matter what happens now, it'll be a good starting position. This is a big deal and for it to come at Daytona, it's 10 times a bigger deal.''

 

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Boston Celtics Sign Chris Johnson From NBA D-League

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Boston CelticsThe Boston Celtics made multiple trade deadline moves on Thursday, shipping out big men Kendrick Perkins, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody -- along with Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels -- while bringing in Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic from the Oklahoma City Thunder along with a couple of draft picks from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings.

That leaves the Celtics frontcourt awfully thin for their game tonight against the Denver Nuggets, leading the team to call-up Chris Johnson from the NBA Development League's Dakota Wizards for a 10-day contract.

Johnson, a 6-foot-11, 210-pound center out of LSU, is averaging 16.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks this season after previously being a part of the Celtics during this past training camp.

 

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Power Rankings: Phil Mickelson Primed to Shine in Hollywood

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Phil MickelsonThe PGA Tour travels down the California coast to Los Angeles for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Surprisingly, the weather won't be perfect this week, but that's nothing new for this season. Forecasts call for a chance of rain everyday but Sunday, which might help soften and slow down the greens.

It's another strong field, with a number of players making their 2011 debut. Here's how we see the week shaking out, beginning with our favorites:

1. Phil Mickelson -- He's regaining confidence in his game and no one has earned more money at the Northern Trust Open, which makes him the easy choice this week. While it would be nice to see Lefty close out an event, we won't pick against him as he tries to become the first three-time winner at this even since Arnold Palmer did it in 1967.

2. Steve Stricker -- Last year's winner mainly makes it on track record. Stricker took this tournament off for three years before returning to finish T11, second and first the last three years. In his only two starts this year, Stricker finished T4 and T9. It's hard to argue that anyone has played as well as the him the last two years -- five total wins and back-to-back runner-up finishes in the FedEx Cup standings. A win this week would make a great birthday gift for the man that turns 44 next week.

3. Matt Kuchar -- Don't forget about Kuchar, who took the last three weeks off. He opened the year with three straight top 10s, where he only shot two rounds outside of the 60s (both of those were only 70). You won't find a flaw in the three-time Tour winner's game right now. He ranks inside the top five on Tour in driving accuracy, greens in regulation, birdie average, and all-around.

4. Bill Haas -- Haas must have taken the AT&T off to work on his game after falling all the way down to a T29 finish at the WMPO. All kidding aside, you could argue that he's played the best golf on Tour this year. A final-round 76 in Scottsdale kept him from his fourth straight top 10 to start 2011. You can ignore his missed cuts the last two starts here because his game is solid.

5. Luke Donald -- The Northern Trust Open is a great place for Donald to begin his 2011 campaign. He's notched three straight top 10s at Riviera, including a runner-up finish in 2010. There shouldn't be much rust to shake off either. When we last saw Donald at the end of the year, he had recorded a top-three finish in four of his final six starts.

 

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Tiger Woods Shoots Bogey-Free Round in Dubai, Hangs in Contention

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Tiger WoodsDUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Strong off the tee and hitting his shots with exquisite control, Tiger Woods seemed like his old self.

He turned in the day's best score with a bogey-free 6-under 66 Friday to surge into contention at the Dubai Desert Classic. The round put him four strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy and gave him every reason to believe he can for the first time in more than a year.

Woods was part of a powerhouse group that included top-ranked Lee Westwood and second-ranked Martin Kaymer. But on this day, Woods played as if he were unquestionably No. 1 again.

"It felt good today. I hit a lot of good shots," said Woods, who likened his game to the way he played at last year's Chevron World Challenge, where he lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.

Woods, who has been outdriving his playing partners, added accuracy to his blistering drives and approach shots. And unlike Thursday, when he missed makable putts and hit approach shots wide of the green, the winner of 14 majors routinely gave himself chances.

He finished with six birdies and was at 7-under 137 entering the weekend at Emirates Golf Club. He won this tournament in 2006 and 2008.

"I felt like I drove it pretty good," he said. "I feel good. We worked out a few of the things last night that I didn't like."

 

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Donald Trump Weighing Investment in Mets

by FanHouse Newswire

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Donald TrumpNEW YORK (AP) -- Donald Trump is thinking about investing in the New York Mets.

The New York real estate owner with a flair for publicity said Wednesday he wants to help Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Wilpon is under pressure from a lawsuit from the trustee trying to recover money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff swindle.

Speaking Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Trump said: "I hope that it works out well for the Wilpons because they're friends of mine. If they ever needed help, I'd be there to help them. If I could help, I'd love to help them."

Trump's interest was first reported by The New York Times on its website.

 

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Trevor Bayne Says He's Sticking With Nationwide Championship Run

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Whoever wins the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup series championship, his name won't be Daytona 500 champ Trevor Bayne.

The 20-year-old rookie, who became the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 Sunday, said he's sticking with his original plan for the season -- a full-time Nationwide series run for the championship and a part-time Sprint Cup campaign.

"I think I am going to stay with Nationwide," Bayne said Tuesday on the weekly NASCAR teleconference. "Nothing has really changed for me other than that I am the Daytona 500 champion, which is really incredible.

"I think we are still going to have an awesome year for Roush Fenway running for that Nationwide championship. Obviously we still have a blank car and I would love to get some partners on it, but as of now we are still running for it full time over there. I am still not full-time Cup and I am going to run for the championship in Nationwide. I don't regret any of our decisions there."

Bayne will also run at least 17 more races in Sprint Cup for the Wood Brothers.

As they have for the past several years and for most of their long and storied history in NASCAR, the Wood Brothers are running only a partial schedule.

