Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:47:00 +0000

NEW YORK -- Former Commissioner David Stern praised the NBA's handling of the Donald Sterling controversy and predicts it will "end well" for the league.

Stern said his successor, Adam Silver, has been "forceful" but also "demonstrated a compassionate side" in his reaction to the racist remarks that were made by the Los Angeles Clippers owner.

"He's done great. He has been forceful, he has been reflective, he has been buttoned-down and I think he has also demonstrated a compassionate side as well," Stern told The Associated Press on Wednesday during a phone interview.

"So I think it's going to end well."

Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life after the recorded comments became public. Sterling's wife, Shelly, later agreed to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, a transaction the league believes will close shortly even as Donald Sterling continues trying to fight in court.

Stern retired after 30 years as commissioner in February. He will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next week.

During his tenure, Shelly and Donald Sterling faced allegations that they discriminated against tenants based on race in Los Angeles according to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Department of Justice in 2006. The Sterlings, who at the time owned and managed about 119 apartment buildings or 5,000 apartments throughout Los Angeles County, agreed to settle the suit for $2.725 million.

Stern has remained an adviser to the league and remained in frequent contact with Silver, who worked under him since 1992. Silver was the commissioner for less than three months when TMZ released audio of Sterling's remarks.

Silver handed out his punishment days later and has navigated the league as it tries to oust Sterling, who owned the Clippers franchise even before Stern became commissioner.

"Adam has been a part of the fabric of every important decision and event for the last 22 years," Stern said. "He knows exactly what to do, he's done mostly everything, and he's continuing his run as being a terrific manager."

Sterling still has lawsuits against Silver and the league, though his best attempt to block the sale may have slipped away when a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the team.

That's a relief to players, some of whom have said they wouldn't want to play if Sterling is still in the league. New Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the response to Sterling would likely be on the list of things she would discuss with the players, whose president, Chris Paul, plays for the Clippers. Interim CEO Dick Parsons testified that coach Doc Rivers said he would not return if Sterling did.

"Coach Rivers and Chris Paul and those guys made their statement in what they would do if he was back as an owner. It's very tough to play for someone like that, that came out with a statement," said Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who is trying to make the U.S. national team.

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AP freelance writer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:24:00 +0000

MIAMI (AP) One of the last things Miami Heat President Pat Riley told LeBron James before free agency began this summer was that he would be selling potential players on the notion of playing alongside a four-time NBA MVP.

And James never made him think otherwise, Riley said - until roughly the same moment that the entire world was made aware of his plan to go home.

Riley made that revelation Wednesday, shortly after the Heat completed the signing of Chris Bosh to a $118 million, five-year contract and essentially wrapped up their roster-rebuilding project for next season, the first of the post-LeBron era in Miami.

The Heat have 12 players locked in for next season, Bosh and Dwyane Wade foremost among them, and Riley expects the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions to compete once again this coming year. But much of his first session offering in-depth remarks about free agency revolved, predictably, about James - the MVP who got away.

"I went into it with the thought and the notion that he was coming back and I was selling that to players," Riley said. "I believed that firmly so I was selling that to players. And that's the only way I went into it. I let him know that. . He never said to me, `No, don't do that."'

Riley, however, noted that he did not feel misled by James during free agency.

James is now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that he left for Miami in 2010, four trips to the NBA Finals and two championships ago. The Heat scrambled quickly to move on to Plan B, locking up Bosh (whose signing was agreed to weeks ago) and Wade before long and avoiding what could have been an absolute disaster otherwise.

Riley said he's become energized by the task of building a champion again.

"We are up to the challenge," Riley said. "We're going to be as competitive as anybody, I think, in the Eastern Conference. I feel great, right now, today, making sure that we got Chris signed, got him under contract, and got D-Wade back and Udonis (Haslem) and the core of our foundation and we'll go from here."

Before he announced his decision, James and his inner circle summoned Riley and Heat general manager Andy Elisburg to Las Vegas for a meeting.

Riley and Elisburg left believing they had done well.

A day later, James was meeting with Sports Illustrated, collaborating on the first-person essay that would come out and announce his decision to return to Cleveland. The Heat were told of the contents of that essay moments before it was released publicly.

"I don't get hurt," Riley said. "This is business. This is all business. As soon as something happens in this business, I had to react, we had to react as an organization, and we did."

Riley said Wednesday that once the Heat learned that James was leaving, it was too late to get involved in the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, who wound up re-signing with the New York Knicks.

Still, it was more than a salvage project. Wade and Bosh are both likely Hall of Fame players. The Heat wound up with some of their top free-agent targets in players like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, both of whom Riley raved about about.

Perhaps most importantly, the Heat not only figure to be good enough to compete now, but have the flexibility financially for Riley to go out in the already-anticipated free-agent summer of 2016 and try to build what he did when he got James, Wade and Bosh to team up.

And instead of blasting James - as Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did when he left Cleveland in 2010 - the Heat have taken the high road, with managing general partner Micky Arison writing an open letter to fans this week reminding them that even without James, the franchise's goal of winning more titles hasn't changed.

"We're going to try to make it another generational team," Riley said.

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 02:17:00 +0000

CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians had little choice but to give up Justin Masterson. The trade doesn't mean they're going to surrender the season.

"We will never raise the white flag," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "That's not an option. Anybody who stands next to me in the dugout knows that will never happen."

Protecting themselves in case the 29-year-old Masterson left as a free agent after the season, the Indians traded the right-hander on Wednesday to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The trade of Masterson could be followed by other moves by the Indians, who entered Wednesday 6 1-2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central and in a scramble with five other teams for the league's second wild-card spot.

The Indians could also trade shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera before the deadline. Like Masterson, Cabrera is in the final year of his contract and the Indians have shown little interest in re-signing him. Dealing the two-time All-Star could bring a prospect in return.

General manager Chris Antonetti said he's exploring deals to improve the team before Thursday's 4 p.m. trade deadline.

"Our focus is to continue to try to win as many games as we can," he said. "We're currently in the midst of having conversations to bring players in to impact our team at the major league level. Whether or not that happens over the next 24 hours, there are a lot of factors in play and it's hard to handicap that."

Masterson began the season as the Indians' ace. He'll end it with a different team in a different league after a disappointing four months.

"I was surprised," Masterson said. "It's bittersweet. I'm sad to leave the fellas and the fight we're making here in Cleveland, but I'm excited to get to St. Louis and be a part of what they have going there."

In exchange for Masterson, who was scheduled to come off the disabled list later this week, the Indians got outfielder James Ramsey. A first-round pick by the Cardinals (No. 23 overall) in 2012, Ramsey has spent this season at Double-A Springfield, where he batted .300 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs.

Antonetti said Ramsey will be moved up to Triple-A Columbus.

Masterson went 14-10 last season and then turned down an offer of a contract extension in spring training.

"It's an extraordinarily difficult day for us," Antonetti said. "It wasn't an easy decision, but it's one that made sense."

Masterson is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts this season and has had a noticeable loss in velocity. In five starts before being placed on the DL with right knee inflammation, he allowed 19 runs and 27 hits in 18 innings.

Masterson, who hasn't won since June 8, said the impending free agency didn't affect his performance.

"I guess I could try and blame that, but that would be a lie," he said.

The Cardinals are in the race for the NL Central crown, a season after going to the World Series.

"I'm excited," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said before the Cardinals played the Padres in San Diego. "I've watched this guy. Yes, the numbers don't quite look the same as what they looked last year, but we're talking a year ago. Still, good movement, he's able to attack the strike zone. We can see there's a lot of potential here to help us out."

Masterson will join the Cardinals on Friday in St. Louis and is scheduled to start against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.

"Let's go. There's no sense waiting around," Matheny said.

Masterson was acquired by the Indians at the trading deadline in 2009 in the deal that sent catcher Victor Martinez to Boston. Before Tuesday's series opener against Seattle, Masterson said he wouldn't be surprised if the Indians made any moves before the trade deadline Thursday.

