Friday, April 30, 2010

The Spurs get revenge and eliminate Dallas in 6 games

SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili stepped off the podium and bumped into Dirk Nowitzki. They shook hands. Nowitzki gave his longtime foe a congratulatory slap on the back and Ginobili disappeared down the hallway.

He was off to celebrate a playoff series win. Just like old times for the Spurs.

"We're thrilled that we beat them," Ginobili said. "We're really proud of it."

Nowitzki then sat down for a playoff ritual of his own -- dissecting yet another first-round failure by the Mavericks.

Ginobili scored 26 points and San Antonio survived blowing a 22-point lead to finish off the Mavericks 97-87 in Game 6 on Thursday night, getting payback after Dallas eliminated the Spurs a year ago in the opening round.

The Spurs will play Phoenix in the West semifinals that start Monday.

The Mavs, meanwhile, slump away into another too-early summer.

Dallas lost in the first round for the third time in four years. The Mavs head into an interesting offseason for a team that's won 50 games for 10 straight seasons, but has only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it.

"Going into the playoffs as a No. 2 seed, it is all we could have wanted," Nowitzki said. "We just happened to see a tough No. 7 seed that got rolling at the right time."

Said Mavs guard Jason Terry, "As of right now this season is a failure."

Nowitzki nearly carried the Mavs to an unbelievable comeback, getting 25 of his 33 points in a remarkable second half. But George Hill, the hero for the Spurs in Game 4, scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to keep the series from going back to Dallas.

The Spurs continue their roll after coming off their worst regular season in the Tim Duncan era, which perhaps makes this series all the more impressive.

It will technically go down as an upset. San Antonio is only the fifth No. 7 seed to win a first-round series, and the first since the opening round became a best-of-7 in 2003. It hadn't been done since New York beat Miami in 1998.

But with a healthy Big Three and a championship pedigree, the Spurs could hardly be called underdogs.

And with no clear favorite in the West, they might be as good a finals pick as any.

"The only reason [the Spurs] we're the 7 seed is because they've been hurt all year," Mavs center Brenden Haywood said. "This could have been the Western Conference finals. The teams are that good. This isn't like a monumental upset or anything. You all are talking like this is the NCAA tournament and the 15 seed just beat the 2."

As for the Mavs, it was yet another early playoff disappointment.

It comes three years after the Mavs came into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, only to be knocked out by No. 8 Golden State. The Mavs were the NBA's best road team in the regular season, but went 0-3 in San Antonio and couldn't pull themselves out of a 3-1 deficit.

This one is especially tough for team owner Mark Cuban, who plunked down an extra $30 million for a deal at the trade deadline that brought Caron Butler from Washington.

Cuban, who needled San Antonio earlier in the series by saying he hated the Spurs, congratulated them afterward and said he'd root for his Texas rivals the rest of the way.

He followed that up with a cryptic comment.

"I'm not proud of the NBA. I'm not proud of my inability over the last 10 years to have an impact like I want to have," Cuban said. "So I kind of feel like I owe fans an apology. But that's just the way this business goes."

Cuban declined to elaborate.

Butler scored 25 points and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois had 16. But aside from them and Nowitzki, no other Dallas player scored more than six points.

Among the questions facing the Mavs is Nowitzki, who could choose to become a free agent this summer. He's steadily said he won't, but after the game, Nowitzki was noncommittal about his future.

"I haven't really thought about my future," he said. "I guess I have some time now to think about my future and think about my options."

He and the Mavs will have a long time to sulk over this one.

Plagued by slow starts in this series, Dallas got off to its worst yet when it mattered most. The Mavs trailed 22-8 after the first quarter, hitting just four of their first 18 shots. By halftime it was 47-34, a franchise playoff low for Dallas.

Nowitzki, who had four fouls in the first half, shrugged off the foul trouble and put Dallas ahead 57-56 with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. But Ginobili immediately fired back with a 3-pointer, and Dallas never led again.

"I think we took a lot of their energy, a lot of their effort getting back into it after being so far down," said Duncan, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. "Hopefully we used that against them and closed the game out."

Associated Press

Phoenix closes out Portland, Next up San Antonio

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jason Richardson wanted to be the wild card in the playoffs for the Phoenix Suns.

So while the Portland Trail Blazers were focused on Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash, Richardson came up big for the third time in the first-round series, scoring 28 points in a 99-90 Game 6 victory Thursday night.Blazers Bow Out, Again

The win sends the third-seeded Suns into the second round against seventh-seeded San Antonio, which advanced by beating Dallas 97-97 earlier Thursday night. The opening game of the Western Conference semifinals is Monday night in Phoenix.

Richardson had 29 points in the Suns' 119-90 victory in Game 2 before scoring a career playoff-high 42 in a 108-89 win in Game 3.

"Everybody knows what Steve can do, and everybody knows what Amare can do. I'm just trying to be that wild card, that third scorer, and help us get wins and try to go deep into the playoffs," Richardson said.

The Suns last went to the second round in 2007, when they got past the Los Angeles Lakers to open the playoffs before falling to the Spurs. In 2008, the Spurs got the best of Phoenix in the first round.

Since the 2002-03 season, the Spurs have eliminated the Suns from the postseason four times.

The Suns went up 53-41 at halftime and led by as many as 16 points in the second half. The Blazers tied it at 76 midway through the fourth quarter, but could not pull ahead.

Martell Webster had 19 points for Portland, which failed to advance out of the first round for the second straight year.

The Blazers narrowed it to 74-71 with 10:44 left on Rudy Fernandez's 3-pointer. Jared Dudley fouled Webster on a 3-point attempt, and Webster made two free throws to close to 74-73.

After Leandro Barbosa's bank shot, Jerryd Bayless hit a long jumper that pulled Portland within one. Amare Stoudemire fouled LaMarcus Aldridge, who made one of two free throws to tie it at 76.

Stoudemire's layup prevented Portland from taking the lead, and Goran Dragic added a basket to put the Suns in front 80-76. Phoenix extended it on two consecutive layups and a 3-pointer from Richardson to make it 87-78 with 4:36 left.

Steve Nash sealed it with a 3-pointer that gave the Suns a 92-82 lead.

Stoudemire finished with 22 points for the Suns, while Nash, who said afterward that he had been battling a hip injury since Game 2, had 10 points.

Richardson made five of eight 3-point attempts.

"J-Rich definitely shot the ball extremely well from the outside and he created for us," Stoudemire said. "He's been a great addition to this team, a great help in the playoffs, and hopefully we can see that great play continue in the next series."

Brandon Roy had 14 points for the Blazers in his first start of the series. Portland's three-time All-Star had arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee two days before the series against the Suns opened.

He was originally ruled out of the first round, but unexpectedly came back for Game 4, which the Blazers won 96-87 at the Rose Garden.

Roy had 10 points in that game, then got just five in Portland's 107-88 Game 5 loss in Phoenix, but he was coming off the bench -- which he said made him uncomfortable.

Roy said that after all the team had been through, he wanted to finish on the court and not on the bench.

"I was happy I was able to play," he said. "I wasn't able to play as well as I liked. I didn't have quite the bounce that I needed but at least I can go into the summertime knowing that I'm healthy and I finished the season out with my guys."

The Suns, who found success in the series when they established a fast pace, went up 17-6 early with Richardson hitting three 3-pointers.

But Stoudemire collected two quick fouls and retreated to the bench. Richardson wound up with 14 points after the first quarter, but it was tempered by Nash's five turnovers.

Portland narrowed it to 28-26 on Fernandez's 3-pointer.

The Suns stretched the lead to 41-32, but Roy finally came alive, hitting a running 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:51 to go in the half.

Hill's fast-break layup and free throw made it 53-40. Richardson finished the first half with 19 points. He made all four of his 3-point attempts.

Channing Frye hit a 3-pointer to put Phoenix up 64-50 midway through the third quarter.

Webster hit consecutive 3-pointers that narrowed it to 69-65, but Dudley answered with a 3-pointer for the Suns.

Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry credited the defense.

"At the end of the night, they shot 38 percent. To me, that's a credit to our defense. Nobody really talks about it, but we like it," Gentry said. "In the locker room, we pat each other on the back."

Hill advanced past the first round for the first time in his 14-year career.

The Suns are 6-1 in their last six potential series-clinching games.

Portland has never won a series that they have trailed 3-2.

"Seemed like every time we were able to get close we'd make a mistake," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "Whether it was a turnover or a bad possession, they make you pay. Nash has had that MVP-type season. Richardson was big this series. Amare came with his `A' Game tonight."

Associated Press

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tyreke Evans named rookie of the year

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Tyreke Evans has won hundreds of trophies in his young basketball career and many of them seem to have lost an arm, a basketball or some other piece in his mother's care.

Bonita Evans will have to wait to get the NBA Rookie of the Year trophy Evans won Thursday until some safeguards are in place in the home he is building her in Delaware.

"She's broken too many," Evans said. "I probably have 400 trophies and about a hundred of them broke. I'd come downstairs and she'd try to glue them back together but it was too late. I didn't care about it. But the main important trophies, we're going to put them in a glass case for her."

Evans capped his fabulous rookie year for the Sacramento Kings by beating out Golden State's Stephen Curry and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings for the coveted award.

