Sunday, May 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Kobe was the man tonight," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles led 91-74 entering the fourth.

Associated Press

Roy Halladay throws the perfect game

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

Until the end, that is.

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

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

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

• Olney: Halladay the perfect pitcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The concert lasted more than an hour.

On this night, Halladay was the lone maestro.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halladay credited catcher Carlos Ruiz for a smooth ride.

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

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

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

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

A Philadelphia story, for certain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was just the start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Press

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lakers win game 5 on buzzer beater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Press

Duke visits the Whitehouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Press

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Orl wins another game and has Boston flustered, Game 6 Fri in Boston

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Not ready to go home just yet, the only place the Orlando Magic are headed is back to Boston.

Halfway to history.

Taking another step toward overcoming an improbable 3-0 series deficit, Dwight Howard had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Magic to a 113-92 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

A series that looked like a sweep a few days ago now has the Celtics taking a slim lead into a pressure-packed Game 6 in Boston on Friday night. The Celtics are facing the possibility of playing it without Kendrick Perkins after their starting center picked up his seventh technical foul of the playoffs, a mandatory suspension unless it is overturned.

A potential Game 7 would be in Orlando.

No NBA team has won a series after losing the first three games.

The Magic, seemingly lifeless after a blowout defeat in Game 3, suddenly have hope to be the first. They broke out of their series-long shooting slump, making 13-of-25 3-pointers.

"I just feel that if we keep believing in each other and trusting one another and playing as hard as we can, anything's possible," Howard said.

Jameer Nelson scored 24 points, and J.J. Redick had 14 to help the Magic to a frenetic pace that the Celtics couldn't sustain. Howard added five blocks as Orlando built an early 14-point lead that was never seriously challenged.

Rasheed Wallace had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo scored 19 for a Boston team that once seemed on its way to another NBA Finals.

Now? The Celtics are stunned and dazed -- and Boston fans who just watched their NHL team blow a 3-0 lead are getting uneasy.

Howard's elbow inadvertently came down on Glen "Big Baby" Davis' face near the basket in the third quarter, giving the Celtics forward a concussion. Davis tried to get up as play continued on the other end, wobbling his way to midcourt, almost falling flat as referee Joey Crawford kept him from tumbling to the hardwood.

Davis did not return. Reserve Marquis Daniels also was hit with a similar inadvertent elbow from Howard, leaving him dizzy, and Wallace "tweaked" his back.

Making His Mark

Dwight Howard led the Magic with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. He's the first player to have five games with five-plus blocks in a single postseason since Tim Duncan had seven en route to the 2007 NBA title.

Most 20-Pt, 10-Reb, 5-Blk
Postseason Games, Since 2004-05
Tim Duncan 6
Dwight Howard 4
Shaquille O'Neal 3

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Davis "blacked out" on the court, and the training staff will examine the forward Thursday.

"I don't know what kind of tests they're going to do with Baby. He's a little delirious anyway," Rivers said, chuckling.

Give the Magic a little more than a puncher's chance.

Redick provided a big boost off the bench, making a pair of 3-pointers to highlight a 20-8 run that put Orlando ahead 51-37 in the second quarter. His swishes and crisp passing kept the Celtics scrambling, and it filled a major hole with starter Vince Carter continuing to struggle.

Amid an amped-up Amway Arena, Wallace picked up his third foul during the spurt and taunted Orlando fans all the way to bench. Wallace shouted and screamed to the stands, pointing at his ring finger for the championship he already won with Detroit -- a title that has long eluded Orlando.

Things got even worse for the Celtics when Perkins was ejected after he picked up his second technical of the game and seventh of the postseason for arguing with officials. Perkins and Marcin Gortat were whistled for double technicals a few minutes prior after they got tangled up.

That means Perkins, one of the best defenders in the league on Howard, will be suspended for Game 6 unless the NBA rescinds the technical. NBA spokesman Tim Frank said a final review of the technicals was expected to be announced by mid-to-late morning Thursday.

"I didn't think he deserved either one. But he got them," Rivers said.

The Celtics are two games from infamy, and the pressure is mounting.

Only four times in the history of North American major pro sports leagues has a team won a playoff series after losing the first three games. Such comebacks are something Boston fans know all too well.

It has happened three times in the NHL -- most recently by the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins earlier this month -- and once in baseball, when the Boston Red Sox came back to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series.

In 93 tries, it has just never been done in the NBA.

Here's the Magic's chance at history.

"We just all believe," Nelson said. "We all believe. We know we can do it."

Associated Press

Phil Jackson says he has no interest in coaching the Bulls or the Nets

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, meeting with reporters in Phoenix before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, announced Tuesday night that he has no interest in a second stint coaching the Chicago Bulls.

But Jackson also repeatedly passed on the opportunity to commit to a Lakers-or-retirement stance for next season and quash rising speculation about his future plans.

"I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago and coach the Bulls," Jackson said, responding to an report from Monday night that the Bulls had reached out to Jackson through back channels to gauge his interest in a return.

Interest in Jackson from teams planning to chase LeBron James in free agency is the latest wrinkle in James' highly anticipated foray onto the open market July 1, which is already dominating discussion leaguewide after Cleveland's second-round elimination.

Earlier Tuesday, reported that the New Jersey Nets had made similar back-channel inquiries to assess the possibility of luring Jackson away from Los Angeles to enhance their appeal to James, with Lakers owner Jerry Buss determined to reduce Jackson's $12 million annual salary.

"Those channels have not reached me," Jackson said, insisting that he has "not entertained any conversations" about coaching elsewhere.

Asked specifically about New Jersey, Jackson joked that he'd like to "have a vodka" with new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, saying Prokhorov seems "like a very interesting young man." But Jackson added that he is likewise not interested in coaching the Nets, pointing out that he has never lived in Brooklyn or Newark.

Jackson, however, said he couldn't go any farther than insisting that "the probabilities are great" that he'll be back on the Lakers' bench next season.

When asked at Tuesday night's pregame news conference if he'd either be with the Lakers or home in retirement come October, Jackson said: "Home is where the heart is, right?"

When asked later why he was being cagey, Jackson joked: "I've always had problems committing."

Told by one reporter that he could shut down all the speculation right now, Jackson said: "I'll leave it open and just say, as of now, I have not made up my mind about coaching or not coaching next year. ... That's all I can say really. Truthfully."

"I just can't imagine [coaching another team]," Jackson continued. "Not to say that it's beyond your wildest dreams, [or] that it never would happen, [because] the strangest things do. But it's just not part of my conscious thought. Right now we're down this path [against] Phoenix."

After 11 seasons and two championships as a player with the New York Knicks, Jackson's first coaching experience came with the Nets during the final two seasons of his active career in 1978-79 and 1979-80, when he served as a player-assistant under Kevin Loughery. He went on to win six championships in nine seasons coaching the Bulls from 1989-90 through 1997-98. reported Monday night that, while there had been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, sources close to both parties had spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman refused to comment on the club's coaching search when reached Monday night by telephone.

