Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dallas has huge 2nd half, out shoot Lakers in a Western Conference Showdown

DALLAS -- While most of the focus in recent days was on the newest members of the team, it was two of the longest-tenured Dallas Mavericks who carried them in the clutch against the defending champs.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points, Jason Terry added 30 and the short-handed Mavericks won their fifth straight game, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 101-96 on Wednesday night.

The Mavericks acquired Caron Butler, who did not play because of a negative reaction he had to medication, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in a seven-player deal with Washington on Feb. 13.

Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant praised the trade during the All-Star break, saying it made the Mavericks a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before Wednesday's game that the new-look Dallas squad would be better defensively.

Down the stretch, however, the Mavs relied on Nowitzki and Terry, who scored 22 of Dallas' final 23 points.

"This is our type of ballgame," said Terry, who along with Erick Dampier joined the Mavericks in 2004 and trails only Nowitzki in service time with the team. "Any time in the fourth quarter and the game is close, it's going to be up to myself, [Jason Kidd] or Dirk to get the win. I think we welcome that challenge and we don't need to change it right now."

Bryant scored 20 points and moved into 13th place on the career scoring list. Bryant, who passed Reggie Miller, has 25,298 points.

After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to beat Memphis on Tuesday night, Bryant missed a 3-pointer that could have tied it with 25 seconds left.

"We play this team extremely well," Bryant said. "We wanted to come in here and put a stop to them."

Bryant returned against the Grizzlies after missing the last five games with a left ankle injury. He shot 9 of 23 and missed four of six attempts in the fourth quarter.

"I thought he got other guys involved," Jackson said. "He was probably a little fatigued and tried to help the other guys get going."

Lamar Odom led Los Angeles with 21 points, Ron Artest had 13 and Derek Fisher finished with 12.

Kidd had 14 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Mavericks, who improved to 5-1 since the trade with the Wizards. Haywood chipped in 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

Neither team led by more than nine in a game went back-and-forth throughout. There were 24 lead changes and eight ties.

Dallas and Los Angeles split the four-game season series. The Lakers won the previous two meetings, including a 100-95 victory on Jan. 13 in which Bryant played, but was hobbled for most of the game.

"This was a big win," Nowitzki said. "They had everybody [healthy] this time. They really embarrassed us that one time out there and then stole one here. It was big for us to tie it up at 2-2."

Terry hit a 3-pointer that made it 90-84. After Bryant scored to make it 90-86, Nowitzki answered with a 17-footer that stretched the lead back to six with 3:18 remaining.

Haywood hit a free throw, the only point over the final 10:46 not scored by Nowitzki and Terry, to make it 93-86. Nowitzki stripped the ball from Andrew Bynum, starting a fast break that ended with Terry's layup and pushed Dallas' lead to 95-86 with 2:20 left.

Los Angeles went on a 8-2 run to trim its deficit to three. Odom hit a 3-pointer and Bryant drove for a layup to make it 97-94 with 57.9 seconds left.

Shawn Marion missed a short jumper, setting up the Lakers for what appeared to be another late comeback after they rallied to beat Memphis one night earlier.

Bryant's 25-footer went long, and Terry and Nowitzki combined to make four free throws to seal the victory.

"We've been playing pretty good defense with the new guys," Kidd said. "This was another example where our shots weren't going down, but we relied on our defense and got some stops. Then we made some big shots down the stretch."

This was the teams' first matchup since the Mavericks made the trade with the Wizards.

The Mavericks were without one of those acquisitions when the team announced just before the tip that Butler wasn't going to play.

Stevenson started in Butler's place and guarded Bryant for most of the first quarter. Bryant struggled early, missing his first five shots.

Bryant had a couple of baskets to cap a 10-0 run late in the second quarter. He hit an off-balance 13-footer, his first points of the game, and followed with another basket to give the Lakers a 48-39 lead with 2:58 left in the first half.

Dallas closed with a 10-2 surge before halftime. Terry, who had 18 points in the first half, hit three free throws, to bring the Mavericks within 50-49.

The Mavericks grabbed the lead by scoring the first six points of the third quarter.

Kidd closed the quarter with a 29-footer from beyond the arc just before the buzzer sounded, putting Dallas up 74-72

Associated Press

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Former NBA Star Jayson Williams to serve at least 18 months in prison.

Jayson Williams once led the NBA in rebounding at about 15 boards a game. He once was a dominant interior defender who could run the floor and finish with the best of them. Now Jayson Williams is going to Prison. Over the years we have seen several athletes make mistakes off the court/field of play, but Williams has continuously hurt himself with his actions.

Williams, avoiding a retrial on a reckless manslaughter count that deadlocked the jury at his 2004 trial, pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault in the death of Costas Christofi on Feb. 14, 2002. At the same 2004 trial, he was acquitted of aggravated manslaughter but convicted on four counts of covering up the shooting.
The sentences on the assault and cover-up counts will run concurrently. State Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman went along with a plea agreement that spelled out the five-year prison sentence and the potential for Williams to be released as early as summer 2011.

Prior to today's sentencing Williams had several misfortunes and brush ups with the law. His wife filed for divorce last year. Police used a stun gun on him in a New York hotel last year after a female friend said he was acting suicidal. He was charged with assault in May after allegedly punching a man in the face outside a North Carolina bar, but charges were dropped. His father, E.J., with whom he owned a construction business, died in South Carolina in November. Last month he was charged with drunken driving after he crashed his SUV in Manhattan. Prosecutors said his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Williams could never get his life in order and now he is paying a hefty price by going to prison where he probably should of been years ago. I Hope he can make the necessary changes in his life and come out a better person which is all we can hope for. Unfortunately, society will only give you so many chances, I just hope Jayson Williams hasn't run out of his.


Kansas continues to dominate The Big 12

Sherron Collins didn't expect the Big 12 championship trophy to be there, at least not until No. 1 Kansas clinched the title outright. He didn't seek the hardware out, either, willing to let his teammates share in the glory.

Yet, once it was in Collins' hands, the senior could feel the enormity of the moment, the emotion and pride of doing something no other player in Kansas' storied history had ever done.
Sherron Collins had 17 points in Kansas' win over Oklahoma Monday night.
Orlin Wagner

Checking off the first goal of his final season, Collins hoisted the trophy over his head as he walked off the court following an 81-68 win over Oklahoma on Monday night that gave the Jayhawks at least a share of their sixth straight Big 12 regular season title.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," said Collins, who had 17 points and six assists. "It was kind of heavy, but it felt good to hoist it to the crowd."

Kansas (27-1, 13-0) didn't wait to clinch its latest title, sewing it up with three games left after doing it in the final week the past three seasons. The Jayhawks overwhelmed undermanned Oklahoma (13-14, 4-9) from the start, building a 17-point lead in the first half and shooting 51 percent overall to extend the Sooners' Lawrence losing streak to 10 games.

Xavier Henry scored 18 of his 23 points in a dominating first half and Collins joined fellow senior Brady Morningstar for their 124th win together, most all-time in Kansas history. The Jayhawks have won 13 straight games for their best start since opening 34-1 in 1996-97 and have the nation's longest home winning streak at 58 games.

"They're a great basketball team," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "They're the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. They have a chance to win the whole thing."

The latest win over Oklahoma -- now six straight overall -- gives Kansas six consecutive conference titles for the first time since claiming the Missouri Valley crown from 1922-27, when Phog Allen was the coach and not the name on the gym. The Jayhawks have won more conference titles than any other Division I program, 53 in all, and 10 of the 14 Big 12 championships since the conference's inception in 1996.

Next up could be a piece of history: win its final three games and Kansas can join the 2002 Jayhawks as the only team to go through the Big 12 undefeated.

"To be in the No. 1-rated RPI league and to clinch in game 13 out of 16, that's a pretty special deal," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But clinching ain't good enough. We've got to go take care of business."

Oklahoma didn't give the Jayhawks much of a fight early.

Playing without leading scorer Willie Warren (ankle, illness) for the fifth time in nine games, the Sooners missed their first 11 shots and didn't score until Andrew Fitzgerald hit a jumper from the free-throw line 6:34 in to trail 11-2. Oklahoma made a brief run late in the half and twice pulled within 12 in the second half, but just didn't have enough to make up for the early woes.

Tommy Mason-Griffin led the Sooners with 17 points and Fitzgerald had 16.

"The whole game I thought we did a good job of executing on offense," said Oklahoma's Cade Davis, who had 13 points. "We were getting shots, getting good looks. By the second half, we started knocking down shots and playing well. We gave them a little scare, but they're a good team."

Henry led the way against the Sooners.

The smooth-shooting lefty played like one of the top recruits in the country early in the season, setting a Kansas freshman debut record with 33 points and averaging a team-leading 17.2 points over the first 11 games. He then went into a funk, his scoring average dropping nearly eight points over the next 12 games, including a five-game stretch where he failed to reach double figures.

Henry returned to form against Iowa State two weeks ago, scoring 16 points, and followed that up with a 24-point effort against Colorado on Saturday.

His confidence clearly back, Henry was unstoppable in the first half against the Sooners, hitting 3-pointers, posting up, powering in the lane for three-point plays. He opened with a hard-driving and-one and didn't hesitate to pull the string on jumpers, hitting all seven of his first-half shots.

Henry finished 9 of 13 from the field.

