August 22, 2013

By W.G. RAMIREZ

Associated Press

 

Chris Paul has already seemingly done the impossible by turning the long-languishing Los Angeles Clippers into a force in the Western Conference. Now he’s taken on another big task — rebuilding the reeling NBA players’ association.

Paul was elected president of the players’ union Wednesday, replacing Derek Fisher and giving an organization cloaked in turmoil some much-needed star power at the top.

The vote by NBA player representatives came six months after the union fired Billy Hunter as executive director, a position that remains vacant and follows about 18 months of in-fighting and drama that occurred during the negotiations for the latest collective bargaining agreement. Hunter countered with a wrongful-termination lawsuit in May, accusing Fisher of conspiring with NBA officials during the 2011 lockout.

“It’s not about me as president or the first vice president, it’s about the players as a whole,” Paul said in a conference call Wednesday night.

One of Paul’s greatest gifts on the court is an ability to get everyone involved and make his teammates better. Now he'll try to do the same thing with the union. After the lockout ended and the lawsuits started to take hold, there was a feeling among many players and observers that putting a big name in the big chair would help galvanize the group and get star players interested in participating again.

That once was commonplace, with marquee players Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Alex English and Isiah Thomas all serving as union presidents. But Paul, a six-time All-Star who is widely regarded as the best point guard in the league, is the first big star to hold the top spot since Patrick Ewing’s run ended in 2001. Role players Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Fisher, who had been in charge since 2006, followed Ewing.

“That wasn’t a requirement, but I think it gives us a little more oomph, I guess, having somebody like him wanting to step up and take on that role,” Charlotte Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver said in a phone interview. “It means a lot.”

Paul served as a vice president for the last four years, so he has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the union, and the trouble that engulfed it recently.

“It was something I saw as a challenge, something I knew I’d be able to handle,” Paul said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity, a lot of responsibility comes with this position but I'm very fortunate to have an outstanding of committee guys. The past couple of days have been outstanding, the dialogue we’ve had as an executive committee also with the players that have come in town, it was amazing.”

The decision to appoint a new executive director to replace Hunter will come at a later date.

“We definitely discussed (hiring an executive director), but there’s no rush,” Paul said. “For us, it’s all about getting our house in order and making sure that everything moves right in that direction.”

In meetings at the Venetian Hotel, Roger Mason Jr. was elected first vice president. He replaced Jerry Stackhouse, who resigned from the office and is expected to take a position within the union.

There are several issues that the league has been waiting to discuss with the union while they searched for new leadership, most notably the possible implementation of testing for HGH. Commissioner David Stern, who is retiring in February and handing the reins over to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, has said multiple times this summer that testing for HGH was a priority.

“Chris is an All-Star player and person and we look forward to working with him,” Silver said in a statement.

Tolliver, who has long been one of the most devoted player representatives in the league, and Steve Blake were elected vice presidents, filling the executive committee positions vacated by Paul and Mason.

“This is not a position that’s about me or one person,” Paul said. “It’s about the collective group and the players and I think from my experience ... it’s about growing the game and expanding our brand and continue to get our players involved as we can and make sure our voice is heard. The guys here just understand it's our union, there’s no one person that is bigger than the group.”

Paul said the union needed a “rebuild,” and he was looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Tolliver agreed, saying it was time for a “fresh start” after a messy time in the union’s history.

“We want to make sure that nothing remotely close that has gone on in the union in the past 12 months or so will ever happen again,” Tolliver said. “It’s a huge job. It’s a huge responsibility. I’m glad to be a part of that.”

Paul’s ascension could pave the way for more involvement from the biggest names in the game. LeBron James considered running for the job before deciding against it, and Paul is an All-NBA first team player who has been tight with James for years.