Evans became the fourth rookie ever to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James in an exclusive club.

"This is one of the awards I had a goal of since I came into the NBA, being rookie of the year," Evans said. "I'm proud it came true. It was one of my dreams since I was little. I finally had a chance for my dream to come true."

Evans was the fourth pick in last year's NBA draft after spending one season at Memphis. Like Chicago's Derrick Rose a year ago, that one year at Memphis was enough to make him Rookie of the Year.

He led all rookies in scoring at 20.1 points per game, was second in assists at 5.8 per game and fifth in rebounds at 5.3.

"After maybe the first week or two in the regular season, the level of consistency that he settled into was just remarkable given his age and one year of experience in college," Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie said. "It was just fun to watch it all unfold."

Evans was the only rookie to appear on all 123 ballots from a media panel, getting 67 first-place votes and 491 total points. Curry was second with 43 first-place votes and 391 points, with Jennings getting 12 first-place votes and 204 points. Players were awarded five points for a first-place vote, three for a second and one for a third.

While Jennings got off to a fast start, scoring 55 points in his seventh career game, and Curry finished the season with a flourish, Evans was consistently strong all season long.

Evans drew praise from around the league, with Kobe Bryant calling him a "grown man" when asked to assess the rookie race after playing Curry and Evans in successive nights in March.

Evans' performance this season brought life back to Arco Arena, where fans had grown disinterested in recent years as the Kings struggled. There was even a rally planned at a Sacramento mall on Thursday night in Evans' honor.

Evans erased any disappointment from last year's lottery, when the Kings ended up with the fourth pick in the draft despite having the league's worst record.

With top pick Blake Griffin sidelined for the season for the Los Angeles Clippers with a knee injury, second pick Hasheem Thabeet spending part of the season for Memphis in the NBA Development League and fifth pick Ricky Rubio staying in Europe instead of signing with Minnesota, there were no regrets in Sacramento with how the draft played out.

"I know there was a lot of real disappointment at that moment," Petrie said. "It just shows that life is real uncertain and good things can come out of what appear to be not so good things sometimes. It all worked out."

After a disappointing home opener when he scored only three points and didn't make a shot from the field, Evans took over the Kings after leading scorer Kevin Martin went down with an early injury. He scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games.

Evans was remarkably consistent, averaging between 19.4 points and 22.1 points per game in every full month of the season.

"He's the most consistent rookie I've ever seen," coach Paul Westphal said. "There's nothing but a great career in Tyreke's future. Knowing him, I know he doesn't view this as an achievement. It's just a start to his career."

Curry, the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, might have been playing better than any rookie by the end of the season. He averaged 17.5 points, a rookie-best 5.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game for the Warriors.

But he was much better in the final three months, averaging 21.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game after Feb. 1. That vaulted him right into the rookie race, giving Northern California NBA fans something worthwhile to follow while the Warriors and Kings struggled through another difficult season.

Jennings entered the league with plenty of scrutiny after bypassing college to play last season in Italy. He immediately quieted the skeptics with the highest-scoring game for a rookie in 41 years against Golden State in November.

He averaged 15.5 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds for the season, but shot just 37 percent from the floor. The one major advantage Jennings had over Evans and Curry was that he helped lead Milwaukee to the playoffs, while Sacramento and Golden State are back in the lottery again.

Associated Press

NCAA tourney now to have 68 teams

INDIANAPOLIS -- The road to the Final Four will have a new look next season.

On Thursday, the NCAA's board of directors approved expansion from 65 to 68 teams and endorsed a proposal to add three more opening-round games to the schedule. It's only the second time in a quarter-century that the NCAA has increased the number of teams competing for the men's national championship.

Now it's time to start mapping out the details, which could include putting at-large teams in the early games.

"The [men's basketball] committee will have to study any variety of options and certainly the notion of looking at options involving the last at-large teams in would be one possible option," NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen told The Associated Press. "We would expect the committee to examine all of the options."

The decision was not a surprise.

NCAA officials recommended the 68-team field last week after the public loudly complained that going to 80 or 96 teams would water down the NCAA's marquee event, and network executives insisted they did not need more tourney games to make a profit on the next television contract.

So the NCAA backed the most modest expansion, at least for now. The board gave unanimous consent to the 68-team field with a caveat -- it wants the "play-in" games to have more significance.

"Expanding to 68 teams gave us an opportunity to involve more teams in the championship, and in doing that, we were able to enhance the experience of the opening-round game," Clemson president James Barker, the committee chairman, said in a statement.

It's the first time since 2001, when the NCAA added one team to the 64-team team field that it has expanded. The NCAA went from 48 to 64 teams in 1985.

More teams won't be the only change fans see next March.

Thanks to the new 14-year, $10.8 billion television package with CBS and Turner Broadcasting, also announced last week, fans can choose which games they want to watch. It will be the first time every tourney game will be televised live nationally. One game will be carried by CBS, with others carried on TNT, TBS and truTV.

It's a smaller overhaul than fans expected after NCAA officials spoke extensively about the format for a 96-team field four weeks ago, but it hasn't stopped the talk about additional expansion.

The new TV deal gives the NCAA sole authority to expand again, a possibility some observers believe will happen in the near future. Don't bet on it.

"Field size of any event is something people like to debate, but it's not something the committee is interested in taking on in the foreseeable future," Shaheen said.

Tourney expansion was only part of the board's busy schedule Thursday.

It also endorsed a recommendation that would require football players to complete nine credit hours during the fall semester to be eligible for the following season. And the Committee on Academic Performance wants to eliminate waivers for Football Bowl Subdivision teams that lose players who are academically ineligible after completing their eligibility. The board believes the elimination of those waivers will force schools to place greater emphasis on retaining athletes.

Both proposals are expected to be added to the 2010-11 legislative calendar.

Other discussion topics on the board's agenda included the use of athletes' names, images and likenesses in commercial products; new rules for handling athlete concussions; and tougher academic standards for junior college transfers. The NCAA did not immediately give any indication of what the board did on those issues.

As usual, though, the men's basketball tourney stole the show.

"The basketball committee very intensely got into determining the tournament structure in the last two years, so it's been an extensive journey," Shaheen said. "But we also recognize it's just one of the 88 championships, so we've still got a lot of work to do. We still have a significant amount of [television] rights to work on."

Associated Press

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bradford goes #1 as expected in 2010 NFL draft

NEW YORK -- Starting with quarterback Sam Bradford going to the St. Louis Rams, the first NFL draft in prime time was a showcase for the Big 12.

The Oklahoma junior became the eighth quarterback since 2001 taken atop the draft. He was immediately followed Thursday night by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, the AP player of the year; and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and offensive tackle Trent Williams, Bradford's teammates with the Sooners.

"You have no idea how excited I am just to have the opportunity to come to St. Louis and play my NFL career there," Bradford said in a conference call. "It's just a blessing and I can't wait to get there and get to work."

Bradford, the 2008 winner of the Heisman Trophy appeared in three games in 2009, his junior year, before undergoing right shoulder surgery. His recovery has been so complete that the Rams, who went 1-15 last season and scored a league-low 175 points, didn't hesitate to make him the future face of the franchise.

After trading down twice, the Denver Broncos traded up in the draft to take Tim Tebow with the Ravens' 25th pick.

The selection of the Florida quarterback drew the loudest reaction -- a mix of cheers and boos -- from the audience. Denver gave up picks in the second, third and fourth rounds.

"I want to be a great quarterback," Tebow said. " ... For the next few years, my mindset is going to be to repay [Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels] for what he did for me, believing in me. Just like it was when I was at Florida. My biggest joy was doing things for Coach [Urban] Meyer, winning championships, being able to help him."

Tebow was the third Florida player chosen -- and by far the most controversial selection. A winner for four years with the Gators, including two national championships, his unorthodox style and strange throwing motion made for widely divided opinions on him.

Although it's highly unlikely he'll be the starting quarterback in five months' time, Tebow will begin his NFL career Sept. 12 in his hometown of Jacksonville when the Broncos play the Jaguars in their season opener.

In the end, nine first-rounders and five of the top six picks came from the Big 12.

"That's pretty cool because I know the Big 12 has been getting a lot of slack lately," Bradford said. "People for some reason didn't think that we played much football in the Big 12 and sure didn't think we played much defense, so for two defensive tackles to go in the first three picks is a credit to the Big 12."

Nebraska's Suh went to the Detroit Lions with the second pick and was greeted by "SUH, SUH," as he walked onto the stage holding a Lions jersey.

The Heisman Trophy finalist becomes the first defensive tackle to be drafted among the top two picks in the NFL draft since Oakland took Darrell Russell in 1997.

The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh was the first defensive player to win the AP player of the year award since its inception in 1998. He had 4½ sacks against Texas in the Big 12 title game and finished with 12 sacks for the season.

NFL Draft
The Rams made Sam Bradford the 14th quarterback taken with the No. 1 pick in the last 24 years.

Player Team
1. Sam Bradford, QB Rams
2. Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions
3. Gerald McCoy, DT Bucs
4. Trent Williams, OT Redskins
5. Eric Berry, S Chiefs
6. Russell Okung, OT Seahawks
7. Joe Haden, CB Browns
8. Rolando McClain, LB Raiders
9. C.J. Spiller, RB Bills
10. Tyson Alualu, DT Jaguars

"He made it an easy pick for us," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's not just a one-year wonder. He's strong. He's good versus the run. He's good versus the pass. He's very intelligent."

