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Sunday, May 31, 2009

LeBron now speaks his mind

ORLANDO, Fla. – Head down and shoulders slumped, LeBron James(notes) headed off the court as the Orlando Magic streamers shot off above him.

Dwight Howard(notes) was hugging Hedo Turkoglu(notes), dreams of Beating L.A. dancing in their heads. James wasn’t bothering to stick around to shake hands, offer congratulations or pretend there was a bright side to the Magic ousting his Cleveland Cavaliers from the East finals with a 103-90 victory in Game 6.

James was off the floor before the confetti could hit his shoulders.

He later dressed in silence in a corner of the locker room then put on some gold, oversized headphones and headed for the door. Normally one of the last to leave, he was now one of the first. With anger and frustration evident in each step, he charged through the back halls of Amway Arena without greeting anyone, got on the team bus and soon was off to the airport.

There was no looking for his mother, Gloria. There was no talking with Nike executives. And forget addressing fans and media – Mo Williams(notes) was left to answer for the defeat.

LeBron was gone. The King was silent.

The fallout from this defeat will echo loudly all summer, though, the pressure mounting on Cavs general manager Danny Ferry.

Whether this was James’ ultra-competitiveness overwhelming his emotions or a sign of his frustration with a front office that in six seasons has failed to give him the supporting cast capable of winning a championship remains to be seen.

LeBron James, 24, is a free agent after next season and while he’s never said he would leave Cleveland, he’s never said he wouldn’t. As such, this move – his every move, actually – will be analyzed as the psyche of a championship-starved city hangs in the balance.

James doesn’t need a bigger market to be a global icon (a now-doomed Nike puppet advertising campaign is proof of that). And he doesn’t seem to possess the personality that covets the bright lights of New York or L.A. (he still lives near Akron and mostly hangs out with high school buddies or his longtime girlfriend and two young children).

He may need to leave to win a championship, though.

“Going into the playoffs we were confident that we were going to be in the NBA Finals and we were confident that we were going to win it,” Williams said. “I can understand [James’] disappointment because I’m feeling the same disappointment.”

There’s little sense in criticizing James for not speaking with the media Saturday – it’s the only thing he didn’t do in this series. He averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists. He offered leadership and defense. He saved Game 2 with an all-timer of a buzzer-beater.

And it wasn’t even close to enough.

Cleveland players said James did speak to them briefly in the stunned locker room and, according to Daniel Gibson(notes), said “we just need to keep working.” It was clear to everyone, however, he was taking this defeat hard.

A 66-win regular season left the Cavs optimistic they had found the parts for a championship, but deep in the playoffs, where intensity is matched and matchups get intense, the limitations are clear.

The Cavs were swept in the 2007 Finals and now have failed to get out of the East the last two seasons.

In this game, from the time the Magic trotted out the booming voice of 7-year-old Gina Marie Incandela for the national anthem to a fourth quarter filled with chants of “MVP” and “Beat L.A.,” it wasn’t so much a contest as a 2½-hour pep rally for the Finals.

All of Cleveland’s recurring problems kept accruing. Howard had 40 points and 14 rebounds as he tore through the not-prime-time frontcourt of Anderson Varejao(notes) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes). Williams had 17 point, but showed in this series he isn’t ready to be this generation’s Scottie Pippen.

The entire bench combined for just 10 points and five rebounds. Other than James, the roster lacked the size and athletic ability to deal with perimeter threats Rashard Lewis(notes) and Rafer Alston(notes).

Cleveland had the best player in this series. Orlando had the next four.

“I think this team is right there,” Williams said. “We just have to do a little bit more.”

What they have to do is get a little bit more. Despite boasting one of the highest payrolls in the league and having a half-dozen years to put together the roster, the Cavs are still a player or two away. Where Ferry finds them is the question.

He has only the midlevel salary-cap exception to spend on free agents. The Cavs discussed acquiring Shaquille O’Neal(notes) at the trade deadline, but the Phoenix Suns balked at taking back Ben Wallace(notes). The Cavs have some pieces, but no margin for error on anything less than the perfect move.

It begins with the need for a big man because it’s not like the 23-year-old Howard is going anywhere. The Magic are no fluke, they’re more than capable of beating the Lakers.

“How many games could [Cleveland] win without LeBron James?” Jerry West asked rhetorically to Reuters. By way of comparison, when Michael Jordan skipped the 1993-94 season to play baseball, the remaining Chicago Bulls won 55. West likely doubts the non-LeBron Cavs would get to 40.

In the same interview, West declared James a superior player to Kobe Bryant(notes).

Yet it is Kobe’s team, rebuilt on the fly after a stretch of mediocrity from 2005-07 that will host Game 1 of the Finals on Thursday. The Lakers will meet the Magic, who have surrounded their young star, Howard, with the perfect complementary parts.

Meanwhile LeBron waits. He’s never publicly criticized a teammate, coach or front-office decision. And he didn’t Saturday.

Maybe Gloria James taught him that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then it’s best to say nothing at all. Just head for the bus, the booming beats of the headphones droning out the questions about the immediate past and the long-term future.

from yahoo sports

Dodgers beat Cubs 8-2

CHICAGO (AP) — Eric Milton pitched into the sixth inning for his second straight win, and the Los Angeles Dodgers backed him with a five-run first while beating the Chicago Cubs 8-2 Sunday night to salvage a four-game split.

Matt Kemp hit his sixth homer and finished with two hits. Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Mark Loretta and James Loney each added two apiece as the Dodgers banged out 12 in all, and Los Angeles finished a 5-2 trip with an easy win after getting pounded 7-0 and shut out for the first time the previous day.

Milton (2-0) took a shutout into the sixth and left with one out after the Cubs scored twice. He allowed six hits while earning back-to-back wins after going nearly three years without one. The Dodgers continued to roll even though Manny Ramirez is serving a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.

Los Angeles went 20-9 in May, posting its highest win total for the month since going 21-7 in 1962, and this one got out of hand early.

The team with the best record in baseball, the Dodgers took control in the first, sending nine batters to the plate against Sean Marshall (3-4) after managing just three runs in the first three games of the series. The first five singled, with Orlando Hudson and Loney delivering run-scoring hits, and Mark Loretta added a two-run double before Jamie Hoffman capped the rally with a sacrifice fly.

Kemp added a solo shot in the third, making it 6-0, and that was more than enough for Milton. A former All-Star who missed a year-and-a-half while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, he appears to be coming around and will remain in the rotation after Los Angeles placed left-hander Eric Stults on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained thumb on his pitching hand.

That cleared a spot for opening day starter Hiroki Kuroda, who is expected to pitch Monday against Arizona after missing nearly two months with a strained left oblique.

The Cubs had won four of five after dropping eight in a row, but the Dodgers pounded Marshall for eight hits and eight runs (seven earned) in 4 1-3 innings. After lasting at least five innings in his first seven starts, the 26-year-old left-hander barely made it out of the first.

Notes:@ The Dodgers called up RHP Travis Schlichting from Double-A Chattanooga. ... Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Dempster won't miss a turn in the rotation despite a blister on his right middle finger, although the right-hander will get some extra time between starts. He is scheduled to pitch Saturday at Cincinnati. ... Harden is scheduled to throw off the mound on Tuesday.

by the associated press

Lakers home for the Championship

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's going to be Orlando, not Boston, in the NBA finals. Even though the opponent is different, the Los Angeles Lakers are still consumed with redeeming themselves after last year's abject failure.

Their humiliating 131-92 dismissal by the Celtics in Game 6 last year still stings.

"We know what it feels like to lose and we just want to come out there and amend that," coach Phil Jackson said Sunday.

A year ago, Pau Gasol had never played in the NBA finals, so he was excited just to be there.

Not this time.

"The team right now is hungry and focused," he said. "This year we have a mission. It's like, 'OK, we're in the finals, now let's go to work.' It's a big difference."

Another difference is that the Lakers have home-court advantage this year. Games 1 and 2 are Thursday and next Sunday at Staples Center before the best-of-7 series moves to Orlando for up to three games.

"It's nice to have home-court advantage, but it's still not something to rely on in this kind of a series," Jackson said. "Orlando is one of the better road teams in the league the last two years."

No doubt Jackson will remind his team that both Houston and Denver won at Staples in the past two rounds, costing the Lakers home-court advantage.

"That's something you don't want to do in the finals with this kind of 2-3-2 setup," he said. "It's just about trying to get a leg up right off the bat so you have advantage."

After taking Saturday off, the Lakers reconvened Sunday for a video session. Except for Gasol and Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant and the other starters departed without speaking to the media.

Having played 13 games in 26 days to reach the finals, the Lakers are taking advantage of the six-day break before making one last push at a 16th NBA championship.

"We got really banged up in these last two series," Jackson said. "There are a number of guys that physically could use the days off."

They include Lamar Odom (sore back), Trevor Ariza (sore hip and groin) and Luke Walton (ankle).

"We've been in situations where we had days of rest and then we were a little sluggish at the beginning of a series," Gasol said. "Now there's no slacking, no slipping or nothing. We're ready to start and we're ready to play."

Bryant admitted during the Western Conference finals that he's not sleeping much. He's been sending text messages to Gasol in the wee hours and getting responses.

"We exchanged a couple of text messages making sure we're on the same page," Gasol said. "It just brings us together."