Masterson had said he was hoping to stay and help them make a playoff push.

Francona was Boston's manager when Masterson was dealt to Cleveland. Masterson went 48-61 with Cleveland.

"The hug was a little longer than normal," Francona said. "We may part teams, but my admiration for him isn't parting."

Joked Masterson: "Tito keeps trading me away. What's up with that?"

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AP freelance writer Steve Herrick contributed to this report.

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 01:10:00 +0000

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Derek Jeter got a surprise presidential farewell before playing his final game in Texas, when former President George W. Bush took part in a pregame ceremony Wednesday night.

Retired Rangers All-Stars Michael Young and Ivan Rodriguez first presented Jeter a pair of cowboy boots inscribed with the New York team logo, his name and No. 2. A video was then shown of Bush at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

"I did have one good reason to leave Washington for a few hours. The New York Yankees had invited me to throw out the first pitch," Bush recalled in the video. "Seven weeks after 9/11, it would send a powerful signal for the president to show up at Yankee Stadium."

Bush, recounting the story from an excerpt in his 2010 book "Decision Points," then spoke about going into an indoor batting cage to loosen his arm.

"After a few warm-up pitches, the great Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter dropped in to take some swings. We talked a little," Bush said, adding that Jeter told him to throw from the mound, "Or else they'll boo you. ... But don't bounce it. They'll boo you."

When the video ended, showing Bush throwing a strike, the former president came on the field. He gave a surprised Jeter a framed signed picture of the two together in the batting cage that night nearly 13 years ago. The photo was from the archives of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in nearby Dallas.

Rodriguez played against Jeter and was his teammate at the end of the 2008 season with the Yankees. Young, like Jeter, was also an All-Star shortstop.

"Obviously from a competitive standpoint, the guy's off the charts, a Hall of Fame player," Young said. "He stayed his entire career in one place, a very demanding place, and was basically an impact player from the day he stepped on the field."

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:10:00 +0000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) There was no shortage of candidates to replace Steve Letarte as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief

The list of applicants was long, but Hendrick Motorsports has always liked to groom its own talent. So the organization didn't have to look very far for the next leader of the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Greg Ives, who was shipped over to Earnhardt's Nationwide Series team at the end of 2012 to gain his first experience as crew chief, was chosen Wednesday as Letarte's replacement with NASCAR's most popular driver. Letarte will move to an analyst role with NBC Sports and Ives will move from JR Motorsports to crew chief for Earnhardt.

"Not only is he the most talented candidate for the job, but it will be the most seamless transition," Earnhardt said Wednesday. "I don't see how it couldn't go any smoother, being that he has that past history and understanding of the building.

"When Greg comes into that position, the boat won't rock. Everybody already knows Greg, is comfortable with him."

Ives was race engineer for Jimmie Johnson's record run of five consecutive championships, and worked under Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus and alongside Earnhardt's No. 88 team. When he told Hendrick management he wanted to be a crew chief, there were no openings in the organization. Ives was instead moved to JRM, which is co-owned by both Hendrick and Earnhardt.

The move helped Ives strengthen his rapport with Earnhardt, even though the two had been trash-talking each other for some time in their Fantasy Football league. Ives has been successful at JRM, winning two races last year with Regan Smith, and guiding rookie Chase Elliott to three wins and the top of the Nationwide Series points standings this season.

He'd paid his dues and earned the right to return to HMS with a Sprint Cup team.

"When we looked at the attributes that we would want for that crew chief, there's two key parts: One is the relationship with Dale. The other is the relationship with Chad," Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt said.

Said Hendrick: "Greg was our No. 1 choice. This is a talented guy who already has a terrific rapport with Dale Jr. and is a fit with the organization."

Ives worked under Knaus from 2006 through the 2012 season. Like Ives, Knaus left the Hendrick organization early in his career to get crew chief experience only to return when a prime Sprint Cup Series job opened. Johnson and Earnhardt's teams work side-by-side out of the same shop, so Ives and Knaus will collaborate for both teams and the organization.

"He and Chad had a lot of success together, and all of our crew chiefs think the world of him and what he's accomplished," Hendrick said. "Greg's proven that he can win races, and he has all the tools to do big things."

Ives, from Bark River, Michigan, joined Hendrick Motorsports as a mechanic in 2004. He moved into an engineering role on the No. 48 team in 2006. In seven years working with Knaus, he contributed to 42 wins, 113 top-five finishes and 21 pole positions in the Sprint Cup Series.

"This is an incredible opportunity for me and my family," Ives said. "Dale Jr. and I have a great relationship from being in the same shop at Hendrick Motorsports and my time at JRM.

"We have a lot left to do this season in the Nationwide Series, but I'm excited about what's ahead and look forward to sharing some wins with JR Nation in the future. I couldn't ask for a better situation than working with one of the best drivers and teams in racing."

Earnhardt and Letarte opened this year with a win in the Daytona 500, and the No. 88 team is currently ranked second in the Sprint Cup standings.

"Nobody is going to be like Steve," Earnhardt said. "Nobody is going to be like Chad. No crew chief is identical. A driver likes to hear positive reinforcement, and I'm sure Greg and I will learn how to give-and-take that. I'm sure he wants to hear it as well."

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 01:23:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES (AP) Vin Scully poked fun at himself after word came out that he plans to return for his record 66th season in the Los Angeles Dodgers' broadcast booth next year.

"I agree with everybody else: It's a long time to be working at one job with no advancement," he said, smiling.

The 86-year-old Hall of Fame announcer, his red hair faded by the years but still in good health, continues to be thrilled describing the action on the field.

"It really is a privilege and good fortune to have this job," he said Wednesday. "I've loved it from Day One."

Scully was reminded of his love for the game in the third inning of Tuesday night's game against Atlanta. B.J. Upton tagged up at third and charged toward home on a fly ball to center. Yasiel Puig used his cannon of an arm to throw home, with Upton scoring ahead of the tag.

"After that I sat back and thought that's the way you were the first day you started doing this game," he said. "You see this play building and it just gets to you. That play last night convinced me."

The Dodgers revealed Scully's return on Tuesday, when talking microphones featuring his dulcet tones were given away to fans. The crowd reacted with a standing ovation for Scully, who waved from his booth. The umpiring crew joined in the applause.

"It was very difficult last night, not only to stand there and hear and receive the ovation, but I still feel like I haven't done anything except show up every day at work," he said. "When I sat down, as quickly as I could, it was this overwhelming `Thank God I can get back to doing the game."'

Scully has never prepared words to say, only statistics to read on the air.

"I want it to be as honest as possible," he said. "There are a lot of times I drive home saying, `Dummy, why didn't you say what you're thinking of right now?"'

Scully's consecutive years of service make him the longest-tenured broadcaster with one team in sports history. He calls all nine innings of the team's home games and road games in California and Arizona for the Dodgers' new television home on SportsNet LA, while the first three innings of his games are simulcast on the radio.

He acknowledged that the years have slowed him in some respects.

"Maybe I was quicker in coming up with an occasional good thought more so than now," he said. "Once in a while I'll blunder into a good line."

Scully said his decision to return was not influenced by the dispute between Time Warner Cable and other cable subscribers that is keeping 70 percent of the Los Angeles television market from seeing the team's games so far this season.

Only customers of Time Warner and a couple of its partners have been able to watch, while subscribers of major providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon and AT&T have been shut out. Even Scully can't watch road games since he lives in an area not served by Time Warner.

"It's heartbreaking not to be able to share with the entire community," he said.

Scully began his professional broadcasting career in 1950 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He has called three perfect games, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star games. He was behind the microphone for Kirk Gibson's Game 1 homer in the 1988 World Series, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run and Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters, including a perfect game.

