Monday, October 4, 2010

Boozer breaks hand, out for 2 months

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer has a broken right hand that will require surgery, and he is expected to be out eight weeks, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

Boozer suffered the injury on Saturday during the Bulls' day off. Boozer tripped over a bag in his house and fell.

"[I was] at my house, came around the corner, fell over a bag, put my arm down to kind of brace myself," Boozer said. "I'll get surgery on Tuesday and do my rehab, be conditioned and run with the guys. The good thing about it was at least it only happened in the preseason.

"It's tough. Obviously, I'm disappointed. I feel bad about it, but we got guys who can play, man. Guys will be able to step up and play. We've been practicing hard, getting ready for the preseason right now. I'm going to be there supporting them, I'll be their biggest cheerleader and sideline coach. And I'll be busting my butt trying to get back and healthy and attacking my rehab trying to get right."

The team says Boozer broke the fifth metacarpal bone in his hand. He was evaluated by team physician Dr. Brian Cole and hand specialist Dr. Marc Cohen of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

The Bulls signed the two-time All-Star veteran forward to a five-year deal worth about $75 million this summer after missing out on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: "It's part of the NBA. Those things happen. I think we've got more than enough to win with. We're disappointed, obviously, to lose Carlos, who put a lot of work in, and he was playing great, but that's part of the NBA. We move on and we just move forward. We've got plenty of guys who have started and have played in a lot of big games."

In eight professional seasons, Boozer has missed 145 games.

Boozer spent the previous six years with Utah and averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last season before joining the Bulls in a sign-and-trade deal with the Jazz.

Bulls forward Joakim Noah will be expected to pick up the slack during Boozer's absence, and second-year forward Taj Gibson is the most likely candidate to replace Boozer in the starting lineup.

"It was kind of hard," Gibson said of the circumstances. "Because I came in, I was expecting to just go against him again in practice, just get better, because the whole [experience] was a positive, just learning from him, getting better. Then to come in, see him hurt, hopefully he gets back [as] soon as possible because I know our team's going to need him."

Gibson started 70 games last season, averaging nine points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Vick hurt in McNabb's return to Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick's brief run as No. 1 may be temporarily grounded.

Vick has a sore chest and ribs, and will need an MRI after the scrambling Eagles quarterback was drilled by a pair of Redskins on Sunday. Vick started his first home game of the season, but wasn't around for the finish in Washington's 17-12 win. He was replaced by Kevin Kolb, who suffered a concussion in the season opener that allowed Vick to take the job.

"I talked to him at halftime and he said his sternum and collarbone were hurting," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said.

The Eagles were mum on the severity of the injuries and Vick declined comment. Vick grimaced as he gingerly put on a button-down over his white T-shirt. He walked slowly around the locker room and shook his head no toward reporters.

His status for next week's game at San Francisco was not immediately known.

"He's got a sore chest is what I can tell you right now," coach Andy Reid said.

It looked much worse when he was crunched on another dazzling run.

Vick took off on a 23-yard scramble, but was sandwiched on a crushing hit by Kareem Moore and DeAngelo Hall. He was slow to get up and Kolb quickly hit the field for some warm-up tosses. Kolb was in on the next play.

To make the injury worse, Vick's run was wiped out on a holding penalty by guard Max Jean-Gilles.

The Eagles also lost cornerback Asante Samuel and wide receiver Riley Cooper to concussions. Neither returned to the game.

Kolb struggled in his first meaningful action of the season, going 22-for-35 for 201 yards with a touchdown and interception.

He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek to get the Eagles within 17-12 with 4:10 left. The 2-point conversion failed when Kolb's pass fell incomplete. Kolb's last shot at leading the Eagles to victory fell short when his desperation pass bounced off Jason Avant's hands.

Vick was sensational as a starter and showed flashes of the form that made him a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback during six seasons in Atlanta. He had 750 yards passing, six touchdowns and no interceptions, and had also run for 170 yards and one score in 10 quarters. For his efforts, Vick earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors.

He was 5-for-7 for 49 yards passing and rushed three times for 17 yards against the Redskins.

Jackson, a nonfactor with three catches, said he told Vick to tone done his running style to avoid punishing hits.