"He's become more of a complete player," Self said. "He's probably not worrying about making shots as much as when he was going through a little funk, but everybody goes through slumps. Over the last five games, he's been as good a player as we've had."

Associated Press

Chargers cut their All Time best

The slashing, dazzling runs came less frequently. The yards didn't pile up as easily as in previous seasons.

LaDainian Tomlinson was slowing down because of injuries and age, becoming less and less the face of the franchise as his role was reduced in a pass-happy offense.

On Monday, he was released by the San Diego Chargers, a franchise he helped revive with a brilliant nine-year run in which he became one of the NFL's greatest running backs.

The move had been expected for some time. Tomlinson, one of the most beloved athletes in San Diego sports history, got the word in a meeting with team president Dean Spanos.

"I told him that in the 26 years that I've been in this business, it was probably the hardest thing I've had to do," Spanos told The Associated Press. "I'm not close to a lot of the players, but there's a handful that I've been close with, and he's probably the closest. It was really difficult to tell him. But out of respect, I wanted to tell him earlier rather than later."

Tomlinson was due a $2 million roster bonus in early March, which all but guaranteed he would be cut loose. He still had two years left on his contract, which was reworked during a somewhat tumultuous period last offseason.

L.T. wasn't immediately available for comment. He said after the Chargers' playoff loss to the New York Jets that he felt he could still play for a few more seasons.

"He was one of the greatest players and people that I've ever had a chance to be around and he will be missed," outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said in an e-mail to the AP.

General manager A.J. Smith called it "a tough day, a sad day for everybody in the organization. But it's always tough to part ways with great players who helped you win games. It's not a pleasant day, but we're working through it."

Agent Tom Condon said he'll spend time at the forthcoming NFL combine in Indianapolis determining interest from other teams.

"I think they did us a favor in terms of releasing him before we go to the combine. That part of it was positive," Condon told the AP. "L.T. during Super Bowl week had indicated it was time to move on, and they accommodated him. He's had a Hall of Fame run there as a Charger."

Tomlinson, who turned 30 last summer, was injured early in the 2009 season and finished with 730 yards on 223 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry, all career lows.

Condon doesn't think Tomlinson is finished.

"It's one of those things with the very, very special players, like Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, guys like that," Condon said. "You can't predict what they're going to do. They seem to defy the odds. He keeps himself in tremendous condition. I think he feels like he can go forward for several more years."

Tomlinson ranks eighth on the all-time rushing list with 12,490 yards. His 138 career rushing touchdowns rank second, and his 153 total touchdowns rank third.

He was the NFL's MVP in 2006, when he set league single-season records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points. Tomlinson won the NFL's rushing title in 2006 and '07.

Perhaps his most memorable moment as a Charger came on Dec. 10, 2006, when he swept into the end zone late in a game against the Denver Broncos for his third touchdown of the afternoon to break Shaun Alexander's year-old record of 28 touchdowns.

His linemen hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him toward the sideline, with Tomlinson holding the ball high in his right hand and waving his left index finger, while the fans chanted "L.T.! L.T.!" and "MVP! MVP!"

"He's just been a great player for us," Smith said. "Also, the character, integrity, work ethic, along with his talent, have been unbelievable. He's a Hall of Famer right now. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

Coming off a 1-15 finish in 2000, and trying to dig out from the nightmarish Ryan Leaf years, the Chargers held the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. They sent that pick to the Atlanta Falcons on the day before the draft began for a package that included the fifth pick, which they used to select Tomlinson. The Falcons took Michael Vick with the top pick.
Would you want LT as your team's running back? Yes No Yes, but only as the No. 2 RB
"When he came here in 2001, we were a struggling franchise," Spanos said. "It's clear that we are where we are today because of him. He truly has been the heart and soul of our team all these years, and just done an outstanding job and helped turn this franchise around into a winning franchise. It couldn't have been done without him."

Spanos said he and Tomlinson expressed disappointment that the player never got a chance to win a Super Bowl title.

"We came close but just never quite got there," Spanos said.

The Chargers made five playoff appearances during Tomlinson's time here. They advanced to the AFC championship game following the 2007 season but lost to the New England Patriots.

Tomlinson's squeaky-clean image took a hit during that AFC championship game. Forced out early with a knee injury, Tomlinson watched glumly from the sideline, huddled in a parka and his face hidden behind the tinted visor on his helmet.

The Chargers gave an overly optimistic prognosis about his injury, announcing that he "can return," which caused fans and commentators to question his toughness.

Tomlinson was always the most brutally honest employee in the Chargers' organization. When he sustained a groin injury in the 2008 regular-season finale, he was more forthright with the media about its severity, causing Smith to bristle.

That groin injury sidelined Tomlinson in a divisional-round loss to Pittsburgh, the first time he missed a game due to injury in his pro career. He had been slowed earlier that season by a toe injury.

He sprained his right ankle in the 2009 season opener against Oakland and missed the next two games.

Spanos said Tomlinson "was very, very gracious and very respectful" during their meeting. "He had his typical smile. He was just as good as could be, as respectful as could be. Just really, like he is, first class."

Associated Press

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Orlando wins the 1 vs. 2 matchup in the East

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dwight Howard had 22 points and 16 rebounds in a bruising battle with Shaquille O'Neal, and the Orlando Magic beat Cleveland 101-95 on Sunday for the Cavaliers' first three-game losing streak in two years.

Howard was 8-for-13 shooting and added four blocks, and Vince Carter had eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic beat Cleveland for the first time this season.

O'Neal made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points, and LeBron James had 33 points and nine rebounds for the Cavaliers, who were eliminated by Orlando in last year's Eastern Conference finals.

The hoopla surrounding the Howard-Shaq squabble over the Superman nickname finally lived up to the billing, even though the drama in the end came on the perimeter.

Carter made a two-handed dunk over heavy traffic, and followed that with a layup over Antawn Jamison, pumping his fist to the crowd in celebration. Jameer Nelson came back with a 3-pointer to put the Magic ahead 96-88 with about 2 minutes to play.

O'Neal tipped in a missed shot, and Anthony Parker made a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to three. But after James missed a 3-pointer on Cleveland's next possession, Rashard Lewis made a 3 -- from the same spot where he sent the Game 6 clincher into overtime last year -- with 20.1 seconds remaining to seal the Magic's win.

Until the last few minutes, though, it was Superman vs. Superman.

O'Neal has been known as the comic book superhero for most of his 17-year NBA career, and he had taken exception with Howard getting the same nickname. It didn't help that Howard has erased much of O'Neal's shadow in Orlando -- where he spent four years in the mid-90s -- and has restored the Magic to prominence.

The two put on quite a show.

O'Neal grabbed a rebound and caught Howard under the basket, hammering a powerful one-handed dunk over the young center in the opening quarter. Shaq added a put-back dunk, an alley-oop tip and a three-point play over Howard all before the half in the first time this season that fouls didn't sideline the big men for significant time.

At the other end of the floor, Howard used his youth and agility to wiggle around O'Neal almost at will, slicing through the paint for layups and hook shots and making the elder center sprint down the court. Howard also banked a jumpshot from the wing and his defensive presence helped Orlando go ahead 46-35 late in the second quarter.

Then James took over, scoring Cleveland's final 10 points of the half -- the last coming on a three-point play over Matt Barnes with 1.1 seconds left -- to trim the Magic's lead to six.

After starting his Cleveland career 0 for 12 from the field, Jamison made his first shot of the game, a layup with 7:29 remaining in the first quarter. He also made the first four baskets of the second half and finished with 19 points.

But he still doesn't know what it feels like to win with his new team.

Associated Press

Shani Davis becomes 1st black Speedskater to win a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics

RICHMOND, British Columbia (AP)—All that mattered this time was the color of the medal, not the color of his skin.

With a furious kick on the final lap Wednesday, Shani Davis stuck his skate across the line and won his second straight gold medal in 1,000-meter Olympic speedskating.

Four years ago at Turin, he became the first African-American athlete to win an individual gold at the Winter Games. This time, he simply wanted to be known for his skating. Period.

“When you’re a world champion or an Olympic champion, you get this little thing on your back called a target,” said Davis, the first male skater to win this event a second time at the Winter Games. “To go out there and win the 1,000 meters twice is truly amazing.”

The Americans broke their medal drought at the Richmond Olympic Oval with a flourish, claiming not just one but two spots on the podium. Chad Hedrick, who won three medals at the 2006 games, took a surprising bronze after struggling to regain his motivation after Italy.

“I had to dig down deep and find my passion for speedskating again,” the Texan said.

Davis swung both arms twice on the final backstretch, knowing he needed a little more speed to catch South Korea’s Mo Tae-bum. The American found just enough, posting a time of 1 minute, 8.94 seconds.

Mo, who won gold in the 500 two days ago, settled for silver this time, 18-hundreths behind Davis. Hedrick was next in 1:09.32.

“Those last 200, 300 meters were very difficult,” Davis said. “I was just trying to carry my speed. I could feel it leaving me. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just as long as you get across the line as quick as you could.”

Davis pumped his fist in the air and slapped hands with the U.S. coaches on the backstretch. Then, as he coasted around near the finish line, Hedrick skated over to shake his hand firmly and pat him on the back several times.

Four years ago, their accomplishments in Italy—Davis won a gold and silver; Hedrick a medal of each color—were overshadowed by a nasty feud stemming from the team pursuit.