The Lakers' immediate problem is how to contain Dwight Howard. He averaged 21.5 points and 16 rebounds when the Magic swept them in two regular-season games.

"I don't think there have been many players like him because of his physical gifts and attributes," Gasol said. "You have to be really focused on him, don't let him get any deep catches and don't let him get going or confident."

Howard does most of the damage inside, while Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus and Rafer Alston are threats from 3-point range.

"It's to your advantage not to double against this team," Jackson said. "They're going to threaten you with that (outside shooting), but really it's their inside game that you have to be concerned about."

Gasol believes the Lakers own an advantage that Cleveland lacked in losing the Eastern Conference finals to the Magic.

"They didn't have that balance of an inside-outside game and we do have that and we will be a tougher matchup," he said. "Let's see if we give them more of an outside shot or we let Dwight go to work a little more and see what he can do. He's becoming a pretty good passer off the post and making smart decisions."

With Orlando's quartet throwing up 3-pointers from all corners of the court, Fisher figures rebounding could be a key difference in the finals.

"There's going to be a lot of long rebounds from the 3-point shots, so for perimeter players especially, we'll have to make sure we're getting in there and grabbing a few extra ones," he said.

by the associated press

Red Wings' Game 2

DETROIT (AP) — Jonathan Ericsson will have a pretty good tale to tell his grandkids someday.

Ericsson scored for the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, helping them beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 to take a 2-0 lead Sunday night, and got the best of superstar Evgeni Malkin three times on the same shift.

Not bad for a defenseman who played just four days after having his appendix removed.

"I don't think there will be a big thing when I get grandkids. I think it'll be an everyday situation," said Ericsson, who said the surgery used to sideline athletes for at least a month. "In 20, 30, 40 years, maybe the surgery will develop to another level."

After Ericsson's goal made it 1-1 early in the second, he frustrated Malkin on a shift later in the period.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Swede stood up Malkin to thwart his rush, then used his big body to get the MVP finalist off the puck again.

"It was huge," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "He's a big man, who can play against anybody."

Malkin reacted by interfering with Ericsson, putting Detroit on the power play.

The Red Wings scored just after the penalty was killed, generating enough pressure that Valtteri Filppula's backhander gave them a 2-1 lead.

Ericsson is one of the young players performing for the defending Stanley Cup champions after being forced to develop in the minor leagues.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland likes his prospects "overripe" before they get a chance to play in the NHL.

The 25-year-old Ericsson was buried at Grand Rapids in the AHL until getting called up in March because defenseman Andreas Lilja had a concussion.

"If we didn't have him, we would be in big trouble," Babcock said.

Ericsson played 19 times in the regular season, scoring once and adding three assists.

In 17 playoff games, he has three goals — including on in his playoff debut in the first round against Columbus — and six points. Ericsson missed only one game after abdominal pain the morning of Game 5 in the Western Conference finals sent him to the hospital.

"I'm feeling better every day," he said.

Babcock said Ericsson's size, reach and passing skills will make him an elite player for a long time.

Plenty of teams had a shot at drafting him because he lasted until the 291st — and final — selection in the 2002 NHL draft.

"I was young and not strong at all," Ericsson said. "I guess Detroit saw something no one else did."

by the associated press

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Howard's two homers puts the Phillies past Nationals

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ryan Howard hit his club-record eighth career grand slam and added a solo homer to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 9-6 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

Trailing 3-2 in the third, Howard connected on his slam to move past Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. Howard had given the Phillies their first run with a solo shot in the second inning. It was the 19th multihomer game of Howard's career.

Cole Hamels (3-2) gave up six runs and eight hits in six innings for the win. He struck out seven in his worst start this season since allowing seven against Colorado to open the season.

Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.

Shairon Martis (5-1) lost for the first time in 10 starts for Washington. He surrendered seven runs and seven hits in four innings. Howard has plagued Martis in his career hitting three homers and driving in nine runs in seven at-bats.

Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino also had a pair of hits for the Phillies, who improved to 9-2 against the Nationals this season while dealing Washington its fifth straight loss.

Washington got a run back in the fourth on Alberto Gonzalez's RBI triple that scored Austin Kearns to pull within 6-4, but Hamels delivered an RBI double to restore Philadelphia's three-run lead.

Pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard hit a two-run homer to left in the sixth to pull Washington to 7-6. But Philadelphia tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning when Anderson Hernandez booted Howard's grounder to second with the bases loaded.

The Nationals took a 3-0 lead in the second with three hits, as Will Nieves drove in two with a double and Hernandez one with a single.

Notes: Prior to the game, the Nationals recalled Gonzalez from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned outfielder Justin Maxwell to Syracuse. Gonzalez, who batted .311 in 23 games with Syracuse, went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI Saturday. Gonzalez was filling in at shortstop for Cristian Guzman, who got the night off to rest a jammed right thumb. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning, his major league leading 11th hit by pitch this season. Washington right fielder Adam Dunn committed two errors, giving him seven for the season.

by the associated press

Brewers win 9-5 win over Reds

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Mike Cameron hit a go-head two-run homer in a six-run fifth inning, waking up the Milwaukee Brewers' latent offense in a 9-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Cincinnati was without offensive standout Joey Votto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with stress-related issues believed to be linked to his ongoing struggles with an inner-ear infection — although club officials were hesitant to go into detail about the situation.

But pitching was the Reds' biggest problem Saturday, especially in a fifth inning that at times seemed like it might last all night.

With Milwaukee trailing 5-3 going into the fifth, Ryan Braun hit a one-out solo home run to cut Cincinnati's lead to one. Prince Fielder then singled, and Cameron hit a 1-1 pitch from Reds starter Aaron Harang deep to left-center field for his 10th home run of the season and a 6-5 Milwaukee lead.

It was the Brewers' third home run of the night off Harang (5-5), who also allowed a three-run homer by Fielder in the first. But it didn't stop there.

Corey Hart reached on an infield hit, then barely beat a throw home to score on a double by Bill Hall. Reds manager Dusty Baker then removed Harang in favor of Jared Burton.

Burton allowed a ground-rule double to Mike Rivera, scoring Hall to give the Brewers an 8-5 lead. Burton then got Brewers relief pitcher Seth McClung to swing at strike three, but a wild pitch got away from catcher Ryan Hanigan, allowing McClung to take first and Rivera to take third.

Rivera then scored on an RBI single by Craig Counsell, and the inning finally ended on back-to-back flyouts.

Harang, who had won three of his previous four starts, gave up 12 hits and was tagged for eight runs Saturday. Milwaukee had scored four runs or fewer in each of its previous 10 games, going 4-6 during that stretch.

McClung (2-1) pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win after Milwaukee starter Dave Bush turned in his shortest start of the season. Bush gave up five runs, seven hits and three walks in four innings.

Bush allowed three runs on a pair of home runs in the first, including a two-run shot by Jerry Hairston Jr. and a solo homer by Brandon Phillips, who made his first start in a week because of a right thumb injury.

Notes:@ Milwaukee tied a season high for runs in an inning. The Brewers also scored six runs in the seventh inning of a victory over the Chicago Cubs on May 9. ... With Votto on the disabled list, the Reds called up utility player Wilkin Castillo from Triple-A Louisville. ... CF Chris Dickerson took an extra-base hit away from Craig Counsell with a remarkable sliding catch at the warning track in the fourth.

by the associated press

Detroit wins 3-1 victory

DETROIT (AP) — Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux were both in the building when the Stanley Cup finals opener changed in a way it couldn't have during their Hall of Fame careers. With the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins tied late in the second period, the Penguins cleared the puck down the ice for a routine icing call. Only now in this post-lockout NHL, icing can be devastating.

Not only does the faceoff come back in the offending team's end, but that club must keep its players — who are often tired — on the ice. The rule is only four years old, put into play to create offense. And it worked just as it was supposed to.

The Penguins were caught with a drained top line in their own zone, unable to clear the puck and eventually keep it out of their net. That goal put Detroit back in front and sent them on the way to a 3-1 victory Saturday night.

Sensing the game was on the line at that point, even with more than one period left, rookie Penguins coach Dan Bylsma tried to help out the tired trio of Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz.

Bylsma spent his lone timeout with 1:14 left in the period, but couldn't keep his club even for long.

Just 16 seconds later, those exhausted Penguins were still on the ice when Johan Franzen banked in a goal off netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, restoring the defending champions' lead.

The crowd was roaring, the momentum had shifted, and the Red Wings were on their way to a win.

Lemieux couldn't help his team from the Penguins' owner's box. Howe, who dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, couldn't have imagined such a rule when he played in the days when the Red Wings were one of only six NHL teams.

Pittsburgh might be searching for another respite, like the lifeline Bylsma attempted to toss them, but there is little time. Game 2 is Sunday night back in raucous Joe Louis Arena, where the Penguins failed to score in a pair of losses that kicked off last year's finals.

The Penguins looked better at the start of the rematch, but they already face the prospect of being down 2-0 by the time they get back home for Game 3 on Tuesday.

So much for the young Penguins being the fresh, healthy and rested ones.

The Red Wings are banged up, forced to start the finals without Pavel Datsyuk (foot), their regular-season scoring leader and fellow forward Kris Draper. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom came back from an injury that forced him to miss the last two games of the Western Conference finals. Another defenseman, Brian Rafalski, also was sidelined during the playoffs.

Maybe those nicks and bruises provided a necessary break, too. The first four games will be played in a six-night span.