"With him being the athlete he is and the type of player he is, it's hard for him to get that stuff out of his head," Jackson said. "He's always trying to make plays and do certain things. I told him right before he got hurt, don't take no hits like that. We can't afford you taking hits. He's just trying to make things happen."

Vick is in the midst of one of the more astounding comebacks in recent sports history. He missed two seasons (2007-2008) while serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation. He spent most of last season as a role player behind Kolb and Donovan McNabb, mostly used in a variation of the Wildcat offense.

His marvelous play and reformed personal image -- he tours schools speaking out against dogfighting -- has made him a fan favorite in Philadelphia. Supporters usually bring signs touting "Vickadelphia!"

In McNabb's return to Philadelphia on Sunday, one fan made a sign that read: "Goodbye McNabb, Hello Vick-tory!"

They'll have to wait for the rematch.

-Associated Press

Alabama looks dominant

The Alabama Crimson Tide looks like the real deal. After squeaking by Arkansas in their SEC opener I thought Florida might give them a dogfight. That Definitely was not the case. Alabama absolutely destroyed Florida in what was thought to be a the game of the weekend.

Bama has too much of everything. Too many great offensive players. Too many great defensive players. Too many great coaches. They just look like a well oiled machine. I was at the game 2 weeks ago when Bama visited Duke and I watched them put 28 points on the board in the 1st quarter on their way to a 64 point outburst. As we get into the middle portion of the schedule I just don't see Alabama losing. We might as well crown these guys now because the next best team in college football is not even in the vicinity of Alabama.

USC has been known to keep 2 to 3 outstanding backs at all times but Bama has a 1,2 punch that is unstoppable. Ingram, the reigning Heisman trophy winner is probably the best down for down back in the country and he seems to be playing at a higher level than he did last year which is scary. Richardson is electrifying! He makes big play after big play. His speed and power makes him a perfect compliment to the already potent Ingram. Together they have and will run opposing teams to death.

Over the years I have given Alabama very little coverage but I had no choice but to show the crimson tide some love especially after smashing Florida this weekend. To all my Bama fans out there today and today only I'm with you. "Roll tide"


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lakers advance to their 3rd final in 3 years with Kobes brilliance in the 4th quarter

PHOENIX -- Kobe Bryant is again showing the world what postseason greatness can be.

Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA finals for the third straight season after he wrapped up a magnificent Western Conference finals with a 37-point performance in a series-clinching 111-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

"Kobe's so good, " teammate Lamar Odom said, "he makes incredible normal for us."

Ron Artest added 25 points as the Lakers held off a late Phoenix rally to win the series 4-2.

The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's premier teams for much of the league's history, will meet in the finals for the 12th time with Game 1 Thursday night in Los Angeles. They are the NBA champions each of the last two years -- Boston beat the Lakers two years ago, and Los Angeles topped Orlando last season.

"We'll see how much we matured," Bryant said. "They challenged us extremely well in the finals a couple years ago. Now is a chance to see how much we've grown."

Bryant scored nine points in the final 2 minutes, including what looked like an impossible 23-footer with Grant Hill in his face and 34 seconds to play. The basket put Los Angeles up 107-100 and the scrappy Suns were finished.

"Those aren't shooters shots, they're scorers shots," Phoenix's Steve Nash said. "Those are best-player-in-the-game type shots."

Bryant will be in his seventh NBA finals in search of his fifth championship -- five more than regular season MVP LeBron James, who can only sit and watch.

Amare Stoudemire, in what may have been his last game with the Suns, scored 27 points but struggled to a 7-of-20 shooting night. He can opt out of the final year of his contract and has said chances are "50-50" that he will play elsewhere next season.

"I'm not sure what the future holds right now," he said, "so I'm just going to take a couple of days, enjoy the family and enjoy the rest and start figuring out the next move."

Nash, who had promised his team would win Game 6 after its near-miss in Game 5, added 21 points and nine assists in his 118th playoff game, the most for anyone who has never reached the finals. The 36-year-old point guard praised his team, which at the season's start was expected to be fortunate to even make the playoffs.

"You might say we overachieved," he said, "but we're a good team."