Davis wanted to stick with his individual events, a decision that peeved Hedrick, who believed it cost the Americans a shot at a medal.

Their animosity boiled over at a news conference after the 1,500, in which Davis finished second and Hedrick third. Hedrick brought up the team pursuit, and Davis stormed out of the room complaining that Hedrick didn’t congratulate him on his gold, only the silver.

No hard feelings this time.

The two stood together on the victory stand, each holding one end of an American flag.

“Everything that Shani and I had in 2006 is behind us now,” Hedrick said. “We’re here. We’re proud to represent our country. We’re proud to put a few more medals on the table of the Americans.”

Davis said these games have been so much more enjoyable than his last two Olympics. He was accused of benefiting from a fixed race to get on the short track team as an alternate in 2002, and the dispute with Hedrick certainly rubbed him the wrong way four years ago.

Now, he can’t stop smiling.

“I’ve learned not to pay attention to things that are negative and focus on the things that matter,” Davis said. “For the most part, it’s been really good. It’s a different type of energy now. People want me to win, whereas maybe before they didn’t.”

Mo held up two fingers, representing both his finish and his total haul from these games. South Korea extended its impressive showing with two golds and two silvers in the first five events.

“I could have done better,” Mo said through a translator. “Shani had the greater technique in turning the corners.”

Skating in the same pair with Mo, Hedrick nearly clipped a lane marker in the first turn and appeared to lose valuable time, but he’s always been a strong finisher. Amazingly, he nearly caught the fading Korean at the line.

That turned out to be good enough for bronze.

Lee Kyou-hyuk, a 31-year-old from South Korea, skating in his fifth Olympics, again failed to make the medal podium. He was ninth in 1:09.92.

The Americans put all four skaters in the top 10 after being shut out of the medals through the first four events. Nick Pearson was seventh in 1:09.79, while Trevor Marsicano took 10th in 1:10.11

Associated Press

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods owes me no aplogy

Earlier this morning Tiger Woods read a statement apologizing for his behavior in late November. His admission led to the world finding out that he had been cheating on his wife with several different women. This story dominated the press throughout the holidays and seemed to add momentum each and every day with the amount of women that came forward that he supposedly cheated with. Most of those women did feature stories on major networks and were paid royally for their stories. Some got hush money from Tiger not to go forward with their story. Some got paid by both parties and made out like a fat rat.

Tiger of course is to blame. He did cheat. What has me so upset is how the media is absolutely destroying the same guy they praised just 6 months earlier. I don't condone cheating when your married never have but each and every day men and women cheat on their husbands and wives and no one cares. Tiger Woods cheats and now its a national scandal. Stop it. The Media has Put this guy on a level that no athlete has ever seen. Tiger is #1 golfer in the world and the 1st billion dollar athlete. He has been Praised beyond belief almost to the point of overdoing it. Between Jordan and new media darling Lebron James, Tiger is easily the most recognizable figure in all of sports. To me this is a curse. The Media builds you up only to break you down. Once you make a mistake they will turn on you as quick as they can and Tiger is the latest victim. Nothing is personal in the world of a superstar. You cant go anywhere without someone taking pictures, you cant go anywhere without someone asking for an autograph, you cant have any private moments with you and your family.

The nite of Tiger's accident it was 1st reported as a minor car accident then it escalated by the second to Tiger cheating on his wife. Somebody had to dig deeper to find that out. Somebody had to be noisy to find out what really happened. Somebody had to know. the truth is, its nobodys business what tiger did that nite. Its nobodys business what he does in his free time. In trivial times when privacy is needed most the media refuses to give it to you. They will continue to dig in the wound till you bleed to death. Then they are done with you and on to the next story.

Tiger doesn't owe me anything. I realize that he is human and that he makes mistakes. I enjoy watching him play and I think he is one of greatest to ever take the golf course. Having said that I'm not here to judge him nor do i look at him any different. He is still Tiger Woods. He is still a dynamic figure in the world of sports and he will continue to win because he is just that good. Whats so bad is that at some point this situation will pass for Tiger and the minute he wins his 1st golf tournament post scandal all will be forgiven. People will slowly forget the transgressions and embrace him once more. Those same media outlets who praised him then bashed him will put him on an even higher pedestal than before. His sponsors will eventually come back because they know if they don't back him their competitors surely will. People, We are all human and every one of us has and will make mistakes. Tiger has apologized and is making the necessary adjustments to become a better husband and father. He is trying to move on. Why cant we do the same.


Lakers lack the closer needed, Celtics steal one in LA

LOS ANGELES -- Ray Allen missed a potential game-winning shot at the final horn the last time the Boston Celtics played the Los Angeles Lakers

He was determined to make Derek Fisher suffer the same fate in the rematch.

Allen's key defensive stop Thursday night secured an 87-86 victory for the Atlantic Division leaders. He also scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter and made 10 of his first 11 shots, helping send the defending NBA champions to their first loss in five games since Kobe Bryant went down with a sprained left ankle.

"I just tried to be patient and settle in," Allen said. "Just allow my body to kind of ease its way into the game and not force any action. And it just came my way."

The Lakers had won the previous three meetings with the Celtics after losing the 2008 finals to them in six games. On Jan. 13, they beat Boston 90-89 on the parquet floor, after Bryant hit a jumper with 7.3 seconds left to give the Lakers their only lead of the second half and Allen missed 3-point shot at the other end.

"Ray was huge tonight. I think we should threaten to trade him all the time and then pull him back," coach Doc Rivers said. "He was phenomenal. That stretch in the third quarter won the game for us, in my opinion."

Kendrick Perkins had 13 points and 14 rebounds, Kevin Garnett had 13 points and eight boards and Rajon Rondo added 14 points and 11 assists for the Celtics, who were busy before gametime. They acquired guard Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry from the New York Knicks in exchange for Eddie House, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and a future conditional second-round pick.

Pau Gasol scored 22 points, and Lamar Odom had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers -- who missed nine of 25 free throws. Bryant, the league's fourth-leading scorer, remained in the trainer's room getting treatment on his sprained left ankle while his teammates rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a four-point lead.

"Our defense gave us an opportunity to win, but we couldn't get it done," coach Phil Jackson said after the Lakers' fifth home loss. "We couldn't find a way to score in the last few minutes. I think we had some pretty good shots. We just couldn't convert."

But the Celtics, who came in allowing a league-low 93.7 points per game, held the Lakers to one field goal over the final 7:14 to record their second straight win after the All-Star break. The Lakers' point total was their lowest against the Celtics since Feb. 15, 1991, when they lost 98-85 at the Forum.

Los Angeles went 4 minutes, 48 seconds without a basket until Odom's layup with 2:26 to play. Garnett missed a 21-footer with 51 seconds left, but the Lakers lost possession on a turnover by Gasol. The Lakers got the ball back and Odom missed a driving layup with 2.2 seconds to go.

The groans from the sellout crowd turned to audible sighs of relief when everyone realized the Lakers had called a time out just before Odom made his move to the basket. But the ensuing inbounds pass from Ron Artest to Fisher resulted in a missed 21-footer by the 14-year veteran with Allen's hand in his face.

"Give Boston credit. They're one of the better defensive teams," Jackson said. "Fish broke off his cut. He was supposed to open the floor up, and we were supposed to have an option there. It didn't work."

The Celtics were leading 66-55 when Garnett picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 8:27 left in the third quarter. He was replaced by Rasheed Wallace, who received a technical foul from referee Bob Delaney with 3:10 left in the period for shoving Gasol as the two power forwards jockeyed for position.

Garnett didn't return to the floor until 7:53 remained. By then, the Lakers were eight points into a 13-0 run triggered by two layups by Sasha Vujacic and capped by Andrew Bynum's 20-footer. The basket gave Los Angeles an 84-80 lead with 7:14 to play, but Perkins' layup put Boston back in front to stay with 4:24 remaining.

"We really put some plays together and created some intensity," Gasol said. "We finished plays, got some stops and some defensive rebounds and gave ourselves a chance. We fought and competed. It was a one-point game. We were so close."

Associated Press

Lebron and Melo put on a show, Nuggets snap Cavs win streak

CLEVELAND -- George Karl called being on the court his sanctuary. Carmelo Anthony answered his coach's prayer.

Anthony scored 40 points, including the winning basket, and Denver overcame LeBron James' monstrous night to end the Cavaliers' 13-game winning streak with a 118-116 victory in overtime Thursday night in Karl's first game since revealing he has neck and throat cancer.

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James staged their best duel yet on Thursday, combining for 83 points in the Nuggets' overtime victory in Cleveland.

"I think he's happy," Anthony said of his coach. "This boosted his spirit up a lot. In the back of our mind, we know his situation. We're playing for him."

James had his triple-double by the end of regulation, and became the first NBA player with at least 43 points, 13 rebounds, 15 assists, two steals and four blocks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

James' triple-double came in front of Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double during the 1961-62 season. He was honored before the game along with Jerry West, James and Anthony as co-captains of U.S. Olympic gold medal basketball teams.

Robertson and West captained the Americans' gold medal in 1960, while James and Anthony were the co-captains in 2008.

James is also the first player to have at least 40 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds in a game since Robertson had 42 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds on Feb. 13, 1962.

"In that sense, it's huge because of what he was able to do," James said. "But in the sense of us losing the ball game, it means nothing."

