June 27, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Even Doc Rivers got weary of the two-week saga of his move to the Los Angeles Clippers. He thought the unusual deal was dead several times, and he insists he really didn’t mind the prospect of returning to the Boston Celtics.

“I felt like I was the only guy in all this that was in a win-win,” Rivers said.

The Clippers think they’ve got plenty of winning in store after landing one of the NBA’s most respected veteran coaches.

The Clippers formally introduced Rivers at their training complex Wednesday after dealing a first-round pick to the Celtics. Rivers was simply grateful to end his self-described “strange ordeal” ever since the Celtics floated the possibility of moving the NBA’s highest-paid coach to a talented team determined to replace Vinny Del Negro with a topflight leader.

“The reason I wanted this when it was made available was because of what we have,” said Rivers, who also will be the Clippers’ senior vice president of basketball operations. “I clearly think this is an extremely talented basketball team. There were times last year they were the best team. I like the talent we have here.”

Rivers believes the Clippers have the ingredients to be a title contender, although unrestricted free agent Chris Paul is a major part of that recipe. Rivers’ arrival is widely expected to cinch a new deal for CP3 — and Rivers believes their partnership will lead to chances for championships.

“We’re going for it, let there be no mistake,” Clippers President Andy Roeser said. “We’re going for it. We want to win, and we think Doc will help us get there.”

Rivers largely sat out the negotiations about his fate over the last two weeks, staying at his offseason home in Orlando while Celtics President Danny Ainge and the Clippers' top brass hammered out details of the move. Rivers gave up on the deal multiple times, even discussing the Celtics’ roster for next season with Ainge on Sunday, convinced he would return for a 10th season in Boston.

Rivers turned off his phone and watched his youngest son, Spencer, in an AAU game. When he turned it back on, he found out he might be on the move after all — and a few hours later, the deal was done.

With all of his formal clothes in Boston, Rivers couldn’t even wear a suit when he headed out to the West Coast to accept his next coaching challenge.

“Things always find their path,” Rivers said. “This took a long and winding path, but it found a way. ... I didn’t intend it to be this way. I didn’t want it to be this way. Danny and I thought it was something we would explore, and it would be quick.”

But it’s finally over, and Rivers has started to consider what he’ll do with his new team, which won a franchise-record 56 games and its first Pacific Division title last season, only to lose to Memphis in the first round of the postseason. Rivers is eager to improve the Clippers’ defense while maximizing the potential of Blake Griffin and Paul, whose return is the franchise's top offseason priority.

Paul and Griffin didn’t attend the news conference, but backup big men Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins showed up for a look at their new coach. Rivers said he had already spoken to most of his new players and most of the Celtics.

“Very excited about the future with Coach Rivers and his staff,” Griffin tweeted. “Can’t wait to get to work. Thanks for all the support clipnation!”

Rivers was understandably cagey about any conversations with Paul, who was widely thought to desire an established, veteran coach in Los Angeles. Roeser has been steadfastly confident the Clippers will hang on to CP3, and Rivers’ arrival only made him more optimistic.

“I think we’re just going to have to wait until he makes his decision and signs his contract, but all the indications are that he likes Doc and respects him,” Roeser said of Paul.

Rivers was greeted in Playa Vista by a huge Hollywood media contingent, baffling a few longtime Clippers employees used to toiling in the glitzy Lakers’ shadow. With each passing month, the Clippers are stealing the spotlight from the 16-time champions who share their hallway at Staples Center.

“I don’t understand what the fuss is,” Roeser said with a laugh. “It’s not even the first time we gave up a first-round pick for Doc.”

Roeser referred to the 1991 trade that brought the veteran point guard to the Clippers for one season in 1991-92. Rivers wore Los Angeles’ No. 25 jersey that year — the same number on the ceremonial jersey he held Wednesday to herald his return.

Rivers’ front-office title means he’ll have a say in the Clippers’ personnel moves, but Rivers clearly indicated he’s only one part of a decision-making team including Roeser and Gary Sacks, their vice president of basketball operations.

“I think titles don’t mean that much,” Roeser said. “What matters is we’re going to sit down together and find a way to make this team better.”

Roeser confirmed the Clippers won’t be making any player transactions with Boston in the near future, but said the Clippers “will be active in the free-agent market.” A reunion between Rivers and Kevin Garnett in Los Angeles remains unlikely after the NBA banned any potential trades including both men, but Rivers seems confident the Clippers already have enough talent to be even better.

“That’s the only reason I’m coaching, is to try to win titles,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to prove we can win a series first.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

June 27, 2013

Associate Press

 

At long last, Brian Shaw is getting his first chance to coach an NBA team.

The former guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and Phil Jackson pupil has agreed to succeed George Karl as coach of the Denver Nuggets, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday night because the deal hadn't been officially announced.