"I keep reading that we're the tired team and that we didn't get enough rest," said 47-year-old Chris Chelios, who wasn't in Detroit's lineup. "But (Rafalski) last round — I'm talking about guys that log a lot of minutes — Nick had a couple of games off, Jonny Ericsson got a couple of games off. The deeper this series goes, if it does go deep, I think those key guys got a lot of rest."

The belief was that the Penguins, who hadn't played since finishing off Carolina on Tuesday night, brought fresh legs and a new dose of experience that was gained during last year's finals loss to the Red Wings.

So far, the Penguins are the ones trying to catch their breath.

by the associated press

Superman will face-off with Kobe Bryant

There will be no Kobe-LeBron showdown in the NBA finals — and that could make things tougher for the Lakers.

Instead, Los Angeles will face Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, who swept the Western Conference champions during the regular season.

The Lakers will try to prove that means nothing when the finals begin Thursday on their home floor against Orlando, which upset Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavaliers had the NBA's best record, but lost both meetings with the Lakers. Had Cleveland made the finals, it would have set up a highly anticipated duel between Bryant and James, the last two NBA MVPs.

The Magic ruined that script, just as they wrecked Boston's hopes of a repeat by ousting the defending champions in the second round. Now they look to deny Phil Jackson his 10th coaching title, which would move him past Red Auerbach for most all-time.

Orlando finished off Cleveland 103-90 on Saturday behind 40 points from Howard and is in the finals for only the second time. The Magic can become the first first-time champion since another Florida team, the Miami Heat, won the 2006 title.

The Lakers clinched their 30th finals appearance, most in NBA history, by beating the Denver Nuggets 119-92 on Friday to win that series in six games. They remained stuck on 15 championships, second behind Boston, when the Celtics beat them last year in six games.

Los Angeles is in much better shape this year. Center Andrew Bynum is healthy after missing the 2008 postseason with a knee injury, and Trevor Ariza — a former Magic player — has become a key starter after missing most of last year's playoffs with a foot injury.

It didn't matter who the Lakers had against the Magic this season. Orlando won 106-103 at home in December despite 41 points from Bryant, then pulled out a 109-103 victory in Los Angeles about a month later behind 25 points and 20 rebounds from Howard.

Still, Jackson said he didn't care which team the Lakers faced.

"The only thing that makes a difference is if it's Orlando, we make one road trip in this setup," Jackson said after Friday's victory.

The Magic made 12 3-pointers in each game, a weapon they relied heavily on in their elimination of the Cavaliers. Los Angeles should be better equipped to deal with the matchup problems that Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu created against Cleveland by inserting Lamar Odom, who had strong performances in the final two games of the West finals after struggling through most of the series.

Looming over the series is the large shadow of Shaquille O'Neal, who led both teams to the finals. He took Orlando there in 1995, then left for Los Angeles the following year and the Magic struggled for years after.

He teamed with Bryant to lead the Lakers to three straight titles from 2000-02, but the Lakers haven't won another since they traded him in the summer of 2004.

Game 2 will also be at Staples Center before the series shifts to Central Florida for Games 3 and 4, and if necessary, Game 5.

by the associated press

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lakers going to The NBA Championship 2009

DENVER — This was no conspiracy.

The referees, the NBA and the networks didn't have a thing to do with knocking the Denver Nuggets out of the playoffs Friday night and setting up at least one half of the Kobe-LeBron dream matchup in the final.

Los Angeles beat the Nuggets and the Nuggets beat themselves in Game 6. The refs called a grand total of 22 fouls against the Nuggets in their 119-92 loss - and seven of those came in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand.

This one was simply a matter of one potentially great team finally hitting its stride against a good one that ran out of gas, patience and poise.

On offence, the Nuggets were never the aggressors in the decisive loss, rarely taking the ball to the hoop to create contact and get free throws. Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups - the heart of this team - were off target (a combined 8 for 24), Nene was invisible (eight points despite only four fouls) and the Birdman, Chris Andersen, never took off (two points, one rebound).

The Lakers, meanwhile, shot 57 per cent, led by Kobe Bryant's 12-for-20, 35-point, 10-assist night.

They get lots of credit for that, though Denver's inability to get in anyone's face on the perimeter or put a body on anyone inside made things way too easy on a team that doesn't need any help.

Even the Denver fans who had been booing everything in purple or a referee's shade of grey turned on their own team when Luke Walton spotted up for a wide-open 20-footer late in the third quarter that made it 75-59.

Before the game, Nuggets coach George Karl said all the talk about the officiating had obscured what was a pretty good series - at least until the finale.

"In a lot of ways, we've helped them put their pieces back together and they've helped us grow up faster," Karl said.

The Nuggets still have some growing to do.

The Lakers need to piece together a game plan for either the Orlando Magic - or LeBron (and the Cleveland Cavaliers).

The enticement of a Kobe-LeBron final has shaped so much of the debate about the officiating in this series, during which the losing coach has complained after Games 3, 4 and 5 but only Phil Jackson's protests were enough to draw a fine after Denver evened the series at 2.

The Nuggets felt they got an unfair whistle in their loss in Game 5 and wondered if the $50,000 in fines was enough to buy the officiating advantage.

Had Denver been able to guard Bryant, account for the suddenly resurgent Lamar Odom (20 points), neutralize Pau Gasol (20 points, 12 rebounds) or make a shot when it counted (41 per cent over the first three quarters), maybe that debate could have been continued to Sunday.

Instead, the Nuggets have to look back at squandered opportunities, not so much in Game 6 but earlier in the series.

Denver might have been the better team throughout Games 1, 2, 3 and 4 but couldn't make a key inbounds pass at the ends of Games 1 and 3, which ended up costing them in a pair of close losses.

The Nuggets also fell apart at the end of Game 5, getting outscored by 16 over the final 16 minutes, and all the old slams, the pre-Chauncey slams, on this team - lose their cool too easily, rush too many shots, don't commit on defence - came flooding back.

By the end of Game 6, calling the Nuggets unprepared for the big time only felt like piling on. They were losing by 27, fans were filing out of the Pepsi Center - a good season, maybe the best in franchise history, was coming to a sad end.

Meanwhile, the Lakers and Kobe move on.

And if there's a conspiracy in the NBA, it will have to play out in Orlando or Cleveland.

by The Canadian Press

Karine Ruby dies in climbing fall

CHAMONIX, France – Karine Ruby, a former Olympic snowboarding champion who had been training to become a mountain guide, died Friday in a climbing accident on Mont Blanc. She was 31.

Ruby was roped to other climbers when she and some members of the group fell into a deep crack in the glacier on the way down the mountain, Chamonix police official Laurent Sayssac said.

A 38-year-old man from the Paris region died in the fall, and a 27-year-old man was evacuated by helicopter with serious injuries and hospitalized, Sayssac added.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called Ruby an "exceptional sportswoman."

"Karine incarnated the emergence of snowboarding in France," Fillon said in a statement. "The people of France will hold on to the memory of her talent and her joie de vivre."

Ruby won a gold medal in the giant slalom at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and a silver in the parallel giant slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. She was a six-time world champion with 65 snowboard World Cup victories.

She retired after the 2006 Turin Olympics, where she was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the snowboardcross event. Ruby had since been working toward becoming a mountain guide and was expected to finish her training in the coming weeks.

by the associated press

Thursday, May 28, 2009

James drops 37 Cavs 112-102 over Magic

CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James made a new guarantee: Game 6. With Cleveland's wondrous season on the line, James had 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, and Mo Williams, who boldly predicted his team would come back and win this tight-as-can-be series, added 24 points in the Cavaliers' 112-102 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 on Thursday night.

It's back to Florida for Game 6 on Saturday night at amped-up Amway Arena.

You expected anything else?

"I mean this was a big game for us," James said. "You never want to disappoint the home crowd by not coming out and play as hard as you can. It was win or go home."

The Magic overcame a 22-point deficit but missed their first opportunity to close out the Cavaliers, who are trying to become just the ninth team since 1947 to rally and win a series after being down 3-1. Orlando will have two more tries to reach the NBA finals for the first time since 1995.

For Cleveland, a city banking on James to deliver a championship after a 45-year drought, the MVP was again in a league of his own.

James scored 21 points in the second half — 17 in the fourth quarter — and had a hand in 29 of Cleveland's 34 points in the final 12 minutes.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 29 for Orlando, and Dwight Howard had 24 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:22 remaining when he was called for his sixth personal foul while trying to stop James on a drive.

Not even Superman was denying James.

And this time, Williams, his trusty sidekick all season, showed up to help him, as did Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16 points), Delonte West (13) and reserve Daniel Gibson (11), who made two huge 3-pointers in the fourth.

"We'll be back here for Game 7," Gibson told the crowd afterward.

The Magic have twice ended series on the road this postseason, winning a Game 6 in Philadelphia and a Game 7 in Boston to make the conference finals. For a while it looked like Orlando might do it again, taking a 79-78 lead into the fourth quarter.

James, though, had other plans.

He picked up his first assist of the period on 3-pointer by Williams and his second on a 3 by Gibson. Cleveland then turned to its superstar every time down on offense, spreading the floor and forcing the Magic to defend him. If he wasn't backing down the lane, he was getting to the line or setting his teammates up from the perimeter.