Anthony matched him shot for shot, hitting the winner on a deep jumper over an outstretched James with 1.9 seconds left.

"It's finally me being on the other end I guess," James said. "I'm so used to being on the other end making shots and looking at guys. It's a great player and a great shot. If I got any closer, I was going to foul him. Big shot."

Anthony jogged to the other end of the floor after hitting the shot, nodding his head and shouting to no one in particular as the Cavaliers called timeout.

"A lot of people got some good pictures out of that moment," Anthony said. "I wanted the ball. I made the shot."

Cleveland had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but James slipped while receiving the inbound pass and his 3-pointer rattled off the rim.

James, who played 47 minutes, missed his final four shots. Anthony, who played 48 minutes, made 7 of his last 8. Anthony and the Nuggets have now won 10 of 14 games against James and the Cavaliers since the two superstars entered the league.

"It was a great game to watch, but I'm not sure it will go on my coaching resume as very polished," Karl said. "We probably should have won the game a little easier. We kept giving them chances and they kept taking advantage of them."

Karl will likely miss some games and practices while undergoing a rigorous six-week treatment program of radiation and chemotherapy, but he accompanied the Nuggets on their two-game trip after deciding against taking time off now.

"I think I need the gym and I need the juice of being happy about kicking someone's butt and preparing and watching video," Karl said. "I felt very early it made no sense for me to separate from the team. ... It's going to be my sanctuary to do what I like to do and forget maybe the things that are always going to pop into your mind."

Denver's Kenyon Martin had 18 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, but the night belonged to two of the league's top three scorers, who put on a memorable display.

Anthony added seven assists and six rebounds for the Nuggets. James' triple-double was his third of the season and 27th of his career. He scored 18 of Cleveland's 27 points in the fourth quarter and his 15 assists tied a career high.

James and Anthony entered first and third in the league in scoring, just as they entered the league in 2003 as the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks. Neither disappointed on Thursday. The two combined to make just 4 of 20 shots in the first quarter, then spent the rest of the night hitting huge shots in each other's face.

"You want to play against the best on the biggest stage," James said. "Tonight was a big stage and we both did what we had to do to put our teams in position to win. He just made one more play."

The Cavaliers introduced Antawn Jamison on Thursday, but were a bit short-handed since he couldn't be activated in time for the game. They traded Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Wednesday to acquire Jamison in a three-team deal from Washington and the team is hopeful Jamison can be in the lineup Friday at Charlotte.

Shaquille O'Neal had 18 points and seven rebounds and J.J. Hickson had 14 points for Cleveland, which made just 23 of 40 free throws.

"We have to chalk this under another game of us beating ourselves," O'Neal said. "The whole world knows we beat ourselves tonight. Too many turnovers, too many missed shots."

Associated Press

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cavs get stronger with Jamison

Cleveland, Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a three-team deal on Wednesday that sends Antawn Jamison to the Cavaliers as LeBron James' new sidekick, instead of Amare Stoudemire.

Cleveland sends Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his expiring $11.5 million contract to Washington. Washington also gets a 2010 first-round draft pick from Cleveland along with the rights to Emir Preldzic, who was selected in the second round of last year's draft.

The Wizards receive Al Thornton from the Clippers, with L.A. getting forward Drew Gooden, whom Washington acquired in last week's trade with Dallas.

Besides Jamison, Cleveland will also acquire Clippers guard Sebastian Telfair.

"Antawn is a great pro. We are very excited to have an experienced all-star player of Antawn's caliber and character join us," Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement announcing the trade. "He has the ability to add a special, unique dimension to our team with a strong inside presence and the ability to stretch teams defensively, while impacting the entire court. We think he matches the culture we have built, and continue to build, and will fit well with our group on the court and off."

Jamison left the arena shortly before the Wizards game on Wednesday. As he entered his car, all he had to say to reporters was: "Not now."

He did have a message for Wizards' fans. "You know I love them more than they love me."

"Antawn Jamison has been the embodiment of leadership on and off the court for this franchise for five-and-a-half seasons and we thank him for all he has done for the Wizards and the city of Washington," said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. "Unfortunately, our on-court results have not met our expectations and we felt it was necessary to make changes to improve our future and our financial flexibility. This trade accomplished both of those objectives."

After long-running trade talks with Washington and Phoenix, Cleveland opted for the Jamison deal, leaving the Miami Heat as the only known suitor for Stoudemire in advance of Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trading deadline.

The Cavs have been chasing Jamison since last season and ultimately preferred this trade in part because they did not have to surrender blossoming young forward J.J. Hickson. The Suns were demanding Hickson along with Ilgauskas' expiring salary for Stoudemire.

Washington relented on its insistence for Hickson because the trade brings more deck-clearing payroll and luxury-tax relief after last week's deal with Dallas that sent Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.

Jamison should immediately step in at power forward for Cleveland and supply James with another legitimate scoring option as the Cavaliers' seek their first championship. Jamison is still owed $28 million over the next two seasons.

Jamison was extremely popular not only with fans, but also with his teammates and the late owner Abe Pollin. After Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely early last month, Jamison was the one who was chosen to speak to the crowd before the Jan. 8 game. He apologized for a skit that pantomimed shooting guns, calling it: "very embarrassing."

Now, Jamison is gone and Wizards coach Flip Saunders lauded him.

"He's one of the most professional guys I've ever been around," Saunders said.

Gooden was reportedly seeking a buyout. Unlike his three former Mavericks teammates, he did not practice with the Wizards on Tuesday, but was at shootaround Wednesday morning. He was listed as inactive.

"Basically, we started looking at opportunities to clear cap space for this summer and in the meantime acquire assets that we also liked," Clippers general manager Mike Dunleavy said. "In the last two days, we were able to do that. And it gives us the flexibility to pretty much go in a lot of different directions."

Jamison was an All-Star in both 2005 and 2008, and averaged 20.5 points in 41 games. He missed the first nine games of this season with a sprained right shoulder.

The 33-year-old played his first five seasons with Golden State and after playing the 2003-04 season with Dallas, was traded to Washington. Jamison has a career average of 19.9 points.

Ilgauskas, who is 34, has played his entire 12-year NBA career with the Cavaliers. He was supplanted as the starting center by Shaquille O'Neal this season. He's averaging 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds this season. His career averages are 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.

"Z has been a cornerstone part of this franchise and his jersey will hang in the rafters here some day, not only because of his play, but because of the tremendous person he is and what he has meant to the franchise and the community," Ferry said. "He has represented the Cavaliers, Cleveland and the NBA at a consistently high level for many years. We wish Z and his family the best."

Ilgauskas' agent, Herb Rudoy, told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that he would work quickly to get a buyout from Washington. That would free up Ilgauskas to sign with another team -- including re-signing with the Cavaliers, although he'd have to wait 30 days to return to Cleveland.

"I've already heard from a few teams -- good teams -- that are really interested in wanting to talk about Z going to play for them," Rudoy told the paper.

A source told's Tim MacMahon on Wednesday that one of those teams is the Dallas Mavericks, who lost Erick Dampier to a finger injury.

James can become a free agent this summer, leaving this as Cleveland's final shot at a championship before he decides to stay or go. The Cavaliers also had the league's best record last season, when they failed to reach the NBA finals.

Maybe Jamison can help them take that next step.

The 6-foot-7 Thornton has averaged 13.7 in his three-year career with the Clippers.

Telfair, who's 24, will be playing for his fourth team. The former first-round pick has averaged 7.9 points in his career.

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NBA Trade deadline end Thurs, Who is making moves?

The Dallas Mavericks made a big splash during All Star Weekend by acquiring Caron Butler, Deshawn Stevenson, and Brendan Haywood from the Washington Wizards. In return The Wiz got Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton, and Quinton Ross. This trade highly favors the Mavs. With this move Dallas lets the rest of the league know that they want to contend for a title. Caron Butler is a beast and can score for you at a high rate and he is tough. He was Washington's 3rd leading scorer at about 17 Pt's and 7 reb. Haywood is a serviceable big man but is a formidable low post defender. He is more athletic than people think. Haywood averaged just under a double/double with 9 Pt's. and 10 reb per game at the center position. Stevenson is more of a wild card. He gives Dallas even more depth off the bench.

The Portland Trailblazers traded Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw and cash to get Marcus Camby from the Los Angeles Clippers. I like this trade especially for Portland because they are trying to stay in the playoff picture. Portland lost both of its big men( Oden and Pryzbilla) to injury early in the year and have somehow weathered the storm playing small ball. Camby gives them a legit defender. He has led the league in rebounding, block shots, and has been Defensive Player of The Year. Offensively Camby will finish around the basket and has a nice mid range pick and pop jump shot. Camby has proven he can still be efficient even at the ladder stages of his career. I would expect him to be an immediate boost to the young Blazers.

As the trade deadline approaches, Miami and Cleavland are going hard after Amare Stoudemire. Both teams have Super Stars who will be Free Agents this summer in Wade and Lebron. Both Teams want to keep their Franchise players by making moves in the direction of a championship. Cleveland added Shaq this summer who was brought in to battle Dwight Howard if they met in the playoffs. Shaq gives the Cavs the low post presence that they lacked in previous years. Amare would take that to even another level. He has averaged about 20 points and 10 reb the last 5 seasons and is one of the premiere Power Forwards in the game today. With Amare the Cavs would look impressive on paper and would have to seriously be considered the favorite. Miami on the other hand is less likely to win it all this year but with Amare could go deep into the playoffs. With a core of Wade, J O'neal, and Stoudemire that could give Miami a great team for years to come.