Nets president Rod Thorn, meanwhile, denied any form of contact with Jackson in an interview Tuesday afternoon with AOL Fanhouse. And Lakers spokesman John Black told the Los Angeles Times that the team is not aware of Jackson being contacted for any coaching vacancy.

"Not to my understanding," Black told the newspaper. "Obviously, if they were to contact him, it would be tampering."

Said Thorn to Fanhouse: "It's not true. We've never approached him. We haven't made any backdoor dealings or whatever it was called."

Asked if the Nets would pursue Jackson should he leave Los Angeles at season's end to become a coaching free agent, Thorn said: "I anticipate he's going to stay with the Lakers. He's got a great situation there."

Earlier Tuesday, reported that the Nets privately acknowledge the long-shot nature of tempting Jackson away from L.A., given the 64-year-old's insistence earlier this month that he's "90 percent" certain he'll coach the Lakers if he coaches anywhere next season. Yet sources with knowledge of New Jersey's thinking have maintained for weeks that Prokhorov is determined to make the splashiest hire he can to enhance the Nets as part of the quest to sign marquee free agents such as James.

Chicago, meanwhile, is on the verge of its most pivotal offseason since the Michael Jordan era, when Jordan and Jackson led the club to separate three-peats from the 1990-1991 through 1992-93 seasons and the 1995-96 through 1997-1998 seasons.

With roughly $23 million to spend in free agency, Chicago is widely regarded as the biggest threat to Cleveland's hopes of re-signing James. The Ohio native is intrigued by the possibility of playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, according to sources, and if any team managed to unite the coach with a record 10 championship rings and the league's two-time reigning MVP, Jackson would have the unprecedented opportunity to have coached Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and James.

The Bulls and Nets are two of six teams in the league with a coaching vacancy, along with New Orleans, Atlanta, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Jackson publicly acknowledged last week before the Lakers' Game 2 victory over Phoenix in the Western Conference finals that Buss wants him to take a pay cut from the $12 million salary he's receiving this season. Should Jackson decide to leave the Lakers and opt for retirement -- despite the fact that longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss is the owner's daughter and a Lakers vice president -- it's a given that other teams will attempt to convince him to keep coaching, depending on which clubs have openings at that stage.

The focus on Jackson's uncertain future has steadily increased in L.A. over the past two months, especially since his two best players -- Bryant and Pau Gasol -- signed contract extensions during the season.

Jackson's address Tuesday, however, marked the second time this month that he publicly shot down the idea of coaching the Bulls again. In early May after Vinny Del Negro's firing, Jackson said: "No, I'm not [interested]. I think it's a wonderful job for whoever takes it. It's a team on the rise and there's some young talent that showed their ability to come back after probably a devastating first two months. Then from January on they played pretty well."

The Nets' association with Jackson certainly doesn't compare to what he achieved with the Bulls, but Prokhorov's presence and presumed willingness to pay top dollar would seemingly give New Jersey -- along with Cleveland's free-spending owner Dan Gilbert -- more hope of meeting Jackson's salary demands than the Bulls, who are regarded leaguewide as reluctant spenders.

With the help of part owner Jay-Z, one of James' closest friends, New Jersey intends to pursue James as hard as Chicago in free agency despite last week's disappointment in the draft lottery. The Nets, after going 12-70, only landed the No. 3 overall pick and lost the opportunity to draft Kentucky's John Wall, another James pal. But New Jersey realizes, like the Bulls and Cavaliers, that prying Jackson away from L.A. could be as valuable in the recruitment process as signing another marquee free agent to play alongside James.

Thorn, though, told the Newark Star-Ledger in Tuesday's editions that he has yet to schedule an interview for New Jersey's coaching opening. When the Nets finally complete the fact-finding phase of their coaching search, Thorn told the newspaper he intends to interview "four to six" candidates, with sources saying that ESPN analyst Avery Johnson and Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau are already on that list. The Star-Ledger reported that the Nets are also likely to reach out to Mike Brown, who was fired Monday as coach of the Cavaliers.

The New Orleans Hornets have made a formal offer to Thibodeau, known as the architect of Boston's stout defense, sources with knowledge of the talks said Tuesday.

In his Fanhouse interview, Thorn dismissed the link to Jackson by saying: "There's been a lot of publicity about our new owner and that we want to have a good team and we want to be in the hunt [and] that we're willing to do a lot of things monetarily."

It remains to be seen how much of a pay cut Jackson is willing to accept for next season and how much pressure Jerry Buss will feel to bring him back, with so much invested in a star-filled roster that also features Lamar Odom and the unpredictable Ron Artest alongside Bryant and Gasol. Whether the Lakers can repeat as champions will also be a factor, as one source close to the situation acknowledged Tuesday that the owner-coach tension will only rise if L.A. fails to win it all.

Jackson, though, insisted that the ongoing uncertainty about how much longer he'll be coaching the Lakers is not affecting his team in this series with Phoenix, even though L.A. has been dragged into a 2-2 tie thanks to two losses in Phoenix after looking invincible at home.

"It"s not a distraction," Jackson said. "Not to me. Not to the players, either."

Jackson scoffed at the idea that he should be flattered by the increasing links to various jobs and added: "It's a distraction, I think, to other teams and I think a disservice to coaches that are really seeking jobs and have an opportunity to go to those towns."

Associated Press

USA Soccer announces final roster for upcoming World Cup

BRISTOL, Conn. -- The phones started ringing at 2 a.m., and players were told to come down to the third floor for a meeting. As Herculez Gomez pressed the elevator button on 17, his mind raced.

Were his dreams about to be fulfilled -- or crushed?

This is the way the U.S. World Cup team was finalized, in the dead of night in a Hartford hotel.

"It's been such a crazy and unbelievable journey," Gomez said.

And the big trip hasn't even begun.

For Gomez, it was good news. He and Edson Buddle went from long shots to the American roster Wednesday, joining veterans Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Tim Howard on the 23-man U.S. team headed to South Africa.

While there was joy and relief for the chosen, there was only heartache and anguish for the seven players called downstairs a few minutes earlier, the players leaving the group selected May 11 for the preliminary roster, only to be cut four days before departure.

Donovan consoled Brian Ching when his roommate found out he wasn't going. Ching was on the 2006 World Cup roster but never got into a match. Having turned 32 on Monday, this was his last chance.

"It's hard to imagine your lifelong dream not coming true, someone telling you that it's not going to happen," Donovan said.

Players on the bubble were nervous before and after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, the first of three exhibitions ahead of the U.S. team's World Cup opener against England on June 12. Before the game, the squad scheduled a nationally televised announcement for Wednesday afternoon at the ESPN campus.

After the final whistle, coach Bob Bradley still wasn't ready to tell players, wanting to first review the DVD with his coaching staff.