After wrapping up his 30-minute chat with the media, manager Don Mattingly came into the room.

"I've got to follow that act?" he joked.

Mattingly is busy during games so he doesn't hear Scully, but fans often tell him what he's missing.

"It's like the gospel," he said. "The way he paints the picture is so cool."

Scully isn't sure he'll know when it's time to retire because, as he says, "I've never had the feeling."

What he does know is that once he bids farewell, he won't hang around. And unlike many of his listeners, to whom his voice has meant summer in the city for decades, he is unsentimental about leaving.

Scully ticks off the names of famed announcers Red Barber, Mel Allen, Jack Buck and Harry Caray who left their respective teams after years on the job.

"I'm not fooling myself," he said. "The Dodgers will roll right along merrily whether I'm here or not."

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:38:00 +0000

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Patrick Peterson is the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

Just ask him.

Not only did he tweet out the terms of his new contract - five years, $70 million, $48 million guaranteed - he referred to himself as the highest-paid at his position at least five times in the Arizona Cardinals news conference announcing the new deal on Wednesday - twice before he was ever asked a question.

He's long maintained he's the league's best cornerback. Now he says has higher goals - the playoffs, a Super Bowl title, the Hall of Fame.

And Peterson doesn't speak as if he's boasting, rather just a matter of the facts.

In just three years, he has become, as he put it, "a face of the organization."

"He's earned it," Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said, "and I agree - he's the best defensive corner in the league."

Peterson is the first of the 2011 draft class to sign a second contract. He had two years left on his previous deal after the Cardinals picked up his fifth-year option.

"It shows that we're a first-class organization," Peterson said. "We want to get the job done. We want to win, that's the most important thing."

By tweeting out his deal, Peterson made sure everyone knew his contract was bigger than that of Seattle's Richard Sherman. The two have carried on a Twitter rivalry for some time.

Sherman signed a four-year, $56 million contract - $40 million guaranteed - earlier this year.

Peterson rubbed it in with a tweet on Wednesday that said "You mad bro!!!" followed by five faces crying.

Sherman responded with a close-up photo of his Super Bowl championship ring and said "Can't ever be too mad."

"I don't have any beef with Richard," Peterson said at the news conference. "I'm having fun. I don't know if he's having fun, but I think it's going to make me take my game to the next level."

He noted some of Sherman's tweets are "a little salty."

"I guess it will be must-watch TV when we play Seattle," Peterson said.

It's the second-largest contract in Cardinals' history, exceeded only by the eight-year contract worth up to $120 million - with nearly $50 million guaranteed, that Larry Fitzgerald signed in 2011.

Peterson doesn't cover a particular part of the field, as Sherman does, but is assigned to the opponent's best receiver, wherever he lines up.

"Twenty-four years old, 48 straight starts," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. "In my humble opinion there isn't another corner in the league that has his size, speed, athleticism, explosiveness, ball skills.

"On top of that, Pat will probably be the first to tell you he hasn't even scratched the surface yet, which is actually scary considering the fact that he could redefine the position."

Peterson said "it's a big deal" to have the biggest contract at his position.

"I think I have done a lot in my young career to be recognized not only as the best cornerback in the league," he said, "but as the highest-paid cornerback in the league. I think my body of work is only going to get better."

Peterson said the contract won't mean an added burden.

"Honestly, I don't think my responsibilities have grown," he said, "because I've been the guy that wants to get better each and every day. I want to be the guy who leads this team. I want to be a face of this organization. I have accomplished that in my first three years. Now it's getting championships."

Peterson, who turned 24 on July 11, has made the Pro Bowl each of his three NFL seasons after Arizona selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft. He made it as a punt returner in his rookie season, and as a cornerback the past two years. He and Sherman were first-team All-Pro last season.

"He's very, very mature," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "I don't like using that role model word, but he's a perfect citizen."

Peterson has become a mentor for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who also went to LSU and had marijuana-related problems before coming to the NFL last year and excelling as a rookie before going down with a late-season knee injury.

Now, Peterson said, it's time for him to aim for more.

"I want to be in the Hall of Fame someday," he said. "I have bigger goals than a massive contract. I haven't been to the playoffs since I've been here. I had one winning season since I've been here. I want to bring a championship to this city, to this organization. I want to hoist that Lombardi Trophy."

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Online:

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Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:26:00 +0000

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) With four NFC North titles and a Super Bowl victory in the past decade, Ted Thompson has had quite a run as Packers general manager.

Thompson sees no reason to stop now, even as retirement age nears. The team announced after practice Wednesday the signing of Thompson to a multiyear contract extension.

"The more you think about it, the more you think how nuts are you that you'd walk away from something like this," Thompson said. "To get a chance to continue to do that after you put all the chips on the table, there's very little choice there. I want to be here."

Terms of the deal were not announced. Thompson didn't comment on the specifics, either.

"No. I'm not a very specific guy," he said when asked if could be more specific about his contract, drawing laughs from reporters.

Extending coach Mike McCarthy's contract appears to be the next decision.

Both the general manager and coach last signed extensions in 2011, within about a month after the Packers won the Super Bowl.

"Big priority. It's been the plan the whole time," Thompson said about an extension for McCarthy. "The way the organization is set up ... it's the way it's always been done here. The general manager kind of gets put away and then you do the head coach."

Thompson, 61, took over in 2005; McCarthy was hired in January 2006.

"We anticipate each other's thoughts often, which might drive both of us crazy sometimes, but I think it's working well and has worked well," Thompson said.

Thompson missed the NFL meetings in March for a personal matter. He appeared energized last week in addressing the annual Packers shareholders meeting.

He might make a few more short trips home to go see family in his home state of Texas, though Thompson had no plans to delegate authority. He professed a continued love for scouting.

Thompson doesn't have a timeline for how much longer he wants to work.

"His outstanding work has been the key factor in the success that we've enjoyed in recent years," team president Mark Murphy.

Thompson's deal is the second high-profile extension announced by the club in the opening week of camp, following the deal signed by top receiver Jordy Nelson on Saturday.

They are among the highlights of what has been a smooth start to camp so far - though both McCarthy and Thompson bristled slightly when asked about the lack of distractions.

"That's me knocking on wood because you said something like that, jinxing it," said Thompson after knocking on the podium. "You never talk about your good fortunes."

Also:

IN AND OUT: Starting safety Morgan Burnett sat out some of practice Wednesday with what McCarthy called a "tweaked" ankle, though the injury didn't appear serious. Burnett remained on the sideline while Micah Hyde and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got a few looks with the first team as the safety duo in red zone drills.

Linebacker-defensive end Mike Neal practiced for the first time after watching the first few days with an abdominal injury. Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore also returned after sitting out a few days because of illness. Guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) took part in position drills.

IN THE HOUSE: McCarthy singled out fourth-year cornerback Davon House's start to camp. He is part of what is looking like a deep position group in the secondary, especially with Casey Hayward at full speed from a hamstring injury that limited him last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams are the starting corners.

RED ZONE: Nelson caught a couple of touchdowns during two-minute drill practice, including one from a scrambling Aaron Rodgers around the right edge that had the pass rushing Julius Peppers yell out in frustration. "The biggest thing when you get out there in two minutes is that you're a little ahead of the game because we've been going no-huddle since Day 1, so a lot the mechanics" carry over, McCarthy said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:27:00 +0000

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) The Miami Dolphins, rocked by a bullying scandal last season, are now wearing T-shirts bearing a credo of togetherness that was coined by the players.

One by one some of the members of the offense and defense removed their shoulder pads Wednesday and changed into the new gray shirt. On the back was a list of 10 sayings bordered by the words "I am a Miami Dolphin" that encompass their approach to the upcoming season.

Among the sayings that bring to mind last year's scandal involving former offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin is this one. "If I see something - I will say something - I commit to call it as it is."

Head coach Joe Philbin applauded the gesture made by his players.