Detroit has a lot of needs after becoming the first team in NFL history to lose 30 games in two seasons.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound McCoy wept after his selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the third pick.

McCoy should boost a Tampa defense that once was feared but flopped last season when it yielded 400 points last season. He displayed his Buccaneers jersey to the crowd and pumped his fist high in the air as "Pirates of the Caribbean" played on the loudspeakers.

McCoy's selection marked the first time in the common draft that the top three picks were all from the same conference.

The Big 12 bonanza kept rolling when Washington took Williams, an All-America, to fill a huge hole at tackle left by the retirement of Chris Samuels. Williams engulfed commissioner Roger Goodell in a hefty bear hug onstage.

"It's insane isn't it?" McCoy said with a huge smile. "We can't play football in the Big 12, but the first four picks went out the Big 12? Mmmmm -- three of 'em from Oklahoma, by the way."

Tennessee safety Eric Berry, also an All-American, went fifth to Kansas City, breaking the Big 12 stranglehold. Berry, noted for his versatility, also has the potential to play cornerback.

Then it was back to the Big 12 for Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, who went to Seattle, where perennial Pro Bowl blocker Walter Jones is expected to announce his retirement on Thursday.

Florida cornerback Joe Haden was chosen by Cleveland, followed by Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain to Oakland. Both were All-Americans last season.

That also gave the Southeastern Conference three picks in the first eight, showing how highly the NFL regarded those two conferences.

Clemson's C.J. Spiller went to the Buffalo Bills with the ninth pick, becoming the first running back taken in the draft and prompting plenty of "Oh, no" responses from Giants fans in the packed theater. McClain and Spiller were considered main targets for the Giants.

The ACC player of the year, Spiller scored 51 touchdowns and set or tied 31 school records in four seasons at Clemson. He's listed at 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds.

The Bills overlooked needs at offensive line and quarterback in selecting Spiller. His arrival leaves in question the future of Marshawn Lynch, the subject of trade speculation this offseason.

Jacksonville took California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, projected as a second-rounder by many, Jaguars with the 10th pick, a surprising move for a franchise that desperately needed a big-name player to boost sagging ticket sales. The Jaguars blacked out nine of 10 home games last season because they could not sell out the games.

The Broncos traded down two picks in the draft, swapping the No. 11 selection with San Francisco for the 49ers' No. 13 pick. The Broncos also received a fourth-round pick (No. 113 overall) from the 49ers in the trade, the first draft-day deal.

The 49ers used the 11th pick to select Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis.

The Broncos then sent the 13th overall choice they got from the 49ers to Philadelphia, which grabbed Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham.

The Broncos took Demaryius Thomas with the 22nd pick. Thomas was the first wide receiver taken in the draft, surprising some by going ahead of Dez Bryant.

The Dallas Cowboys traded up for the 24th pick to select Bryant. After playing in Oklahoma State's first three games in 2009, Bryant was ruled ineligible for the rest of the 2009 season on Oct. 7 for lying to the NCAA about his activities with former NFL receiver Deion Sanders.

"I'm not disappointed at all," said Bryant, who grew up two hours away in East Texas. "Me falling to the Cowboys, that's the best thing that could ever happen to me. I'm so happy. I'm excited. I'm ready to go to work."

Bryant was considered by many the best receiver in this draft, an All-American in 2008 when he turned 87 receptions into 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The Chargers moved up from 28th overall to 12th in a trade with Miami to select Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews. Mathews, the nation's leading rusher at 150.7 yards a game, is expected to replace LaDainian Tomlinson, who was released in February after nine brilliant seasons in which he became one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

The Seahawks selected Texas safety Earl Thomas with the 14th overall pick. The second move by new coach Pete Carroll and new general manager John Schneider targeted the biggest need on Seattle's defense. The Seahawks had two safeties on the roster present for last week's minicamp.

Jason Pierre-Paul, who played one season at South Florida after two years at a junior college, went to the Giants -- a choice that generally drew cheers from the blue-clad New York fans in the crowd.

Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan went to the Titans and the 49ers added Idaho guard Mike Iupati in a strong effort to solidify their offensive line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are dealing with the fallout from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's suspension, selected Florida center Maurkice Pouncey.

Despite the Steelers fielding phone calls from other teams about Roethlisberger's availability over the past couple of days, it is extremely unlikely a trade will occur, sources told's John Clayton on Thursday.

Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon went to Atlanta, followed by Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson to Houston and Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham was selected by Cincinnati.

Iowa offensive guard Bryan Bulaga was taken by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 23 pick, Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams went to the Cardinals with the 26th pick and Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty went to the Patriots at No. 27.

Miami selected Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick with the 28th pick, which they received from the Chargers. The Dolphins moved down 16 spots in the first round to acquire a second-round choice and reserve inside linebacker Tim Dobbins from the Chargers.

The Jets then selected Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson at No. 29. California running back Jahvid Best, the 30th pick, joins Suh in Detroit.

TCU linebacker Jerry Hughes went to the Colts with the 31st pick. Hughes was a consensus All-American and the Mountain West conference player of the year.

Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees announced the champion Saints' pick to finish off the showcase, Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson. The swift round lasted 3 hours, 28 minutes.

St. Louis has the opening pick of the second round Friday night, but there could be plenty of bartering ahead as teams ponder all the talent left, including Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle, Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Associated Press

Thunder turn it up at home as the finish off the lakers in Game 3

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Scuffling through a rough shooting night, Kevin Durant wanted to do anything he could to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from falling hopelessly behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

So, why not take on the task of defending Kobe Bryant?

Durant had 29 points and 19 rebounds, and snapped out of a shooting funk while guarding Bryant to lead the decisive run, lifting the Thunder to a 101-96 victory in Game 3 on Thursday night in the first playoff game in Oklahoma City.

"Scoring's a big part of my game. It kind of overshadows the other parts of my game," said Durant, who at 21 became the youngest player to lead the NBA in scoring. "But if I continue to play hard on both ends, it's going to come around for me. I was able to get free and make a couple shots, and that's what got us going."

Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 22 of the final 23 for the Thunder, including every point during a 10-2 surge that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.

The top-seeded Lakers got back within 98-96 on Bryant's driving layup with 13.5 seconds left, but the Thunder closed it out from the foul line to pull within 2-1 in the seven-game series.

Durant celebrated by thumping his chest and popping his jersey to show off the "Thunder" printed on the front while Westbrook, who scored 27 points, flapped his arms to egg on the screaming crowd.

"It feels good. Playing against the reigning champs makes it even better. But we have a long ways to go," said Durant, who missed his first seven shots and 15 of his first 19. "It does feel good to get our first win. It feels even better to bring the first win in the playoffs here to Oklahoma City. That's what I'm most excited about."

Bryant scored 24 points to surpass Jerry West's franchise record for playoff scoring, and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles.

But when it came down to crunch time, Bryant couldn't deliver as he did in scoring 15 fourth-quarter points to seal the Lakers' 95-92 victory in Game 2. He went 2 for 10 in the final 12 minutes, with Durant stopping between free throws at one point to motion to the bench that he wanted to guard the former MVP.

"It was a matchup that caught me by surprise," said Bryant, who's nearly half a foot shorter than Durant. "I think he did a great job."

Undaunted by a raucous sellout crowd, the Lakers scored the first 10 points of the game and were in control until the Thunder roared back with an electrifying run of eight straight points late in the third quarter.

The fans reached a deafening pitch as the Thunder completed their charge back from an 11-point deficit set off by Westbrook's right-handed tomahawk dunk. James Harden and Durant followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it at 74, and Oklahoma City finally took its first lead of the game on its opening possession of the fourth quarter.

"That was the loudest I've ever heard a crowd get," said Harden, a rookie reserve who scored 18 points after going scoreless in Games 1 and 2. "That Russell dunk was just amazing and the back-to-back 3s, it just rattled the place."

Nick Collison, the only player left from the franchise's last playoff appearance five years ago in Seattle, said, "It was so loud, it was almost quiet. It's a weird feeling.

Andrew Bynum pulled Los Angeles even for the final time by powering through Collison's hard foul for a right-handed dunk, then hitting the ensuing free throw to tie it at 80.

Durant answered at the other end with a jumper from the right side with 8:41 left to give Oklahoma City the lead for good, then converted Bryant's turnover into a two-handed jam on a fast break.

His 19-foot jumper from the right wing put Oklahoma City up 90-82 with 4:28 remaining, and that lead was just big enough for the Thunder to hang on down the stretch.

"We just fell asleep. We probably thought we had it in the bag," said Ron Artest, charged with defending Durant most of the game. "In this game, especially, you've got to respect the possessions. ... You really can't take it for granted."

It was billed as the biggest sports day in the city's history, with three Oklahoma players taken among the top four picks in the NFL draft on the same night as the first home playoff game for the Thunder or the New Orleans Hornets -- who were displaced to the Ford Center for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina.

And it came on the 121st anniversary of the date the state, which was formerly American Indian territory, was first settled in a land run.

All that didn't seem to bother the defending NBA champions.