U.S. World Cup Roster
• Jozy Altidore, Villareal (Spain)
• Edson Buddle, Los Angeles Galaxy
• Robbie Findley, Real Salt Lake
• Herculez Gomez, Pachuca (Mexico)

• DaMarcus Beasley, Rangers (Scotland)
• Michael Bradley, Moenchengladbach (Germany)
• Ricardo Clark, Frankfurt (Germany)
• Clint Dempsey, Fulham (England)
• Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy
• Maurice Edu, Rangers (Scotland)
• Benny Feilhaber, Aarhus (Denmark)
• Stuart Holden, Bolton (England)
• Jose Torres, Pachuca (Mexico)

• Carlos Bocanegra, Rennes (France) (captain)
• Jonathan Bornstein, Chivas USA
• Steve Cherundolo, Hannover (Germany)
• Jay DeMerit, Watford (England)
• Clarence Goodson, IK Start (Norway)
• Oguchi Onyewu, AC Milan (Italy)
• Jonathan Spector, West Ham (England)

• Brad Guzan, Aston Villa (England)
• Marcus Hahnemann, Wolverhampton (England)
• Tim Howard, Everton (England)

"Bob told us to give him some time and he'd give us a call," Gomez said. "It was one of the most nerve-racking couple hours of my life."

Then Pam Perkins, the team's general manager, started calling players. She only told those who sounded awake they had made it. The groggy-sounding ones, Gomez included, were left in the dark until they reached the meeting room and Bradley greeted them.

"He congratulated each and every one of us," Gomez said. "He definitely made us sweat it out, that's for sure."

On Thursday morning, Gomez will be with the team at the White House to receive personal congratulations from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton ahead of Saturday's sendoff game against Turkey in Philadelphia.

At the start of the year, Gomez and Buddle weren't even afterthoughts. One named after a hero of Greek mythology and the other after soccer's greatest player -- Pele's real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento -- each played themselves onto the team with outstanding club seasons. Neither was listed in the team's 2010 media guide.

A 28-year-old from Las Vegas, Gomez scored 10 goals for Puebla to tie for the Mexican scoring lead, becoming the first American to top a foreign league. The 29-year-old Buddle leads Major League Soccer with nine goals for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Before Tuesday, Buddle's only national team appearance was 11 minutes in 2003. Gomez, who scored the second goal against the Czechs, had played in just two games, both three years ago.

Buddle, whose father Winston played professionally in Jamaica, didn't believe he made it even when Bradley congratulated him.

"I thought he was messing around," Buddle said.

Gomez only went to Mexico after the Kansas City Wizards made no effort to re-sign him after the 2009 season.

"I wasn't good enough for the Wizards last year, so to be where I am today is amazing," he said.

They were chosen over Ching, who only returned May 13 from a hamstring injury sustained while playing for Houston on April 1.

"Plain and simple, Edson and Herculez have had real good stretches, scored a lot of goals," Bradley said. "Brian has been such an important player, but it's tough when you have an injury at an inopportune time."

Beasley also had a remarkable turnaround and will be going to his third World Cup. He teamed with Donovan to spark the Americans to a quarterfinal appearance in 2002, their best finish since reaching the semifinals at the first World Cup in 1930. Then he was part of the disappointing team eliminated in the first round four years ago.

He was exiled from the national team after poor play at the Confederations Cup last June, but returned for the March exhibition at the Netherlands.

"I like being one of the old guys. I get called grandpa now," said Beasley, who turned 28 on Monday.

Beasley made a strong showing at the training camp that began May 17.

"He certainly had to prove himself," Bradley said. "He needed to make a renewed commitment to the team, a renewed commitment to doing things as a player that make his team better. We've seen that."

Bradley selected three goalkeepers, seven defenders, nine midfielders and four forwards -- one midfielder more and one defender fewer than the average.

Seventeen players are based in Europe, with just four from Major League Soccer and two from Mexican clubs. Of the European group, eight play in England, three in Germany, two in Scotland, and one each in Denmark, France, Italy and Norway.

Forward Jozy Altidore at 20 is the youngest player, and backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who turns 38 next month, is the oldest. The average age is just under 27, down from 28.5 at the 2006 tournament.

Donovan, with a U.S. record 42 goals in 121 appearances, is the most experienced player and Buddle the least, becoming the 92nd player to appear for America since Bradley replaced Bruce Arena as coach in December 2006. Of the 43 players in qualifying, 19 made the roster.

Cut in addition to Ching were defenders Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce; midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers; and forward Eddie Johnson.

Donovan, Beasley and defender Steve Cherundolo earned their third World Cup trips, although Cherundolo got hurt in South Korea in 2002 and didn't make it into a game.

Injured players can still be replaced up until 24 hours before the U.S. opener.

"It doesn't stop here," Beasley said. "We have a lot of work to do."

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Orlando survives to play another day

BOSTON -- Put away the brooms. Hold off on those "Beat L.A.!" chants. The Boston Celtics still have some work to do before they can play for their second NBA title in three years.

Dwight Howard had 32 points and 16 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson made back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime to lead the Orlando Magic to a 96-92 victory over Boston on Monday night to avoid a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

Dressing in the same locker room where the Philadelphia Flyers celebrated their comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the NHL's East semifinals, the Magic avoided elimination and sent the series back to Orlando for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

The Bruins also lost Game 4 in overtime.

"We know that we were down 3-0, and we didn't want to go home [for the season]," Howard said. "It starts with me and Jameer. Me and Jameer showed our leadership by playing hard. We've got to be the leaders for this team. It's not about points, but just showing everybody, 'Hey, follow us and we'll lead the way.'"

No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.

"At some point, somebody is going to come from 3-0 down and win a series. The only thing I knew for sure was it would start by winning Game 4," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I figured that one out. You have to win Game 4. ... This was a must-win."

Paul Pierce had 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 12 boards for Boston. Ray Allen hit consecutive 3-pointers in overtime, but Pierce missed two tries in the final minute as the Celtics failed to complete the sweep.

"They don't want to leave. We're going to have to throw them out," said Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis. "It's just like somebody renting a house."

Nelson finished with 23 points and nine assists for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who led by 10 in the second quarter and were up 85-78 with 2:24 left in regulation before Boston scored eight of the next nine points to force overtime at 86-all.

Neither team scored for the first 2:18 of the period before Nelson hit a 3-pointer and then added another 43 seconds later. Allen made a 3-pointer and, after Howard dunked and drew a foul -- but missed a free throw -- Allen hit another 3 to make it 94-92.

Howard followed up Nelson's miss with 53 seconds left to make it 96-92, then Garnett sailed a pass over Pierce's head and into the crowd. Pierce missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the closing seconds.

"There were a couple of plays down the stretch offensively that we botched, plain and simple. We're kicking ourselves. We had a great opportunity," Allen said. "There's no need to panic. We like the position we're in. But it's a lesson: We have to take care of the small things and we'll get to where we want to be."

Orlando's revival came just in time to avoid a Celtics walkover that had fans in the new Boston Garden chanting "Beat L.A!" early in the second half of Saturday night's 23-point Boston victory. The Lakers lead the Suns 2-1 in the Western Conference finals, with Game 4 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

But there was no more chanting about the Lakers on Monday night.