He also had four rebounds and four assists in the final quarter.

by the associated press

Cubs' Zambrano suspended 6 games

CHICAGO (AP) — Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball on Thursday, a day after his tirade during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Zambrano said he won't appeal the penalty, which included a fine. Barring rainouts, he is eligible to return next Thursday and start that night at Atlanta.

"Well, you know, I think I'm a pretty good judge of when you make a mistake, when you do something wrong, you have to pay for it," Zambrano said. "I don't have a problem with that. I know that I did something that disrespected MLB. I apologize like I did yesterday, and let's move on. I accept the suspension."

Chicago manager Lou Piniella said the penalty was reasonable.

"I think the ruling was fair," Piniella said. "I think Carlos does, also. He just took it too far. I think he realizes that. We had a nice talked in my office with Carlos and (pitching coach) Larry Rothschild and told him basically we weren't happy about the situation and we are not going to condone it, and that there is nothing wrong with being upset but you got to learn to walk away at the right time."

The loss of Zambrano will shorten Chicago's bench. Zambrano is hitting .261 with one home run.

"Not only does he miss his regular start, we use him to pinch-hit time to time, so it hurts us on two fronts," Piniella said.

Zambrano threw a baseball into left field and slammed his glove against the dugout fence after he was ejected Wednesday, moments after his wild pitch let the Pirates tie it at 2 in the seventh inning. The Cubs won 5-2.

With Nyjer Morgan at third, Zambrano's wild pitch just got away from catcher Geovany Soto. Zambrano covered the plate for Soto's throw, Morgan slid and umpire Mark Carlson ruled him safe.

The excitable Zambrano jumped up, argued and was ejected after he appeared to nudge Carlson. Zambrano then pointed in Carlson's face and gave him the ejection sign.

He then fired a ball into left, tossed his glove and took a bat to a dugout drink dispenser before heading to the clubhouse.

Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charged is discipline, cited Zambrano for "inappropriate and violent actions on the field and in the dugout."

"Obviously his actions after he left the plate area were certainly warranting some kind of penalty," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "I don't have a problem with the emotions showed at the plate and even if it leads to an ejection. Obviously you have to be able to control yourself better than he did after that."

It wasn't the first time that Zambrano had a public meltdown. In 2007, he got into a fight with former teammate Michael Barrett in the dugout. The fight then resumed in the clubhouse.

Zambrano got agitated with a reporter when the incident was brought up.

"How can you bring Michael Barrett into this conversation? Man, I'm a man, you know. If somebody comes to me and tries to beat me up, I have to respond, you know? Nobody likes to get beat up, you know? I don't say this to the umpire," he said.

"If some man here or some man outside is trying to get me up or trying to fire me up, I will respond. And anybody here, any man here will respond," he said. "Am I right? Nobody likes to be hit. Nobody likes to be fired up. Nobody. As a man you don't like to be pushed up or you don't like to be, you don't like somebody to kick your butt. You will respond as a man. So don't bring Michael Barrett in this conversation. We're talking about the incident yesterday, not Michael Barrett."

by the associated press

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

LB Lenon sign with The New England Patriots

Patriots sign free agent LB Lenon
6 hours ago

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots have signed former Detroit Lions linebacker Paris Lenon.

He signed Wednesday after seven NFL seasons, four with Green Bay and three with Detroit in which he played in all 112 games, starting the last 63. He became a free agent after last season when the Lions went 0-16.

The Patriots needed linebacker help after third-round draft pick Tyrone McKenzie tore a knee ligament at rookie minicamp earlier this month.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Lenon had signed with Carolina as a rookie free agent from Richmond in April 2000, but was cut before training camp. He was with Seattle for 10 days during the 2001 preseason and was signed to the Packers' practice squad in 2001. He played in 16 games for them in 2002.

by the associated press

Rick Rypien sign's with Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks signed forward Rick Rypien, a cousin of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien, to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday.

Rick Rypien has five goals, two assists and 69 penalty minutes in 41 games over four NHL seasons. Hard hitting and willing to fight much larger opponents, the 5-foot-11 Rypien's biggest struggle has been staying healthy.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the new deal prevents the 25-year-old from becoming a free agent on July 1.

"Rick plays with intensity and energy every time he steps on the ice, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. "He is an important part of our team and a valued teammate.

Rypien had sports hernia surgery early last season — his sixth major injury since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2005 — and took a personal leave of absence after recovering. He missed 70 games and six months before returning in late March, getting two assists in 10 playoff games.

by the associated press

Coaches poll to be confidential

Beginning in 2010, ballots in the final regular-season USA Today coaches' college football poll will be confidential — one of a handful of changes on tap for the poll that helps decide who plays in the BCS national championship game.

The American Football Coaches Association asked Gallup to study its poll and recommend how to make it more accurate and credible. The AFCA's board heard the results in early May and announced them Wednesday in Waco, Texas.

"Gallup said, 'Look, why do you think they have curtains and booths for voting?'" AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said. "They said it's because you get the truest vote from an anonymous vote."

Teaff said Gallup recommended that the organization go back to a policy from decades ago when the coaches themselves weren't identified. But the changes stopped short of that.

"The coaches' poll is just that, it's the coaches' poll," said Monte Lorell, USA Today's managing editor for sports. "They make determinations. Our job is to monitor it, make sure it maintains its integrity. We're pleased that the voting panel is public. We think that's important."

The Associated Press has made all votes in its weekly media poll public since 1990. For the past three seasons, ballots have also been posted online.

Other Gallup recommendations being considered for the future include reducing the number of teams ranked from 25 to 10 or 15, and evaluating the merit of a preseason poll.

Starting this year, the poll will also eliminate bonus voters given to some conferences based on how their teams did the previous year.

The most radical change, however, will be the return to the policy in place before 2005, when coaches didn't have to reveal their final ballots. Coaches will be allowed to release their own ballots if they choose.

"When I was a voter, I liked every coach putting it out there to see where it stands," Mississippi coach Houston Nutt said. "I liked being accountable."

But revealing the ballots has made for some awkward situations. Former Florida coaches Steve Spurrier (now at South Carolina) and Ron Zook (Illinois), for instance, took some heat last year when they ranked the Gators second behind Oklahoma in last year's final regular-season poll.

Zook, meanwhile, was criticized two years previously when he picked the Gators No. 1 over Ohio State, which is in the Big Ten with Illinois.

Confidential or not, Zook said his method remains the same for voting.

"To me, I was always going to vote how I felt," he said. "I think that's why you have a poll. That's why more than one person is involved. So what I try to do is rank the teams where I really feel they should be. I'm not real into the political stuff."

The AFCA also decided to continue allowing coaches to vote for their own teams and to select voters on a random basis beginning this year.

The coaches' poll counts for one-third of the BCS rankings. The Harris Interactive poll — a survey of media, former coaches, players and administrators — is another third and a compilation of six computer rankings, which take into account factors like strength of schedule, makes up the rest.

"By keeping things confidential, I think there will be less hidden agendas," said Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who is on the AFCA's board.

Georgia coach Mark Richt and LSU coach Les Miles said they were never afraid of their ballots going public.

"But some coaches who I respect chose not to vote," Miles said. "They felt it was a competitive disadvantage to their team when they voted against a team, and then they had to line up and play that team. If this allows responsible members of the coaches association to vote, it's great."

by the associated press

Capitals, Nats has been Named in Drug Bust

LAKELAND, Fla., May 27 -- A massive drug bust in a small town in central Florida entangled the Washington Nationals and Capitals late Tuesday when a man found with $200,000 worth of steroids and other drugs in his home named those teams, and no others, when police inquired whether any professional athletes were among his clients.

But the sheriff handling the case in Polk County said detectives had no evidence other than the claims of the man, Richard Thomas, 35, who bragged while in detention that he had sold performance-enhancing drugs to players in a variety of pro sports without providing names, numbers of clients, time frames or validating documentation.

"I sent a supervisor in with a detective, and [Thomas] confirmed, 'Yes, I've sold steroids to professional football, professional baseball and professional hockey players," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd during an interview in his office. "When asked for specifics, he said the Washington Capitals and D.C. Nationals. At this point in the investigation, I have absolutely nothing to corroborate those statements."

Added Judd later: "Can I tell you whether he supplied one player or two players, or one team or two teams? I can't do that."

The statements, however, quickly sped around the nation, eliciting quick responses from sports leagues that have become accustomed to such disclosures during a decade in which several U.S. federal and state drug busts eventually revealed connections to professional sports. By Wednesday morning, Major League Baseball security officials had e-mailed and telephoned Judd requesting information and offering to assist in any way they could, Judd said.

The NHL, meantime, said it would conduct a prompt investigation. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that, "even though there are no specifics . . . the National Hockey League takes all matters of this nature very seriously."

League and team officials also highlighted their recently tightened drug policies, which subject players in both leagues to random unannounced drug tests several times a year. Though several former Nationals players -- including José Guillén, now with the Kansas City Royals, who received a 15-game ban in 2008 -- were entangled in previous scandals involving drug distribution networks, no current player on either team is known to have failed a drug test.

"I don't have any particular concerns, because as you've seen in recent times, baseball has the most stringent testing for performance-enhancing drugs," Nationals President Stan Kasten said. "Players run afoul of the rules, they're caught, and they're disciplined. My reaction is limited to the things I hear authoritatively from MLB."