They kept the fans standing -- and waiting for the Thunder's first basket -- until coach Scott Brooks burned a timeout 2:34 into the game with his team already down 10-0. Los Angeles made its first seven shots, taking advantage of three early Thunder turnovers and the 7-foot Bynum's size advantage inside with a series of lobs.

"I was actually disappointed in the crowd because all year long I thought they were the best crowd. They just gave us so much energy and were so loud throughout the year," Brooks said. "But now, I realize they were sandbagging."

Associated Press

Bulls pull within 1 game, Beat Cavs in a close one

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose heard the "MVP! MVP!" chants and thought he would faint, the loud chorus rattling the All-Star point guard.

Being guarded by LeBron James late in the game didn't faze him. And now, the Cleveland Cavaliers can forget about sweeping the Bulls out of the playoffs.

Rose scored 31 points, Kirk Hinrich added 27 and Chicago hung to beat the top-seeded Cavaliers, 108-106, on Thursday night in Game 3 of a first-round series after its 21-point lead dwindled to one.

"We stayed strong," said Chicago's Joakim Noah, who fought through foul trouble to finish with 15 rebounds. "D-Rose played huge for us. It just feels really good to come out with a win right now."

James scored 13 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter but also committed some turnovers down the stretch. Even so, the Cavaliers were within 107-106 after Mo Williams nailed a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. They immediately fouled Luol Deng, who hit the first free throw but missed the second.

Cleveland's Anthony Parker got the rebound and raced up the right side but missed a 3 at the buzzer, and the Bulls escaped with the win despite some shaky foul shooting late in the game.

They will try to tie the best-of-seven series on Sunday.

Hinrich, a career 80.9 percent foul shooter, missed two with 26 seconds left and the Bulls up 104-99.

James then buried a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game. The Cavaliers immediately fouled Rose, who missed the first free throw before converting the second to make it 105-102 with 10.1 seconds left.

Chicago fouled Anderson Varejao to prevent a 3-point attempt, and he made the first but missed the second. Brad Miller got the rebound and converted both foul shots to make it a four-point game, and the Bulls hung on for a wild win.

"They kept us on our heels and we can ill afford to let that happen," said Antawn Jamison, who scored 19.

Rose was serenaded by that "MVP!" chant late in the third quarter and was guarded down the stretch by the player who figures to win the award. That didn't shake him, but the chorus did, though.

"I almost passed out," Rose said. "Hopefully one day, but I'm just worried about winning games right now."

So is James, who said he made the call to take Rose down the stretch.

The Bulls appeared to be in good shape up 21 in the third, only to see the Cavaliers cut it all the way to 94-92 on a pair of free throws and a layup by Jamison with 4:10 remaining in the game.

Deng, who scored 20, then made a jumper and Noah stole a pass from James. That led to a jumper by Rose, who then buried a fadeaway as the crowd chanted "Let's go Bulls!" to make it 100-92 with 2:42 remaining.

James charged into Deng with 1:18 remaining and the Bulls up by six, then got stripped by Noah. Deng picked up the loose ball and Hinrich hit two free throws to make it 104-96 with 38 seconds remaining.

About that charge, James didn't agree with the call.

"I saw him backpedaling," James said. "Me as a driver, I'm watching the defender's feet. I'm seeing if he's stationed or is still moving. To me, I felt like he was still backpedaling, and as soon as I saw him backpedaling, that's when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I haven't seen the replay, but I know exactly what I've seen on the court with the defender right in front of me."

Noah said he was particularly concerned Deng would get whistled after seeing James' shot go in.

"I think one of the refs was about to call a block and then he looked at the other ref because he wasn't sure, and the other ref -- thank God -- called a charge," Noah said. "That was a huge play for us. I'm really happy that play went our way. I think I'm kind of biased, but to me, I thought it was a charge the whole time."

As for his five fouls?

"Stupid, stupid fouls," said Noah, who collected several going for offensive rebounds.

Still, at times the Bulls looked as if they might run away with this one.

They were leading 39-23 early in the second after a three-point play by Deng, and they finished the half with a flourish after Cleveland pulled within seven.

Miller hit a 19-footer with a minute left and Hinrich nailed 20-footer from the wing to make it 56-45 before Noah blocked a driving layup by James in the closing seconds. The Bulls continued to pour it on in the third.

Taj Gibson started it with a jumper and capped the run with another one, making it 68-47 with 7:37 left in the third, before the Cavaliers scored 13 straight.

"I believe we're going to be fine," Varejao said. "We just have to play the way we did in the second half."

Associated Press

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Big Ben suspended six games to start the season

Ben Roethlisberger was suspended Wednesday for six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, the league announced.

Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment a week after prosecutors decided not to charge Roethlisberger in a case involving a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback also was ordered to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation. Goodell will evaluate Roethlisberger's progress before the season and might consider reducing the suspension to four games.

In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.

-- Roger Goodell, in letter to Ben Roethlisberger

However, a failure to comply with the NFL's ruling might lead to a longer suspension.

Roethlisberger is barred from attending any Steelers offseason activity after Wednesday until he completes the evaluation. He can participate in training camp and preseason games this summer as long as he is cleared by the evaluators and Goodell.

"I agree and support the decision the commissioner made today," Steelers president Art Rooney II said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

The Steelers have begun contacting teams to see whether they would be willing to trade a top-10 pick for Roethlisberger, an NFL source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Steelers have called the Rams, 49ers, Raiders, Bills, Jaguars, Seahawks and Browns, the source said.

The Rams and Bills are known not to be interested, the source said.

Rooney didn't deny that the team was shopping Roethlisberger but didn't verify the report, either, when he answered a question during the conference call.

"We really can't answer questions about trades, particularly [right before the NFL draft]," Rooney said.

Sitting out all six games would cost Roethlisberger an estimated $2.8 million.

The Steelers also were ordered to remit a portion of Roethlisberger's salary to the NFL for having two players suspended for violations of the league's personal conduct or drug policies. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was suspended for four games before being traded to the New York Jets this month.

A second player being suspended requires the offending team to pay the NFL 25 percent of the second player's forfeited salary, with the maximum amount being $200,000.

Goodell said that before acting, he interviewed Roethlisberger on April 13, and talked to current and former players and the players' union. He also reviewed information from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Milledgeville police, and talked privately with Georgia district attorney Fred Bright. In addition, Goodell said he listened to recommendations from the quarterback's representatives and took into account information learned by the NFL office regarding the alleged assault.

"The Personal Conduct Policy makes clear that I may impose discipline 'even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime' as, for example, where the conduct 'imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person,'" Goodell stated in his letter to Roethlisberger.

"As the District Attorney concluded, the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing (or facilitating the purchase of) alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The Personal Conduct Policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that 'undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.' By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard."

More excerpts from Goodell's letter to the Steelers quarterback:

• "I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

• "Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare."

• "I believe it is essential that you take full advantage of the resources available to you. My ultimate disposition in this matter will be influenced by the extent to which you do so, what you learn as a result, and a demonstrated commitment to making positive change in your life."

• "In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track."

On Tuesday, the Steelers traded a seventh-round pick in this week's NFL draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for quarterback Byron Leftwich, adding depth to the position in anticipation of a possible Roethlisberger suspension.

Leftwich's contract has been extended by one year through 2011, a source told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. He will earn $1.8 million in base salary this season and $2 million in 2011.

Leftwich backed up Roethlisberger in 2008, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. He knows offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' system and could be ready to play Sept. 12 when the Steelers open against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Steelers play three teams that didn't make the playoffs this past season -- the Falcons, Bucs and Tennessee Titans -- plus the division rival Baltimore Ravens in their first four games.

Pittsburgh hosts the Cleveland Browns in its fifth game and travels to Miami to face the Dolphins in its sixth game. The Steelers have a bye in Week 5.

Pittsburgh already had third-year quarterback Dennis Dixon and longtime backup Charlie Batch under contract. Batch has been injured each of the past two seasons. Dixon has started only one NFL game but likely will compete with Leftwich in training camp to be the early-season starter.

In an e-mail to ESPN, David F. Walbert, the accuser's attorney, had no comment on the Roethlisberger suspension.

The NFL and the Steelers were angered and embarrassed by the tawdry details of Roethlisberger's night out March 3.

In a statement to police, the 20-year-old college student said Roethlisberger encouraged her and her friends to take numerous shots of alcohol. Then one of his bodyguards escorted her into a hallway at the Capital City nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga., sat her on a stool and left. She said Roethlisberger walked down the hallway and exposed himself.

"I told him it wasn't OK, no, we don't need to do this and I proceeded to get up and try to leave," she said. "I went to the first door I saw, which happened to be a bathroom."

According to her statement, Roethlisberger then followed her into the bathroom and shut the door.

"I still said no, this is not OK, and he then had sex with me," she wrote.

Two of her friends said they saw a bodyguard lead her into the hallway and then saw Roethlisberger follow. They said they couldn't see their friend but knew she was drunk and were worried about her.

The statements were among hundreds of pages of the case file made public last week by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Last week, Steelers president Rooney said the team would have imposed sanctions on Roethlisberger before now, but doing so would have permitted the players' union to appeal any penalties. Any suspension imposed by Goodell can be appealed only to him.

Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner and the highest-paid player in franchise history with a $102 million contract, also is being sued in a civil case by a Nevada hotel employee who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2008.