“Since I’ve been in the NBA the superstars have come to a few meetings here and there, every once in a while, but not very often,” Tolliver said. “The fact that (James) even considered doing that lets me know that he’s going to be more involved in the future. ... Especially him being the face of our game, we want to have him involved as much as possible. Not only him, we want all the guys that carry our brand to be a part of this.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 22, 2013

 

By GREG BEACHAM

 

AP Sports Writer

 

 

 

Marqise Lee can't believe Southern California wrapped up training camp Wednesday without choosing a starting quarterback.

 

''This is crazy,'' the Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver said.

 

Yet when asked to make the call between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek himself, even Lee acknowledges the difficulty of the decision facing coach Lane Kiffin.

 

''It's 50-50,'' Lee said, grinning. ''I know y'all don't want to hear 50-50, but that's all I've got.''

 

Kiffin still hasn't decided between Kessler and Wittek after the 24th-ranked Trojans' final scrimmage at the Coliseum. Not much has separated the two passers hoping to succeed Matt Barkley over the past three weeks, and Kiffin hasn't ruled out using both quarterbacks in games.

 

''We would like to have had it done a long time ago, but it's not,'' Kiffin said. ''Off of just watching today, prior to going to the film, I don't know that today cleared it up much more. Both guys did some good things.''

 

Yet neither quarterback did enough to secure the starting spot, leaving Lee unsure who will be throwing passes to him when the Trojans open their season at Hawaii next Thursday. Lee chuckled with disbelief at the idea USC doesn't have a clear-cut starter.

 

''I'm still waiting,'' Lee said. ''I don't know when Coach Kiffin is going to actually decide. Hope it's by Friday, because that's when we start our (preparation), but at the end of the day, I guess I'm going to be rolling with both until he decides.''

 

While Wittek started the Trojans' final two games last season, losing to Notre Dame and to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, Kessler has seemed to be a bit sharper than Wittek in spring ball and summer workouts. They're got roughly the same number of snaps in camp, particularly after freshman Max Browne was eliminated from first-team competition earlier in camp.

 

''I'm sitting here just like you guys - lost,'' Lee said. ''I'm going to continue to get work with both. If it's not (decided) Friday, I'm going to continue to work with both until Kiffin decides. Even if he does decide, I'm going to work with both.''

 

Kessler started both halves of the no-tackling scrimmage with the first team offense. He threw two interceptions on deflected balls, but also made the game's best throw on a picture-perfect, 55-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor, the new starter in Robert Woods' spot opposite Lee.

 

''I have no idea,'' Kessler said of the decision. ''I would like to say me, obviously, or I'd even like to say him, but that's up to Coach Kiffin. ... I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and this is what I've been working toward. Being the starter is part of the goal, but it's not the main goal. My main goal is for this team to win as many games as possible.''

 

Kessler has countered Wittek's powerful arm and experience with superior mobility and decision-making, but Wittek's big-play capability and improving accuracy always has the coaches' attention.

 

''It's only human nature to want to be as high on the depth chart as possible,'' Wittek said. ''No matter what happens, I'm going to continue to work, continue to compete. We've both taken the approach to every practice to look at it as our team.''

 

Kiffin's reluctance to make a strong commitment to either quarterback suggests the competition's winner could get a quick hook if he struggles, a possibility Kiffin hasn't denied.

 

Kiffin doesn't appear to be gaming future opponents by delaying his choice. He embraces USC's tradition of big-name quarterbacks after coaching Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty during his previous tenure at the school as Pete Carroll's assistant.

 

''Ideally, we do want to have one quarterback for the starter for the opening game,'' Kiffin said. ''We're not really a two-system-quarterback program, but at the same time we've got to make sure we find the right guy. So I would not rule out anything, but that's the same thing I've said for three weeks.''

 

The scrimmage underlined the Trojans' need for more work, but Kiffin cautioned against drawing any conclusions from a 121-play workout featuring the first team against the scout team. Agholor had nine catches for 250 yards and three TDs.

 

Lee was pulled from the scrimmage early after falling hard on his right shoulder, which kept him out of four days of practice earlier this month. The star junior said he was fine, and would have stayed in a real game.