The drama began Tuesday afternoon, when police raided a modest, stone home with cream trim. Alerted to an expected shipment of steroids by federal officials, Polk County detectives executed a search warrant and arrived at the home in a gated community to find "massive quantities" of steroids and other drugs in vials, jars and syringes, according to Judd. Detectives also found two shotguns, several handguns and one automatic weapon that Thomas said he kept so he wouldn't "get ripped off," Judd said.

Richard and Sandra Thomas were arrested and booked into the Polk County jail on several counts of possession of illegal steroids, firearms and maintaining a dwelling for drug use.

After Thomas claimed to be the biggest steroid dealer in central Florida and stated that he obtained drugs from Iran, Pakistan, Slovakia, Russia, China, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and Germany, investigators asked him whether he had professional athlete clients. Judd said he told detectives to ask the question because he knew members of the media would seek that information.

"If [Thomas] was just wanting to pump himself up and enjoy his 15 minutes of fame locally, you would think he would have said the Detroit Tigers because they're here in Lakeland for spring training, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or the ice hockey team," Judd said. "He didn't mention any of those. His statement was the Washington Capitals and D.C. Nationals."

Elaine Diaz, who lives next door to Thomas, said he and his wife were quiet and friendly and gave no indication they were running a business of any sort from their house.

"They were very quiet," Diaz said. "This is a very quiet neighborhood. I just never in my wildest dreams thought anything was going on."

The pair placed second in a mixed pairs bodybuilding event in Orlando in June 2001, and Richard Thomas trained regularly at two local gyms, a Gold's Gym where he was a member and a gym known as Debs Gym: House of Perfection in a hardscrabble neighborhood across town. Representatives of both establishments said Wednesday they did not know of Thomas's steroid dealings.

Thomas's mother told police her son had been involved in steroids for years after being introduced to them by his father.

Judd said detectives seized some documents and records from the Tuesday night bust but declined to comment on what the documents showed. He said the investigation would continue.

from the washington post

Lakers take game 5 from Nuggets

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Lakers owned the fourth quarter against Denver. Now they have a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, Lamar Odom had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 14 points and 10 rebounds in Los Angeles' 103-94 victory Wednesday night.

Game 6 is Friday in Denver, where the Lakers lost Game 4 by 19 points.

"Got to come ready to play," Bryant said. "We made a lot of mistakes the last time, the mistakes that took place were execution, and we didn't do things at the defensive end.

"We'll come ready to play."

Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points, hitting 12 of 13 free throws, and Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups added 12 points each for the Nuggets.

The teams were tied after the first, second and third quarters for just the fourth time in NBA playoff history.

So it all came down to the final 12 minutes.

Bryant, Odom and Gasol teamed for all but seven of the Lakers' points in the fourth. They opened on an 11-0 run for their first lead of the second half and it was capped by Shannon Brown's jumper that beat the shot clock.

The Nuggets used a 13-6 run to close to 93-89. Linas Kleiza scored seven straight and Anthony had six in the spurt.

But then the Lakers regained control and finished off the victory. They improved to 20-0 in Game 5s at home when a series is tied 2-2.

Bryant said he changed his role from the what it had been in the series.

"It was a big gamble for me coming in, but I wanted to change my approach this game and be more of a decoy," he said after adding eight assists, several out of double-teams in the fourth quarter. "The past couple games they really were loading to my side and I figured I could be a decoy and try to give chances to my teammates."

Anthony hit a jumper to get Denver to 96-91 with 1:24 remaining. But the Nuggets went cold from the field over the final 3:38, while the Lakers capitalized at the line. Los Angeles outscored Denver 10-5 in that span, including going 6 of 8 from the line.

Denver returns home needing a victory to send the series back to Los Angeles for a Game 7 on Sunday. The Nuggets have never won a best-of-7 series after losing Game 1.

The good kind of history is seemingly on the Lakers' side. They haven't lost a best-of-7 series that was tied 2-2 after winning Game 5 since the 1969 NBA finals against Boston.

Denver twice led by seven points in the third quarter only to see the Lakers tie it at 76 on a 3-pointer by Bryant to end the period. Los Angeles never led, but managed the two ties.

In a first half featuring 13 ties, the teams ended up even after both the first and second quarters. On the Lakers' final play, Bryant held the ball at midcourt as the clock ticked down before driving and kicking to Sasha Vujacic, who hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 56-all going into halftime. The Lakers were 0 for 7 from long range until then.

Notes:@ The Lakers were involved the other three playoff games were tied through the first three quarters, the last was in 1964 against St. Louis. ... Denver's Nene fouled out with 4:02 remaining, with four points and eight rebounds. He has fouled out of three game, ... Famous faces in the crowd: Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Ron Artest of the Houston Rockets, Zac Efron and NBA centers past and present Bill Russell and Kevin Love.

by the associated press

Yankees past Rangers 9-2

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A.J. Burnett pitched six shutout innings to win for the first time in six weeks, Hideki Matsui homered twice and the New York Yankees gained a share of the AL East lead by beating the Texas Rangers 9-2 Wednesday night.

The Yankees, who have won 12 of 15, are tied atop the division with Boston. It is the first time this season New York has been in first place in the AL East.

Derek Jeter was 3 for 4 and reached base five times, and Mark Teixeira added his 12th homer in May. The Yankees had 15 hits.

Alex Rodriguez was 7 for 13 with four RBIs in his first series in Texas since admitting earlier this year that he used steroids while playing for the Rangers. For the third straight game, he was greeted with loud boos every time he came to the plate.

Burnett (3-2) won for the first time since April 14. The right-hander allowed three hits, walked four and struck out seven to snap his longest winless drought since the end of the 2005 season.

Derek Holland (1-2) lost in his second career start, allowing 10 hits and six runs in five innings.

Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer off Jose Veras in the Texas seventh, his 13th of the season.

Matsui, who was in a 3 for 23 funk coming into the series, homered on the first pitch of the sixth inning from Holland. He added a two-run shot in the seventh off Warner Madrigal.

It was Matsui's third career multihomer game, and first since July 31, 2007, against the Chicago White Sox.

Robinson Cano homered in the ninth, giving the Yankees 77 this season to tie the Rangers for the top total in baseball.

Burnett, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in the offseason, had not won in seven starts. He was 0-6 over his last seven starts with Florida in 2005.

In the sixth, Johnny Damon gave Burnett a hand when he crashed into the wall in left and made a bobbling catch of Josh Hamilton's line drive.

Jeter singled to lead off the game. After Damon struck out, Teixeira homered over the fence in left. Teixeira's 12 homers in May are the most for a New York player in a month since Rodriguez hit 14 in April 2007.

New York extended its lead to 3-0 when Cash and Jeter hit consecutive two-out doubles in the second.

Matsui's homer in the sixth gave the Yankees a 4-0 advantage, and the Yankees tacked on two more in the sixth after that.

Notes:@ The three-game series drew 120,720 people, the most for a series in Arlington since the Red Sox came to town April 6-8, 2007. ... The Yankees extended a franchise record by playing their 14th straight errorless game. ... Chien-Ming Wang pitched two hitless innings and struck out two in his second appearance since coming off the disabled list. The Yankees' righty lowered his ERA from 25.00 to 20.45.

by the associated press

Cristiano Ronaldo's unsure if he will play for Manchester United

ROME (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United became uncertain again when he wouldn't say whether he will remain with the English champions next season.

When asked after United's 2-0 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final whether he would be at Old Trafford next season, the reigning world player of the year said: "I don't know."

Real Madrid has been trying to obtain the 24-year-old Portuguese winger for nearly two seasons and former president Florentino Perez is on the verge of heading the club again.

A lifelong Madrid fan, has three seasons remaining on his current contract and has said he'd like to play for Real Madrid at some point. United manager Alex Ferguson has labeled Real Madrid "a mob" for repeatedly trying to get Ronaldo to make a move.

Perez, responsible for bringing Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham to Real Madrid during his six year tenure, has said he is ready to spend three years' worth of money on players this summer alone.

Ronaldo nearly scored in the second minute of Wednesday night's loss and while he had six shots, he became less of a factor in the second half.

"Everything went wrong," Ronaldo said. "We didn't control the game and we lost. I think Barcelona played better than us and they deserved to win."

Man United didn't respond to the challenge.

"Everyone expects Manchester to do something in the game and it didn't happen," Ronaldo said.

He was outplayed by Lionel Messi, who could succeed him as player of the year.

"The game was between Manchester and Barcelona. It wasn't a duel between anyone in particular," Ronaldo said. "I'm sure I'm going to play more finals."

by the associated press

OT goal puts Red Wings back in Cup finals

DETROIT (AP) — Darren Helm and Dan Cleary are far from marquee players for the Detroit Red Wings.

The banged-up Red Wings, playing without stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, needed Helm and Cleary to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night.

Helm scored 3:58 into overtime, and Cleary had a goal in the third period in the defending champion Red Wings' 2-1 victory over Chicago that set up a Stanley Cup finals rematch with Pittsburgh.

"We lose guys and we keep getting the job done," defenseman Brett Lebda said.

Detroit won 4-1 in a series that needed overtime in three of the last four games.

"We blew them out one game, but by no means was it easy," said goalie Chris Osgood, who made 30 saves.

The Red Wings and Penguins, coming off a four-game sweep over Carolina in the East, will open the championship series Saturday night in Detroit.

The series will start nearly a week ahead of schedule because NBC and the NHL didn't want a long layoff to stunt the excitement about the matchup.