Roethlisberger practiced Monday and Tuesday with the Steelers, but he did not talk with reporters.

A Pennsylvania state trooper can't continue to work as a personal assistant to Roethlisberger because he was there when the Pittsburgh Steelers star was accused of sexual assault in Georgia.

The Pennsylvania State Police said Wednesday that Trooper Ed Joyner's outside work exceeded the scope of what was permitted. They also say "he is alleged to have demeaned the image" of the state police.

Joyner got the OK in 2005 to work as Roethlisberger's assistant. Police regulations require permission for any outside work for which troopers will receive compensation or "consideration."

Milledgeville is a central Georgia college town about 30 miles from where the quarterback owns a lake home.

Associated Press

Lakers hold off OKC in game 2 thriller

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant had been waiting for a breakout game, the kind of high-scoring effort he's made his reputation on. He got it just in time.

Playing with a broken finger, sore knee and bum ankle, Bryant scored 39 points, carrying the Lakers in the fourth quarter when they lost the lead three times, and Los Angeles beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 95-92 on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

"What did Mark Twain say? Rumors of my demise or whatever," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who predicted before the game that Bryant would strongly return to form.

Bryant was 13 of 15 from the free throw line, but just 12 of 28 from the floor in front of his dad Joe, who sat next to the Lakers' bench.

"My free throws felt good," Bryant said. "I put in a lot, a lot of work over the last month fine-tuning my stroke and trying to get it back to being consistent."

Beforehand, Jackson said he wanted Bryant to shoot better or take fewer shots. The NBA finals MVP made just 30 percent of his shots over his previous five games, having missed four of the final five of the regular season and hearing all the doubters.

"After 13 years, you'd think they'd know better," Bryant said.

Bryant ran off eight straight points the first time the Lakers fell behind by one, with the referees turning a 3-pointer into a 2-pointer that put them back in front by three.

"He made the tough shots. He got to the free throw line and that's what great players do," said Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder with 32 points but had eight turnovers.

Russell Westbrook added 19, making all eight of his free throws.

The Thunder packed the paint and disrupted Lakers' big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who had combined for 32 points and 25 rebounds in Game 1.

This time, Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Bynum six points and 10 boards for the defending champions, who failed to sustain their strong start for the second straight game.

"That was about as well as we can play and we came up a little short," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Two games in a row we gave the effort defensively. We're still trying to figure out how to win these close games."

Game 3 is Thursday in Oklahoma City. The Lakers are 39-1 all-time when winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series.

"That place is going to be rocking and rolling," Bryant said. "The last time we were there they did a number on us."

The Thunder's defense kept them in the game, with 17 blocked shots. Serge Ibaka had seven, with six other players getting at least one.

"Our effort was phenomenal, how hard we played on the defensive end," Durant said. "A lot of people didn't even think we could play with these guys."

Bryant scored 15 points in the fourth, but sent the crowd into an anguished groan when he missed the first of two free throws with 15 seconds left. He made the second to keep Los Angeles ahead 94-92.

Durant missed a 3-pointer and Gasol got fouled, but he also missed the first with 7 seconds left, keeping the Thunder's hopes alive. Gasol hit the second, and then Jeff Green, who had 12 points, missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

"We were right there," Green said. "We haven't had our best offensive game or defensive game, still allowing second-chance points, but we're still there when it comes to the last few minutes."

The Thunder led three times, but Bryant twice brought the Lakers back, the last time tying the game at 88 on two free throws. The game was decided at the line over the final 2:20, with the Thunder forced to foul while missing from the perimeter.

The Lakers shot 37 percent, a stat Jackson called "horrendous."

"We still have to shoot much better to beat them in Oklahoma," he said.

The Lakers regained the edge in the third quarter, although not by much. Their largest lead was six and it dwindled to 73-69 going into the final 12 minutes. Durant was called for goaltending on the Lakers' last basket or the Thunder would've trailed by two.

With every starter except Bynum on the bench to start the second quarter, the Lakers extended their lead to 37-26. But the Thunder outscored them 21-8 to lead 47-45 going into halftime, despite Westbrook picking up his third foul midway through the period.

Durant had nine points in the spurt, with he and Green hitting back-to-back 3-pointers. The Lakers were limited to 33 percent shooting, with Bryant going 2 of 7. The Thunder had nine blocked shots in the half.

Bryant's jumper hit the rim and went in to tie the game at 45 before Eric Maynor beat the shot clock on a fadeaway jumper, giving Oklahoma City its first halftime lead of the series.

The Lakers owned the first quarter in a repeat of their strong start to Game 1. They outscored the Thunder 26-18, with Bryant scoring eight of their first 13 points. The Thunder shot 29 percent from the floor.

Associated Press

Boston destroys Miami to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series

BOSTON -- Even without Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat.Easily.

With the good-humored but hard-playing Glen Davis filling in while the Celtics' emotional leader served a one-game suspension, Boston rolled to a 106-77 victory Tuesday night that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra called "embarrassing."

It gave the Celtics a 2-0 lead in their playoff series and Davis a chance to reprise the nickname he hung on himself last year when he replaced the injured Garnett -- known as the "Big Ticket" -- in all 14 playoff games.

"The 'Ticket Stub' came," Davis said. "Whenever they need the 'Ticket Stub,' he'll be there."

Davis had 23 points and eight rebounds, and Ray Allen heated up in the third quarter and scored 25 points. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 29.

With Garnett serving a suspension for elbowing Quentin Richardson in Game 1, Davis started and went aggressively to the basket to grab missed shots and draw fouls.

"That's a case of one man impacting the game simply with his effort. I don't think they ran one play for him," Spoelstra said. "You cannot let a man's effort exceed yours. It's as simple as that."

The Heat took a 29-25 lead on a dunk by Jermaine O'Neal. But the Celtics used a 44-8 surge over the next 16 1/2 minutes to go ahead 69-37 with 5:38 left in the third quarter, capped by one of Allen's five 3-pointers in the period.

"Once the ball started moving and we started getting multiple stops, we were off and running," Boston coach Doc Rivers said.

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The Celtics led by 25 to 33 points the rest of the way.

"Once we opened up Glen Davis [offensively], I thought they started to sink in a little bit more and it opened up Ray," Paul Pierce said.

Game 3 is Friday night in Miami.

"This is an embarrassing loss," Spoelstra said. "It is one loss. It is not four losses and what we can control right now is getting our minds right and taking care of the most important game on Friday."

Tempers stayed under control throughout the game, just three days after a skirmish with 40 seconds left in Boston's 85-76 victory led to Garnett's suspension without pay and Richardson's $25,000 fine. Garnett was hovering over Pierce, who had fallen near the Miami bench after hurting his shoulder.

Garnett held off Richardson as he came up from behind. They then exchanged words before the elbow hit the Heat forward in the face.

Garnett wasn't allowed in TD Garden, but made a prerecorded appearance on the scoreboard above midcourt during a timeout after the Celtics scored 19 straight points to take a 44-29 lead with 2:56 left in the first half.

He encouraged the fans and when the scoreboard followed with a "Let's Get Loud" message, they raised their voices.

Richardson was booed almost every time he touched the ball.

"We didn't think that because Kevin was out it was going to be a walk in the park," Miami's Udonis Haslem said.

In the opener, the Heat led 61-47 with 7:03 left in the third quarter. Then Boston outscored them 34-10 to go ahead 81-71 with 1:46 to go in the game.

The Celtics started their spurt a lot earlier Tuesday.

"The first game, I thought we gave it away," Wade said. "This time they took it. I thought they wanted it more than us."

Trailing by four after O'Neal's dunk with 10:10 left in the second quarter, Boston got started on a 3-pointer by Michael Finley. It took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Allen.

Then rarely-used Shelden Williams, substituting for Davis, hit a field goal. Davis made two straight baskets, Allen connected on another 3-pointer, Pierce sank two free throws and Allen got a layup. Davis followed with two free throws, giving the Celtics 21 straight points.

Miami finally broke through on a 21-foot jumper by Michael Beasley. That made it 46-31 with 2:07 left in the half.

The Celtics have won the last three games they played against the Heat without Garnett. And Davis has proven to be a very capable replacement.

When Garnett missed last year's playoffs with a knee injury, Davis averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds before losing in the second round.

"When I stepped out there today and I saw the lineup, I was like, 'This is the same lineup we had going into the playoffs last year that pushed Orlando to seven games with Glen out there,'" Pierce said. "We all know what he's capable of."

Garnett had planned to watch the game at the home of team president Danny Ainge.

"I am the 'Ticket Stub' so I kind of know what [Garnett] wanted to happen tonight," Davis said. "He told me before the game to make sure that I do what I had to do and be physical, be ferocious, and anything is possible."

Associated Press

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reaction to Game 1's for the NBA Playoffs

KG suspended for game 2

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett has been suspended for Game 2 of Boston's first-round playoff series against the Heat for landing an elbow to the face of Miami's Quentin Richardson in a fourth-quarter fracas during Saturday's Game 1.

The announcement was made Sunday by Stu Jackson, NBA executive vice president, basketball operations.

Richardson was fined $25,000 for his role in the altercation.

Garnett earned a double technical and ejection in the melee that unfolded after Paul Pierce tumbled to the ground near the Miami bench with 40 seconds left in Boston's victory at the TD Garden.