Bryant, with his 10th 30-point performance in his last 11 postseason games, moved ahead of Jerry West and into a tie with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second-most 30-point playoff games at 75. He has a ways to go for the record of 109 held by Michael Jordan.

Bryant also extended his NBA record to eight straight 30-point closeout games on the road.

"I always thought he was the best player in basketball," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson will be in search of his 11th NBA championship, fifth with the Lakers.

"Kobe was the man tonight," he said.

Channing Frye had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who have reached the finals only twice in their history and never have won a championship. Goran Dragic scored 10 of his 12 points in a fourth-quarter rally that got Phoenix within three points.

The Lakers led by as many as 18 late in the second quarter and were up by 17 entering the fourth. But four Suns reserves plus Stoudemire got the Suns back into it after Los Angeles took a 91-74 lead into the fourth quarter.

"With a 3-point shooting team like Phoenix," Jackson said, "you know that any lead is not impossible."

With Bryant on the bench for a brief rest, Dragic scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to slice Los Angeles' lead to 91-82 with 10:27 left.

The Lakers' Sasha Vujacic drew a flagrant foul for an elbow to the face of his fellow Slovenian with 11:18 to play. Dragic made both free throws, then blew by Vujacic for a layup to cut it to 91-80 with 11:12 left. Dragic drove for another layup the next time as Bryant made a hasty return to the court.

Gentry stayed with the lineup, and the run reached 16-4 on Stoudemire's layup after a slick pass from Dragic under the basket to cut it to 95-90 with 6:09.

Nash and Jason Richardson finally re-entered the game with 3:26 to play and Los Angeles leading 99-92. Stoudemire made two free throws, then Nash cut it to 99-96 on a layup with 2:19 left.

Bryant sank a 21-footer, Odom stole Nash's pass and Bryant made two free throws to stretch it to 103-96 with 1:43 to go. Four straight points by Stoudemire cut it to 100-95 with 53.1 seconds left, but Bryant responded with his dagger over Hill and the surprising playoff run of the undersized, overmatched Suns was over.

"I just got a little separation," Bryant said, smiling.

Los Angeles outscored the Suns 23-10 over the last eight minutes of the second half to lead 65-53 at the break. After Nash threw up an air ball in the half's waning seconds, Bryant sank a 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds left to give the Lakers the 12-point lead, their largest of the half, to the cheers of the surprisingly large and loud contingent of Los Angeles fans in the otherwise all-orange crowd.

Phoenix cut the lead to single digits only once in the third quarter, 74-65 on Stoudemire's two free throws with 5:38 left. The Lakers responded with an 11-2 run, Artest's layup in traffic making it 85-67 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the quarter.

Los Angeles led 91-74 entering the fourth.

Associated Press

Roy Halladay throws the perfect game

MIAMI -- Stoic as always, Roy Halladay's expression never changed.

Until the end, that is.

Until there was history -- a perfect game, the marquee performance of his All-Star career.

The Philadelphia Phillies' ace threw the 20th perfect game in major league history, beating the Florida Marlins 1-0 on Saturday night.

Stark: A Great Halladay
Roy Halladay was the perfect pitcher to have this kind of night -- because all he does is pursue perfection, writes Jayson Stark. Story

• Olney: Halladay the perfect pitcher

At 9:23 p.m., when he got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to hit a grounder to third for the 27th out, only then could Halladay bask in his moment -- breaking into a big smile and wrapping his arms around catcher Carlos Ruiz before disappearing in a joyous, jumping gray-and-red mob of teammates.

"It's never something that you think is possible," Halladay said. "Really, once I got the two outs, I felt like I had a chance. You're always aware of it. It's not something that you expect."

It was the second perfect game in the majors this month alone, unheralded Dallas Braden doing it for Oakland against Tampa Bay on May 9. It's the first time in the modern era that there were a pair of perfectos in the same season -- Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez threw a no-hitter, too, in April.

Halladay struck out 11, and was cheered by a crowd of 25,086 throughout much of the night. Another fan called later -- Vice President Joe Biden dialed up the Phillies' clubhouse to offer his congratulations when it was over.

"Early in my bullpen I was hitting spots more than I have been. I felt like I just carried that out there," Halladay said.