"I think the best way to do things is to give them some ownership and let them feel like I'm not coming down from the mountaintop and saying this is a must and this is a mandate," Philbin said. "I thought they did a good job. I thought they gave some consideration and some thought to it and I think it's good. Probably `I'm a professional,' is one of them I like. But I think I like them all. They're all good, but that one sticks to me. It's kind of all encompassing, entails a lot. `Team first,' too. Maybe I like team first better. I'm trying to picture the T-shirt."

Considering that Philbin has come up with plenty of his own rules, he joked that some of the players think he has too many and that he's "a little stiff." He had approached a group of veterans during the offseason to emphasize his desire for them to take ownership of the team. The idea for an official credo came naturally.

Defensive end Cameron Wake, a three-time Pro Bowler, had showed off a T-shirt last year in the locker room that he and other members of the defense designed specifically for defensive players. That one was adorned with the words "Respect The Brotherhood" on the back surrounding a military style logo, so he was probably a good person to go to with the new shirt.

Fellow defensive lineman Jared Odrick also was one of the players approached by Philbin.

"I think it means a lot," Odrick, a first-round draft pick in 2010, said of the T-shirts. "I think it gives us a visualization, something that we see every day, to try to embody every day in the locker room and onto the field. It's something that helps because you're there reading on everybody's shirt. And it's words that we've actually said. It's words that have come out of our mouths."

Notes: Wide receiver Mike Wallace and center Sam Brenner both were kept out of practice. Brenner was carted off the field Tuesday during practice. The two players joined Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey and free agent running back Knowshon Moreno as spectators. Pouncey is recovering from hip surgery that is expected to cost him at least the first month of the regular season and Moreno is coming off of knee surgery.

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Online:

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Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:10:00 +0000

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Josh Gordon has a new, high-profile teammate to help him fight the NFL.

Facing an indefinite suspension for marijuana use, Cleveland's talented wide receiver has hired attorney Maurice Suh to represent him at his appeal hearing with the league this week, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. Suh, who helped Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman win an appeal for a suspension in 2012, will be with Gordon in New York on Friday, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

ESPN first reported Suh's hiring.

Gordon is facing an indefinite ban under the league's substance abuse policy. While he awaits his hearing, the Pro Bowler has been at training camp with the Browns. He has declined interview requests.

Suh helped Sherman win his appeal of a substance abuse violation on the grounds of a faulty test.

According to the person who spoke to the AP, Gordon will contend failed test results were caused by secondhand marijuana smoke. Gordon's attorney also is expected to point out that Gordon only tested positive once despite being tested over 70 times, and even then two samples taken did not match.

ESPN and profootballtalk.com were first to report Gordon's plans to clear his name.

Gordon, who failed at least three drug tests in college for marijuana, was suspended for two games last season for what he claimed was for a prescribed cough medicine. Despite the suspension, he still led the league in yards receiving and broke several team records. The 23-year-old reportedly checked into rehab following a recent DWI arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Browns are eager to find out if they will have Gordon at all this season.

Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron said the uncertainty has weighed on Gordon as he waits to learn his fate.

"He's trying to be positive," Cameron said after Monday's practice. "It's one of those things, he doesn't know. It's up in the air right now. It's hard for him to have a say either way, so he's just grinding. He's out here every day and he's working hard and that's all you can ask of him."

If Gordon loses his appeal, he'll have to wait one year to apply to Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement.

Gordon could be helped by the public outcry over the league's handling of Baltimore running back Ray Rice's case. Rice was suspended two games by Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rice was arrested following a Feb. 15 altercation in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which he allegedly struck then-fiancee Janay Palmer.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:04:00 +0000

Michele Roberts has watched basketball for as long as she can remember. It was an easy choice growing up in a home with one TV and two older brothers.

When she saw an interview last year with an NBA player and noticed how passionately he talked about trying to improve his embattled union, she wanted to be more than a fan. She wanted to be involved.

Now the Washington trial lawyer is the first woman to lead a North American pro sports union.

Roberts was elected Tuesday as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and she's eager to provide the leadership it needs after a few difficult years.

"They were looking for, not a man, not a woman, they were looking for a personality," Roberts said in a phone interview. "I think I'm that personality and I intend to be what I have been in my entire practice, singularly devoted to this union. And that's what they were looking for.

"Someone, whether it be a boy or a girl, who understood that this was their union, and they intended to run it, and they were looking for someone who appreciated that and was not going to deviate from that."

Roberts received 32 of 36 votes at a meeting of players in Las Vegas, defeating tech industry CEO Dean Garfield and Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery in the final vote.

It capped a long and arduous process to replace Billy Hunter, who was ousted in February 2013. Roberts was one of the finalists initially offered to the rank-and-file during All-Star weekend in February, but the process was re-opened under another search committee at the urging of some players and agents.

More than 100 players reconvened in Las Vegas this week, and after some tense moments leading up to the vote, Roberts emerged as the winner.

"Obviously, I would've preferred that it happen sooner rather than later, but I completely understood when there were questions raised about the process," Roberts said. "Frankly, I would not have wanted them to ignore those questions and not affirmatively address those concerns. I wanted the job in February, but I wanted the job where there would be no questions about the fairness or the process, so I completely endorsed the executive committee to address these questions, and they did and now best I can tell they're very pleased."

The players considered more than 300 candidates during their 17-month search before picking Roberts, who has been called the finest trial lawyer in Washington by "Washingtonian Magazine." She said her new job will feature straight, honest talk, just like she delivers to a jury, and the strategizing that made her such a successful lawyer.

The search to replace Hunter, who led the NBPA from 1996 until a review of the union was critical of his business practices, leaves players with less than two years to prepare for the next potential collective bargaining talks. Either the union or the league can opt out of the current agreement in 2017.

The union has struggled for years with in-fighting and a lack of organization, and the players took a significant cut in their guarantee of basketball-related income - 57 percent to about 50 percent, a drop of hundreds of millions annually in salary costs - in the contentious lockout in 2011. League revenues are on the rise, a new TV contract is set to be negotiated in 2016 and franchise valuations are skyrocketing.

"As far as I'm concerned, preparations for CBA negotiations started yesterday," Roberts said. "It's at the top of my list of things that I've been instructed to begin the process of preparing for, and sure it's a lot to do, but I've never been shy about hard work and long hours, so we'll get it done. We'll be ready."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulated Roberts in a statement, saying he looked forward to working with her "to ensure the continued health and growth of our game."

"The partnership between our players and teams is the backbone of the league, and we are eager to continue working with the Players Association to build this relationship," Silver said.

The fallout from the lockout and the Hunter ouster left the union reeling. But it also made Roberts want to get involved, which will bring the New York native back home.

"The more I thought about it," she said, "the more I thought that would be a great opportunity to do something really important."

---

AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:06:00 +0000

ATLANTA (AP) Authorities say Arizona Cardinals linebacker John Abraham was arrested on a drunken driving charge a month ago in the Atlanta area.

Abraham has been absent from the team's training camp since Friday.

DeKalb County Jail records show that the 36-year-old was taken into custody June 29 and released the same day.

Abraham was driving a black, 2013 Dodge Challenger that had stopped in the center southbound lane of a suburban Atlanta road the afternoon of June 29, Brookhaven, Georgia police said in an incident report. Abraham smelled of alcohol and failed voluntary sobriety tests - including reciting a portion of the alphabet. Police said Abraham remained asleep for several minutes after police arrived, despite an officer shouting and pounding on his doors and windows.

After Abraham woke up, he told investigators he was coming from the Pink Pony - a local strip club - and the person who was supposed to pick him up hadn't arrived, police said in the report.

The records show Abraham was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as stopping, standing or parking in a prohibited place.

Records from the jail do not indicate whether the case had been resolved as of Tuesday, nor do they list an attorney for Abraham.

The Cardinals have said only that Abraham has been absent from camp for personal reasons.

