August 21, 2014

 

Associated Press

  

 

There’s something stunning happening on Michael Vick’s head.

 

You can’t see them from far away, but up close, tiny gray hairs are starting to emerge — color-sapped reminders that the New York Jets quarterback is no longer the speedy youngster fresh out of Virginia Tech.

 

He turned 34 in June, making him “old” in today’s NFL. During minicamp in June, Vick even had a young fullback address him as “sir” in the huddle.

 

“That baffled me a little bit,” Vick said at the time with a chuckle. “I’m not that old and I have to reiterate that over and over again.”

 

But in the time-warped world of professional sports, anything past 30 opens conversations about players being past their prime. If you get to 35, well, then the geriatric jokes start flying.

 

Rocking chairs and walking canes. “Grandpa” and “Graybeard.”

 

“I think so much of it’s a mindset,” said 35-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “If I tell myself I am 25, I’m 25 and that’s honest to God. That’s my mindset. I can play for another 10 years. That would be my goal, but I’m taking it one year at a time. There’s no reason why I couldn't do that.”

 

He would be a rarity in the NFL, where the average age ranges between 25 and 27. The lifespan of most careers in the league lasts somewhere between 3 1/2 and almost seven years, meaning retirement comes at an age when people in most other professional fields are just getting started.

 

For several players, though, age is an opponent to defy.

 

The Colts’ 41-year-old Adam Vinatieri is the NFL’s oldest active player. While he might not have the leg he did while leading the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles and another with Indianapolis as “Automatic Adam,” he’s still one of the league’s most reliable kickers.

 

“As long as my body’s feeling healthy, I can’t see why I can’t continue to play,” Vinatieri said when he re-signed with the Colts for two years in March.

 

It's likely no one will ever get close to George Blanda, who was still kicking at 48 for the Raiders in 1975. But there are plenty of other kickers and punters who are nearly right there with Vinatieri.

 

San Francisco’s Phil Dawson (39), Atlanta’s Matt Bryant (39), Arizona’s Jay Feely (38), Buffalo’s Brian Moorman (38), Houston’s Shane Lechler (37) and Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski (36) are among those booting away Father Time.

 

There are plenty of other big-time stars at the so-called “skill” positions who are also still thriving. Just look at Denver’s Peyton Manning (38) and New England’s Tom Brady (37), who are still setting passing records, along with Brees, nearly every season.

 

“Peyton Manning was what, 37 years old last year and arguably (had) his best year in his career,” Brees said. “Brett Favre arguably had his best year of his career when he was 40. There have been perfect examples of the near history that prove that you can continue to play at a very, very high level. I think there are lots of things that go into that.”

 

Preparation, training, strict diets and consistent sleep habits are among them.

 

“I look forward to driving over here every day,” Manning said. “I think as soon as you go, ‘Golly, I do not want to go over there today,’ that’s when you’ve got to get out.”

 

Even at positions that require top-notch speed, some veterans are competing with the youngsters. Washington’s Santana Moss is 35 and still a valuable part of the Redskins’ offense.

 

“I still can play,” said Moss, entering his 14th NFL season. “I told myself I’m not going to count myself out. I’m going to go as long as I can go. I didn’t have this dream as a kid to say, ‘OK, one day I’m going to put it up.’ I’m going to go until I can’t go no more.”

 

Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith knows the feeling. He’s also 35 and feels rejuvenated after spending his first 13 seasons in Carolina.

 

Some defensive backs, such as Charles Woodson (37), Champ Bailey (36), Terrence Newman (35), Adrian Wilson (34), Ike Taylor (34) and Ryan Clark (34) could all be going up against some players 12-15 years younger than them this season.

 

When you last as long as a guy such as Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who’s 33 and in his 12th season, coaches come and go, and so do teammates. It’s a strange experience, especially when you’re the only one still there.

 

“There’s new guys coming in filling up those numbers and those lockers,” Briggs said. “That’s life. That’s the way it is. It’s business.”

 

Experience, though, is important to helping a winning franchise. Woodson says it only takes looking at the NBA’s champion San Antonio Spurs to know that veteran leadership is key, along with strong play.

 

“I look at the NFL, every team wants to get younger,” said Woodson, entering his 17th season. “They push a lot of the older guys out, guys who can still play the game. I don’t think there’s any question that it’s undervalued. ... Our best days are not behind us just because other people say our best days are behind us.

 

“We’re going out there to play good football and win games, and that's what we intend to do.”

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August 14, 2014

 

Associated Press

 

Steve Ballmer officially became the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday August 12.

 

The team said the sale closed after a California court confirmed the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the franchise to the former Microsoft CEO. Her estranged husband, Donald Sterling, had unsuccessfully fought the sale of the team he owned since 1981 in court.

 

The NBA Board of Governors had previously approved the $2 billion sale.