"I know they [the Celtics players] heard it. They had no choice but to hear it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I don't know if they believed it. We didn't play well, I know that. I hope that wasn't the reason."

Only four times in the history of the North American major pro sports leagues has a team come back to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. It's been done three times in the NHL -- most recently this month by the Flyers in this building -- and once in baseball, when the Boston Red Sox came back to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series.

"You never know what can happen," Magic guard J.J. Redick said. "We can be like the Red Sox, coming back from 0-3. You never know."

The Magic's biggest lead of the series had been a three-point edge in the first quarter of Game 2, but they opened with their highest-scoring quarter of the series on Monday to take a 31-26 lead. They made it 42-32 in the second before Boston cut the deficit to four points at the half.

Orlando led 85-78 on Howard's three-point play, but Pierce sliced past Howard for a dunk that cut it to five, then Allen hit a 3-pointer to make it 85-83 with 1:41 left. Nelson made one of two free throws, and then Pierce went to the basket and drew a foul, completing the three-point play to make it 86-all with 1:16 left.

But Pierce missed a jumper with a chance to give Boston the lead, Nelson missed for Orlando and Pierce lost his handle on the ball in the final seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.

Associated Press

Big win for Red Sox as they beat AL leading Rays at home

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- As much as the Boston Red Sox wanted to play down the significance of beating the Tampa Bay Rays, David Ortiz conceded it did feel good to finally break through against baseball's top team.

"Of course, man. These guys have been giving us a hard time," Ortiz said after he and Kevin Youkilis homered in support of right-hander Clay Buchholz in a 6-1 victory Monday night.

"Not only to us, to everyone," the slugger added. "They have the best record in baseball. So you've got to play your best."

The Red Sox beat the Rays for the first time in five tries, climbing a season-best four games over .500 (25-21) with their third straight win on a difficult road trip that began in Philadelphia.

Buchholz (6-3) won his eighth consecutive road start dating to last August, the longest such streak by a Red Sox pitcher since Roger Clemens won nine in a row from July 18, 1992 to April 20, 1993.

The right-hander allowed one run -- Carlos Pena's eighth homer -- and six hits over six innings. Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard didn't allow any baserunners the rest of the way.

"We're getting great starting pitching. When you do that, all we have to do is put a couple runs on the board and those guys can take over," Dustin Pedroia said, adding the Red Sox are focused on themselves -- not catching the first-place Rays.

"We're in the middle of the year and just playing," Pedroia said. "We're playing some really good teams and just finding ways to win. That's a real good sign."

Ortiz homered for the fifth time in his last nine games, hitting a solo shot off Wade Davis (4-4) in the second inning. Davis walked in a run and yielded RBI singles to Adrian Beltre and Jeremy Hermida during a three-run third that put the Red Sox up 4-0.

Youkilis, who is batting .400 (12 for 30) with five homers and 12 RBIs over his last nine games, made it 6-0 with a two-run shot off reliever Lance Cormier in the fourth.

Pedroia had three hits after beginning the night in an 0-for-19 slide. Beltre also finished with three hits for the Red Sox, who began their six-game trip by winning two of three against the NL champion Phillies.

"They got us tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We didn't play badly. They beat us."

At 32-13, the Rays are off to the best start in the major leagues since 2001, in part because of a 19-5 road record that includes a four-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park in April. The six-game lead they carried into Monday was the largest they've ever held in the AL East.

Buchholz, who's won five of his last six starts, walked one and struck out eight. But it wasn't an easy outing.

The Red Sox starter escaped a bases-loaded jam when John Jaso grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first inning. He wiggled out of another tight situation by striking out Reid Brignac and Jason Bartlett to strand two more runners in scoring position in the second.

"We had our opportunities early," Maddon said, "and we didn't take advantage."

Pena homered with two outs in the fourth.

Boston's Victor Martinez left in the third inning. Bartlett fouled a pitch off the catcher's left big toe in the second, and Martinez had trouble walking -- much less running -- after drawing a walk in the third.

X-rays were negative.

"He's day to day, like we all are," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "But I think it's to the point where I don't think we have to make a roster move."

Associated Press

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mike Brown out as coach in Cleveland, No surprises here

CLEVELAND -- Mike Brown won everything in five years coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everything, that is, except an NBA title.

Brown, the most successful coach in franchise history, was fired after failing to win a championship with superstar -- and soon-to-be free agent -- LeBron James.

The Cavaliers had a midnight deadline Sunday night to fire the head coach or pay him his full $4.5 million salary for next season.

Cleveland was ousted from the playoffs two weeks ago by the Boston Celtics, who upset the NBA's top regular-season team in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert made the decision to fire Brown after an organizational review that began following the Cavs' exit from the playoffs.

Cleveland's next move will be an interesting one. Because of James' uncertain future, it's possible the Cavs would want his input into their next coaching hire, assuming the two-time MVP is still considering re-signing with Cleveland when free agency opens after midnight on July 1. The Cavs will have to search for a new coach not knowing if James will be back and would have to go into the draft and free agency without a coach.

James is eligible to opt out of his contract this summer, a move that would make the two-time MVP -- and zero-time NBA champion -- a free agent and set off a scramble for his services from New York to Miami to Los Angeles and, of course, back in Cleveland.

Cleveland, which had the best record in the NBA the past two seasons, had a 2-1 series lead over the Celtics before losing three straight, including the final two at home by a combined 50 points.

"After a long and deep analysis of all of the factors that led to the disappointing early ends to our playoff runs over the past two seasons, we concluded that it was time for the Cavaliers to move in a different direction," Gilbert said Monday in a statement released by the team. "The expectations of this organization are very high and, although change always carries an element of risk, there are times when that risk must be taken in an attempt to break through to new, higher levels of accomplishment.

"This is one of those times."

Brown was not immediately available for comment, according to The Associated Press. No one answered the door at his home in Westlake, Ohio.

The James' family publicist said the All-Star forward was out of town on vacation and not available to comment on Brown's dismissal.

Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas tried to deflect the blame off Brown.

"Obviously, we didn't achieve what we set out to achieve, which is to win a championship," Ilgauskas said, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "But if you're going to lay all the blame on coach Brown and think that's going to solve everything, you've got another thing coming.

"I think we're all at fault -- the players, everybody. You have to, at some point, accept some of the responsibility. We all have to do that. A coach only can take you so far. At some point you have to do it yourself and we didn't do it. I think coach Brown will be fine. He'll be coaching again, and I'm very sure he'll have success.''

Cavs guard Mo Williams agreed with Ilgauskas' stance, according to the Cleveland newspaper.

"Do I think he deserved it? No,'' Williams said. "My question is: Who's out there that's better? He's not a bad coach. To fire him, that's making a big statement. After him, you have to get a Hall of Fame coach.

"I thought we prematurely acted on our emotions, as an organization. I think he did a good job. If anything, bring in a veteran assistant. I think we just could have gotten better instead of blowing it all up. Now we're starting over.

"I'm hurt, because I like him a lot," Williams added. "He'll be missed. We know how the business of basketball goes. He knows the nature of the business, also. His presence will be missed.''