This is not the first brush with the law for Abraham, who has also played for the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets.

In 2012, he was arrested on an obstruction charge in Atlanta after he repeatedly refused to leave an area taped off by firefighters and police. A police report said he appeared intoxicated, smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech. It was not immediately clear whether that case had been resolved.

And in 2003, Abraham pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in New York after he drove his SUV into a fire hydrant and light pole. Police had said his blood alcohol content measured more than three times the legal limit.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:46:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES (AP) Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling lost his attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In allowing the deal to go forward, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas sided Monday with Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, who negotiated the record sale after the NBA banned the 80-year-old billionaire for making offensive remarks about blacks.

Shelly Sterling sought the probate judge's approval to ink the deal after taking over the family trust that owns the team because doctors found Donald Sterling had signs of Alzheimer's disease and couldn't manage his affairs.

The judge said Shelly Sterling had negotiated a good deal and the removal of her husband as a co-trustee was in good faith and not part of a secret plan to seize the team.

Shelly Sterling hugged her lawyer and wept after the judge explained his ruling from the bench.

"I can't believe it's over," she said. "This is the best thing."

An unusual provision of the ruling bars Donald Sterling from seeking a court-ordered delay of the sale as he appeals. His lawyers plan to seek permission from an appellate court to file an appeal.

Sterling was not in court for the ruling. Bobby Samini, one of his lawyers, said Sterling reacted calmly to the news and told his lawyers they had to keep battling on other fronts. Sterling testified during the case that he would fight the NBA until his death.

With lawsuits pending in state and federal courts, the ruling in Los Angeles County Superior Court is unlikely to put an end to the bizarre saga that began in April when a recording surfaced of Sterling scolding his young girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games.

The NBA moved quickly to ban Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.

Sterling was apologetic after the audio recording went viral, but his mea culpa backfired when he criticized Lakers great Magic Johnson, who had been photographed with Sterling's girlfriend, as a bad role model for kids because he had HIV. Sterling was roundly condemned from locker rooms to the Oval Office, where President Barack Obama called Sterling's remarks "incredibly offensive racist statements."

With the NBA threatening to seize the team and auction it, Sterling initially gave his wife of 58 years permission to negotiate a sale but then refused to sign the $2 billion Ballmer deal, which would be a record price for an NBA team. He said he would sue the league instead and then revoked the trust, which his lawyers said effectively killed the deal.

The nonjury trial held over several weeks focused mainly on whether Shelly Sterling properly removed her husband as a trustee and whether her actions carried any weight after he revoked the trust.

Donald Sterling claimed his wife had deceived him about the medical exams. His lawyers argued Monday that Shelly Sterling's lawyers were in cahoots with the doctors who examined him and that his wife conspired with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to remove him from the trust.

"There's no evidence, I'll repeat that as loudly as you allow," attorney Maxwell Blecher said during closing argument, his voice rising. "There's no evidence that Mr. Sterling was incapable of carrying out his duties as a co-trustee."

Levanas said there was no credible evidence that Sterling was defrauded.

Blecher said he was deeply disappointed in the judge's legal analysis.

The ruling Monday was tentative until the judge files it in writing.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the league was pleased and looked forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible.

At the conclusion of his lengthy ruling, Levanas envisioned what might happen if Donald Sterling remained the owner.

Citing testimony of Clippers interim CEO Richard Parsons, he said the team would go into a "death spiral." Sponsors would withdraw, players would quit and coach Doc Rivers would leave.

"The Clippers would suffer a massive loss of value if the team survived at all," Levanas said.

The judge was adamant that a team owned by Donald Sterling would not draw a price anywhere near the "stunning" $2 billion pledged by Ballmer. Sterling, a lawyer who made a fortune as a landlord, bought the team in 1981 for $12 million.

"Ballmer paid an amazing price that can't be explained by the market," he said.

On the witness stand, Shelly Sterling was more credible than her husband, who was more evasive, gave inconsistent answers and presented wild fluctuations of damage estimates, Levanas said.

He noted that the couple presented genuine professions of love for each other despite Donald Sterling's outburst calling his wife a "pig" after she testified.

Outside of court, his wife said she thought her husband would be happy with the ruling. She said she thinks he will ultimately drop his antitrust suit in federal court against the NBA and the lawsuit he filed in state court against her, Silver and the league.

Her lawyer wasn't so sure. Asked what might stop the deal, Pierce O'Donnell said: "Donald."

"He never met a lawsuit he didn't like," he quipped.

Bruce Givner, a Los Angeles tax attorney who handles celebrity cases, said he thinks Sterling's lawsuits will fail and an appeals court won't care about the probate case.

"I think the sale is going to go through," Givner said. "I suspect the NBA is ready to move very quickly. They want to get rid of Sterling like a canker sore. Nobody wants him around except the people that are charging legal fees to continue this charade."

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:44:00 +0000

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Derek Jeter remembers the playoff games in Texas - the good and the bad. Now the Yankees captain has another milestone to go with them there.

In the opener of his last series in Texas on Monday night, Jeter took over seventh place on the MLB career hits list after three hits of Rangers ace Yu Darvish.

Jeter got a standing ovation in the first inning, then singled on the first pitch Darvish threw him. Jeter added a ground-rule double in the third for his 3,419th career hit to match Carl Yastrzemski for seventh on the MLB career list, then broke that tie with a single in the seventh.

Next on the MLB career list is Honus Wagner with 3,430 hits.

Jeter's rookie season in 1996 ended with the Yankees winning the World Series after clinching their opening playoff series in Texas, just like they did in 1998 and 1999. Then, in 2010, the Rangers got their first AL pennant with a home win over New York in Game 6 of the AL championship series.

"We've had some battles here in the postseason," Jeter said before Monday night's game. "We played some tough Texas teams. On the way to the World Series, we had to go through some Texas teams. There was a team in particular that stopped us in our quest to go."

The Rangers will honor Jeter in a pregame ceremony before the series finale Wednesday night. The Yankees captain has 103 hits in 71 regular-season games at Texas.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 04:26:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers confirmed Byron Scott is their new coach Monday night.

The Lakers finally made the long-anticipated announcement in a news release. Scott will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday at the Lakers' training complex.

Scott told reporters last weekend he had been hired by the Lakers, who have been without a coach since Mike D'Antoni resigned April 30. Scott is the 25th head coach in the 16-time NBA champions' franchise history.

General manager Mitch Kupchak said he conducted "an extensive and thorough search" with owner Jim Buss.

"We're proud to welcome Byron back to the Lakers family as our next head coach," Kupchak said. "Byron has proven himself at the highest levels of the game as both a player and a coach in his almost 30 years of NBA experience. His leadership skills and track record for success make him the ideal person to lead this franchise forward."

Scott is 416-521 as a head coach for New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland, reaching two NBA Finals with the Nets. He has won three division titles, and he was the NBA's coach of the year in 2008.

Scott also was a shooting guard for the Lakers for 11 seasons, playing alongside Magic Johnson during the Showtime era. He was a teammate of Lakers star Kobe Bryant during his final NBA season, and Bryant has endorsed Scott for his new job.

"I am ecstatic to once again be a Laker and to have the opportunity to work alongside Mitch and the Buss family," Scott said. "I know firsthand what it takes to bring a championship to this city, and as someone who both grew up in L.A. and played the majority of my career here, I know how passionate and dedicated our fans are. I will give everything I have to fulfill the championship expectations that our supporters have for us, and that we have for ourselves."

Scott spent last season as an analyst on the Lakers' television network, watching their disintegration during a 55-loss season, the most in franchise history. Bryant played just six games last season.

The Lakers interviewed several coaching candidates over the past three months, including Lionel Hollins and George Karl. Scott has been widely considered the front-runner for the job since early summer, but Kupchak and Buss appeared to be more focused on the NBA draft and free agency than their current team's leadership.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 01:01:00 +0000

LAS VEGAS (AP) Derrick Rose says he feels old.