One of the intriguing stories will be Detroit's Marian Hossa playing against the team he left behind as a free agent. Hossa turned down a long-term, lucrative deal from the Penguins last summer for a one-year contract because he believed the Red Wings had a better shot to win it all again.

"It's a unique situation right now, definitely this doesn't happen often," Hossa said. "I try to make the best of the situation for myself and try to help the team win a Cup."

The Red Wings are matching up with Pittsburgh in what is the NHL's first Stanley Cup rematch since the Edmonton Oilers beat the New York Islanders in 1984 after losing to them the previous year.

"To have the opportunity against Pittsburgh should be a lot of fun," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "There will be a lot of hype."

The Red Wings, the first defending champion to get back to the finals since New Jersey in 2001, are trying to become the first team to repeat since they accomplished the feat in 1997 and '98.

In the Western Conference finale, both teams were missing key players.

Detroit was without six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Lidstrom; his replacement, Jonathan Ericsson; MVP finalist Datsyuk; and four-time Cup-winning forward Kris Draper.

"Everybody picked up the slack," said 47-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios, who played only because Detroit's blue line was so thin.

In addition to Khabibulin, Chicago faced elimination — for the first time this postseason — without star forward Martin Havlat.

Goalie Cristobal Huet kept the Blackhawks in the game, but a bad bounce for them and a fortunate one for Detroit ended the game.

Detroit sent the puck behind Huet, Tomas Holmstrom got it across the crease after the carom and, after fanning with a shot attempt from the edge of the crease, Helm was credited with the series-clinching goal after it went in off his skate.

"Those are the kind of goals you score in the later stages in playoffs," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got hemmed in their end. It was a tough one."

Despite helping Chicago reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and the conference finals for the first time since 1995, Jonathan Toews took the season-ending loss hard.

"It's pretty hard kick to the ribs," Toews said. "It stinks quite a bit, but maybe it's the motivation and experience we needed."

Cleary opened the scoring 6:08 into the third period, and Chicago's Patrick Kane tied it with 7:07 left in regulation with his first goal of the series.

Huet made 44 saves for the Blackhawks. He forced overtime with a spectacular stop from his stomach, lifting his right leg to knock away Johan Franzen's shot in the closing seconds.

"He played great," Quenneville said. "He is to be commended. The game he played kept us in it."

Notes:@ Ericsson was a surprise scratch, needing surgery after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis following the morning skate. The Red Wings expect the rookie to return for Game 1 against Pittsburgh. ... Lidstrom was out with an undisclosed injury, and Datsyuk missed his third straight game because of a foot injury. ... Havlat was shook up in each of the last two games by hard hits and Khabibulin left Game 3 with a lower body injury. ... Quenneville fell to 0-5 against the Red Wings in the playoffs and they hope a trend continues. After beating a Quenneville-coached team, Detroit hoisted the Cup last year, in 2002, 1998 and 1997. ... The Red Wings are an NHL-best 8-1 in the playoffs at home this year.

by the associated press

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LeBron James might not see his Dream , come true this season

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Mo Williams' Game 4 guarantee blew up like his swollen left eye.

Starting fast and fading late, Williams had 18 points but went scoreless in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 116-114 Tuesday night to the Orlando Magic to go down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I'm a leader on this team. Whatever I can do to spark this team and give us confidence, I'll do," Williams said. "If I have to take the heat, so be it."

Cleveland's only other All-Star provided little help to LeBron James when it counted most. He deferred to the league MVP and clanked the few jumpers he took. Williams finished with five rebounds, two assists and one false proclamation.

"Guarantee we're going to win the series? Yeah, yeah," Williams said Monday.


His eye still swollen and stitches concealing the wound from the elbow he took in Game 3 from Orlando's Anthony Johnson, Williams had 12 points in the first half and then pretty much disappeared.

He finished 5 for 15 from the field, with eight of his points coming on free throws. Williams attempted only two shots after the third period, and like most of the Cavs, he leaned heavily on James.

"I put the ball in LeBron's hands," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "So he didn't defer. I went small. That's why he didn't get a ton of touches."

Magic point guard Rafer Alston said Williams' prediction was their biggest motivation.

"I had it in the back of my mind. I wanted to take it to him, and he wasn't even guarding me. LeBron was," Alston said.

It has been a rough series for Williams.

In the second quarter of Game 3, Johnson drove the lane and extended his elbow, knocking Williams to the floor bleeding. Williams was called for a blocking foul, and Johnson was whistled for a flagrant one foul after officials huddled. The flagrant, which Williams said was "most definitely" a cheap shot, was rescinded earlier Tuesday by the league.

His statistics are almost as painful.

Williams is 23 for 71 in the series and has been hardly as efficient as he was in the regular season, when he averaged a career-high 17.8 points. Game 5 is Thursday night in Cleveland, and now the Cavs must do what only eight teams in NBA history ever have: come back from a 3-1 hole.

The time for guarantees is almost up.

"Nobody would be asking about it, they'd be talking good about it, we would be 2-2 right now if we won," Williams said. "Our coach would look real good."

by the associated press

Mike Tyson's daughter dies

PHOENIX (AP) — The 4-year-old daughter of boxer Mike Tyson died at a hospital Tuesday, a day after her neck apparently got caught in a treadmill cord at her Phoenix home, police said.

Exodus Tyson was pronounced dead just before noon, police Sgt. Andy Hill said. She had been on life support and police have said their investigation showed her injury on Monday was a "tragic accident."

"There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Exodus," the family said in a statement. "We ask you now to please respect our need at this very difficult time for privacy to grieve and try to help each other heal."

Police said Exodus either slipped or put her head in the loop of a cord hanging under the console. Her 7-year-old brother found her and told their mother. She took Exodus off the cord, called 911 and tried to revive her.

Responding officers and firefighters performed CPR as they took the girl to the hospital.

Former heavyweight champion Tyson was in Las Vegas at the time of the accident and flew Monday to Phoenix, where he was seen entering the hospital.

The family's home is in a modest, quiet neighborhood. Neighbors say they saw Tyson there from time to time and the children played outside regularly.

Dinka Radic, who lives across the street, said Exodus would ask her if she had any chocolate. When Radic gave her some, Exodus would hug the woman's knees and "kiss, kiss, kiss."

"She'd say 'hi' to everybody. She was really friendly," said Abdul Khalik, 53, who lives next door.

He said Exodus rode her bicycle in the neighborhood and often played with his two children and his niece. He said his 14-year-old daughter had cried all day after hearing of Exodus' death.

Ben Brodhurst, 20, who lives across the street, said Exodus' and her family went trick-or-treating at his house the last couple of Halloweens. She was "very lively, very enjoyable to be around," he said.

The neighborhood contrasts starkly with the lavish lifestyle Tyson had through his tumultuous years of boxing, when he spent tens of millions of dollars and says he had millions more stolen from him by unscrupulous associates. During two years at the height of his career, he earned $140 million.

The death of his child in such an unusual accident adds an awful chapter to the boxer's troubled life.

Tyson first began boxing in a facility for juvenile delinquents in upstate New York at the age of 12. Eight years later, he became the youngest heavyweight champion ever when he knocked out Trevor Berbick in 1986. But in 1990, he was defeated by James "Buster" Douglas in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, and soon after was convicted of raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis.

Tyson, who still denies he raped the woman, served three years in prison.

A few years later, he served three months in jail for beating up two men after a minor car crash in suburban Washington.

As his career continued, so did his bizarre behavior. He bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match and once threatened to eat the children of heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.

Although Tyson's children had lived in their unassuming neighborhood for several years, he purchased a separate home in the tony Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley in 2005 for $2.1 million, selling it two years later for $2.3 million.

In November 2007, Tyson spent 24 hours in Maricopa County's "Tent City" jail after pleading guilty to one count of cocaine possession and one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. Police found the drug when they pulled over Tyson's car after he left a Scottsdale night club.

According to police, Tyson said after his arrest that he bought cocaine "whenever I can get my hands on it."

At Tyson's sentencing hearing, nearly a year after the arrest, his attorney David Chesnoff said his client had taken 29 drug tests without a relapse and was attending Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Tyson had become an example of how one overcomes problems with drugs, a violent past and poor upbringing, Chesnoff said.

"He's tried his hardest," his attorney said, "despite coming from almost impossible beginnings."

by the associated press

Monday, May 25, 2009

NHL fines Blackhawks coach $10,000

TORONTO (AP) — The NHL has fined Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville $10,000 for harsh criticism of officiating in his team's loss to Detroit in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

Quenneville fumed over a roughing call against defenseman Matt Walker during a scrum as the first period ended Sunday. The Red Wings scored on the ensuing power play 1:13 into the second period extending their lead to 3-0, and went on to win 6-1 and take a 3-1 edge in the series.

"I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports there," Quenneville said after the game. "Nothing play.

"They scored, it's 3-0. They ruined a good hockey game and absolutely destroyed what was going on the ice. ... Never seen anything like it."

The Blackhawks will try to avoid elimination Wednesday in Detroit.

by the associated press

Nugget's take game 4 from the Lakers

DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets evened the Western Conference finals Monday night, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 120-101 in Game 4 despite a hobbled Carmelo Anthony.

Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith scored 24 points and Kenyon Martin had a double-double as the Nuggets posted their eighth blowout of the postseason but first against Los Angeles following three games that came down to the final seconds.