So much is riding on the trade deadline as teams scramble to make their last effort at winning the player personnel game. I think Miami needs it more because they lack the fire power to truly compete for a championship. Cleveland as is can compete and possibly win with the group they have assembled now. I would also have to question chemistry issues with Lebron, Shaq and Amare on the same team. Not convinced that will translate into a championship squad. As Thurs approaches who will win the Amare Stoudemire sweepstakes? I tell you what, whoever gets him will have the rest of the league scared and on serious notice.


Boston looks good as a unit after All Star break

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Struggling for over a month, the Boston Celtics entered the All-Star break last week understanding their current trend needed to end quickly or their chances for an NBA title were very slim.

Although the Celtics weren't sharp in their first game back Tuesday night, the effort was good enough to hold off the Sacramento Kings in the first of four road games against Western Conference teams. Rasheed Wallace and Paul Pierce each scored 17 points, and the Celtics used a strong defensive effort to beat Sacramento 95-92.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Celtics, who had lost five of eight before the All-Star break. Boston is 10-13 since Christmas and has seen its Atlantic Division lead shrink to 4 1/2 games over second-place Toronto.

"I'm happy, the first win on this road trip was big for us," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know what tone we set, but we got a win and now we have to move to the next game. That is how we are approaching the next 31 games. We're not looking ahead, we're not sending messages. We're just trying to win this game, get better tonight and focus on the next game."

It certainly wasn't a pretty win. Rivers says the Celtics missed 12 relatively easy shots from close range and the Kings blocked 11 shots in effectively sealing off the inside. Boston didn't shoot well from the perimeter either, finishing at 37.5 percent overall, including 5 of 18 in the fourth when it was outscored 23-19.

"We shot the ball poorly," said Ray Allen, who was 5 of 15 overall and hit on just one of six 3-point attempts. "We missed a lot of easy looks, but we didn't hang our heads, we got back and played defense."

Omri Casspi scored 19 points, Tyreke Evans had 17 points, seven assists and tied a career high with 11 rebounds, and Jason Thompson added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped 19 of 23 since Dec. 28.

The Kings also shot just 38 percent and missed eight of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, including six straight during one futile stretch. The Kings were 19 of 30 overall.

"I don't know how to measure frustration, but it was obvious we lost the game at the free-throw line, mostly all in the fourth quarter," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "That was the difference."

Allen scored 15 points and Eddie House had 12 for Boston, which made six straight free throws in the final 15.4 seconds to seal the victory.

Evans cut the lead to 91-90 on a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left. Fouled immediately after the basket, Allen made both free throws to put the Celtics ahead 93-90. Casspi followed with two free throws to pull Sacramento within 93-92 with 4.2 seconds remaining.

Two free throws by Pierce put the Celtics' lead back to three, and Casspi missed two free-throw attempts, the second on purpose, to conclude the game.

"We were competitive all through the game with one of the best teams in the league and then lose the game on the free-throw line," said Casspi, a rookie who shot 2 of 6 in the fourth. "It was tough. I even made a free throw I tried to miss."

Injuries to several key players have contributed to a radical departure for a team that opened the season 23-5. Boston is already two losses shy of their total from last season and two over the total from their 2007-08 championship season.

"It was important for us to get this win and get some momentum," said Kevin Garnett, who had nine points and nine rebounds. "It was a team effort tonight. Our bench came in and played unbelievable."

Trailing the entire second half, the Kings took an 85-84 lead when Casspi connected on a 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining.

After a quiet first half, Allen scored seven points in the third quarter when Boston extended its lead to 76-69 heading into the fourth.

Boston's bench played a big role in the opening half, contributing 34 points. Wallace, in a reserve role, scored 10 points and House had nine, helping Boston assume a 57-52 lead. Casspi scored 12 points for the Kings.

Associated Press

Lakers continue to win without Kobe

LOS ANGELES -- Every time Kobe Bryant misses a game -- which isn't often -- the Los Angeles Lakers give another example of how much championship depth they have.

Shannon Brown set career highs with 27 points and 10 rebounds while starting in Bryant's place, and the Lakers kept rolling with a 104-94 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

The fourth-year guard made his third start and had his first career double-double, scoring eight points in the final 1:13 while Bryant sat out his fourth straight game because of a sprained left ankle.

"I didn't really know that Kobe was going to be out again, and that I was going to start until we had our pregame talk," Brown said. "I just tried to come out and be aggressive. That team was a great team for me to play against. They're the type of team that likes to get up and down, and I like to play like that.

"So when I get the ball in the open court, I get to see what's going on and then attack or whatever I've got to do."

The defending NBA champions have won all four games they've played without Bryant, who also was unable to play in the All-Star Game. Four different players have led the Lakers in scoring during the 12-time All-Star's absence, including Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who had 18 rebounds and eight points against the Warriors.

"We've got a really good team. But with Kobe, we're one of the all-time great teams -- because he's one of the all-time great players," Artest said. "We need Kobe back, but he's got to get healthy first and foremost."

All of the Lakers' starters scored in double digits. Andrew Bynum added 21 points and seven rebounds in his return to the lineup after missing two games because of a bruised right hip that still gives him discomfort. He was 8 for 11 from the field in 30 minutes.

Artest finished with 15 points, six assists, three steals and just one turnover against an aggressive defense that converted 19 Lakers turnovers into 26 points. The Warriors came in leading the league in steals, turnovers forced and points off turnovers.

"Ron is kind of like an X-factor out there. Some nights, he's been very effective and he's killed the opponent. Other nights, he's hurt the team," coach Phil Jackson said.

Anthony Morrow scored 23 points and C.J. Watson added 20 off the bench for the Warriors, who lost to the Lakers for the eighth straight time and have dropped 29 of their last 32 road games against Los Angeles. Stephen Curry had 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The injury-ravaged Warriors, who are 2-20 against the Lakers at Staples Center since the arena opened in 1999, used their 30th different starting lineup while losing for the 10th time in 11 games.

"Morrow and C.J. kept us in the game with some big plays, but Shannon made some big plays toward the end for them and Lamar had a great rebounding game," Corey Maggette said.

Maggette had 17 points after missing two games with a dislocated ring finger on his non-shooting hand, but leading scorer Monta Ellis missed his second straight due to a sprained left knee and was in Birmingham, Ala., to get it examined by Dr. James Andrews.

The Warriors, who came in averaging a league-best 23.2 fastbreak points, didn't crack that column until Watson made a driving layup with 9:46 left in the second quarter to trim Los Angeles' lead to 38-26. Former Laker Ronny Turiaf's dunk capped a 25-9 run that turned Golden State's 14-point deficit into a 49-47 lead with 1:55 left in the half.

Bryant did not miss a game in either of the previous two seasons. The next game he plays will be his 1,000th during the regular season, and will make him the youngest player in NBA history to reach that milestone.

Associated Press

Kentucky wins big one on the road

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- These kids from Kentucky are growing up fast.

The second-ranked Wildcats showed they learned their lessons from their only loss of the season and got a preview of the intensity of postseason basketball, beating Mississippi State 81-75 in overtime on Tuesday night in one of college basketball's most hostile arenas.

"This is probably one of the toughest places we've done played this year," said center DeMarcus Cousins, one of three freshmen starters for Kentucky. "It was intense from start to finish. If this is what the NCAA tournament is going to be like, it's going to be a tough road".

Freshman John Wall scored 18 points, including five in overtime, and came within two assists of a triple-double to lead the Wildcats (25-1, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) back from seven points down with 3 minutes to play against the shorthanded Bulldogs (18-8, 6-5).

It was the sixth straight win for Kentucky since losing at South Carolina and came in front of a record crowd of 10,788. The final minute of the game was marred when fans in the student section threw plastic water bottles onto the court, almost hitting official Mike Kitts and coming close to Wall as he stood near the Kentucky bench.

"We made plays. We made shots. We made blocks. We did enough to win the game and now we're going to get out of here," Kentucky coach John Calipari said, adding that it "was probably 15 fans in the whole building."

-Associated Press

On Feb. 3, several objects were thrown on the court after West Virginia's home victory over Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh assistant coach Tom Herrion was struck in the face with a coin and West Virginia president Jim Clements apologized to the University of Pittsburgh, saying he was "appalled and embarrassed."

Kentucky held Mississippi State without a point for 4 1/2 minutes at the end of regulation and the start of overtime, taking advantage of the absence of suspended leading scorer Ravern Johnson and shot-blocking defensive specialist Jarvis Varnado, who played about 5 minutes after halftime because of foul trouble. His third and fourth fouls came in a span of 5 seconds early in the second half.

"They came quick," said the nation's No. 2 shot blocker. "My fourth foul was kind of suspect."

Cousins and Patrick Patterson took advantage of Varnado's absence. Both scored 19 points and made key plays as the Mississippi State center watched from the bench.

Cousins had 12 points and nine rebounds after halftime and Patterson capped the comeback with a 15-foot baseline jumper to tie it at 72, a shot he might not have made last season.

"We all thought he may not be able to do well outside the paint," Wall said. "But he worked hard and added that to his game this summer."

Cousins, playing with four fouls, dominated the middle in overtime. He grabbed two offensive rebounds that led to a putback and was a domineering presence as Mississippi State tried to rally with drives in the final minutes.