The 25-year-old point guard's rigorous play on Monday during the U.S. basketball team's first practice dictated otherwise.

"I was joking with Kyle Korver, I told him `I'm getting old, man. I've got to stretch, I've got to use rollers and stuff.' He looked at me kind of weird," Rose said laughingly. "But I feel a lot more mature. I've been preparing for this for a long time. I've dedicated my whole summer to this. I think I've sacrificed a lot for this moment."

Rose, the Chicago Bulls star who is coming off two knee injuries that kept him out for much of the last two seasons, said he played roughly nine minutes of the team's scrimmage during a two-hour practice. He added he was excited about how he felt physically.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski was elated with Rose's play, saying he was most impressed with his defensive pressure and tenaciousness.

"I think Derrick was a great excitement for us, because you hear about how he's worked out, but to see him today, I mean, he put it all out," Krzyzewski said. "He was playing to exhaustion. That was a big plus for today, to see him. I was pleased that he didn't hold anything back. He played his butt off."

Rose, who played just 10 games last season before his season was ended by a torn meniscus in his right knee, said he's spent much of the summer in Chicago working out, other than a few promotional days in Los Angeles for adidas. He was happy to be back on the court, playing against and alongside other NBA players.

"I work out a couple hours a day (and) I know how much work I've put into this; I'm just excited to be here," Rose said. "Going out there competing and having fun, to tell you the truth, just having fun, I think that's the key."

The 2011 MVP also said he's felt no pressure to prove himself to anyone, and isn't trying to play outside the realm he was accustomed to before his initial injury.

"I think last year I was trying to (prove myself) and you see the outcome of that - that wasn't my game," said Rose, who is expected to return next season. "This time around, I know my game and I know exactly what I need to do when I go out there."

Said Krzyzewski: "Derrick is one of the great players I've had an opportunity to coach. He's an elite player in the world and he's coming off of some really unbelievably bad setbacks. The fact is, he hasn't been defeated mentally; instead he's gotten stronger and he'll continue to grow as a player."

Though he said he was "really surprised" to see Rose play as well as he did, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo called Monday's first practice a great start for Rose, as it gave everyone an indication the three-time All-Star is ready to play a high-caliber level for the men's national team and Chicago.

"It was very exciting to see Derrick back on the court," Colangelo said. "I expected him to be a little bit more rusty than he was and so that's big news. That's big news for us, that's big news for Chicago Bulls fans."

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:15:38 +0000

Cooperstown got a little tougher and a lot louder Sunday afternoon as managers Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

It was a banner class for the Hall only a year after no living candidate earned enough votes for induction.

La Russa enters the Hall as the third-winningest manager of all time. He was picked as manager of the year four times and won 12 division titles, six pennants and World Series titles in 1989, 2006, and 2011.

More coverage: Six new plaques | Watch: Thomas' emotional speech | Why new rules?

Signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1962, La Russa's six-year major league career as an infielder was forgettable. But after earning a law degree at Florida State University and giving managing a try in the minor leagues, he found his niche, was elevated to manage the Chicago White Sox in 1979, and his managing career took off. He won two championships with St. Louis and one with Oakland.

By the time he retired, La Russa was third all-time in victories as a manager with 2,728, behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw and 224 wins more than his National League rival in Atlanta.

The feisty Cox, who also spent four years in Toronto, was a four-time Manager of the Year, three in the NL and one in the AL, and holds the major league record with 159 ejections. During his time in Atlanta, the Braves won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and earned 15 playoff appearances.

Of course, it helped to have arms like Glavine and Maddux on the mound two out of every five days. The pair of aces combined to win 438 games in Atlanta.

Glavine won 305 games and two Cy Young Awards, and posted five seasons with 20 or more victories. Only three left-handers have more wins -- Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton and Eddie Plank. Glavine was on the mound when the Braves won Game 6 to clinch the 1995 World Series and give the city of Atlanta its lone major sports title.

A teammate on that ’95 team, Maddux also had stints with the Cubs, Padres and Dodgers over a 23-year major league career. Nicknamed "Mad Dog," he won 355 games and four straight Cy Young Awards, leading the NL in innings each season.

Known for his pinpoint control, Maddux walked just 999 in 5,008 1/3 innings and ranks 10th in strikeouts with 3,371. He also was a sharp fielder, capturing 18 Gold Gloves, and was an All-Star eight times.   

While Glavine and Maddux used their smarts and skill to terrorize opposing batters, the massively-built Thomas was simply terrifying.

Posnanski on 2014: Maddux the magician Brain powers Glavine | Thomas had patience

Nicknamed "The Big Hurt" for his bat prowess, Thomas won AL MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and finished his 19-year career with a .301 batting average, 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs. He's also the only player in major league history with seven straight seasons with a .300 average, 20 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 walks, and the first Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter.

Thomas played 16 years for the White Sox and established himself as the best hitter in franchise history. He holds the team record for homers (448), doubles (447), RBIs (1,465), runs (1,327), extra-base hits (906), walks (1,466), total bases (3,949), slugging percentage (.568) and on-base percentage (.427).

A fantastic player in his own right, Torre became something special in New York.

Despite mediocre stints managing the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals (five winning seasons in 15 years), Torre was hired by the Yankees prior to the 1996 season. In 12 years with Torre at the helm, the Yankees won 10 division titles, six AL pennants, and four World Series.

Torre also won National League MVP honors in 1971 with a signature season that included 230 hits and a .363 average, 97 runs, and 137 RBIs for the St. Louis Cardinals. He is the only man to amass more than 2,000 hits (2,342) as a player and win more than 2,000 games (2,326) as a manager, according to STATS.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:03:37 +0000

Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling's greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.

The 29-year-old Sicilian, who called himself "a flag-bearer of anti-doping" during the race, finished in the pack behind Marcel Kittel, who won the 21st stage in a sprint finish.

PHOTOS: Crashes of the 2014 Tour de France

Nibali's victory comes after the pre-race favorites -- 2013 champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador -- crashed out with injuries in the first half of this year's Tour.

Astana team leader Nibali is only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours -- France, Italy and Spain. The last Italian to win the Tour de France was Marco Pantani in 1998.

After cruising after Kittel, a German who got his fourth stage win, Nibali got pats on the back, kissed his wife and infant daughter, and was mobbed by cameras as race organizers hustled him away to prepare for the final awards ceremony.

"Unbelievable," said Kittel, whose victories bookended this Tour. He won Stage 1 when British rival Mark Cavendish crashed out in the final sprint.

TDF Live 2014: Watch every Tour stage live | Full stage replays
Highlights | Standings | Stages | Teams | TV schedule
NBC Sports Fantasy Cycling Challenge

Nibali also won four stages, a feat not equaled by a Tour winner since Lance Armstrong won five a decade ago. He wore the yellow jersey for all but two stages since Stage 1. His 7 minute, 52 second margin over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud is the largest since Jan Ullrich of Germany beat second-placed Richard Virenque by just over 9 minutes in 1997.

In one of the subplots of this race, Peraud and third-placed Thibaut Pinot became the first Frenchmen to reach the Tour podium since Virenque in that same year.

But such comparisons, many cycling insiders have noted, miss the mark. Armstrong, Ullrich and Virenque were three of the big-name riders caught in nearly a generation of doping scandals in cycling. Armstrong, in the biggest scandal ever in the sport, admitted to doping and was stripped of his record seven Tour titles.

PHOTOS: Crazy fans of the 2014 Tour de France 

Nibali and many others in the peloton say that era is past. But his own victories in the 2010 Vuelta and the Italian Giro last year were tarnished by high-profile doping cases involving other riders. While cycling's governing body, the UCI, has made great efforts to halt use of drugs and other performance-enhancers, such as through the biological passport program, few cycling observers believe the pack is fully clean.