"I saw Paul grab his shoulder, as a stinger or whatever, so I just tried to immediately call [Celtics trainer] Ed [Lacerte] over," Garnett explained after the game. "I tried to give him some room and I just saw [Quentin Richardson] standing over him talking nonsense. I asked [Richardson] to give him some room and, before you knew it, mayhem started. That situation, man, I know these two [Richardson and Pierce] have competed against each other in the past and have history from bumping heads a little bit. I was just trying to give him the common courtesy for an injured player, that's all. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I have no beef with Q, I know him personally. I thought what he did was a bit disrespectful, standing over a guy hurt, you know, and talking nonsense. Before you knew it, it all just broke out. I gotta use my head, but all I saw was Paul hurt and that's all I cared about at that time."

Referee Joe DeRosa released the following statement after the game: "[Garnett] was ejected for throwing an elbow that made contact with Quentin Richardson. He had already had one technical foul for taunting with Quentin Richardson before that. Then as the altercation went on, he threw an elbow that did make contact with Richardson, which was his second technical foul and he was ejected."

DeRosa also noted that Garnett would have been disqualified for a second technical even if the elbow had not made contact with Richardson.

The NBA's punishment is consistent with past cases of elbowing. The league handed out a one-game suspension to Dwight Howard on April 29 during last year's playoffs against Philadelphia.

After Saturday's game, Richardson sounded off on both Garnett and Pierce, calling Garnett and Pierce "actresses" and noting that, "I don't like them, and they know it."

Earlier Sunday, Garnett did his best to avoid engaging in a war of words with Richardson, but reiterated his stance that he thought Richardson's actions were "classless."

Asked for a response to Richardson's comments, Garnett wouldn't bite.

"No thoughts at all," said Garnett. "Classless -- a classless act on his part. I'm moving on with it. I'm not going to go back and forth commenting through [the media]. End this."

Garnett said he apologized to his teammates after Saturday's game.

"I apologized because, like [coach] Doc [Rivers] said, sometimes even when you're right you're wrong," said Garnett. "A situation like that was totally classless, you know, but you keep it moving. It's nothing to keep going back and forth with."

The Celtics were bracing themselves for the possibility of Garnett's suspension Sunday, though they did lament the fact that the ruling did not come down before their afternoon practice session.

Now Boston's frontcourt reserves, including Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace and Shelden Williams, will be called upon to shoulder a bigger load in a pivotal Game 2.

The Celtics sounded confident, even in the face of losing an emotional leader.

"We know we can hold down the fort," Pierce said before the suspension came down. "We're not one of those teams that, when the star player goes down, you find excuses to not play hard, to not win."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Durant is so good its scary, becomes youngest to lead the league in scoring

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant earned himself a place in NBA history. Without a trip to the playoffs, too, it would be nearly as special.

Durant scored 31 points to finish the season as the youngest NBA scoring champion, and the Oklahoma City Thunder survived a sloppy second half to head into the postseason with a 114-105 win Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"It's something I really wasn't coming into the year saying I wanted to get but it feels good to be a part of history and something I'm going to always remember," Durant said. "It feels even better to get 50 wins."

Durant had the scoring title all but locked up after a late-season surge that included three 40-point games in April. It became a certainty when Cleveland decided to rest reigning MVP LeBron James, the only player with even an outside shot at catching Durant.

The 21-year-old finished with an average of 30.1 points, 0.4 ahead of James, and supplanted 22-year-old Max Zaslofsky of the 1947-48 Chicago Stags as the youngest scoring champ in NBA history.

"I love Kevin Durant. I love what he's about," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy is pretty amazing, that he's able to handle himself at such a young age.

"This is the only time I will say that he's young. He's 21 years old but he handles himself with such class and respect for the game, and he's a great teammate."

Oklahoma City strayed from the league-wide trend of resting stars, even with nothing to gain but the momentum lost while dropping four of their previous five games. James, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Miami's Dwyane Wade and Boston's "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all took to the bench to finish the season. Even San Antonio -- which had room to gain in the West standings -- played without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Durant joined three other Oklahoma City starters in playing all 82 games this season, and he eclipsed 30 points for the 47th time this season.

"Thirty points is a monster game. My career-high was only 23 and that was two games combined," said Brooks, who actually once scored 23 in a single game.

"That's the beauty of his game. He makes it look easy, and I think all the great scorers do that. Kevin's not just focused on scoring. ... He does the little things that helped us get the wins that we've gotten this year."

After a 27-win improvement that's one of the biggest in NBA history, Oklahoma City will meet the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Rudy Gay scored 25 points and Zach Randolph had 21 points and 11 rebounds for his 57th double-double of the season as the Grizzlies lost for the ninth time in their final 11 games. Memphis had the second-biggest turnaround in the league -- increasing its win total by 16 -- but fell just shy of .500 at 40-42.

The teams started the season as the two youngest in the NBA.

"Every team in the West won 50 games to make the playoffs. We won 40," coach Lionel Hollins said. "So we've got some games to go to get up there to where we need to be in order to be in the playoffs. But I'm happy with our growth, I'm happy with the individual growth and it's over now and we move forward to next year."

With Durant and the rest of the healthy starters in the lineup, the Thunder seemed to be putting on a show in front of their 28th sellout crowd of the season at the Ford Center -- at least for a half.

Then Oklahoma City had to finish strong after letting a 27-point lead dwindle to 97-91 in the final 7 minutes. Brooks finally pulled his starters with under 2 minutes left after an 8-2 run sealed the victory.

The players walked onto the court and waved to the crowd in appreciation after the final horn sounded.

"At this time, we were ready to go home last year and enjoy our summers. It feels good to come here and be a winning program," Durant said. "It was a huge turnaround for us, especially since we kept everybody and just gained a couple rookies. We didn't make a big trade, we didn't get two All-Stars or whatever.

"We kept everybody and we just continued to work."

Associated Press

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 3 reciever Marshall heads to Miami in trade from Denver

The Denver Broncos have traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins for second-round draft picks in 2010 and 2011, the Broncos announced Wednesday.

Marshall and the Dolphins subsequently agreed on a four-year, $47.5 million contract extension that includes $24 million in guaranteed money, according to a league source. The deal includes close to $29 million in the first three years of the contract and makes Marshall the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald previously had the richest deal of any receiver, averaging $10 million per season.

The trade is contingent upon the league processing the paperwork and Marshall passing his physical.

In acquiring Marshall, the Dolphins gained a deep threat at receiver to loosen up defenses for their potentially potent ground game and young, strong-armed quarterback Chad Henne. In return, the Broncos get two high draft picks for a player who caused them headaches in addition to making plays.

Last summer, Marshall was suspended by the team for throwing a tantrum at practice during training camp. The source of his frustration was twofold: he was upset with the team's medical staff for misdiagnosing a hip injury that required offseason surgery and he was displeased with his contract.

Despite those difficulties, Marshall caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, including an NFL-record 21 in a loss at Indianapolis. He has 327 career receptions for 4,019 yards and 25 touchdowns in four seasons, all in Denver, which drafted him out of Central Florida with a fourth-round pick in 2006.

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels told ESPN's Ed Werder that in a post-trade phone call with Marshall, he told the receiver that he enjoyed their time together, predicted success for him with the Dolphins and expressed regret that their own partnership could not be successful in the long term.

Marshall's departure leaves the Broncos with Jabar Gaffney, who had 54 catches for 732 yards and two TDs last season, as their top receiver. Eddie Royal caught 37 passes with no TDs and Brandon Stokley had 19 catches, four for TDs.

In a little more than a year, with a pair of blockbuster trades, Denver has recouped two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton in exchange for Jay Cutler and Marshall.

McDaniels told Werder the decisions to trade Cutler and Marshall were motivated by his belief that the moves were essential to build a successful team. He also said he is convinced that the Broncos achieved the best possible result in trading Marshall for a pair of second-round draft picks, while remaining mindful of Marshall's interests.

Nice Catch For Miami?
Fifteen wide receivers have caught passes for the Dolphins the past three seasons. In that span, Brandon Marshall has more touchdowns and 100-yard games than all of them combined.

Category Marshall Miami
Receptions 307 521
Rec. yards 3,710 6,257
Rec. TDs 23 18
100-yard games 10 9

If the trade goes through, Marshall will join a Dolphins team that struggled in the passing game last season.

Category Dolphins NFL Rank (out of 32)
Receptions 331 18th
Rec. yards 3,396 21st
Rec. TDs 15 T-27th
Yards/catch 10.3 T-29th

The trade also shakes up things in the AFC East, as Miami has arguably topped the deal the New York Jets made earlier this week, when they traded a fifth-round draft pick for talented but troubled Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes.

Miami is a surprise destination for Marshall because Dolphins coach Tony Sparano hadn't shown much interest in acquiring him. But football czar Bill Parcells, who has final say on personnel matters in Miami, has never shied away from talented-but-troubled wide receivers, working with Terry Glenn in New England, Keyshawn Johnson in New York and Terrell Owens in Dallas.

The Dolphins' passing game can use the help.

Speedy Ted Ginn Jr. has been a disappointment since Miami took him with the ninth overall draft pick in 2007. Ginn and the other wideouts -- Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo -- combined for only six touchdown catches last season.