Brown, who had one year left on his contract, could be quickly scooped up by one of the five other teams looking for head coaches. Brown guided the team to the postseason in each of his five seasons but failed to win an NBA championship. Cleveland's assistants also have one year remaining on their deals.

Duke promptly struck down rumors that Mike Krzyzewski could leave the Blue Devils to coach James and the Cavaliers.

"It has been addressed repeatedly since the Lakers' thing a few years ago," a Duke spokesman told's Andy Katz. "If anything changes, we will let everyone know."

Brown was the league's coach of the year last season when the Cavs won 66 games. Cleveland lost to Orlando in the conference finals, however, and it was assumed Brown would have to get the team closer to a championship to keep his job.

Instead, the Cavs regressed. They were badly outplayed by the Celtics, who won the last two games played in Cleveland by a combined 50 points.

"I have truly enjoyed working with Mike Brown," Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry said on Monday. "Mike has played a huge role in turning around the Cavs organization. Over the past five years, Mike established a work ethic, defensive identity and culture of winning that was not here previously."

It wasn't all his fault, but the 40-year-old Brown, hired by Gilbert to change Cleveland's culture with a foundation based on defense, couldn't deliver a title this season despite having the game's most skilled player and a roster upgraded with the additions of All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison.

The Cavs' defense, suffocating and relentless at times during the regular season, was atrocious in the series against Boston.

Cleveland allowed more than 100 points in six games and couldn't contain Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. When Brown and his staff finally figured out a way to contain Rondo, the Cavs had no answer for Kevin Garnett, who dominated Jamison.

Brown was outcoached by Boston's Doc Rivers, who had his team better prepared and got more from his players. The Cavs were constantly beaten to loose balls and long rebounds, something Brown couldn't help but perhaps a sign that he had already lost his team.

Brown's rotations were a mess in the series, leading to the team's inability to get into any type of offensive rhythm. With James unable to dominate as he so often does, the Cavs' offense was stagnant and players didn't seem to have any sense of their roles.

It was constant scrambling.

There were whispers Brown was in trouble after the Cavs were dumped by Orlando in last year's Eastern Conference finals. It was thought that Brown would have to take his team at least as far this season to save his job, but he couldn't and paid the price.

During his tenure, Brown rarely -- if ever -- criticized James. The opposite wasn't true.

In past seasons, James complained about the team's lack of offensive imagination, saying the Cavs should run more. He and Brown worked through most differences and seemed to have a solid relationship, but it began to fade as this brief postseason unfolded.

Because of a injury to O'Neal, Brown was forced to integrate the center back into the offense during the playoffs, and the Cavs never got into a flow. Also, James and some of the team's other veterans questioned Brown's game plans in both the series against Chicago and Boston.

James publicly questioned why O'Neal only played 49 seconds in the fourth quarter of the Game 4 loss in Boston. In the opening round against the Bulls, James campaigned to get J.J. Hickson more playing time, creating an awkward stand-off between the coach and superstar.

Adding to the drama in Cleveland's final home game was the sight of Kentucky coach John Calipari, a friend of James, sitting in a courtside seat -- next to James' agent -- adjacent to Cleveland's bench.

Associated Press

Doug back in the Coaches Corner

PHILADELPHIA -- Doug Collins helped lead the 76ers from the bottom of the NBA to the Finals as a player.

He gets that shot now as their coach.

All anyone wants to know is, why?

Collins understands why friends and fans keep asking him why he would quit a cozy job calling NBA games on TNT for a job coaching the Philadelphia 76ers. Among the reasons is the one that raced through his mind as his plane touched down.

Philadelphia is home.

With his daughter, who lives in the Philly area, among the scores of family members attending Collins' press conference on Monday, he was reminded of the imprint the city left on him when he played on some of the greatest Sixers teams in franchise history. Collins wants to revitalize the Sixers -- and make them matter again in a city where their popularity has plummeted among all sports teams.

"We're talking about being relevant again," Collins said Monday. "I want the Sixers to be on people's tongues again. ... I want the Sixers to be the basketball team that people want to see. This is a pro town. This city loves pro basketball. This is one of the signature franchises in the NBA."

Yes, but not one of the successful ones.

The Sixers haven't won a playoff series since 2003 or won a championship since 1983. Since Larry Brown left in 2003, the Sixers have discarded six other coaches. The 58-year-old Collins has a four-year deal to build a winner in Philly.

"For the very first time in a long time, I feel very confident this organization is going in the right direction," Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider said.

The Sixers could have hired Collins last summer. He was interested in the job but never got a call from team president Ed Stefanski. Stefanski picked his friend, Eddie Jordan, and the decision backfired almost from the day he was hired.

Jordan's lone season wasn't a total bust -- the Sixers won the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery.

Stefanski admitted his mistake in not reaching out to Collins last year.

"We had a list that we felt comfortable with and we went from there," Stefanski said. "Obviously, it was not the right decision and we rectified it."

Collins was interviewed this year on May 1, and was in constant contact with Sixers management even as other candidates surfaced. Collins had one request of Stefanski: If he found someone better, call him.

Stefanski made a call -- but it was to tell Collins last week he had the job.

The Sixers also shot down speculation that Stefanski's job was on the rocks by letting him hire Collins. Stefanski has seen many of his major moves fail and neither Snider nor chief operating officer Peter Luukko gave him a public endorsement at the end of the season.

Stefanski's job is safe for now as the Sixers overhaul takes shape.

"When did I say I wanted to replace him?" Snider said. "He's the general manager, he's got two more years on his contract. I haven't said anything negative, have I?"

Collins inherits a team that needs backcourt help with the No. 2 pick, and Ohio State guard Evan Turner has emerged as the likely choice. Most of the nucleus was around for two straight first-round playoff exits before last year's flop, giving Collins confidence there is the right developing talent to build around.

He needs to find a way to work veterans Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert and Elton Brand into the mix.

"We've got some players on the team that I'm going to have to revitalize a little bit, get their joy of the game back," Collins said.

Jordan's weakness was implementing a plodding Princeton offense on his up-tempo roster. Collins wants to evaluate his team before deciding what style to play.

Collins played eight seasons with the 76ers and was a four-time All-Star in a career shortened by injuries. He's been here before. Collins was drafted No. 1 overall in 1973 by a Sixers team coming off an NBA-worst 9-73 record. Four years later, the Sixers were in the NBA finals. Collins would love history to repeat itself.

"I'm 18 games ahead of where I started last time," Collins said, laughing.

He went 332-287 in three previous coaching stints with Chicago, Detroit and Washington. Collins, who led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989, has worked as an analyst for TNT since leaving the Wizards in 2003.

He was introduced only hours before the Flyers had a chance at clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup finals. He shook hands with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette before the press conference, and former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and Temple coach Fran Dunphy were among the guests at the Wachovia Center.

Collins said he's still assembling his coaching staff, but will retain former Sixers guard Aaron McKie. He'll finish calling the Western Conference finals for TNT. It might be as close as Collins gets to the finals for a few years.