Many naysayers may argue that Nibali was the best of the riders still in this Tour. Colombia's Nairo Quintana, who won the Giro d'Italia in May, did not ride. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champ, was passed over so his Sky Team could focus on Froome. Then Froome and Contador pulled out due to injuries.

But even before they left, Nibali had gained a 2-second advantage on them by winning Stage 2, surprising even himself. Then, in Stage 5 after Froome crashed out, the Italian excelled on cobblestone patches that slowed down Contador, who lost more than 2½ minutes to Nibali. The Spaniard was forced into a need to attack.

PHOTOS: Scenic shots from the 2014 Tour de France 

On a downhill in Stage 10, Contador crashed and fractured his tibia. But Nibali, who is known as "The Shark of the Strait" -- a nod to the waterway near his hometown of Messina, Sicily -- didn't stop there. He went on to win that stage into La Planche des Belles Filles. It was the first of three stages with uphill finishes that he won, adding one in the Alps (Chamrousse) and another in the Pyrenees (Hautacam).

Nibali said this Tour layout, announced last fall, "was almost made to measure for me."

The 101st edition began in Yorkshire, England, and guided riders over 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) including cobblestones, wind-swept flats and climbs in the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees.

PHOTOS: Tour de France rest day shenanigans 

With the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as the backdrop, other riders getting TV time on the winner's podium included Peter Sagan of Slovakia, winner of the green jersey given to the race's best sprinter; Rafal Majka of Poland, the best climber; and Pinot, the best young rider born since the start of 1989.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 17:44:00 +0000

LeBron James will go back to wearing jersey No. 23 in his return to Cleveland.

James tweeted "23 it is! It's only right I go back. 23(equals)6 We still family 6." The tweet included an Instagram post with photos of James holding his No. 23 Cavaliers jersey on draft night, him later in a new version of the Cavs' jersey and a one of him in his high school jersey.

James wore No. 6 in four seasons with Miami and with the U.S. Olympic team. He used No. 23 in high school and during seven seasons in Cleveland.

About 10 days ago, James turned to social media to help him choose which number he'll wear next season with the Cavaliers. James wrote "6 or 23...." on his Twitter account.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014 01:31:00 +0000

Kevin Love still doesn't know where he will play next season, his NBA future hanging in the air while a seldom-used league rule complicates a potential trade to Cleveland.

The only thing certain from a basketball standpoint for Love is that he won't be playing for Team USA this summer.

Love had to withdraw from Team USA's roster while the Minnesota Timberwolves field offers for their three-time All-Star, a process that was extended when Cavaliers rookie Andrew Wiggins signed his contract this week.

Love is the latest All-Star to pull out of Team USA, which begins its training camp in Las Vegas next week to prepare for the FIBA World Cup in Spain. In recent weeks the Americans have lost Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. They have 18 players remaining and will choose 12 for the World Cup of Basketball roster.

Love, who won gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2010 world championship and was one of the first players to commit to play this summer, told USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo that he would be unavailable for training camp that starts Monday.

"He wants to play but it's a little bit of a sign of the times when you look at the league in terms of contracts, rumored trades," Colangelo said. "All of those circumstances put players in a funny position."

The Cavaliers have been in pursuit of Love since before the draft. Their chances of landing Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer and has told the Timberwolves he wants to play for a contender, increased exponentially when LeBron James chose to return to play in Cleveland.

The Timberwolves have demanded Wiggins, the No. 1 overall draft pick, in a package in return for Love and the Cavaliers have gradually softened on their position to include the dynamic 19-year-old wing player in trade talks.

Under NBA rules, Wiggins cannot be traded until 30 days after he signed his contract with the Cavaliers. That means any possible deal could not be completed and announced by the teams until Aug. 23 at the earliest.

That length of time allows other teams to make offers for Love as well, but also makes it too risky for Love to participate with Team USA. An injury could derail any trade possibilities, so Love had to take the difficult step of informing Colangelo on Friday night that he would not be able to participate.

It had to be a tough call for Love to make. He has long held playing for Team USA as one of the highest honors possible and has referred to his experience of winning gold in London as the pinnacle of his young career. While other big stars like James were stepping away from the team to get some rest this summer, Love took pride last year in joining with Kevin Durant to be among the first elite players to recommit to the World Cup team.

"I think he truly is remorseful," Colangelo said.

Love was a vital piece to the London team, giving the Americans a rebounding presence and a much-needed big man to stretch the floor. But Colangelo said the team would be able to get by without him, pointing to an experienced roster and rising star Anthony Davis, who was on the Olympic team but played only sparingly.

"It's not like there's a barrel full of power forwards that can rebound and shoot the ball like Kevin Love," Colangelo said.

But in international competition, where teams generally play smaller than they do in the NBA, players such as Indiana's Paul George and Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons could help fill the void. DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried are the other big men on the roster that could give the Americans a presence in the paint.

"Someone is going to have an opportunity to step up," Colangelo said. "We're kind of anxious to get started to look at this."

---

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 19:57:00 +0000

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Jordy Nelson had a secret on the way to the first practice of Packers training camp.

It didn't take long for the rest of his teammates to find out.

Green Bay's leading receiver now has a deal commensurate with his production after signing a contract extension just before taking the field Saturday morning.

"So I was like the last one in the locker room and waiting on the paperwork to come down to get it done. That way, I had some security when I went out to practice," Nelson said. "That was a little bit different, and knowing no one knew (but) me the whole time I'm riding down there and on the field."

Soon enough, Nelson told fellow receivers and the quarterbacks. Coach Mike McCarthy found out in the middle of practice. Right about the time that Nelson was making a pretty touchdown catch on a long corner pass from Aaron Rodgers, word filtered out on social media.

The Packers didn't divulge terms when announcing the signing after the end of practice, and NFL.com reported it was a four-year, $39 million deal with an $11.5 million signing bonus.

"He said he re-signed and he was really happy," Rodgers said. "Now he can buy all the land in Kansas. I'm very happy."

Nelson, a Kansas native who attended Kansas State, posted career-bests of 85 catches and 1,314 yards last season. The 2008 second-round pick has developed into one of the top receivers in the league with his ability to make sideline catches.

Rodgers thinks Nelson has top-notch instincts and reactions.

"So it's fun to see Jordy re-sign for four more. I told him that that's five (years) for him and I've got six left, so we're going to have to do one more after that and stick around a little bit longer," Rodgers said.

The signing secures the team's top player at a position that had several high-profile departures in recent years. Reliable veteran James Jones left for Oakland in free agency in the offseason. After the 2012 season, Donald Driver retired and Greg Jennings departed as a free agent for division rival Minnesota.

Now the Packers must also decide how to proceed with receiver Randall Cobb, a 2011 second-round pick going into the final year of his rookie deal.

"Well, every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it," McCarthy said. "Like I said before, if I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago."

Nelson's extension overshadowed what likely would have been the top story line of Day 1 with the return of pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews. He watched during offseason workouts while recovering from a second surgery in the offseason to repair a broken right thumb.

Practice Saturday had the Packers lining up Matthews and defensive end-linebacker Julius Peppers - the team's big free-agent acquisition - on the field at the same time. It's the ideal pass-rushing scenario for the team going into 2014.

Matthews had what looked like a flexible black wrap protecting his right hand. There were no limitations with the linebacker, other than "just being smart," McCarthy said.

The recovery process appeared to be a little frustrating for the long-haired linebacker.

The thumb "feels pretty strong and will continue to get stronger with the reps I take on the football field," Matthews said. "This offseason was definitely an uphill battle coming off an injury, but I think that just makes this year that much more special to me."

It will likely be memorable one as well for Nelson because of the extension. Lauded for his leadership qualities, Nelson seems content to finish his career in Green Bay.

Nelson realizes this is a business. He also said he never considered holding out.