While there were a couple of good plays behind him -- shortstop Wilson Valdez went deep into the hole for a grounder, backup third baseman Juan Castro went to his knees for another, second baseman Chase Utley ranged well to his left for another fine play -- Halladay didn't need any great defensive work in this gem.

"I think everybody knows you have to have those kind of plays to do something like that," Halladay said.

Yes, but on this night, the 33-year-old righty known as Doc was a veritable one-man show.

"You've got to take your hat off to Doc," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That's why he is who he is. That's what they got him for."

Steely-eyed, standing tall and always working swiftly, Halladay (7-3) broke into a big smile as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.

"That's a big emotion for him," Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer said, laughing in the clubhouse. "It's fun to watch."

The Marlins said they would give Halladay the pitching rubber as a souvenir, leading to a slightly surreal scene. The lights at Sun Life Stadium went out and fireworks began exploding two minutes after the game ended, with the field crew preparing for a postgame concert behind second base.

Working in the dark, four men went to work on the mound, digging up the slab where Halladay made history.

"Look who's pitching," Marlins outfielder Cody Ross said. "It's Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball. It's not embarrassing."

The concert lasted more than an hour.

On this night, Halladay was the lone maestro.

The former AL Cy Young winner was the centerpiece of a multiteam trade that brought him from Toronto to the two-time NL champions in the offseason, and the Phils gave him a $60 million, three-year contract extension.

He was within one out of a no-hitter on Sept. 27, 1998, in just his second major league start, pitching for the Blue Jays against Detroit. Pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson ended that on the first pitch he saw, hitting a solo home run.

"It's hard to explain," Halladay said. "There's days where things just kind of click and things happen. It's something you obviously, you don't ever go out and try to do. It's a great feeling. It's a lot better than the eight and two-thirds."

Halladay faced three Marlins pinch-hitters in the ninth. Mike Lamb led off with a long fly ball, but Shane Victorino had plenty of time to backtrack in the super-spacious outfield at Sun Life Stadium and squeeze it for the first out.

Another pinch-hitter, Wes Helms, struck out, and the crowd filled with Phillies fans simply began to roar.

From there, it was all up to Paulino, who fouled the first pitch into the seats along the first-base side, took ball one, swung and missed for strike two, and then stabbed at Halladay's 115th and final offering. Castro ranged to his left to get it and threw across to first baseman Ryan Howard, who caught the ball and jumped in the air.

In a week that saw the hard-hitting Phillies get shut out on three straight days by the New York Mets, Halladay delivered the most masterful pitching performance of all.

"He did what he had to do," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We gave him one run. He made it stand up. That was good. Super for him."

On the short list of baseball's perfect games, there are the first two: John Richmond and John Ward pitched them five days apart in 1880, two decades before what is considered the modern era.

This was the Phillies' second perfect game, with Jim Bunning having thrown one in 1964. Philadelphia has thrown 10 no-hitters, the last by Kevin Millwood in 2003.

It was the second time the Marlins had been no-hit in their history, the lone other coming by the Dodgers' Ramon Martinez on July 14, 1995.

Halladay credited catcher Carlos Ruiz for a smooth ride.

"We felt like we got in a groove early and about the fifth or the sixth I was just following Chooch," he said. "I can't say enough about the job he did today. Mixed pitches. For me it was really a no-brainer."

The NL East leaders' lone run off Josh Johnson (5-2) came in the third, and fittingly in this battle of aces, it was unearned. Valdez singled, then scored when Chase Utley's fly to center skipped off Cameron Maybin's glove for a three-base error.

"It's one of those things where everything has to go right and it did," Maybin said. "J.J. did a great job of competing. Unfortunately, one play ... that was the ballgame."

Valdez scored easily. And Halladay had all the support he needed.

A Philadelphia story, for certain.

Sorry, Flyers -- your return to the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night just got upstaged, in a big way. In fact, NBC broke into its coverage of the Game 1 of the Flyers-Chicago matchup to show a replay of the final out.

There have now been three perfect games in the last 10 months, with Mark Buehrle doing it last July 23 for the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay.

Halladay had a complete-game one-hitter last September against the New York Yankees, though with far less drama, thanks to Ramiro Pena getting a double to right field in the sixth inning.