"We're not ready to be a championship team right now," Collins said.

It's his job to make them one.

Associated Press

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lakers get by Suns with a huge 4th quarter from Gasol

LOS ANGELES -- Whenever the Suns sent two defenders at Kobe Bryant, he coolly passed to an open teammate. When Phoenix loaded up down low against Pau Gasol, the Lakers picked them apart from the perimeter.

Los Angeles' triangle offense has the Suns running in circles after two terrific performances in the Western Conference finals -- and the defending champions' fans just couldn't help looking ahead to a possible grand finale against Boston.

Gasol scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, Bryant had 21 points and 13 assists, and the Lakers roared away in the final minutes for a 124-112 victory Wednesday night to claim a series lead that seems much more daunting than 2-0.

Although the Lakers took no bows after hitting better than 57 percent of their shots and scoring a jaw-dropping 252 points in the series' first two games, it's clear Bryant and Gasol are leading a clinic in offensive hoops against one of the NBA's highest-scoring teams.

"We're shooting the ball very well, moving the ball really, really well," Gasol said. "Our bench is playing at a high level, and we're all stepping up."

After Bryant scored 40 points in 35 minutes in the series opener, the Suns tried to double-team him more regularly in Game 2 -- so last season's NBA Finals MVP racked up the most assists by a Lakers player in a postseason game since Magic Johnson in 1996.

Bryant's streak of six straight 30-point games ended, yet he capped his night as a creator by setting up Gasol for two tough baskets in the final minutes, with Gasol scoring with a flourish and drawing a foul each time.

"It makes the game a lot easier to have [Gasol] inside to catch and complete plays," Bryant said. "We're extremely well-versed in playing against teams that double and zone, things like that."

Ron Artest scored 18 points for the Lakers, who won their eighth straight playoff game and moved within striking distance of a tantalizing NBA Finals showdown with the Boston Celtics, who lead Orlando 2-0 in the East. For the second straight game, the chants rained down from the Staples Center crowd in the final minutes: "We want Boston!"

The Lakers remained unbeaten at home in the postseason despite a much-improved effort from the Suns, who lost the opener by 21 points. Phoenix tied it at 90-all heading to the final period of Game 2, but Gasol and Bryant flawlessly led the Lakers to another high-scoring victory, handing third-seeded Phoenix its first back-to-back losses since late January.

"It's really tough because we have so many guys on this team that can hurt you offensively," said Lamar Odom, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. "When we get four or five guys going offensively, it seems like our defense steps up. We do a great job of using our quickness, cutting guys off and making it hard for teams as well as putting that offensive pressure on them."

Game 3 is Sunday night in Phoenix. But unless the Suns figure out a way to stop Los Angeles' versatile, poised offense, Beantown and Hollywood could be just a few days away from another chapter in their storied rivalry.

"We can't slow them down," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said. "I thought we played well offensively, but every time we tried to make an adjustment to slow them down offensively, they would go somewhere else. There's a good reason they're the world champs, but we'll keep plugging away, keep trying."

The Lakers have lost only one best-of-seven playoff series in franchise history after taking a 2-0 lead, winning the other 41. The 15-time champions haven't won eight straight games in the same postseason since their famous one-loss run through the 2001 playoffs.

"We still scored enough points tonight, but when they can score 120-something, that's asking the offense to score too much," said Phoenix's Steve Nash, who had 11 points and 15 assists. "If we're going to beat them, we've got to find a way to slow them down."

The crowd enthusiastically booed Amare Stoudemire, who on Tuesday belittled Odom's 19-point, 19-rebound performance in the opener as "a lucky game." Stoudemire appeared determined to back up his words with aggression, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds while Odom had another superbly lucky game off the bench.

Grant Hill scored 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter while Phoenix erased a 14-point deficit, playing with more efficiency and aggression than in Game 1. But the Lakers went back ahead by 11 midway through the fourth with a 9-0 run, and the Suns couldn't stop Bryant and Gasol from executing their two-man game to perfection.

"I was being effective and just finishing plays," Gasol said. "We just continued to go to it because it was working pretty well for us."

Jason Richardson scored 27 points for Phoenix, and Jared Dudley hit five 3-pointers.

Associated Press

Former NBA player turns to singing as a career after sports

You'd think in a sport where dribbling is a highly valued asset, the crossover would come easier.

Shaquille O'Neal's "Shaq Diesel" went platinum in 1993, but subsequent rapping forays by Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson (a.k.a. Jewels), Tony Parker and Ron Artest have all generally failed (unless you count the one week Parker's "Balance-toi" spent at No. 1 on the French chart).

Kareem Rush isn't rapping. He's singing.

And for a player, whose seven-year NBA service has been predicated by a smooth jump shot, Rush insists his voice is smoother.

With a single, "Promises," receiving airtime on 10 R&B stations across the country, including his hometown KPRS in Kansas City, Mo., as well as stations in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., Rush is trying to do something countless other professional athletes have failed at -- succeed in the music business.

Rush, 29, has played for five NBA franchises and opened this season with the Los Angeles Clippers before a knee injury ended his year seven games into the campaign.

The time away from the court allowed Rush an opportunity to pour his time into his other passion -- music.

With help from producers Mechalie Jamison and Earl Powell, who have worked with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Jennifer Hudson, Rush will release his debut 12-song album, "Rehabbing R&B" in late summer-early fall. The music video for "Promises" will premiere on VH1 Soul and BET's Centric this summer, coupled with a 30-minute behind-the-scenes look at Rush's recording process as well as the progress on his knee rehab.

The Life: I take it you've always had an interest in music. Where did that come from?

Rush: It's been a lifelong thing of mine. Nothing really professional. I sang a couple years in choir, and any of my close friends know that singing has always been a big part of my life. They can't get me to shut up. All I do is sing.

The Life: In high school, did you take any heat as a top athlete singing in choir when you're supposed to be this macho guy?

Rush: Oh no, not at all. Like I said, anybody that knew me, knew that I sang all the time. So it wasn't anything for them to see me in choir. Actually all my friends had been pushing me to do something with my voice for a long time, I just really hadn't had the time to focus on it. But all my friends and close family know that singing is a huge part of my life, and they're happy to see that I've actually given it a try and am pursuing it a little bit.

The Life: When you see other athletes try their hand at music, say like a Ron Artest, and you see them scoffed at, does it make you maybe a little apprehensive about going public with your music?

Rush: Not at all. I believe in myself more than anybody. If I think I can do it, and I'm OK with putting myself out there and seeing what I can do, yeah I'm fine with that. I don't look at other people's music. I'm my own musician. I have my own style, and I think my music is genuine.

I'm not a gimmick. I'm not out here playing. I take this as seriously as I take basketball. As much of a passion as I have for basketball, I have for music. So this is not a game to me. 'Oh, I'm an NBA guy with a bunch of money, so let me play this music thing.' This is an actual business. This is a career for me that I plan on having after I retire and sing for 20 years. This is my second career. So I take this very, very seriously.