 

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MLS 2011 Jerseys Unveiled: 'Cleanliness' and Conformity Reign

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Major League Soccer remains haunted by the ghosts of horrible uniforms past.

The men in the photo to the right, which includes World Cup veterans like Tab Ramos, John Harkes and Roy Wegerle, are wearing the clown costumes designed for the league's inaugural campaign in 1996.

The uniforms (except Harkes') looked like the result of a tragic Spin Art accident or the creations of overly eager, soccer ignorant marketers trying to be outrageous. It was totally xtreme.

They were inspired by branding profiles such as these:

Tampa Bay Mutiny: "The...logo system doesn't have any rebellious sailors. No three-masted galleons. No rolling oceans. Just little green winged cyber-mutants from the dark blue depths of space."

San Jose Clash: "The driving spirit of the San Jose Clash is the scorpion. Quick, lethal and mean ... With shapes and colors that reflect the diverse ethnic makeup and heritage of the Bay Area, the logo system is derived from the soil it represents."

Kansas City Wiz: "Breakaways, bicycle kicks and sprawling headers will be the magic potion of the soccer wizards of Kansas City."

Dallas Burn: "The ... logo system starts with the cowboy of the asphalt West: the loners, outsiders and rebels found on cycle jackets and gas tanks."

Only two logos unveiled that day -- the New England Revolution's and Columbus Crew's -- remain untouched. That's progress.

 

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Bryce Harper to Make Nationals Spring Training Debut Monday

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Bryce HarperVIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Top draft pick Bryce Harper is to make his spring training debut Monday when the Washington Nationals visit the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie for their spring training opener.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he expects the 18-year-old Harper will get at least one at-bat in the game.

"I'm hoping that he kind of blends in," Riggleman said. "I'm not looking for him to excel against major league pitching."

Harper is learning a new position, moving from catcher to the outfield. Nationals outfielder Jerry Hairston said it will take time to make the adjustment.

"He's got a good head on his shoulders," Hairston said. "We've talked a little bit. He's a humble guy. He realizes what's going on. I'm sure everybody's excited about watching him play. He's a great talent. It's a spring training game. I know he's going to be a little excited."

Jayson Werth, who signed to a $126 million, seven-year contract with Washington in the offseason, will not make the trip. Neither will All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche. Their debuts likely will come Tuesday or Wednesday when Washington hosts the Mets and the Florida Marlins.

Chad Gaudin will pitch the first game for Washington on Monday. Livan Hernandez throws Tuesday and John Lannan goes Wednesday.

 

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Stern Not Enthralled With Rampant Speculation About Anthony, Howard

by Chris Tomasson

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LOS ANGELES -- It seems even David Stern is getting tired of all the Carmelo Anthony drama.

In an interview at All-Star Weekend on Thursday night with FanHouse's Sam Amick and Chris Tomasson, the NBA commissioner was asked if the constant speculation about where the Denver star, who is on the trading block, soon might be playing has become somewhat of a negative for the league.

"Yes, I think that,'' Stern said. "Honestly, it can't be helpful getting to the place where the sport is so popular now and the ruminations about it in the media so over the top, in a good way, I suppose, that if a player doesn't sign a new contract, the speculation begins.

"In fact, it's now gone to the next level. Poor Dwight Howard (of Orlando). He's out there playing his head off and the media is, 'Oh, where's he going next?' What is that all about? It's ridiculous.''

There has been speculation about where Howard might play after his contract could expire in the summer of 2012. Stern was asked how he might change the situations involving Anthony and Howard.

"I have some great ideas,'' Stern said. "But it would be less employment for the (Fourth) Estate (the media). It's what we live with. That's what we do.''

 

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In Honor of Tadanari Lee, A History of International Championship Winning Goals

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Liverpool fans burned a Fernando Torres jersey on Monday night, furious that the striker their club pried from his hometown team in Madrid for tens of millions of pounds left Merseyside after three-plus seasons for Chelsea's tens of millions of pounds.

Torres probably didn't grow up dreaming of playing for the Reds or the Blues. His favorite team was Atlético, and he played at his boyhood club for a dozen years. Those ties were loosened only when Rafael Benítez came calling in 2007.

Liverpool fans may be angry, but Torres was never really theirs to begin with.

The final day of the European transfer window was yet another reminder that club soccer is a business first. Players are motivated largely by the trappings of the pro game -- the money, the titles, endorsements and prestige. That's not a criticism. It's the nature of the beast.

 

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Cam Newton Character Questions Addressed by Falcons GM at NFL Combine

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If this was the 2008 draft and the Atlanta Falcons had the third pick in the draft, it is pretty clear they would not take Cameron Newton with that pick, like they did when they took Matt Ryan.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff was asked at the NFL Combine about character and personality when evaluating quarterbacks. I'm not trying to make Dimitroff look like a Cam-basher; I'm just interested in his responses because he is a respected GM and I think he's smart as heck.

"To me, it's huge. It was a big part of our interview process with Matt Ryan," Dimitroff said. "We spent a lot of time not only with him physically in Boston, but a lot of time with associates he dealt with. We want him to be the first guy in and the last guy out.

"We want him to have a presence. We want Matt Ryan to lead the entire team. ... That respect was something that Matt was able to obtain right away with the Atlanta Falcons from the defense and offense."

Did Newton hurt his chances to be the No. 1 pick when he said in interviews that he wanted to be "an icon and entertainer."

Dimitroff said it might not raise red flags with some teams, but it might raise red flags with others.

It is pretty clear the Falcons are really leaning on personality and character when drafting players or signing free agents. Dimitroff is not alone here. Teams invest a lot of money in quarterbacks and it is one position where they absolutely cannot make a mistake.

 

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