The Nuggets didn't need to worry about a botched inbounds pass in the closing seconds like the ones that cost them wins in Games 1 and 3, although Kobe Bryant had another monster fourth quarter in an attempt to put a stranglehold on the series that shifts to Los Angeles for Game 5 Wednesday night.

Bryant, who is averaging 37 points in the series, scored 34.

by the associated press

WWE show up the Nuggets

WWE stages raw takedown of Nuggets
1 hour ago

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Vince McMahon got his takedown of Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke on the WWE television show Monday night.

Sort of.

During the World Wrestling Entertainment's "Monday Night Raw" show, McMahon shoved a mock Kroenke to the mat and the faux Kroenke fell out of the ring at the Staples Center. The wrestling card was switched from the Pepsi Center last week to Los Angeles because of Game 4 of the Lakers-Nuggets series being played in Denver. Originally, the date was held by the WWE.

In the TV skit, the counterfeit Kroenke, microphone in hand, sauntered toward the ring with a basketball under his arm. He handed the ball to an equally fake Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who was standing next to a phony David Stern and Jack Nicholson.

The imitation Kroenke then announced that he is "the owner of the soon-to-be NBA champion Denver Nuggets. And I cannot stand the WWE or its fans, for that matter."

"Do you think that I care that I screwed thousands of WWE fans? I do not. I have much more important things to do with my team than worry about you people."

McMahon then entered the fray, ambling into the ring and telling the pretend Kroenke, "None of this had to happen. All you had to do was pick up the phone, say `I didn't think my team would make the playoffs, I screwed up.'"

Seconds later, McMahon shoved "Kroenke" after warning him, "When you push the WWE universe, they push back."

The finale featured five-man tag teams wearing Nuggets and Lakers jerseys. The Lakers won, eliciting loud cheers from the Staples Center crowd.

by the associated press

Sheffield homer leads Mets

Sheffield homer leads Mets over Nationals 5-2

NEW YORK (AP) — Gary Sheffield hit a disputed, tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth inning that was upheld by a video review, and the banged up New York Mets returned home from a bruising trip to beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 Monday night,

John Maine (4-3) limited the hapless Nationals to one run and four hits in six innings, improving to 4-1 in his last six starts. New York's bullpen held on despite shaky performances by Bobby Parnell, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, who returned from back spasms to get his 13th save in 13 chances.

Carlos Beltran was back in center field after moving to designated hitter for the weekend series at Boston's Fenway Park because of a sore right knee, and Ramon Martinez played shortstop despite a sore lower back.

Already without first baseman Carlos Delgado (hip surgery) and catcher Brian Schneider (back) because of longterm injuries, the Mets were missing shortstop Jose Reyes (calf) and right fielder Ryan Church (hamstring).

Reyes, sidelined for the eighth time in 11 games, could be put on the disabled list if he doesn't improve by Friday. An MRI on Church showed no damage but he wasn't up to playing.

On a night when the Mets wore red caps as part of Major League Baseball's Memorial Day initiative, there were 16 walks, including nine by New York pitchers.

Beltran went 2 for 3 and was thrown out at the plate trying to score in the first inning, Martinez was 0 for 3 with a sacrifice fly.

With the score 1-1 in the sixth, Luis Castillo doubled leading off against John Lannan (2-4) and Beltran walked. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire made a trip to the mound, and Sheffield sent the next pitch deep to left field.

A fan reached out just before the fence reaches the 15-foot, 8 1/2-inch mark, and the ball bounced back to the field. Third base umpire Adrian Johnson signaled a home run, and Washington manager Manny Acta came out and argued.

All umpires except Dan Iassogna, who was working at first, went under the stands to consult video replay. After a 6-minute wait, crew chief Larry Vanover came back to the field and signaled home run, Sheffield fourth this season and No. 503 in his big league career.

Martinez added a sacrifice fly off Jesus Colome for a 5-1 lead.

Parnell retired just one of five batters he faced in the bottom half and walked three, including Johnson with the bases loaded. Adam Dunn, who hit a grand slam on Sunday against Baltimore's Jamie Walker, popped a short flyout against Pedro Feliciano. Putz fell behind 3-1 in the count against Austin Kearns, who fouled off a pitch and hit an inning-ending groundout. Putz walked his first two batters in the eighth, and Rodriguez pitched around a hit and a walk in the ninth.

Washington, coming of a 2-9 homestand, became the first team to make second trip to Citi Field even though the Nationals haven't hosted the Mets this year.

Lannan, a Long Beach, N.Y., native who is the only non-rookie in Washington's rotation, gave up five runs, eight hits and four walks in five-plus innings for the Nationals, a major league worst 13-31.

Daniel Cabrera, dumped from the rotation after going 0-5 in eight starts, entered in the seventh for his second relief outing in 156 major league appearances, his first since his rookie season in 2004. He got just two outs and walked the bases loaded before Jason Bergmann got Fernando Tatis to hit into a forceout.

Johnson was back after missing Sunday's game with a stomach ailment that required a hospital trip and went 1 for 3 with two walks and an RBI.

Beltran doubled with two outs in the first and was thrown out at the plate by Austin Kearns trying to score on Sheffield's single to right. Wil Nieves' RBI single then put the Nationals ahead in the second, but Beltran's RBI single tied the score in the third.

Note:@ Sheffield's homer was the 32nd in 21 games at Citi Field, a fraction of the 87 in 23 games at the new Yankee Stadium. ... The last rubble of Shea Stadium was removed during the 10-game trip, giving the Mets a full parking lot surrounding Citi Field. ... Ryan Zimmerman singled in the third and has reached base safely by a hit or a walk in 43 consecutive games, topping the Montreal/Washington season franchise record set by Tim Raines in 1986. He is three shy of Rusty Staub's overall franchise record

by the associated press

A-Rods return to Texas , with Boo's

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Alex Rodriguez was heartily booed Monday when introduced before his first game in Texas since his admission earlier this year that he used steroids while playing for the Rangers.

Rodriguez played for the Rangers from 2001-03, when he first became baseball's highest-paid player with a then-record $252 million, 10-year contract. He was traded to the New York Yankees before spring training in 2004.

A-Rod didn't answer questions from reporters before the game, saying he would talk later. In the dugout before batting practice, Rodriguez said he did "miss everything about Texas."

Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he had no plans to talk to Rodriguez.

"I'm here to pull for the first-place Texas Rangers," said Hicks, who sat in his front-row seats by the Rangers dugout.

Texas (26-17) entered with the best record in the American League and has led the AL West for nearly three weeks.

The Rangers lost 270 games and finished last in the West in each of Rodriguez's three seasons in Texas, even though he led the AL in home runs each season and was the AL MVP in 2003.

In an interview with ESPN in February, Rodriguez blamed the pressures of his record contract for his decision to use performance-enhancing drugs in Texas.

A week after that, Rodriguez made a personal call to Hicks to apologize. Hicks said then he felt "personally betrayed" by Rodriguez.

Before the Rangers took the field, The Who song "The Kids are Alright" blared over the loudspeaker, an obvious dig at Rodriguez for comments he made after being traded that he would have never gone to Texas if he had been told it would be him "and 24 kids."

This is Rodriguez's eighth series with the Yankees in Texas.

"He got booed here before so I'm pretty sure he'll get booed again," Rangers third baseman Michael Young, who still considers A-Rod one of his good friends, said before the game.

"I'm not really concerned about Alex," third-year Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I know he did some good things here so as many as there will be against him, there are probably the same amount that's for him."

But the negative reaction seemed much louder than any of the previous 22 games Rodriguez played when he visited Texas.

There was a large contingency of Yankees fans in the ballpark, so there were cheers when Rodriguez had an infield RBI single in the first and a run-scoring double in the third.

Mark Teixeira, a former first-round pick of the Rangers, is playing with his third different team since leaving Texas. He had already played at Rangers Ballpark with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, but this was his first time since signing with the Yankees and being reunited with A-Rod.

Teixeira, who also got booed when introduced, said the reaction from the fans wouldn't affect them and was nothing unusual for the Yankees on the road.

"They can respond however they want," Teixeira said. "It's not going to change anything that Alex does, or anything that we do."

The Rangers were still paying part of A-Rod's salary until he opted out of the original 10-year deal in 2007 and then signed a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees.

by the associated press

Mike Tyson's Daughter Exodus Tyson, 4 , Was Found Hanging From a Cord on Exercise Treadmill

Exodus Tyson, the 4-year-old daughter of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is reportedly in critical condition at a Phoenix hospital after she was found hanging from a cord from an exercise treadmill.

Officials from the Phoenix Fire Department told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix that a woman called 911 just after 10:30 a.m. today to report an electrocution from a treadmill cord.

But she changed her story during the call, saying instead that there had been a hanging, officials said.

When firefighters arrived at the house, they found a woman performing CPR on the girl, KNXV reported. The fire department members took over for the woman, and then took the girl to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Hill told KNXV it appeared that the treadmill cord had been wrapped around the child's neck.

Police said they believe that the incident was an accident.

The girl's 7-year-old brother reportedly told police he found the girl hanging from a cord on the treadmill.

Police said the child's mother ran into the room and freed her from the cord before starting CPR.

Tyson, the subject of a new documentary by James Toback, arrived at the hospital late this afternoon, but did not speak to reporters as he walked into the building.