Listen to Kareem Rush's debut single, "Hold You Down." You can also follow Rush on Twitter.
The Life: Did you get a chance to see Jerry Stackhouse sing the national anthem for Game 6 of the Bucks-Hawks series?

Rush: I did. He sang pretty good actually. I was pretty impressed. I had been hearing about him for the last few years that he sings, but I never really heard him. I YouTubed him, and he did a pretty good job. That's one of my aspirations too is to sing the national anthem at a game, so hopefully next year I'll be able to do that.

The Life: Is there underground chatter in the NBA about guys who can sing?

Rush: I mean, in the NBA most of the guys are hip-hop oriented and most of the guys do the rap thing. It's very rare for a guy, like you said, a big macho guy, singing love songs. So you don't hear a lot of guys that can sing. But I heard Jerry Stackhouse could sing. I heard Walter McCarty could sing a few years back. I never heard anybody with something out on the radio, so I think I'm really the first guy to come through on the R&B side to actually have something that's playing on the radio with an album coming soon.

The Life: Who are some of your musical influences?

Rush: Some of my favorites are Boyz II Men, K-Ci & JoJo, but that's back in the day. Now, I'm a huge fan of Maxwell, huge fan of Robin Thicke, Musiq Soulchild. Old school, Marvin Gaye. Typical R&B.

The Life: I think I had my first kiss to some Boyz II Men at a school dance, so I can appreciate that.

Rush: There you go. My favorite song to sing to the ladies was "One Sweet Day." I would sing that to the girls all the time.

Rush: Actually, I've been dabbling (in) writing a little bit. I wrote a remix to my single, a basketball remix.

I actually dabbled and co-wrote a song on my album called "Missouri," which is an homage to home and talk about my time growing up with my grandma and my brothers and all my friends. Most of that is based off my life, so I wrote part of that song.

But other than that, I'm still rounding myself into an artist. I'm still a basketball player, but I'm trying to make the transition into being an artist. So I'm going to take some piano lessons and work on being a complete artist. This is a serious deal.

The Life: You're working with some producers who have worked with some of the industry's big names. How did you get hooked up with them?

Rush: Through a mutual friend, that's the crazy thing. When I tore my knee up, I told one of my good friends that I'm going to try this singing thing out. So she said, 'Why don't you sing something into your phone and send it to my friends?'

So I sent a memo on my iPhone. I sang Maxwell, "Pretty Wings" on my phone sent it to them. They said, 'OK, you can carry a note. So let me get you out here and we can do a demo deal.'

So the first day I got into the studio, I killed it. So they were like, 'OK, we can do more than just a demo deal. Let's try to cut a single on you.' So we end up cutting a single and this thing kind of snowballed and snowballed and four months later, like I said, I have a song on the radio, and I shot a video. The start has all been positive, so I couldn't be any more happier than I am right now.

The Life: What's smoother, your jump shot or your music?

Rush: I think my tunes. A lot of my songs are love songs, and I'm just really bringing back the old-school classic R&B, great music, good stories. I think people will really enjoy it if they give it a try. They might hesitate because of the whole NBA thing, a basketball player trying to sing, but I think they'll really enjoy my music if they gave it a shot.

The Life: What do your brothers (former UCLA standout JaRon and Indiana Pacers shooting guard Brandon) think about the music?

Rush: As any brothers they're going to be supportive, but they were shocked, like I said, a lot of people know I could sing, but they never really heard me sing anything besides other people's songs.

When they actually heard my voice and heard me singing my own songs, they were impressed. They were kind of blown back by it. It was a shock to me really when I heard it, I was like, 'Damn, I sound like that? I didn't know I could sound like that.' It's been a big surprise for a lot of people.

The Life: Any joking around with JaRon and Brandon about them getting on backup vocals and you guys could be the second coming of Rush?

Rush: (Laughs) I'm sure they'd like that. Brandon is actually in L.A. now, so he was in the house the other day, but he's a rapper. I might get him on one of my songs, so he can do a verse. But they're not musicians. They're going to stick to basketball.

The Life: What's worse, a pro athlete trying to sing who can't or a celebrity trying to play sports, but can't?

Rush: I would say, an athlete trying to sing. I always think back to Carl Lewis. He really ruined it for all athletes. That moment right there. Ugh.

The Life: How's the knee rehab coming along?

The Life: So the time away from the court, I'm guessing gave you the music opportunity sooner than you maybe would have had time for?

Rush: That's really the only reason why I tried to pursue it now. Because being my first serious injury, I knew what guys go through when they're dealing with something so serious.

So I initially wanted to go back to school and finish my degree, but then I was like, 'Well, let me try this music thing.' It's really the only reason why I pursued it was because of my injury. That's why the album is called "Rehabbing R&B."

The Life: All right, pitch music fans on why they should listen to Kareem Rush's music.

Rush: If you like Kareem Rush's basketball career, you'll love my music. My music is really classic, timeless R&B. I have a lot of passion for it. I enjoy doing it. I just want everybody to give it a shot. Give it a listen.

Don't let the athlete stuff fool you. Just let the music speak for itself. I think people will really gravitate to it and really like it. All I say is, give it a try.

Landis Finally admits to doping, tries to implicate Armstrong as well

Nearly four years after he began waging a costly, draining, and ultimately losing battle to discredit his positive test for synthetic testosterone at the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis told on Wednesday that he used performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career as a professional road cyclist, including the race whose title he briefly held.

In a lengthy telephone interview from California, Landis detailed extensive, consistent use of the red blood cell booster erythropoietin (commonly known as EPO), testosterone, human growth hormone and frequent blood transfusions, along with female hormones and a one-time experiment with insulin, during the years he rode for the U.S. Postal Service and Switzerland-based Phonak.

Landis confirmed he sent e-mails to cycling and anti-doping officials over the past few weeks, implicating dozens of other athletes, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong; team management and owners; and officials of the sport's national and international governing bodies. is in the process of seeking comment from those individuals. Armstrong has long been dogged by accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, but no anti-doping authority has ever confirmed that he tested positive.

Armstrong, who is currently competing in the Tour of California, told reporters Thursday: "I have nothing to hide," and "history speaks for itself here."

"It's his word versus ours ... we like our word, we like our credibility," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he would not pursue legal action against Landis. He said it would take too much money and effort and he wants to focus on his team, his family and his foundation, Livestrong.

Landis also accused American riders Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie and Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, of involvement in doping.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement Thursday that they would open an investigation into Landis' allegations.

"WADA is aware of the serious allegations made by Mr Landis. We are very interested in learning more about this matter and we will liaise with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and any other authorities with appropriate jurisdiction to get to the heart of the issues raised. WADA looks forward to these further investigations and enquiries by those responsible."

International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid said Landis' allegations were "scandalous and mischievous."

I don't feel guilty at all about having doped. I did what I did because that's what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it.

-- Floyd Landis

"These guys coming out now with things like this from the past is only damaging the sport," McQuaid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. "If they've any love for the sport they wouldn't do it."