The acquisition of a top-line receiver frees up the Dolphins to use the No. 12 pick in the draft next week on the defensive front seven, where help is also needed.

The trade, a complex negotiation involving as many as four teams, began shortly after Marshall failed to secure a contract offer as a restricted free agent and signed his one-year tender with the Broncos on Tuesday morning. A source with direct involvement in the talks told Werder that McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders negotiated with Parcells and Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland into the early-morning hours Wednesday before reaching an agreement.

Miami was hot after Marshall, as was Seattle. Tampa Bay showed some interest, and even the Jets considered making a play for Marshall before making their deal for Holmes, according to sources.

Marshall, 26, is one of the game's best young wide receivers, a mercurial talent in the prime of his career at the position where the Dolphins needed help most. But like Holmes, he also brings a reputation of being difficult to handle and a record that has him one strike from a yearlong suspension.

Marshall has had several run-ins with the law and visits to commissioner Roger Goodell's office to discuss his off-the-field behavior. He was suspended for the 2008 opener following a series of domestic disputes involving a former girlfriend.

In February, an emotional Marshall was a witness in the murder trial of Willie Clark, who was convicted in the 2007 drive-by slaying of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams.

Associated Press

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mickelson wins his 4th green jacket, Holds off tiger and rest of the field

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson soaked up a scene he knows all too well as he climbed the steep hill toward the 18th green at Augusta National to claim another green jacket.

Only when he rapped in one last birdie for a 3-stroke victory did this Masters get even better.

Standing behind the green -- as always -- was his wife, Amy, with her long blonde hair and easy smile, their three children at her side.

She had not been on a golf course since being diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago, and had stayed in bed most of the week.

"I wasn't sure if she was going to be there," Mickelson said.

A week of roars gave way to tears as they hugged for the longest time. Mickelson finally had to let go, and with a single tear trickling down his cheek, headed for the scoring hut to sign his card for a 5-under 67, the official stamp on a most compelling Masters.

"In the last year, we've been through a lot and it's been tough. And to be on the other end and feel this kind of jubilation is incredible," said Mickelson, who tightly grasped his wife's hand until he headed off for an interview.

This Masters deserved nothing less than a storybook ending.

It began with Tiger Woods returning from a sex scandal, which shattered his image but left his game intact. He captivated crowds by flirting with contention until the putts stopped falling and he tied for fourth. It ended with Mickelson making daring escapes from the trees, delivering a clutch birdie in the heart of Amen Corner, and pulling off a high-risk shot out of the pine straw.

He knocked in an 8-foot birdie putt for a 3-shot margin over Lee Westwood, who lost the lead for good with a three-putt bogey on the ninth hole and never got closer than 2 shots over the final six holes.

"It's been such an incredible week, an emotional week," Mickelson said. "And to cap it off with a victory is something I can't put into words. It's something we'll share for the rest of our lives."

Mickelson finished at 16-under 272, the best score by a Masters champion since Woods in 2001.

Just like his last Masters title in 2006, the outcome was never in doubt as Mickelson arrived on the 18th green. Unlike any of his other 40 victories around the world, there was never this much emotion.

Mickelson shared a long embrace with his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, who took countless trips to San Diego to be with Mickelson as he coped with the uncertainty of cancer -- not only Amy's but his mother, Mary, who was diagnosed the week of his wife's first surgery.

Mackay sat on the grass, legs crossed like a schoolboy, during the green jacket ceremony. He could barely speak.

"Twenty years from now, nothing will compare to this," Mackay said.

Westwood was third at the British Open last summer, tied for third at the PGA Championship, and dealt with another close call at the Masters with his highest finish ever in a major. He remains among the best players without one.

"Phil, being the champion he is, hit some great shots coming down the stretch," said Westwood, who closed with a 71. "He's been through hard times recently, and he deserves a break or two."

Anthony Kim closed with a 65, the best score of the tournament, and finished alone in third.

The Masters Leaderboard
1. Mickelson (-16)
2. Westwood (-13)
3. Kim (-12)
T-4. Woods (-11)
T-4. Choi (-11)

• Complete scores

Mickelson became the eighth player with at least three Masters titles, and it was the fourth major of his career, breaking out of a pack that had included Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh from his generation.

The signature moment came on the 13th, a hole Mickelson has dominated like no other at Augusta. With a 2-shot lead, he was stuck between two Georgia pines and had just over 200 yards to the hole. He never considered anything but a shot at the green.

"I was going to have to go through that gap if I laid up or went for the green," Mickelson said. "I was going to have to hit a decent shot. The gap ... it wasn't huge, but it was big enough, you know, for a ball to fit through.

"I just felt like at that time, I needed to trust my swing and hit a shot," he said. "And it came off perfect."

Woods was perfect at times, holing an 8-iron for eagle on the seventh hole, the start of an eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that took him from 7 shots behind to having some hope.

But not for long.

Woods hit into the trees on 11 and struck a pine trying to escape to make bogey on the 11th. The end came on the 14th, when he missed a 6-foot birdie putt to stay in the game, then missed the next one for a shocking three-putt bogey.

Asked to sum up his week, Woods said in a terse interview with CBS Sports analyst Peter Kostis, "I finished fourth."

"It's not what I wanted," he said. "I wanted to win this tournament. As the week went on, I kept hitting the ball worse."

Asked about his dour mood as his game got away from him, Woods said, "People are making way too much of a deal on this." He also said he did not know when he would return, saying he needed time off to evaluate.

For Mickelson, it's a celebration to remember.

He says his wife's long-term outlook is good, but the medication has taken a toll on her emotions. They arrived Tuesday, but she stayed in bed most of the week at the house they rented. Even in the final moments, no one was sure if she was coming to the course until she walked toward the 18th green with Mackay's wife, Jennifer.

"I didn't really want to look up because I knew I'd get choked up if I saw her," Mackay said. "It was great to see her there, for sure."

Mickelson was the only player among the top 10 to play without a bogey in the final round. Just when it looked like it might slip away from him, Lefty came through with two par saves from the trees on No. 9 and No. 10, then pulled away with the clutch 9-iron on the 12th to 15 feet behind the hole.

Woods teased with contention by making two eagles in one round for the second time this week. Most of the day, however, he was always too many shots back to scare anyone.

Whatever doubts there are about Woods as a person, his golf doesn't appear to be suffering. It was his first competition in five months, his first time in public since he became tabloid fodder for his rampant infidelity. Yet he performed as if he had never been gone.

K.J. Choi's only consolation was going all four rounds with Woods at Augusta and matching his score. He wanted much more, and for the longest time was poised to give Asia successive majors following Y.E. Yang's win at the PGA Championship.

He unraveled on the 13th, a hole where he had made birdie the previous three rounds. From the fairway, he tugged his approach into the back bunker, leaving him a frightening shot down a steep slope toward Rae's Creek. He barely got it out of the sand, then three-putted for a bogey. Another bogey followed on the 14th.

Kim, who set a Masters record last year with 11 birdies in the second round, came out of nowhere. He played a four-hole stretch starting on the 13th in only 11 shots -- an eagle and three birdies -- and finished with two strong pars to post at 12-under 276.

His only hope was for Mickelson to fade. That wasn't about to happen.

Associated Press

Yanks beat Rays at home and start the season 4-2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The New York Yankees are ready for another celebration.

The World Series champions wrapped up a successful season-opening road trip Sunday before heading back to the Bronx for a special ceremony that will precede the team's home opener on Tuesday.

"We're ready to get back," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We get our rings and I'm juiced about that."

The Yankees are also feeling good about going 4-2 against AL East rivals Boston and Tampa Bay in the first week of the season.

A.J. Burnett pitched seven strong innings and Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez drove in two runs apiece to pace Sunday's 7-3 win over the Rays.

"Playing a team like Boston to open up the season, and not only that, come and play the Rays right after that, these are two tough series. I think it just shows where our focus is," Swisher said. "We feel good. We feel we have a great team. We're getting great pitching."

CC Sabathia took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Saturday's 10-0 rout. Burnett gave up singles to Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford to start Sunday's game, then limited Tampa Bay to four hits over the next six innings.

Joba Chamberlain pitched the eighth, yielding an RBI triple to Crawford. Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation as the Yankees won their second straight game after dropping the opener of the weekend series at Tropicana Field.

"This is a tough trip to start out," manager Joe Girardi said. "Two teams in your division that are very good and you're able to win both series. It's a very good trip for us."

Posada's two-run homer off Randy Choate (0-1) gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Rodriguez doubled off the wall in left field to drive in two to make it 6-2 in seventh, and Nick Swisher added a solo homer in the eighth off Andy Sonnanstine.

Burnett, who walked three and struck out one, worked out of a jam in the sixth after the Rays loaded the bases, helped by Evan Longoria's infield pop single that struck a speaker attached to one of the catwalks in the domed stadium before falling to the field.

Girardi argued unsuccessfully that the ball struck the speaker in foul territory, making it a dead ball. Burnett walked the next batter, Carlos Pena, to fill the bases before escaping when B.J. Upton popped to first to end the inning.

"The interesting thing is, when Longoria hits that ball you think you're out of the inning," Girardi said.

"Then you've got to turn it back on again. ... They have some interesting ground rules here. ... It's something you have to deal with, both teams have to deal with. I'm glad it didn't hurt us."