 

Before heading off to watch film with both quarterbacks, Lee acknowledged he hopes Kiffin decided on a starter before Friday's practice - but won't be surprised if he's waiting a bit longer.

 

''I've just got to get used to their styles,'' Lee said. ''They don't have that much different styles, but as far as catching the ball, I've just got to make sure I'm on the same page.''

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 15, 2013

(AP) — Manny Ramirez is a free agent again after the Texas Rangers released him from his minor league contract.

The Rangers released Ramirez on Tuesday, just more than five weeks after he started playing for Triple-A Round Rock.

“Based on our evaluation, there was not a spot for Manny on the club at this time,” Rangers general Jon Daniels said. “We released him so he could pursue other opportunities if he so chooses.”

The 41-year-old Ramirez hit .259 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 30 games for Triple-A Round Rock. All of his homers came in the first eight games.

Ramirez never played for the AL West leaders, even after All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz was suspended last week by Major League Baseball for the final 50 games of the season. They have since acquired right fielder Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox.

A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez is a .312 career hitter and is 14th on the career home runs list with 555. He started out this season playing in Taiwan, where he hit .352 with eight homers and 43 RBIs.

Ramirez was suspended for 50 games in 2009 while with the Los Angeles Dodgers after testing positive for a banned drug. He retired in April 2011 instead of serving a 100-game ban for a second positive test while with Tampa Bay, but later agreed to a reduced 50-game suspension and played in the minors for Oakland in 2012. He won two World Series with Boston.

Ramirez hit 17 homers in the final 53 games of 2008 after being traded from Boston to Los Angeles, but he has just 28 since then because of injuries and the suspensions. He was 1 for 17 without a homer with Tampa when the second drug suspension hit two years ago.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 15, 2013

By RALPH D. RUSSO

AP College Football Writer

 

The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference are following the NCAA’s lead and will no longer allow EA Sports to use league logos in its college football video games.

The NCAA announced last month it will no longer allow Electronic Arts Inc. to use its logo starting next year. The move comes as the NCAA fights a high-profile lawsuit that says the governing body owes millions of dollars to former players for allowing their likenesses to be used for free.

ESPN first reported the SEC would end its licensing agreement with EA, and a spokesman confirmed that to the AP Wednesday.

Spokesmen for the Big Ten and Pac-12 say their conferences also will not renew agreements with EA.

The conference contracts do not cover individual schools, which can sign their own licensing deals. That would allow EA to have games depicting top-level football programs, such as Alabama from the SEC, Ohio State from the Big Ten and Oregon from the Pac-12. The games would not be able to make any mention of their conferences.

Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said in an email to the AP that “there is no change in status for the Big 12 Conference at this time.”

Spokespeople for Con­ference USA, the American Athletic Con­ference, Moun­tain West Conference and Sun Belt gave similar statements, saying their leagues will be evaluating the situation.

The commissioners of the other FBS conferences — Atlantic Coast Con­ference and Mid-American Conference — were not immediately available and it was unclear whether their leagues would follow the growing trend.

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff among 16 former college athletes in the long-running legal battle that could fundamentally alter how the NCAA operates.

Basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson previously joined the lawsuit that also names EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company. Five current college football players were added to the lawsuit last month, including Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garn­ham, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson and Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer.

Also, EA is being sued by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller over the use of his likeness in video games.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 15, 2013

(AP) – The Montreal Alouettes signed quarterback Troy Smith to a two-year deal Wednesday.

The 29-year-old Smith won the Heisman Trophy with Ohio State in 2006, leading the Buckeyes to a spot in the BCS national championship game. Smith spent three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, and was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. He played for Omaha in the UFL in 2011.

“We’ve been in discussions for well over three months and have been patiently waiting for Troy to finish his commitments at Ohio State,” Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said. “We’ll have to fast track Troy in order to get him over the learning curve of the CFL and caught up to speed over the next several weeks.

“He’s here to learn and grasp the game for future competition.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

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