"He's a really nice guy, definitely a guy I don't want anything bad happening to him, so I hope it is an accident, and I'm pretty sure it probably is an accident, and I hope everything works out," said neighbor Shafiq Khalik. "It's very tragic."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No. 23 reigns in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – It was happening again. God, it was happening again here. Another championship season had come crashing down on Cleveland, cruel and criminal. The Cavaliers had unraveled and now there were some fans – speechless and ashen – marching up the stairs and disappearing to the exits. They weren’t thinking about the possibility of LeBron James(notes) getting one final shot for redemption, but Michael Jordan and John Elway and every damn dagger ever delivered to this city’s swollen sporting heart.

One second left, and a Cleveland sports season had come to die in Quicken Loans Arena. Shakespeare should’ve been a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. No city does sports tragedy like this one.

Yes, somehow it was happening again to Cleveland.

“A second,” LeBron James countered, “is a long time for me.”

The Cavaliers’ Mo Williams(notes) had the job of passing the ball inbounds with the Magic still bursting over a 23-point comeback on Friday night, over a tough, twisting Hedo Turkoglu(notes) basket with one second left in Game 2. The loudest arena in the league had lost its voice, its breath, its bearings. It felt like it had lost this season. The Cleveland fan has been conditioned to believe something precious is destined to perish.

Yes, it was happening again, and suddenly the ball reached the hands of LeBron James and the course of NBA playoff history was transformed. He turned, shot over Turkoglu and a rapidly closing Rashard Lewis(notes). The shot lofted long and high and true across 24 feet, across the years of Cavs angst and anguish

When everyone expected the sky to fall in Cleveland, something else dropped down: Sweet salvation.

“It was like watching a movie,” Orlando’s Dwight Howard(notes) said. “The ball was just spinning. … It was like watching a real movie. … ”

“He hit the shot.”

He hit the shot?

LeBron James hit the shot.

Cleveland beat the Orlando Magic, 96-95, on James’ 3-pointer at the buzzer, and salvaged itself a 1-1 series tie in the Eastern Conference finals. Truth be told, they salvaged the season, too. The Cavs should’ve lost on Friday night, and they know it. They’re struggling with everything about these Magic, and LeBron will have to do more and more to keep the Cavs alive with the mismatches destroying them everywhere on the floor. They should’ve been on the way to Orlando with the once-unthinkable possibility of a Magic sweep looming like an anvil over this series.

So, yes, they stormed the court and tackled James, and you’ve never, ever heard such a spontaneous, primal scream of 20,000 people in an arena. Never, ever seen such a reaction, such joy and relief and sheer ecstacy. The arena shook, strangers hugged strangers, and yes, the Cavaliers rushed James like high school kids who won a sectional title.

Williams, the passer, collapsed to his knees and pounded the floor over and over and over. He hit it 10 times, maybe 11. He looked like he wanted to cry.

This was one of the greatest shots in NBA history, because of the circumstances and stakes and degree of difficulty. Twenty years ago, it was Jordan over Craig Ehlo to beat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

This time, it was James over Turkoglu. This time, it was James over long odds and the longer reach of NBA history.

“He was born to do that,” Cleveland’s Sasha Pavlovic(notes) marveled.

He was born to do that here.


Across the fourth quarter, on the way to his 35 points, James had deferred to his teammates to take important shots. No more now. As the Cavs went into the timeout after Turkoglu’s shot, James made it clear: This was his shot, his story to finish. No decoys. This wasn’t time to be Magic, but Michael. Witness this

“Whatever happens,” James yelled to Williams in the huddle, “I’m going to come get the ball.” Whatever options fall apart, James insisted to his point guard that he would find a way to get open and promised him, “I’m going to knock down the shot.”

Turkoglu had made an immense shot over Pavlovic to take a 95-93 lead, but he made one grave mistake:

He left a second on the clock.

He left LeBron life.

Lewis, 6-foot-10, covered Williams on the inbounds pass. He’s long and angular and able to make it difficult for the Cavaliers point guard to get a clear-sighted passing lane. As Williams walked past midcourt, where an official waited to hand him the ball, he kept saying to himself, “Please God … please God … something … something.”

After that, Williams told the official: Please give me the five-second count out loud. Cleveland was out of timeouts. Williams had one chance to get the ball to James, where he could catch, turn and shoot. One second, one chance.

Cleveland coach Mike Brown had diagrammed a lob pass for James. He would fake back to the ball and turn hard toward the rim. “When I went to go for the lob, Hedo didn’t bite on it,” James said.

The ref’s count was climbing, “Two … Three … ”

Lewis had his back to the floor, his eyes burned into those of Williams. Everything told him the Magic had this inbounds play defended perfectly, that they had James bottled in the cluster of bodies behind him. “I could see [Williams] face scrunching up,” Lewis said. “He didn’t know who to throw the ball to. He double-pumped two, three times … ”

Finally, James stayed true to his word. He sprinted back beyond the 3-point line, and the referee’s count had reached four – one more second, and it would’ve been a violation – and Williams fired a perfect pass some 15 feet to James.

“Rashard played it perfect,” James said. “He stood tall and got in Mo’s way.”

Lewis turned over his shoulder, saw James catching the ball 25 feet out and used those long, loping strides to make a final, desperate run to contest the shot. Turkoglu was there, rising with LeBron.

“LeBron just jumps so high on his shot, you can’t get to the ball,” Lewis said. “The ball felt like it took forever to come down.”

Once Mo Williams let go of the pass, once he watched James catch and shoot, all he could think was: When will that ball ever come down? Once it dropped through the net, and a blurring, bum rush of Cavs toppled James, Williams’ knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor.

“I was punch drunk,” he said. “I just fell down. I just … fell … down.”

It was a shot, James says, he had made thousands and thousands of times 30 miles down the road in Akron. He was always Jordan, always No. 23. “That’s a shot that you will see for a long time,” James said. “You watch classic games and you see Jordan hit game-winners, and you go back and see Jerry West hitting game-winners and Magic Johnson going across the lane and hitting the hook against Boston.”

Mostly, LeBron James was thinking about Michael Jordan on Friday night. He’s the ghost who always haunted these Cavs, and the inspiration that drove James to basketball genius. He isn’t chasing Kobe Bryant(notes) as much as he’s chasing Michael. What Elway always did to the Browns, Jordan always did to the Cavs.

Past midnight, past one of the great finishes in NBA history, James told everyone: “That guy is not in the league anymore. The other ‘23’ is gone, so we don’t have to worry about that no more.”

“ … Twenty-three is on the good side now.”

James hadn’t had one of these shots in the playoffs, and he understood that history demands you deliver these bigger-than-life moments. Yes, he made this shot thousands of times growing up in Akron, in the shadow of a city going on 45 years without a professional championship. “The Shot” still belongs to No. 23 in Cleveland – just no longer Michael Jordan.

Yes, it was happening again here. But as it turned out, this wasn’t one more Cleveland sporting collapse. Twenty years later, it was “The Shot” reborn on the Cavs’ side, on Jordan’s anniversary.

“We are playing with history in the making,” Wally Szczerbiak(notes) said. “He’s going to be the best basketball player to ever touch a ball.”

Nearby, Mo Williams still wore his uniform, still a face flushed in delirium.

“What just happened out there?” he asked.

Outside his locker, his knees on ice, LeBron James looked up and offered a knowing nod and smile.

“Just say thank you to the basketball gods,” he said.

The basketball god, LeBron James means.

Once more, he wears No. 23.

from yahoo sports

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Torre want to meet with Manny

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Torre handles distraction well. The Dodgers' manager looks at it placidly in the eye and doesn't blink. He didn't Tuesday, as the Dodgers opened an important three-game series with the Phillies without star slugger Manny Ramirez, serving the fifth game of his 50-game suspension.

Torre calmly faced a phalanx of microphones, tape recorders, and what seemed like every electronic recording device known to man, and answered what promises to be a traveling show of Ramirez questions in each city the Dodgers visit.

Los Angeles is 1-3 without Ramirez, who on Thursday was suspended for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. Ramirez did not make the trip to Philadelphia in a rematch of last season's National League Championship Series.

There is speculation that Ramirez can reunite with his teammates in Miami this weekend, when the Dodgers visit the Marlins.

"I talked to [Ramirez] the other day," Torre said. "I'm assuming there's a chance [Ramirez will be there in Miami]. We haven't been given any definitive information. He's beaten up over this, not that he thinks it's unfair, it's just that he's embarrassed and I think he just needs some time to clear his head. The sooner the better for everybody involved. We want to see him as a team. The players are supporting him because we know him as a person and we want to help him through that.

"He needs to just give the players a chance to hug him or talk to him. I don't think he needs to address the players, just to show up. It won't be anything negative. I've talked to him four times. He wasn't the same guy."

The other concern is how the Dodgers will react to their missing star. Through 27 games this season, Ramirez, who lives in Pembroke Pines, Fla., was hitting .348 with six homers and 20 RBIs. In 53 games with the Dodgers last season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs.

But Torre quickly dispelled any leak in Los Angeles' offense, which is the second-best in the National League.

"Our ballclub is pretty good," Torre said. "The only thing I remind the guys is no one has to do extra, not do more than they can. The emotional stuff is over with. We'll only be as good as our pitching. This is a big road trip, starting here, and this is a good-hitting club."