He had 14 rebounds to record his eighth straight double-double, the longest string at Kentucky since 1973, as the Wildcats outrebounded Mississippi State 52-35.

"He is an incredible player," Cousins said of Varnado. "He makes things happen for them and when he was out of the game it made things a lot easier."

Mississippi State used a 13-2 run to take its biggest lead, 67-60, with 3 minutes left. Varnado fouled out midway through the run at 5:08, but that didn't seem to slow down the Bulldogs. They outscored the Wildcats 6-2 over the next 2 minutes before Kentucky clamped down.

DeAndre Liggins hit a 3-pointer, then Cousins turned a block of Romero Osby into a layup in transition before Patterson tied it at 72.

Mississippi State's Barry Stewart missed the rim on a 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired with 6.2 seconds left and Liggins' jump shot from the baseline as time expired bounced off the rim.

The Bulldogs tied it at 70 on Stewart's 3-pointer and at 72 on a leaning layup from Osby. But from there, it was all Wall, who had 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, two blocks and just three turnovers.

He wasn't a huge factor in the second half, but he was the difference in overtime. He beat Stewart for a three-point play, then hit one of two free throws in two trips to the line to give the Wildcats a 78-75 lead and just enough cushion for the win.

Dee Bost, who led Mississippi State with 22 points, had a chance at a layup to cut the lead to one, but he lost the ball in traffic.

"We made the plays we had to make," Calipari said. "It's hard to win on the road anywhere in college basketball."

Monday, February 15, 2010

East holds on to win All Star Sunday at Cowboys Stadium


To Dwyane Wade, it felt more like a stage than a court.

More than 108,000 fans jammed Cowboys Stadium to the top, the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game.

It was time for something special.

Wade's done that before - right here in North Texas.

Wade had 28 points and won MVP honors, and the Eastern Conference edged the West 141-139 on Sunday night in the NBA All-Star game.

"To be able to perform in front of a crowd like that, I know that. I know I can do it, I've done it before," Wade said. "So just to be able to put on a show like that and to get the win, and to make key plays down the stretch was what I like."

The crowd of 108,713, packed with the usual celebrities and athletes the NBA All-Star game always attracts, watched Dallas native Chris Bosh make the winning free throws with 5 seconds left. The West had a chance to win it, but Carmelo Anthony's 3-point attempt came up short.

"To be in front of 108,000 fans, that was actually what it was, that was not a false number. You could look up in the stands, and there was not a seat open," LeBron James said. "To be part of history is something that you always wish and dream for."

The largest cheer of the night came earlier, when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came onto the court to announce the record crowd, which was also the largest in the $1.2 billion building's short history.

They were booing at the end when Wade went to the line and made two free throws with 12.7 seconds left. Dirk Nowitzki of the hometown Mavericks tied it with two of his own 5 seconds before Bosh put the East on top for the final time.

Wade, the MVP of the 2006 NBA finals when Miami won the title in Dallas, added 11 assists and six rebounds. James had 25 points, and Bosh had 23 points and 10 rebounds.

"I've had a little luck in Dallas. Of course, 2006 is very, very memorable, something I dreamed of doing for a long time, winning the NBA championship and I was lucky enough and blessed enough to win the MVP there," Wade said. "To come and do it again is special."

Anthony scored 27 points, and Nowitzki - who Kobe Bryant had predicted would win MVP honors - had 22.

But just like four years ago, Wade found a way to top Nowitzki's best. The Miami star was 12 of 16 from the field and also had five steals.

The star in this one, though, was the building. The NBA brought its midseason showcase to a football stadium, and the arrangement worked perfectly. The league was predicting about 90,000 but ended up blowing past Jones' and Cuban's hopes to reach 100,000.

It easily shattered the previous record for the largest crowd to watch a basketball game of 78,129, set for a college matchup between Kentucky and Michigan State at Detroit's Ford Field on Dec. 13, 2003.

"It was unbelievable for us to be a part of a moment like this. I don't think we will ever be part of another game or situation like this, for both teams," Anthony said. "The lead got out of hand early in the third quarter, but we fought back and got the fans back into the game."

The thrilling finish more than salvaged an occasionally rough All-Star weekend for the league. Injuries knocked out fan favorites such as Bryant and Chris Paul. Commissioner David Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter indicated the sides are far apart on a new labor agreement that would prevent a work stoppage in the summer of 2011, and the slam dunk contest wasn't pretty even with the presence of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

But the highlight all along was going to be the stadium, and it didn't disappoint.

Players came out to the court - which appeared much smaller than 94 feet from the highest levels of the venue - more than an hour before the game to check out the scene and the challenges it could create. Having hundreds of feet behind the baskets had some All-Stars wondering if their depth perception could be thrown off while shooting.

Not to worry. Everyone was sharp early, with even Dwight Howard making a 3-pointer, before staring at his palm and drawing a laugh from Orlando assistant Patrick Ewing.

"It was unbelievable. Usually in All-Star games, not everybody is going out to shoot and warm up, but if you looked an hour before the game, I think both teams, all players were almost out there shooting, because it's so different in a huge dome with the background," Nowitzki said. "And I thought for actually the size of this arena, both teams were shooting pretty well."

There's probably never been a better time to be on the sideline. The seats on the benches were leather tHeater seats with arm rests and drink holders. James seemed to particularly enjoy his, reclining his back and putting his feet up on the court above him while resting to start the second quarter.

Naturally, there was a football element. Cowboys cheerleaders were lined up as the players came onto the court for pregame warmups, and former Dallas receiver Terrell Owens was in the crowd.

James and Wade have talked about playing together when both become free agents this summer, and what a partnership it would be.

Each had 10 points in the third quarter and had a hand in all the scoring in a 10-3 East burst that turned a nine-point lead into a 90-74 lead with 8:21 remaining in the period. The East lead was nine after three, and it was still there after they answered a West surge with one of their own, but Chauncey Billups knotted it at 137 with a jumper with 1:05 to play.

There was no scoring until Wade forced a turnover and was fouled with 12.7 seconds left. Booed loudly - possibly by many of the same fans who remember him leading Miami back from a 2-0 deficit to win the 2006 finals, he sank both free throws for a two-point lead.

Nowitzki was fouled five seconds later by Howard, and he delighted the home crowd by knocking down both, but Bosh quickly untied it again.

Howard scored 17 points for the East, which is back on top after losing two of the last three.

Billups had 17 points, Kevin Durant scored 15 in his All-Star debut and Deron Williams, who played his high school ball near Dallas, finished with 14. Durant and Williams were two of the nine first-time All-Stars.

Nowitzki came onto the court to thank the fans before the game, finishing his remarks by saying, "I want to say everything is bigger in Texas," and the crowd sure proved it.

He then made long jumpers on the West's first two possessions to get his team off to a quick start, but the East surged ahead and led 37-34 after one quarter.

The East made 19 of 29 shots in the second quarter and took a 76-69 lead into halftime, where USA Basketball players were honored after performances by Shakira and Alicia Keys.

-Associated Press

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mid season awards

The NBA All Star Game is tomorrow and has generated alot of excitement throughout the league. Most teams have played just a little more than half the schedule and this is what have noticed up to this point.

Best Team - Lakers
LA has had the best record the majority of the season and has been hit with several injuries with Gasol and Bynum missing significant time. As a result Kobe has had to play injuried. ( Broken finger, back spasms, hairline fracture in ankle). Cleavland is probably playing the best and has the best record but no other team has the depth and the talent that LA possess. They are the champs till dethroned.

Best Coach - Mike Woodson
Mike Woodson has never received the credit that he has deserved. Well this year its hard to deny what he brings to the table. Woodson has the Atlanta Hawks clicking on all cylinders with the 3rd best record in the East. They swept the series season with Boston 4-0 and will be a force to reckon with come playoff time. cudos to Coach Woodson. If the NBA wont give you your props then I will.

Most Improved Player - Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is a scoring machine averaging just under 30 points a game. He may end up shattering several scoring records before he is done. At 6'10 he has a surprisingly polished game. great jump shot on or off the dribble, nice handle, and he had added strength to help finish around the basket. He continues to improve at a rapid pace. In 2 years he may enter superstar status.

Sixth Man - Jamaal Crawford
Crawford is explosive off the bench. He is a streaky shooter that gets hot very often. He has been such a great addition to the Hawks roster. He can singlehandedly take over a game with his scoring. One of 3 players to score 50 on 3 different teams. If the Hawks continue to win he should win this award going away.

Best Player - The NBA likes to integrate the best player and the MVP Award. As a result they have messed up in past years with who truly deserves the award. To stop the confusion I added the best player award. Kobe has been the best player in the league for the last 7-8 years and is the most skilled and polished player in the world today. He is top 5 in scoring and has the Lakers in the drivers seat for another title.

Rookie of the year - Tyreke Evans
Tyreke is really good! I watched him in high school and in college and he has a great feel for the game. Evans is really crafty around the basket with all types of different finishes around the rim. He is difficult to stay in front of and has the ability to make plays as the lead guard. Once he develops a jumpshot this kid will be a star in the league for years to come.