"I don't like the word `worth,"' Nelson said, interrupting a reporter who used it in a question. "I don't like the word `worth' because to be honest with you, I don't think any of us are worth this money. But it's your value and the business we're a part of."

Note: LBs Mike Neal (abdomen) and Nick Perry (foot/knee) were close to being ready for practice, McCarthy said. The linebackers, who should rotate with Matthews and Peppers as pass rushers, had similar injuries last year.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 16:14:00 +0000

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire will have less time to remain eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot under changes made Saturday.

The Hall of Fame's board cut a player's eligibility from 15 years to 10, which gives McGwire a maximum of two more appearances on the writers' ballot. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, shunned so far along with other Steroids Era stars, can be considered up to eight more times each by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, dropped from 37.6 percent to 35.4 last year in his second ballot appearance, well short of the 75 percent needed for election. Bonds, a seven-time MVP and baseball's career home runs leader, fell from 36.2 percent to 34.7.

McGwire dropped from 16.9 percent to 11, down from a peak of 25.6 in 2008. Sosa, who hit 609 homers, dropped from 12.5 percent to 7.2 - close to falling below the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot.

Three players with 11-15 years will remain eligible: Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th) and Lee Smith (13th).

This is just the second change in voting rules since 1985, when the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot was instituted. In 1991, players on baseball's permanent ineligible list were barred from the ballot, a move that prevented career hits leader Pete Rose from being considered. Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an investigation by Major League Baseball concluded he bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win while managing the team.

Members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point are eligible to vote. Under another change announced Saturday, eligible voters will be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct, and their names will be made public, but not their individual votes.

Dan Le Batard, an ESPN host and Miami Herald columnist, was kicked out of the BBWAA for one year and barred from future Hall votes in January after he turned over his 2014 ballot to a website that allowed readers to choose the selections.

Sat, 26 Jul 2014 00:40:00 +0000

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Like reading a blitz, Johnny Manziel knew the questions about his off-field wildness were coming. So the Browns quarterback struck first.

"At the end of the day," Manziel said, "I've made some rookie mistakes."

On the eve of Cleveland's first training camp practice, Manziel offered some regret about his well-chronicled weekend partying over the past two months. But as he prepares to battle Brian Hoyer for a starting job, Manziel said he's in good standing with his bosses.

It's time to get to work.

From here on, he's Johnny All About Football.

"There's some things that I wish I could've gone back and done a little differently," Manziel said. "But I'm continuing to move forward and trying to represent this organization in a positive manner and a positive light, so just very excited to be back in camp and it's football 24/7 and that's what I love doing. That's what I live for and it's what my job, so for me, I'm very excited to be back and can't wait to get this underway."

Manziel addressed his fraternity-guy-gone-wild behavior, which included photos of him hanging out poolside in Las Vegas with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, swigging champagne on an inflatable swan pool raft in a Texas nightclub and a shot of him rolling a dollar bill in a bathroom. Manziel didn't say he'll change completely, but vowed to be focused on football going forward.

Manziel opened his news conference by discussing his off-field exploits, saying he has spoken to Browns coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer.

"For me, my main thing is, people within this building, my teammates, the coaching staff, the higher-ups in this organization we've all been on the same page," he said. "We've all been good and very eager to be moving forward."

For weeks, the Browns downplayed Manziel's antics. But as his questionable conduct continued and after the startling photo surfaced of Manziel with the rolled-up bill, Pettine reached out to the 21-year-old while he was on vacation.

"I've talked about that with Coach Pettine," Manziel said. "I've talked about it with Farmer and the people I needed to talk about that with. Moving forward, they're good with everything. I've told them everything that I need to, and everything's been good."

While acknowledging he could have made better decisions, Manziel also defended his lifestyle.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with me going out and having a night life, having a social life," he said. "I mean I am 21 years old and I do like going out and it was the offseason. It's free time for us and if I want to go out and hang out with my friends or go to nightclubs or do things like that then I think that's within my rights to be doing that.

"I think there's other guys throughout the league that are doing that and I'm not trying to compare myself to anybody else but I think that's within my rights to be doing that."

Manziel doesn't think his busy social calendar will hurt his chances to beat out Hoyer.

"I don't believe so," he said. "I think there are definitely things moving forward to help better act as a professional. At the same time, I'm still learning how to do that. I'm still getting used to this role, still getting used to this league, still getting used to being a pro football player.

"I'm not in college anymore. There's things I need to do better, and that's just part of being a professional. Hopefully with time and going through this season and as time goes on, I'll get better at doing that."

The former Texas A&M star enters his first camp as Cleveland's No. 2 quarterback behind Hoyer, who will get all the reps with Cleveland's starting offense during the first few days of camp.

Pettine, who earlier this week said he wants to name his starter "pretty quickly" believes Manziel enters camp well prepared to compete with Hoyer.

The continuous controversy surrounding Manziel has somewhat overshadowed Hoyer, who has worked his way back after suffering a season-ending knee injury in his third start last season. The homegrown Hoyer is certain he'll hang on to his starting job and be behind center when the Browns open at Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.

"I'm confident I am that guy, but in the same sense I know if it comes down to the fact Johnny does beat me out I will have given everything I can and he will have totally earned it," Hoyer said. "That's what you want. All I ask is the opportunity and a chance to earn the job, and that's what I've been given. For me it's about going out every day and proving I can be that guy I believe I am."

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Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 22:24:00 +0000

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Marshawn Lynch famously said during Super Bowl week that he was "all about that action, boss."

His action on Friday was defiance. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks opened training camp and Lynch chose to stay away because of his current contract situation.

Beast Mode's status: absent and unhappy.

"Everybody is calling him, but it's a business at the end of the day," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said. "... So all you can do is support him. You want him to be here, but as a player you understand the business side too."

Lynch's absence was expected after former teammate Michael Robinson said Thursday night on NFL Network that Lynch would not show for the opening day of camp.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he was disappointed Lynch was not present, while reiterating the team wants him there and intends on him being an integral part of their plans for this season.

But the message was clear that Seattle put a plan in place before Lynch was signed to a four-year contract in 2012 and the Seahawks management is not inclined to stray from those plans.

"We've had a substantial plan working for us for years now and Marshawn was a big part of this plan. Just a couple of years back we made a big statement and made a big effort for him and we wish that he was with us now," Carroll said.

"But this is a tremendous opportunity for the guys getting their shot. Robert Turbin and Christine Michael they're ready to go and really fired up about this opportunity and are going to try and take full advantage of it."

Friday's result was building throughout the offseason with Lynch staying away from organized team activities and rumors that he would skip June's mandatory minicamp in protest of his contract structure.

Lynch showed up for the minicamp in June to avoid a hefty fine. But he finally decided to make a stand with the start of training camp.

Lynch can make up to $5.5 million this season in base pay and roster bonuses. It's the third year of a four-year contract and he's scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary in 2015. He now faces fines of $30,000 for each day of camp he misses. Carroll said he's remained in contact with Lynch throughout the offseason.

"I'm hoping that he will be back with us," Carroll said.

Lynch has been the workhorse for Seattle's offense since his arrival via trade during the 2010 season. Lynch has 1,066 carries for 4,624 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season since joining the Seahawks.

He brought a physical style that helped define a young team early in Carroll's tenure.

"The attitude that he brought these past few years has been significant. When we were trying to make a mark that we were a physical, tough football team he stood right at the front of that and was a big part of it," Carroll said.

"But I think we have accomplished that now and that is our mentality and makeup. We're grateful that he was part of that and would like to get him back into it."

In Lynch's place, Turbin and Michael took most of the reps at running back Friday. Turbin is entering his third season, while Michael barely saw the field last year as a rookie as he struggled with the transition between college and the NFL.

"We all wish he was here," Michael said. "He's a great leader. We learn a lot from him. He'll be back soon."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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