Unshakable on the mound, not even three-ball counts fazed Halladay.

He went to either 3-1 or 3-2 counts seven times, twice in the game's first three batters alone, and always worked out of the trouble. Chris Coghlan tossed his bat aside on the Marlins' first plate appearance of the night, thinking he'd drawn a walk, only to hear plate umpire Mike DiMuro call strike three.

Coghlan wasn't pleased, and that was a theme for the Marlins throughout.

"I thought they were balls, that's why I took them. But obviously they're too close to take," Coghlan said. "I don't want to talk about the strike zone because that's discrediting what he did."

Hanley Ramirez had the same issue two batters later, stepping toward first after thinking a 3-1 pitch missed the zone. It hadn't, DiMuro said, and Ramirez wound up grounding out.

That was just the start.

Jorge Cantu went to a 3-1 count in the second before striking out on a foul tip. Dan Uggla had a three-ball count before a flyout in the fifth, and Maybin added drama in the sixth.

Maybin showed bunt twice, drawing a small chorus of boos, and eventually worked his way ahead 3-1. He ended up hitting a hard shot to deep short, where Valdez fielded it on a hop and threw to Howard in time to beat Maybin by a half-step -- umpire Tim Welke taking a big swing to indicate the out.

Halladay got another nice play in the eighth when Castro went to his knees to snare a sharp grounder off Cantu's bat, recovering and throwing to first in plenty of time. When Cody Ross popped to short to end the eighth, Halladay showed no emotion, simply walking to the dugout with his head bowed a bit, tugging once on the left shoulder of his gray jersey.

"I was thinking, if somebody hit a ball close to me, I was going to do whatever it takes," Castro said.

For the Marlins, Johnson threw a career-high 121 pitches in seven innings, giving up seven hits, one unearned run, one intentional walk and striking out six.

His night was stellar -- and didn't even come close to comparing to his counterpart.

"He's the best right-hander in the game," Johnson said, "and he kind of proved it."

Associated Press

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lakers win game 5 on buzzer beater

LOS ANGELES -- A path through the lane suddenly opened up before Ron Artest. Kobe Bryant's missed 3-pointer dropped right into his hands, and Artest's awkward layup banked neatly through the net as the buzzer sounded on Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

What a pretty finish to an ugly game for the Lakers' veteran troublemaker, who has struggled to find his role throughout his first season with the defending champions -- and what a strange, thrilling way for Artest to carve out his own spot in the Lakers' playoff lore.

Artest banked home the winning shot after grabbing the biggest offensive rebound of his career, nudging the Lakers past the Phoenix Suns 103-101 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead.

Bryant had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, but the improbable hero of Game 5 is the only new player on their roster. Bryant and Artest wrapped each other in a bear hug after Artest honed in on Bryant's miss and threw up a hideous shot that somehow went in.

"It means a lot for him," Bryant said. "I think for him emotionally, it's a big boost. ... Once I released the ball, I saw Ron sneaking in. I was just hoping that he got it off in time."

Artest's basket completed a 2-for-9 shooting night redeemed by one supremely heady offensive rebound. Moments earlier, Jason Richardson banked in a straightaway 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left to tie it for the Suns.

"I wasn't playing my game from the beginning," Artest said. "In the second half, I was finding my way a little bit, made some good passes and good steals and got some rebounds. So I guess that aggressive play can carry over into that last possession."

Game 6 is Saturday night in Phoenix, where the Lakers can clinch the chance to play for their 16th championship.

Phoenix clawed back from an 18-point deficit in the second half with a superb game by Steve Nash, who had 29 points and 11 assists. After Richardson's accidental tying bank shot, the Lakers went to Bryant, whose miss went straight to Artest.

"I thought Kobe got fouled on the shot, so I figured it was going to be short," Artest said. "And it was a little short."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson wasn't even sure why he had Artest in the game after the veteran forward missed consecutive open shots earlier in the final minute.

"He has an uncanny knack of doing things, and sometimes it just works out," Jackson said. "He just has a knack for being around crucial plays."