MVP - Lebron James
Lebron has been incredible this year. He does so much for his team. He leads his team in all stat categories and is probably the only person in modern time that could avg a triple double before his career is over. He will have Clevland in the finals this year and will have a chance to bring back the 1st championship in franchise history. He definitely has been most valuable this season.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Lakers are starting to find themselves, Horrible news for the rest of the league

SALT LAKE CITY -- Rest up, Kobe. The Lakers are faring just fine without you.

Kobe Bryant sat out his third straight game and his teammates responded with their third consecutive win without their injured superstar, beating Utah 96-81 Wednesday night and ending the Jazz's nine-game winning streak.

"This is a good team no matter who's in or who's out of the lineup," said Lamar Odom, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. "We've got a lot of guys that can play".

Pau Gasol had 22 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks and Jordan Farmar added 18 points for Los Angeles, which enters the All-Star break with the best record in the Western Conference at 41-13.

And the last three wins have come with Bryant resting his sore left ankle, which he aggravated last week. His status for the All-Star Game Sunday remains uncertain, but the Lakers have shown that he can take his time recovering as they prepare to defend their NBA title.

Los Angeles was also without center Andrew Bynum, who was out with a bruised right hip, yet didn't appear to be the slightest bit short-handed.

"We've been playing good basketball recently. It was unfortunate that Kobe had to go out and Andrew as well," Farmar said. "Everybody took it upon themselves to really play better basketball and play together."

Gasol and Odom shut down the lane and forced the Jazz outside, disrupting Utah's offense and playing more aggressively from the start. The Lakers broke open the game with a 12-0 run at the end of the first quarter and held a double-figure lead from early in the second period through the end.

The Jazz were coming off a win over the Clippers on Tuesday night in Los Angeles and never held after the late flight home.

"Where our energy was is beyond me," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "Our energy level was very, very low. Give them credit. They are a terrific team. That's why they are the world champions."

Deron Williams had 11 points, 10 assists and was one rebound short of a triple-double for Utah.

Carlos Boozer had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko finished with 17 points, four blocks and five rebounds. Wesley Matthews added 13 points for the Jazz, who lost for the first time since Jan. 17.

"They had more energy than us tonight," Williams said. "They played harder, competed harder and looked like they wanted the game more."

The Lakers flustered Utah into outside shots that wouldn't fall. The Jazz also hurt themselves with a dismal night at the foul line, going 13 for 25.

Utah made a short-lived run early in the fourth quarter, but could only get within 12 points before the Lakers ended their only cold stretch of the night.

The Lakers led by 19 at the end of the third and increased the lead to 20 before the fourth even began when Ronnie Price was called for a technical and Sasha Vujacic made the free throw to put the Lakers up 77-57. The Jazz tightened up defensively and used a 10-2 run to get back in it, holding the Lakers without a field goal until Farmar's 3-pointer with 6:50 remaining put Los Angeles up 82-67.

Farmar's shot got the Lakers rolling on a 9-2 run that pretty much sealed it.

"We finished strong," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "We played well with the limited lineup that we had out there."

The Lakers had been in control since the end of the first quarter. After the Jazz cut the lead to one point, the Lakers scored the next 12 and closed the period on Farmar's 3-pointer that just beat the buzzer and gave Los Angeles a 31-18 lead.

The Jazz didn't score from Paul Millsap's layup that cut it to 19-18 with 3:18 left in the period

-Associated Press

Duke beats Carolina at Home

If you live in North Carolina and follow sports, There is no bigger game than the Duke/Carolina game. The ACC has been the best conference in college basketball for as long as I can remember and Duke and North Carolina are its flagship teams. The 2 teams met again last nite as Duke won 64-54.

Duke was led by John Scheyer who had 24 points (5-9 from 3pt range). Kyle Singler added 19 pts and 9 reb in a lowing scoring, defensive battle to outlast the Tar heels. Duke went into half with a 1 point lead but should have easily been up double digits with several dropped passes and missed layups at point blank range. In the 2nd half things began to pick up and Carolina was able to get in to transition and get easy buckets. They took a 4 point lead midway through the half but could not hold on as Duke clamped down defensively to take the lead and never look back.

Scheyer was a constant. He hit some huge shots in the 2nd half and seemed to make all the big plays down the stretch. He is having a monster year. If Duke wins the regular season championship I see Scheyer being the conference player of the year. Nolan Smith made great contributions in the 2nd half also scoring all 10 of his points after intermission. North Carolina was led by Will Graves who scored 13 points.

Duke is in 1st place and 8-2 in the ACC. North Carolina is in 11th place with a 2-7 record in conference play. Carolina is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament after winning the National Championship the year before. Regardless of either teams record when Duke and Carolina get together it will always be a great game because of the rivalry. Carolina has dominated the game over the last 3 years. I have a funny feeling that is all about to change.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who is the best Laker ever ?

Sports Media has been asking this question all week. Trust me there is no easy answer. In a 95-93 loss to Memphis Kobe Bryant Passed Jerry West as the All time scoring leader in franchise history. Kobe had 44 points on 16 of 28 shooting and absolutely destroyed the Grizzlies. As great as Kobe was the Lakers could not pull out the win as Artest missed a 3 at the buzzer.

The Laker Franchise has 15 championships and has had 5 of the top 10 players of all time put on a purple and gold jersey. But who is the Greatest Laker ever? I was born and raised in LA and I am extremely familiar with Laker history so my top 3 would go Like this.

#3 Kobe Bryant
Kobe is the closest thing that I have seen to Michael Jordan. They play just alike. Same fade away jump shot, same athleticism, same cat like quickness on defense. They are both fundamentally sound and extremely lethal in clutch situations. Kobe, I think is a better shooter and scorer than Mike. He has a better handle and more range on his shot. He has been the best player in the league for the last 7 years and has no weakness in his game. He is a 4 time champion, regular season and finals MVP. Kobe is a top 15 scorer of All Time and the newly crowned All Time leading scorer in Laker history. It is tough to put him at #3 because he is still in his prime and will break more records and win more championships. He may end up being #1 on this list when he retires.

#2 Kareem Abdul Jabbbar
Kareem is the best scorer the game has ever seen. He was the 1st player to have an unstoppable move with the sky hook. he could shoot the sky hook with either hand and up to 15 ft. At 7'2 he was unguardable. He scored over 38,000 points in his 20 year career. 14 of those years was with the Lakers where he won 5 championships. Kareem was a 19 time All Star, 6 time MVP, 2 time Finals MVP. To this day I don't think anybody will be able to break the All Time scoring record set by Kareem. It would take a 20 year career at more than a 20 pt. scoring avg to break it. Kobe has and outside chance but I doubt he could do it.

#1 Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson runs LA. He is easily the most recognizable figure in the state of California and rightfully so. Magic was the most exciting player to watch in NBA history. He had a flare about his game that nobody had seen before. at 6'9 240 he ran the point. He could handle, he could shoot, and he was the best passer the game has ever seen. He was the 1st player that I witnessed play all 5 positions. Most importantly he was a winner. He won 5 championships with the Lakers including a back to back which hadn't been done since the Celtics did it in the 60's. He was a 3 time regular season and finals MVP. Magic and Bird are responsible for saving the game in the late 70' and 80's with their individual and Laker/Celtic rivalry. Magic was the maestro of showtime which epitomized LA as a city with all the glitz and glamour. There will never be another Magic.

Laker fans are serious about the state of the Laker franchise and it is in good hands with Kobe Bryant. True Lakers fans remember the history of great Laker players and pay homage to the likes of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain and James Worthy. To be mentioned as a Laker great puts you in an elite group. I promise if you ask Jack Nicholson he would say the same thing. "I love LA. We Love it"


Monday, February 1, 2010

Money Maweather to fight Mosley in May

Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have agreed to terms for a welterweight super fight, Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe said Friday. Later Friday, Mosley signed his contract in Las Vegas, Mosley's attorney Judd Burstein told

"Shane has signed. I sat with him [Friday] and we went through every provision of the contract and he signed," Burstein said. "He is excited to move forward with the bout."

Mosley will defend his welterweight title against Mayweather on May 1 on HBO PPV at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Mayweather's signature is a formality, according to Burstein and Ellerbe.

"I confirmed with Leonard [on Friday night] that there are no issues," Burstein said.

"All of the deal points have been agreed to," Ellerbe said. "We still have to put pen to paper, but everything is agreed to. It's with the lawyers. Shane is a great fighter, one of the best of his era, and so is Floyd. It's going to be a great fight. It's a fight fans have wanted to see for a long time."

Ellerbe said that he expected Mayweather's paperwork to be completed in the next few days with a formal announcement likely next week.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Mayweather has the option for an immediate rematch in the event he loses.

The fight came together after an unexpected turn of events.

First, Mayweather became available for a fight three weeks ago when negotiations with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao disintegrated. They had agreed to all terms for a March 13 fight that loomed as the biggest in boxing -- except for a drug testing protocol.

They had agreed to random urine testing, but Mayweather also wanted random blood testing, even though that is not required under the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Pacquiao agreed only to three blood tests, but none within 24 days of the fight, and the third one immediately after the bout.

Mayweather has alluded to Pacquiao using performance-enhancing drugs, even though he has never produced any evidence, and Floyd Mayweather Sr. has outright said he believes Pacquiao uses.

The rancor over the drug testing issue caused the fight to fall apart and Pacquiao moved on. He will defend his version of the 147-pound title against former titlist Joshua Clottey on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Then Mosley became available two weeks ago. He was scheduled to meet Andre Berto in a title unification bout at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Saturday night. However, Berto, a Haitian-American, withdrew from the bout after eight members of his extended family were killed in the earthquake in Haiti.