 

“I am humbled and honored to be the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a statement. “Clipper fans are so amazing. They have remained fiercely loyal to our franchise through some extraordinary times.”

 

Adam Streisand, Ballmer’s attorney, said Tuesday that Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas signed the order authorizing the sale even if Donald Sterling’s attorneys filed an appeal.

 

“We were ready,” Streisand said. “Within minutes, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered.”

 

He said even if Donald Sterling seeks an emergency order directing the judge to vacate his order, the attorney is confident an appellate court would agree that Levanas made the correct decision.

 

Donald Sterling’s attorneys weren't immediately available to comment.

 

The transaction ends Donald Sterling’s run as the longest-tenured owner in the NBA after 33 years. After buying the Clippers in 1981, he moved the franchise from San Diego to Los Angeles three years later.

 

The 80-year-old real estate mogul has been in probate court fighting his wife’s proposed deal to sell. At issue was whether Donald Sterling killed the deal by revoking the trust after his wife removed him as a trustee. Shelly Sterling acted after doctors found Donald had symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

The drama began in April when a recording surfaced of Donald Sterling dressing down his young girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games. The audio spurred the NBA to ban Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.

 

His wife of 58 years then took control of a family trust and negotiated a record $2 billion sale of the team to Ballmer. Shelly Sterling said she was initially given her husband’s blessing to sell the team and he praised the deal she reached.

 

When it came time to sign it at the end of May, however, Sterling said he would not sell and would sue the league.

 

Ballmer said he will be “hardcore” in giving the team, coach Doc Rivers, the staff and players the support they need.

 

Rivers called it “an amazing new day in Clippers history,” and said he’s inspired by Ballmer's passion for the game.

 

Ballmer, Rivers and Clippers players will attend a new fan festival announced for next Monday at Staples Center.

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July 31, 2014

By Kenneth D. Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

The Los Angeles Lakers and former star guard Byron Scott have come full circle after the team agreed to hire the Morningside High School product to become their next coach on a four-year $17 million deal.

 

It took an exhausting three months for the Lakers front office, consisting of owners Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss along with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, to seal the deal last week for Scott to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned following the season.

 

Essentially, it now means that Scott will coach star Kobe Bryant for the length of his two-year $48 million contract that handicapped the Lakers from signing any notable free agents this summer.

 

“He was my rookie mentor when I first came in the league, so I had to do things like get him doughnuts and run errands for him, things like that,” said Bryant, who played just six games last season. “We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years.”

 

Bryant spoke highly of Scott during his recent annual camp in Santa Barbara, figuratively backing both Buss and Kupchak into a corner to make the hire of the former Arizona State star.

 

Since he retired from the NBA as a player he has publically desired of coaching the team he won three championships with.

 

“It feels fantastic,” he told KCBS. “This is a dream come true. I always wanted to coach the Lakers, especially when I got to coaching. It’s so unreal. I have to thank [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak], [owners] Jeanie and Jim Buss [for giving] me this opportunity.”

 

Although he has been the leading candidate and perhaps the only candidate (because the Lakers coaching job grew progressively less attractive as the summer months unfolded), the team front office still had no comment about his hire as of Sunday night.

 

While many believe the Lakers brass wanted to assemble their team before hiring a coach, it was a rather orthodox approach that puzzled most experts.

 

Among the candidates interviewed for the job included ESPN Analyst George Karl, former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, former Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and former Phoenix Suns and Clippers head coach Alvin Gentry. Karl is the only one who did not land a coaching job with another team.

 

Hollins was hired as head coach to replace Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, Rambis landed as a high paid associate head coach with the Knicks on the bench with Derek Fisher and Gentry was named the associate head coach with Golden State.

 

Karl was never the best fit, not having any connection to the franchise, although he did have a fleeting relationship with Bryant.

 

Once the Lakers realized that Scott was their man, one whom the Buss’ late father was fond of as well as one who enjoyed both a connection to the Showtime era and Bryant, then it was just a matter of working out the details of a contract.

 

It is believed that Scott desired a five year deal, but the Lakers only wanted to go two years, they settled in the middle on a four year deal with the team holding the option on the final year.

 

The compensation in the deal for the 13-year coaching veteran is about right where it should be – a shade more than $4 million per season.

 

An original draft pick of the then San Diego Clippers in 1983, Scott played 11 seasons for the Lakers from 1983-’93 and his final tour in 1996-‘97, two with the Indiana Pacers from 1993-’95 and one with the then Vancouver Grizzlies from 1995-’96. He retired from playing after a season in Greece in 1998.

 

His NBA coaching career was launched with Sacramento in 1998-2000. He acquired his first head coaching job with the then New Jersey Nets from 2000-2004, where he led the team to back-to back NBA Finals appearances.