Still, it was the buzz of the basketball world.

“I think the Nuggets are going to benefit from his tenure,” Jackson tweeted.

“So great to see Brian Shaw rewarded with this long overdue opportunity,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel told The AP in a text. “Congrats to Brian and the Nuggets. Denver just got one of the best head coaches this league will see for years to come.”

The Denver Post first an­nounced the agreement with Shaw, the Indiana Pacers assistant who told the newspaper he’s been “prepared by the best of the best” for his first NBA head coaching job, adding “I feel like I’ve waited and paid my dues.”

Shaw is a longtime assistant who has interviewed about a dozen times for head coaching positions but kept coming up short until Monday.

He beat out Lionel Hollins, the former Memphis Grizzlies coach.

The Nuggets called a news conference for Tuesday afternoon, where team president Josh Kroenke and newly hired general manager Tim Connelly will introduce their new coach.

Shaw replaces Karl, who was ousted June 6 just weeks after winning the league's Coach of the Year award.

Shaw inherits a young team loaded with talent that won a franchise-record 57 games but lost Danilo Gallinari to a knee injury down the stretch and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years.

Gallinari recently underwent surgery and is expected back in December.

The Nuggets have been a state of flux all summer after they were knocked off by the Golden State Warriors in six games in the first round of the playoffs.

First, Masai Ujiri, who engineered the win-win trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, left the Nuggets’ front office for the GM job in Toronto. Ujiri was the league's Executive of the Year.

Less than a week later, Kroenke fired Karl.

Ujiri’s right-hand man, Pete D’Allesandro, then took the Sacramento Kings’ GM job and took Denver executive Mike Bratz with him.

Also, the Nuggets’ top perimeter defender, Andre Iguodala, decided to opt out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, although he could return to Denver on a five-year deal while the most he could get elsewhere is a four-year contract.

Shaw, 47, owns five NBA championship rings as a player and assistant coach. A first-round draft pick by the Boston Celtics in 1988, Shaw played for eight teams in his 14 NBA seasons.

As Vogel’s top assistant, Shaw drew praise for his work with rising star Paul George last season. The Pacers forward was an All-Star and helped lead Indiana to the Eastern Conference finals, where they took the eventual champion Miami Heat to seven games.

Although he has deep roots with the triangle offense that Jackson featured with the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers, Shaw told the Denver Post he won’t use that system with the Nuggets, who thrived in a fast-paced, free-flowing system under Karl.

Shaw played at St. Mary’s and UC Santa Barbara before an NBA career that lasted from 1988 to 2003. He was a member of the Lakers’ three championship teams in the early 2000s and Jackson hired him as an assistant after he retired.

He won two more titles with L.A. as an assistant coach and when Jackson retired from the Lakers in 2011, Kobe Bryant voiced his support for Shaw becoming Jackson's successor, but he was passed over for that promotion.

AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

June 20, 2013

Associated Press

 

RICHMOND, Va. -- Shaka Smart smiles with a told-you-so look that is part amusement, and part frustration.

Two years after leading VCU to the Final Four and becoming one of the stars of college basketball, Smart has gone through his third consecutive offseason where he was mentioned as a candidate for job openings at major programs. But he's still writing on dry erase walls in an office overlooking the Rams' home court, trying to find overlooked gems on the recruiting trail and tweaking the aggressive defensive style he calls ''havoc.''

On the expanding urban campus, with a contract extension this year that now pays him $1.5 million a year and runs through 2023, along with fundraising well under way for a basketball practice facility, the 35-year-old Smart seems more than content.

''I've always said, I think that there is an overly simplistic view of when people leave and go somewhere else. They're all about being greedy and all about money, and all about going to the highest level. On the flip side, if someone stays, they're the most loyal person in the world,'' he said.

''I'm the same as you or anyone else in that I want to work at a place where I really enjoy it,'' he said, a view he's uttered many times. ''I want to take care of my family just like everyone else does. I want to work with people that are fun to be around. I'm just fortunate that I have that at VCU.''

The school's administration would say the same of Smart, whose record is a glistening 111-36.

On the weekend the Rams played in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2011, the school had 11 million visitors to its web page, VCU President Michael Rao said, noting that he was talking about the university web page, not the athletic site. By 2012, VCU received almost 1,700 more applications than it had in 2010.

A conservative estimate of the exposure value of the Rams' stunning Final Four run, Rao said, is $15 million to the university. The team's success continues to pay huge dividends.

Ten years ago the Rams never appeared on national television, according to athletic director Ed McLaughlin. This past season, when they climbed into the Top 25 for the first time in nearly 30 years and led the nation in steals, they had 21 national TV appearances.

''You can't pay for that type of advertising,'' McLaughlin said.