Lamar Odom had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who led 101-96 with 90 seconds to play before Nash hit another jumper and Artest missed twice, the home crowd yelling in frustration with each open brick.

"His whole methods since we were small is, 'I'm going to outwork you,'" said Odom, who played AAU ball with Artest in their New York youth. "'I'm going to bang you until you don't want no more. His stubbornness is the reason why he took that 3, because he just missed one. That's part of his game, that's why he's a great player, and that's why he's a great defender. It's just something you have to live with."

Led by Nash's stirring second-half effort, the Suns hacked away at Los Angeles' lead throughout the fourth quarter. Phoenix trimmed its deficit to 95-94 when Nash converted a three-point play and then fed Amare Stoudemire for a layup that barely beat the shot clock with 2:52 left.

"Everything is OK," Nash said. "We can't knock a great effort. Maybe we deserved this game, maybe we didn't. They held home court. We'll go back and do the same, and we'll come back here for Game 7."

Stoudemire scored 19 points for the Suns, who had three looks at a 3-point shot in the final seconds. Nash and Richardson both missed, but Richardson then missed so badly that he banked it in from a long step behind the line.

"We just didn't quite finish the game," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "I have no complaints. They played great. We hung in. We did a great job against Kobe on the last shot, just didn't come up with the rebound. To me, it's a great effort by us, and they know we're not going to go away."

The Lakers already won on a last-second layup earlier in the postseason, when Pau Gasol sent home the Oklahoma City Thunder with an offensive rebound and a score in Game 6 of the first round.

Derek Fisher scored 22 points and Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who rebounded from consecutive losses in Phoenix with their best defensive performance of the series, forcing 15 turnovers and holding Phoenix to mediocre shooting -- yet the Suns still came agonizingly close to handing Los Angeles its first home loss of the postseason.

The Lakers improved to 8-0 at Staples Center, where they'll play Game 7 on Monday night if the Suns hold serve in a series featuring five wins for the home team.

After dominating Game 4 while Phoenix evened the series, the Suns' bench outscored the Lakers just 31-24 in Game 5, while Los Angeles reasserted its size advantage against the Suns' zone defense with a 49-40 rebounding edge. The Lakers surged to a 16-point lead in the first half with a 21-4 run led by Bryant, who hit three consecutive 3-pointers in less than a minute.

Gentry vomited into a trash can while sitting on the bench in the first half after apparently eating something that disagreed with him. Gentry, who reportedly received intravenous fluids at halftime, also didn't care for the officiating, earning a technical foul midway through the Lakers' big run.

Los Angeles jumped ahead 74-56 in the third quarter, but Phoenix made a 16-4 rally including a four-point play by Jared Dudley to trim the lead to six points heading into the fourth.

Associated Press

Duke visits the Whitehouse

WASHINGTON -- This is what you get for ever picking North Carolina, Mr. President.

President Barack Obama on Thursday heaped praise on the Duke men's basketball team for winning the NCAA championship last month -- a Blue Devils squad that capped its run in one of the more exciting title games in recent memory, a 61-59 contest against upstart Butler that came down to the final shot.

But standing in the Rose Garden on a sticky day, Obama was still taking heat for (correctly) picking North Carolina, Duke's rival, to win it all in 2009. Duke's coach, Mike Krzyzewski, bristled a bit at Obama at the time and said the president should sticking to fixing the economy. The two have since made up.

"It was nothing personal," Obama joked on Thursday with the coach and team standing behind him. "Just trying to win some money."

A smiling Krzyzewski returned the favor by giving Obama a framed copy of this year's winning bracket -- with Duke right in the center.

Obama lauded Duke for growing as a team and being part of their community. After their moment at the White House, the players and coaches were headed to the Pentagon to thank members of the military and then to Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects.

The president commended the coach for his style, quoting Krzyzewski's philosophy as saying a team is like a hand, which can attack with more force when it comes together like a fist. "Very subtle, coach," Obama said.

The hoops-loving Obama spent time talking to the players and taking photos before the ceremony. It came on a day when he also was announcing his latest steps on Gulf Coast oil spill, holding a news conference, meeting privately with former President Bill Clinton and hosting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

"For him to take the time out to greet us in such a way is just terrific," Krzyzewski said

Associated Press