The governing body said it regretted that Landis accused former teammates without allowing U.S. cycling and anti-doping authorities time to investigate.

"An impartial investigation is a fundamental right as Mr. Landis will understand having contested, for two years, the evidence of his breach of the anti-doping rules in 2006," UCI said in a statement.

McQuaid said it was up to U.S.A Cycling and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to look into the allegations.

In a statement released Thursday, USADA said it does "not comment on the substance of any doping investigation."

In an e-mail to USA Cycling president Steve Johnson dated April 30, Landis related a number of anecdotes he said were representative of his time in the European peloton.

However, as Landis told, no one ever coerced him into doping.

"I take responsibility for all the stuff I did," Landis said in the interview. "No one gave me something and said, 'Don't ask what this is, just take it.' I would never have done that. The things I took, I knew what they were, and I spent the time researching what the risks were, and the decisions I made were mine. The whole entire process of doping in the entire sport and the evolution of it all wasn't my fault, but when it came down to it, me being there, I made the decision to do it. It wasn't anyone else telling me to do it. I'm not blaming anyone for that. It was my decision. Every time."

In the e-mail to Johnson, Landis said that Bruyneel, the longtime sports director of the U.S. Postal Service, Discovery Channel, Astana and RadioShack teams who guided Armstrong and Spain's Alberto Contador to a combined nine Tour de France victories, "instructed" Landis on how to use testosterone patches when he was riding for Postal in 2002. Landis added that he first used EPO on Bruyneel's advice the following summer while training for the Tour of Spain, that he obtained the drug directly from Armstrong, and that he started using HGH that he bought from a team trainer in Valencia during that same training period.

"I paid [Ferrari] $10,000 [that season]," Landis told "He only accepted cash. His normal fee is 10 percent of your salary."

"I mean, he's one of the best references," Landis said of Ferrari, who worked with numerous top cyclists. In 2004, Ferrari was convicted of sporting fraud and abusing his medical license by an Italian court, but later succeeded in having that judgment reversed on appeal. "I didn't wish to take the risks on my own and especially since it was fairly clear that his advice was endorsed by Lance himself," Landis said in the interview. "And therefore Johan and the other guys that knew of it and were involved -- working with him, they'd understand the risks that I was taking as well and therefore trust me."

Landis also said he and Armstrong discussed the efficacy of the then-newly developed test for EPO in 2002.

In the e-mail to Johnson, Landis said he had blood extracted in 2003 inside the apartment Armstrong owned in the historic center of Girona, Spain, and that it was stored in a refrigerator there along with blood extracted from Armstrong and teammate George Hincapie. Landis said Armstrong asked him to stay in the apartment on one occasion while Armstrong was away in order to make sure the refrigerator did not malfunction.

He also said in the e-mail that a team doctor gave him and Hincapie, who he said was his roommate during the 2003 Tour de France, syringes filled with olive oil in which andriol, a form of testosterone that can be taken orally, had been dissolved.

Hincapie said he was disappointed to hear Landis' accusations.

"I have been a professional on the circuit for 17 years -- which is one of the longest careers in the peloton. During that time, I have earned the respect of my peers and a reputation for working hard, honestly and honorably," he said in a statement.

Landis further described personally seeing other riders receive transfused blood, including once on the team bus after a stage of the 2004 Tour de France, The bus driver stopped on a "remote mountain road" for an hour, pretending the bus had engine trouble while the entire team received transfusions, Landis said in the e-mail.

Landis, seeking his own chance to become a team leader, signed with the Phonak team before the 2005 season. In the e-mail to Johnson, the rider claimed that he negotiated with team owner Andy Rihs for extra money to cover the expenses of a doping program. Phonak was stung by several high-profile doping cases from 2004-06, including that of Landis' fellow American Tyler Hamilton, who was convicted of using banned transfusions.

Rihs issued a statement saying Landis' claims were "lies" and a "last, tragic attempt" to get publicity.

"Floyd Landis personally signed that he would uphold our code and use no illegal practices when he joined our former racing group," Rihs said.

The whole team was convinced that he was upholding this until his doping was revealed at the 2006 Tour.

"Neither I, nor the leadership of the team, knew that Floyd Landis doped," Rihs said.

The Wall Street Journal also reported details of Landis' e-mails Thursday morning.

Landis' doping conviction cost him his Tour title, his career, his life savings and his marriage. He said he knows his credibility is in tatters and that many people will choose not to believe him now. He added that he has no documentation for many of the claims he is making about other riders or officials, and that it will be his word against theirs.

However, Landis said he finally decided to come forward because he was suffering psychologically and emotionally from years of deceit, and because he has become a cycling pariah with little to no chance of ever riding for an elite team again. Prior to speaking with, he said he made his most difficult phone call -- to his mother in Pennsylvania to tell her the truth for the first time.

"I want to clear my conscience," Landis said. "I don't want to be part of the problem any more.

"With the benefit of hindsight and a somewhat different perspective, I made some misjudgments. And of course, I can sit here and say all day long, 'If I could do it again I'd do something different,' but I just don't have that choice."

Landis said he takes full responsibility for having doped on every occasion that he did it, and added he was never forced or threatened.

"I don't feel guilty at all about having doped," Landis told "I did what I did because that's what we [cyclists] did and it was a choice I had to make after 10 years or 12 years of hard work to get there, and that was a decision I had to make to make the next step. My choices were, do it and see if I can win, or don't do it and I tell people I just don't want to do that, and I decided to do it."

According to Landis, his first use of performance-enhancing drugs was in June 2002, when he was a member of the U.S. Postal Service team. The World Anti-Doping Agency's statute of limitations for doping offenses is eight years, and Landis said that, too, is part of his motivation for divulging his inflammatory information.

"Now we've come to the point where the statute of limitations on the things I know is going to run out or start to run out next month," Landis said. "If I don't say something now, then it's pointless to ever say it."

Landis, who began his career as a top mountain biker, had kept detailed training journals since he was a teenager. He said he continued the same methodical record-keeping once he started using banned drugs and techniques. Landis said he spent as much as $90,000 a year on performance-enhancing drugs and on consultants to help him build a training regime. Landis said he has kept all of his journals and diaries and has offered to share them with U.S. anti-doping authorities in recent meetings. He added that he has given officials detailed information on how athletes are beating drug testing.

As for his own positive test, Landis still maintains that result was inaccurate and that he had not used synthetic testosterone during the 2006 season -- although he now admits he used human growth hormone during that time. At this point, he said he does not want to dwell on any of the issues he and his lawyers hammered at during his case.

"There must be some other explanation, whether it was done wrong or I don't know what," he said. "You can try to write it however you want -- the problem I have with even bothering to argue it is [that] I have used testosterone in the past and I have used it in other Tours, and it's going to sound kind of foolish to say I didn't."

Landis exhausted most of his own savings in fighting his case, which cost an estimated $2 million, and also raised funds for his defense in a well-publicized effort. He said he would pay those donors back if he could, but does not have the money to do so. He said he did not level with the people close to him, but declined to say whether he informed his lawyers of his past drug use.

Associated Press