Burnett improved to 12-4 lifetime against the Rays, including 6-2 in 11 starts at Tropicana Field. He was 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay last season.

The Rays struck quickly against the Yankees starter, building a 2-0 lead.

Bartlett singled leading off the first, stole second and scored on Crawford's single. Carlos Pena later grounded into a force play to drive home Crawford.

"You give up two early, but you've still this lineup behind you, so you do your best to keep to try and keep them in it," Burnett said. "It feels good to have shutdown innings and keep these guys in it because it's just a matter of time before they explode."

Curtis Granderson's second-inning RBI double began New York's comeback against Rays starter James Shields.

Shields worked six innings in Tampa Bay's opening-day win over Baltimore, but was not involved in the decision. He led 2-1 in the sixth Sunday when he gave up a one-out double to Robinson Cano and was replaced by Choate.

Posada promptly greeted the reliever with his second homer of the season.

"I was a little off today," said Shields, who yielded four hits, walked three and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings. "But to be able to hold the Yankees to one run and not havehave your stuff is not too bad. I think it's a game to learn on."

It was an awful series for Choate, who entered Saturday's game in the eighth and allowed four runs and five hits in two-thirds of an inning. The lefty gave up hits to seven of nine batters he faced over the two days.

Tampa Bay went 3-3 on its season-opening homestand, with its starting pitchers compiling a 3.41 ERA. In contrast, the bullpen posted a 7.78 ERA during the homestand and allowed the Yankees pull awaty in the innings Saturday and Sunday.

"I really can't explain the last two days," Choate said. "Physically, I'm fine. But I'm a sinker ball pitcher, and the ball wasn't sinking."

Associated Press

Big Ben gets no charges filed for his alleged 2nd sexual assualt situation

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Authorities announced Monday that they will not charge Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after a college student accused him of sexually assaulting her at a nightclub last month.

Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright said the 20-year-old student's accusations could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and her lawyer said in a letter that she did not want to press charges.

"Therefore there will be no arrests made nor criminal prosecution against Mr. Roethlisberger," Bright said.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has plans to meet this week with Roethlisberger, sources familiar with the situation have told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

The woman told an officer Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her early March 5 at the Capital City night club, where he was drinking with friends shortly after his 28th birthday.

Bright said the investigation showed the woman was heavily intoxicated that night. She and her sorority sisters had met Roethlisberger at a different bar earlier in the night, and he invited them into a VIP area at the Capital City club and ordered them shots. When the woman walked down a hallway to a small bathroom, Roethlisberger followed her.

What happened in that bathroom is unclear, Bright said. A doctor who examined the woman could not say if she was raped, and while some DNA was found, there was not enough to determine whom it belonged to.

"We are not condoning Mr. Roethlisberger's actions that night," Bright said. "But we do not prosecute morals. We prosecute crimes."

He said local and state investigators spent weeks questioning witnesses even though the woman sent a letter urging prosecutors not to move forward with charges.

"I know when I have a case and I know when I don't," Bright said. "And I do not have enough evidence to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Roethlisberger was guilty of rape."

Bright said the woman told him it had been an "unnerving experience" and that she and her family made it clear they did not want the matter prosecuted.

Lee Parks, the woman's attorney, did not immediately comment.

J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb County district attorney, said Georgia laws set a high bar for proving sexual assault and require proof that force was used.

"If this is sexual assault, it has to be proven that it happened without consent, and that's difficult especially if both parties consumed alcohol," said Morgan, who is now a sole practitioner.

Roethlisberger was seen out with a few friends at several different bars that night. The Capital City club is a popular spot for students at the neighboring Georgia College & State University. Roethlisberger owns a home about 30 miles north on Lake Oconee, in central Georgia.

The two-time Super Bowl champ is being sued by a different woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel and casino, an allegation he denies. Roethlisberger has not been criminally charged in that case either and has claimed counter-damages in the lawsuit.

Roethlisberger has not taken part in recent offseason workouts with the Steelers.

As Pittsburgh's first-round draft pick out of Miami of Ohio in 2004, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories in 2006 and 2009. He frequently has donated time and money to charities, and his charitable foundation awards a police dog to a department near every Steelers road opponent.

But off-field problems have come along with his championships and $102 million contract. In 2006, he defied his coach's orders and rode his motorcycle without a helmet -- and wound up with a concussion, broken jaw and other injuries after a wreck.

And while Roethlisberger has a reputation for patiently signing autographs and posing for pictures while out in public, he also is known for occasionally inelegant behavior in Pittsburgh.

Early in his career, he was photographed -- obviously after drinking -- wearing a T-shirt reading "Drink Like a Champion."

Associated Press

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Duke and Butler advance, winner take all in national championship game

Wow, Mcnabb actually got traded to another NFC team.

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb is changing uniforms and staying in the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins for a pair of draft picks on Sunday night. The Eagles will receive a second-round pick (37th overall) in this month's NFL draft and either a third- or fourth-round pick next year.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was the first to report that McNabb had been dealt to Washington.

"I'm really excited about my future with the Washington Redskins," McNabb said in a statement Sunday night. "I'm eager to work with Coach [Mike] Shanahan. He's been a very successful coach with a couple of Super Bowl victories on his resume. While it has been my goal to win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, we came up short. I enjoyed my 11 years, and know we shared a lot more good times than bad."

Shortly after news of the trade broke, Redskins legend Brian Mitchell spoke with McNabb on the phone, according to Comcast SportsNet. Mitchell, who played several years in Philadelphia, told Comcast SportsNet his former teammate seemed energetic about his new destination.

"In his voice I heard a lot of enthusiasm," Mitchell reported on Comcast SportsNet. "And you know, he may not be exactly like me, but I could hear he had a little revenge in that voice, too. And he wants to go to the Eagles and show them that they made a mistake."

League sources told Schefter that McNabb wanted to play for the Redskins and not the Raiders or the Bills, which is why the trade happened.

"Donovan McNabb was more than a franchise quarterback for this team," Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie said. "He truly embodied all of the attributes of a great quarterback and of a great person. He has been an excellent representative of this organization and the entire National Football League both on and off the field. I look forward to honoring him as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time and hopefully see him enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton one day."

The trade is the boldest move to date for new Redskins coach Shanahan and could spell the end in Washington for Jason Campbell, the starter for 3½ seasons. McNabb and Campbell spoke on the phone Sunday night about their experiences with each team, league sources told Schefter.

Shanahan already has signed free agent Rex Grossman as a backup and has been actively scouting the top quarterbacks available in next month's draft, when the Redskins will have the No. 4 overall pick.

The Redskins still have Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford scheduled to visit on Tuesday, league sources told Schefter.

"Welcome to our newest teammate to DC!" cornerback DeAngelo Hall posted on Twitter. "Really excited about what Coach Shanahan and [general manager] Bruce Allen are doing to help us compete for a championship!"

The Redskins and McNabb have not had any contract talks yet, league sources told Schefter.

Washington and Philadelphia are rivals in all the major pro sports, and the idea of Redskins fans finding a way to welcome McNabb in their hearts will be nearly as interesting of a dynamic as the prospect of McNabb facing his old team twice this upcoming season.

Shanahan can only hope the 33-year-old McNabb works out as well as the last big-time Washington-Philadelphia quarterback deal. The Eagles in 1964 sent Sonny Jurgensen to the Redskins, where he played 11 seasons until he was 40 and became a Hall of Famer.

"This was a very tough decision," coach Andy Reid said. "Donovan McNabb represented everything a football player could be during his 11 seasons in Philadelphia. He carried this organization to new heights and set a high standard of excellence both on and off the field. We thank him for everything he did for this football team and for this city."

McNabb threw for 3,553 yards and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 14 games last season, leading the Eagles to the playoffs. His passer rating of 92.9 was the third-highest in his career.

But McNabb played poorly in a loss to Dallas in Week 17 that cost Philadelphia a division title and a first-round bye. He also struggled in a loss to the Cowboys the following week in the wild-card game.

Reid said immediately after the season that McNabb would return in 2010. Reid repeated that several times throughout the offseason until acknowledging last month the team was listening to offers for all three of its QBs.

McNabb then issued a statement saying he wished to remain with the Eagles, but understood the situation and hoped for a quick resolution.

"Donovan is the ultimate professional," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "He has an incredible work ethic and has been an integral part of our success. Over the years, Donovan has always carried himself with a great deal of dignity. He's an excellent role model for young men and women from across the region. In my mind, he'll always be remembered as one of the greatest Eagles of all time."

The Redskins waited until late in the evening to announce the trade and did not make Shanahan available for comment.

"Donovan is an accomplished quarterback who has been a proven winner in the National Football League," Shanahan said in a statement released by the team. "I have long admired his competitiveness and feel he will be an outstanding addition to the Redskins and our community. He knows our division and the roadmap to success in the NFC East."

The Eagles were 92-49-1 in regular-season games that McNabb started and 9-7 in the playoffs.

McNabb overcame numerous injuries and controversies throughout his career, including criticism from Rush Limbaugh and a feud with former teammate Terrell Owens. He sustained injuries that ended his regular season in November in 2002, 2005 and 2006. McNabb missed a total of 24 games because of injuries. The Eagles were 14-10 in those games.

Associated Press