Yet there is a price to pay. VCU has reworked Smart's contracts after each season, likely helping to stave off interest in Smart from North Carolina State, Illinois and other BCS conference schools that came calling.

Retention of Smart became paramount to making a statement about VCU, Rao said, particularly after their relentless style produced the five victories that made them the top story of the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Rao had arrived on campus just two years earlier.

''It became clear to me that it was time for VCU to stop being a stepping stone for people like Anthony Grant and his predecessor with Shaka,'' Rao said Wednesday. Grant became the coach of Alabama after replacing Jeff Capel, who left for the Oklahoma job.

''I wanted this to become a destination,'' the VCU president said.

In four years, Smart's salary has jumped from $350,000 to $1.5 million, and the school has already raised about two-thirds of what it needs to build a practice facility with a price tag near $15 million.

In an academic community, Rao said, there are other ways he can think of to spend the kind of money they are paying Smart, but none that bring the return on investment the school and athletic programs get in return for success on the court.

''I've never spent more money at an institution and gotten more thank yous for it,'' Rao said.

Those thank yous also come in the form of donations from alumni and boosters that feed academic initiatives and other programs, he said, much like football is credited with doing at other schools.

Smart, meanwhile, is learning of the issues that arise as a program maintains a certain level of success, the kind that has seen the Rams finish in the top 40 of the RPI ratings two years running.

On the plus side, there's players like Terrance Shannon, who finished his degree work at Florida State this year and opted to transfer to VCU, where he can play right away while doing graduate work.

On the down side, finding teams willing to play a home-and-home series has become the challenge Gonzaga coach Mark Few promised Smart it would be if the Rams continued their winning ways. Smart wants VCU to become one of those programs - like Gonzaga and Butler - with winning reputations larger than their conferences suggest.

Few ''told me scheduling is the last thing to come around, and to be honest with you, that's something that we've really struggled with,'' Smart said, particularly since he and McLaughlin feel like the Rams have elevated their profile enough so teams should be willing to play on the Rams' floor, too.

''I'm not saying they're afraid,'' Smart said. ''They just won't play.''

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

June 27, 2013

Associated Press

 

Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather and Saul "Canelo'' Alvarez stared each other down for nearly a minute and the cheers from the fans packed into Times Square grew louder by the second.

This is the matchup they've been waiting to see: Four belts, two undefeated fan favorites - and a title fight simply billed as "The One.''

"Canelo, I appreciate you for taking the fight,'' Mayweather said on a steamy Monday in the heart of Manhattan in front of a few thousand fans standing behind metal barriers or sitting in temporary bleachers with Broadway marquees serving as a colorful backdrop.

"Now,'' Mayweather said, "let's give the fans what they want to see.''

The fighters kicked off an 11-city tour to officially announce and promote their title fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 14. The promotional tour includes stops in cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami and Mexico City, and is jumpstarting the hype ahead of one of boxing's most anticipated bouts in recent memory.

Mayweather, 36, is unbeaten in 44 fights with the last a unanimous 12-round decision over Robert Guerrero on May 4 in defense of his 147-pound title.

"The Earth is my turf,'' Mayweather said. "You can put me in any ring and I will always come out victorious.''

Alvarez, a 22-year-old star from Mexico, is 42-0-1 and unified the 154-pound titles in April with a unanimous victory over Austin Trout on April 20.

"In the sport of boxing, it's everybody's time, and this is my time,'' Alvarez said through a translator as fans chanted "Mex-i-co!''

"I'm going to win.''

The 12-round fight will be contested at 152 pounds with both men's super welterweight/junior middleweight titles on the line - Mayweather's WBA super welterweight "super'' championship, and Alvarez's WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine super welterweight championships.

The bout, expected to be a monstrous draw on pay-per-view for Showtime, also just might satisfy many fans who had been wishing during the last several years for Mayweather to take on Manny Pacquiao.

"In every sport, there are certain rare occasions when you have the best fighting the best,'' said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. "The Super Bowl, Final Four, the college football national championship. Sept. 14 will be one of those occasions - the two biggest stars in the sport, the two biggest fan bases.

"We have America's No. 1 fighter versus Mexico's No. 1 fighter. We have the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport versus the No. 1 new star in the sport.''

There remains some dispute over who set the 152-pound catch weight, with Mayweather's camp saying Alvarez's people brought it up first. Alvarez, however, insisted it was Mayweather who decided on having both fight at 152 pounds instead of 154.

"It wasn't me,'' Alvarez told reporters before the news conference. "I don't want to fight 2 pounds below my weight class.''

There was also some contention between the two because Alvarez chose to headline his own fight card against Trout rather than be included on the undercard of Mayweather-Guerrero card. But both fighters agreed that this is a matchup that needed to happen.