 

He left the Nets and was hired in New Orleans from 2004-2009. Among the players he coached was former UCLA star Baron Davis. Scott was also instrumental in the development of Chris Paul, now a star with the Clippers.

 

Scott’s last stint was with Cleveland from 2010-2013. He was fired and replaced by former Lakers coach Mike Brown, who lasted just one season before he was canned.

 

Off the court, Scott has a non-profit organization, The Byron Scott Children’s Fund, which has raised more than $15 million over the past decade with proceeds going to various children’s charities. Scott has recently served as a studio analyst for Time Warner on the Lakers broadcast, ABC's NBA telecasts and was featured on ESPN.

 

Scott and his wife, Anita, have three children: Thomas, LonDen and DaRon. Thomas is also a coach and trainer and will likely become a member of his coaching staff.

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August 07, 2014

Associated Press

  

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice stepped to the microphone, took a deep breath and spoke for 17 minutes about what he called “the biggest mistake of his life.”

 

His arrest for domestic violence against his then-fiancee last February is something Rice figures will haunt him long after NFL career has ended.

 

The Baltimore Ravens running back was arrested on assault charges following a Feb. 15 altercation in New Jersey in which he allegedly struck Janay Palmer. Rice has been accepted into a diversion program, which upon completion could lead to the charges being dropped.

 

“My actions that night were totally inexcusable,” said Rice, who during Ravens training camp last week spoke publicly for the first time since receiving a two-game suspension from the NFL.

 

“My daughter is 2 years old now. One day she’s going to know the power of Google. Me having to explain that to her, what happened that night, that’s something I have to live with the rest of my life.”

 

Rice was referring to a grainy video in which he is shown dragging Palmer, now his wife, from an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. He did not address the incident at an impromptu news conference in May, and although he refused to divulge details on Thursday, he dismissed the notion that he was provoked.

 

“I don’t want to keep re-living the incident. I’m trying to move forward,” he said. “What happened that night was a huge mistake, and that’s what I’ll keep it at. I don’t condone any of my behavior. I take full responsibility for my actions. My wife can do no wrong.”

 

Rice wore a Ravens polo shirt and a pained expression throughout the session. More than a dozen TV cameras were in place, some telecasting the interview live, and several of his teammates stood behind the throng to show their support.

 

Rice, 27, is the team’s career leader in total scrimmage yards and ranks behind only Jamal Lewis in total yards rushing. But this press conference wasn’t about football.

 

This was about apologizing for actions that he insisted were one of a kind.

 

“It was the first time it ever happened,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem with domestic abuse. This was a one-time incident.”

 

In addition to the two-game suspension, Rice was fined three paychecks totaling more than $500,000. There have been reports that the fine was too light. Rice declined to weigh in on that subject except to say that he would have accepted whatever penalty the NFL deemed fit.

 

“No football games and no money was going to determine what I have to live with the rest of my life. That punishment I received from the NFL, it hurts that I can’t play football,” he said. “I never planned to appeal any kind of punishment. So whether it was two games, four games, six games, eight games, I was going to own my actions and be a man about it and take whatever was given to me.”

 

Rice’s reputation has likely taken a harder hit than he has ever absorbed on the field.

 

“In some people’s eyes, Ray can do no wrong. That’s something I take pride in,” he said. “I know a lot of people out there have lost respect, maybe not like me anymore. But that’s my fault. I have to own that. That’s my battle each day.”

 

Rice also pleaded with his fans to make smart decisions.

 

“I still have kids out there wearing 27 jerseys, and I just want to tell them that please don't make the mistake I did,” he said. “I always talk about one or two bad decisions and your dream can become a nightmare, and I was truly living a nightmare.”

 

Rice’s teammates still support him.

 

“I’ve known Ray for a while. He’s a great guy,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’re all human, we all make mistakes.”

 

Rice realizes how many people were hurt by his actions.

 

“That’s not who I am as a man. That’s not who my mom raised me to be,” he said. “I let her down, I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down, and I got my teammates here to support me, I let my teammates down. I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can’t take back.”

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July 24, 2014

 

LAWT News Service

  

Former pro boxer Exum Speight has been ordered to stand trial for the 1987 murder of his ex-manager, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced today.

 

Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder said Speight (dob 8/1/63) was held to answer late yesterday for one count of murder in case SA085322.

 

Arraignment is scheduled on Aug. 5 in Department F of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Airport Branch.

 

On March 29, 1987, Douglas Stumler, 30, was beaten and killed inside his West Los Angeles apartment unit, the prosecutor said. His body was discovered two days later.

 

Speight was charged with murder on Sept. 24, 2013, after forensic evidence linked him to the killing, the prosecutor added.

 

If convicted as charged, the defendant faces a maximum of life in state prison.

 

His bail remains at $1.2 million.

 

The case has been investigated by the Los Angeles Police Depart­ment, Robbery-Homicide Division.

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