Immediately after the cancellation of Mosley-Berto, Mosley and Mayweather -- the former welterweight champ and pound-for-pound king until giving up the mantle during a brief retirement -- began negotiating.

"The negotiations were very cordial and went very smoothly," Ellerbe said.

Mosley has agreed to undergo random blood and urine testing, as has Mayweather, Ellerbe said.

Mosley has admitted to using PEDs and was connected to the BALCO scandal. Although he publicly denied using PEDs for years, Mosley admitted during grand jury testimony, which was later released, that he used designer steroids "the clear" and "the cream" and injected himself with EPO, a blood oxygen enhancer, during the lead-up to his 2003 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. Mosley said he took the steroids unknowingly.

"Floyd only wants to be sure of an even playing field no matter who he fights," Ellerbe said.

Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs), a five-division champion, and Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs), a three-division champion, have seemingly been on a collision course since the late 1990s, when Mosley was lightweight champion and Mayweather was junior lightweight champion.

Although their careers took different paths, talk of a potential fight heated back up in 2006 after Mosley's two knockouts of Fernando Vargas, but talks never got too serious.

However, Mosley stepped up his call for a fight with Mayweather, 32, last year after Mayweather ended his 18-month retirement. After Mayweather easily beat lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez in a lopsided decision in September, Mosley crashed his post-fight interview in the ring and called him out to his face.

It didn't look like Mosley would get the fight because two months later, Pacquiao knocked out Miguel Cotto and talks began for Pacquiao-Mayweather.

Mosley, 38, hasn't fought since last January, when he upset Antonio Margarito to win his title via ninth-round knockout.

Dan Rafael/'s boxing writer.

Kobe closes as Lakers beat the Celtics in the closing minutes

Kobe is the best closer in the game since Mike. He just has a mentality that few have. He is going to win at any cost. Yesterday the Lakers beat the Celtics 90-89 in another epic battle of bitter rivals. Kobe finished with 19 but made an incredibly difficult shot over Ray Allen in the closing seconds to seal the deal. How many times have we seen this guy deliver in the clutch? He scores on single coverage, double coverage, triple coverage, whatever. He just makes it happen.

The Lakers had the lead early but lost it at the half. The 3rd quarter was even but in the 4th the better team became apparent. Young Bynum played his best game as a Laker in my opinion with 19 pts. and 11 big rebs. He was a force in the paint. With Gasol and Kobe, Bynum gives the Lakers a legitimate 3 headed monster. Defensively LA held the Celtics to 16 points and several turnovers in the 4th quarter including a huge one on Paul Pierce's offensive foul on Ron Artest. Down 1 is all that Kobe needed to know. Kobe struggled most of the game due to nagging injuries finishing 8-20 but when the chips are down nobody does it better than #24. Kobe hit Ray Allen with the up and under fade away to ice the game. Boston had a chance to win but Allen missed on a 3 as time expired.

Phil Jackson tied Pat Riley for All Time Laker wins and Kobe is 28 points from being the All Time Laker scoring leader. Most importantly the Lakers are beginning to gel as a unit. 5-2 on their current road trip going into Memphis tonite. If this continues it could get ugly for the rest of the league.


Freeney hurt, questionable for the big game

Dwight Freeney's injured ankle is ``really bad'' and could keep him out of the Super Bowl, a person close to the All-Pro defensive end told The Associated Press in an e-mail Sunday night.

The person requested anonymity because the information differed from what the Indianapolis Colts said earlier in the day. The team insisted that Freeney has a low ankle sprain and remains questionable for the game against the New Orleans Saints.

``He is under the care of our athletic training staff,'' Colts spokesman Craig Kelley said. ``Nothing we have seen changes our diagnosis that he is questionable. He has a third-degree, low basketball sprain.''

Earlier Sunday, reported that Freeney had torn a ligament, which would make it ``difficult'' for Freeney to play Sunday against New Orleans.

The pass rusher has 13 1/2 sacks, the sixth time in eight NFL seasons he's had at least 10.

The Colts have been concerned about Freeney since the former league sacks champion hurt his right ankle with about 2 minutes left in last week's AFC championship game. He pulled up short of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on a pass rush, hopped for a couple of steps and then limped off the field.

Trainers initially wanted to put Freeney's foot in a walking boot, but he didn't wear it after the Colts' 30-17 victory. Freeney did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and has not been available to reporters since the game.

``Dwight is one of our best players, we know that,'' Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said Sunday night during the Pro Bowl. ``But all season long Coach Caldwell has talked about picking up the bayonet. Someone's got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able to go that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we'll feel confident in whoever that is.''

On Monday, team president Bill Polian told radio listeners he expected Freeney to play against the Saints. Caldwell didn't sound as optimistic early in the week, noting that starting cornerback Jerraud Powers was further along in his recovery from a foot injury than Freeney.

By Friday, Caldwell appeared to be on the same page with Polian.

``He's coming along well, he's getting better and we're hoping for the best,'' Caldwell said before Friday's practice.

Even if he can play, Freeney's effectiveness could still be an issue.

Freeney uses his incredible speed, remarkable spin moves and leverage to attack opponents. If he's not 100 percent, it would limit what he can do in the biggest game of the season.

But Freeney also has a history of healing fast, including earlier this season, when he returned seven days after hurting his quadriceps - an injury that some reports said would keep him out up to three weeks. That was in late September.

Freeney did not miss a game until Nov. 29 at Houston, when he sat out with an abdominal injury. The only other game he missed this season was the regular-season finale at Buffalo, when most Indy starters played sparingly or not at all.

``He has had injuries before where they said (he's) not going to play and he has come back,'' Colts tight end Dallas Clark said during the Pro Bowl. ``He is a competitor, he is one of the toughest guys on our team and I never expect him to miss anything.''

Associated Press

The All Star game that nobody watched

In its new role as a warmup to the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl became a series of wind sprints.

Long gains were the rule and hard hitting was the exception as the AFC beat the NFC 41-34 on Sunday night.

Light showers fell for much of the game, stirring memories of a rainy Super Bowl in Miami three years ago. But uniforms remained mostly spotless, with more pushing and shoving than tackling.

``It's different. It was like 7 on 7,'' NFC linebacker Brian Orakpo said. ``Everybody came out here trying not to get hurt and give the fans a good show.''

Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans threw for 189 yards and two AFC scores, and was chosen the most valuable player.

``It's a game you watch growing up as a kid and wonder if you could ever be in,'' Schaub said. ``To actually be a part of it is incredible.''

Aaron Rodgers also threw two touchdown passes, and NFC teammate DeSean Jackson had two scoring catches.

From the standpoint of ticket sales, this year's new venue and slot on the league calendar was a success. The crowd of 70,697 was the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959 in Los Angeles.

Spectators included Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and other Pro Bowl players from the Super Bowl teams. Manning and the Indianapolis Colts will face Brees and the New Orleans Saints on the same field next Sunday in the biggest game of the season.

The NFL sought to transform the Pro Bowl into a bigger game by playing it before the Super Bowl for the first time. In a one-year experiment, the league also moved the game from Honolulu, its home since 1980.

The stadium was half empty by the third quarter, perhaps partly because of the rain and temperatures in the 60s. It was sunny and 82 in Honolulu at game time.

Did the weather dampen the players' enthusiasm for Miami?

``It's beautiful. It's paradise,'' NFC receiver Steve Smith said. ``Too bad it's not Hawaii.''

Eager to host more big events, the Dolphins have proposed adding a roof that would cover fans as part of stadium improvements that could cost $250 million or more. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the upgrades are needed if South Florida is to remain competitive in bidding for future Super Bowls.

Nearly 40 percent of the players originally selected for the game didn't play. One of the AFC replacements, David Garrard, threw for 183 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson.

``It's so awesome,'' Garrard said. ``One of my goals coming into the game was to just be relevant and show all the people who said, `What is he doing in there? The Pro Bowl has dropped off a few pegs,' that I do belong.''

Vincent Jackson made seven catches for 122 yards. Chad Ochocinco had a 40-yard reception but didn't do any kicking after practicing placements and punts for the AFC during the week.

``That's OK. It was fun anyway,'' Ochocinco said.

DeSean Jackson scored on a 7-yard pass from Rodgers and a 58-yard pass from Donovan McNabb, his regular quarterback with the Eagles.

``I'm just out here having a great time,'' Jackson said. ``And at the same time I'm trying to put out a little effort.''

There were plenty of other big plays. Joshua Cribbs caught a punt at the goal line and returned it 65 yards. A penalty negated LaMarr Woodley's 64-interception return for a touchdown.

``I slowed up to get a little camera time,'' Woodley said.

The AFC totaled 517 yards and the NFC 470. Both teams threw for more than 400 yards.

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, a 12-year veteran playing in his first Pro Bowl, found the AFC's offensive approach exhausting.

``They came out with a bunch of screens and had us running around,'' Fletcher said.

But there were no complaints from Fletcher's teammate on defense, first-time Pro Bowler Justin Smith of the 49ers.

``The pace is nice,'' Smith said. ``You don't have to worry about working too hard.''

The game will return to Honolulu in 2011 and 2012, but the league hasn't decided whether to hold those games before or after the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl site for 2013 and beyond hasn't been determined.

Associated Press