"I've visualized this fight for years,'' Alvarez said, "and I feel I'm going to win.''

The fighters each announced on Twitter last month that they would face each other, exciting boxing fans around the world. Monday's event marked perhaps the sport's most ambitious promotional tour since Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya also stopped in 11 cities before their 2007 bout - won by Mayweather. Alvarez has been picking De La Hoya's brain about fighting Mayweather, and the former champion believes the young star has a few advantages - including youth - he didn't have.

"I used reckless pressure and he's going to use smart pressure,'' De La Hoya said. "That's what going to be the difference. ... And I have three letters for (Alvarez): jab.''

Each fighter took a stroll down a makeshift red carpet leading to the dais with pops of confetti marking their entrances. Mayweather received a noticeable amount of boos with the crowd appearing to slightly favor Alvarez.

One fan, though, got Mayweather to crack up when he held up a Chucky doll from the "Child's Play'' movie franchise, taking a clear shot at Alvarez's hair color.

The two took their seats after their stare-down - Mayweather next to Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO Mayweather Promotions, and Alvarez next to De la Hoya, the president of Golden Boy Promotions. It was a mostly tame news conference with the banter between sides at a minimum.

Before the news conference, Mayweather talked about shooting a commercial with the Spanish-speaking Alvarez and someone asked why he isn't doing his usual trash talking with his opponent.

"He wouldn't understand me anyway,'' Mayweather said, laughing.

It is the second in Mayweather's six-bout, 30-month contract with Showtime that could pay him more than $200 million. After Mayweather beat Guerrero, he said he wanted to fight again in September - marking the first time since 2007 he will be in the ring twice in a calendar year.

"I said I was going to be very active so I could stay sharp and be at the top of my game,'' Mayweather said.

Mayweather showed little rust while dominating Guerrero by using superior defensive skills in his first ring appearance since serving a jail term for assaulting the mother of his children.

Alvarez is a confident and rapidly rising fighter who should provide a huge test for Mayweather. Alvarez was dominant against the previously unbeaten Trout, showing up some fans and media who speculated that perhaps he wasn't ready to face such an experienced opponent.

"To be the best,'' Alvarez said when asked before the news conference what his motivation is to fight Mayweather now. "(I want) to go down in history as the guy who beat the guy people consider the best.''

When the news conference was over, both fighters got up and stared each other down one more time. And again, the crowd went wild.

"It's always been one of my ultimate goals to get to the pinnacle of the sport and push myself to the limit by facing the best,'' Mayweather said. "He's a young champion. What else can I say?''

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

June 20, 2013

By Jason Lewis

LAWT Sports Editor

 

Over 100 local children were treated to a visit from Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, St. Bernard High School alumni Joselio Hanson of the Oakland Raiders and Donald Penn of the Tampa Bay Bucs, as Penn returned to Playa Del Rey to host his annual football camp. 

Last year St. Bernard  was forced to suspend its varsity football team for a season because of financial reasons, but the program will resume play this year under Head Coach John Bibb  who was extremely appreciative of Penn's support.

“For alumni to come back, especially with what St. Bernard has been through, and what a lot of schools are going through, to come back for a free football camp, to do that for young kids to teenagers, even kids who are transitioning to college next year, that’s what life is all about,” Bibb said. 

After graduating from St. Bernard, Penn played football at Utah State, and he is now a Pro Bowl left tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Penn puts on this camp as a way to give back to his community. 

“The camp was remarkable,” Bibb said. “It was an outstanding thing for the community and the boys.  That pigskin brings together a lot of things that inner city kids need, outer city kids need, youth as a whole need. Discipline and teamwork.”

Many children do not have the opportunity to be coached by NFL players, especially because of the cost of many camps. 

“This day and age the economy is rough,” Bibb said.  “So I want to emphasize that this camp was free.  There are camps from here to Alabama to Texas, and locally at UCLA and USC.  Camps have to get the money to run the camps. They have to pay for the coaches, and to pay for the facilities.  One thing Donald Penn did was give this to us for free.”

Even though the camp was given at no cost, they still gave quality coaching to the kids on hand.

“We go hard or we go home,” Bibb said. “That’s one of our mottos here at St.  Bernard.  But we weren’t stressing pushing the kids, but learning the techniques and the fundamentals. They were being coached by players who played the game for five to ten years.  So they were really getting hand on coaching.  And it was good for them to hear something coming from another person besides myself.  I like to scream and fuss a little bit, but it’s good to hear from a guy that you see on Sundays.  A guy that you see on Saturdays. You know, college guys and NFL guys.  To hear the different terminology coming from a player with a lot of experience.”

Penn is doing a great thing for kids that are in a similar position that he was when he was a teenager, and he is an asset to the black community.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

Page 16 of 41