July 18, 2013


Associated Press


KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) —Jamaica’s leader on Tuesday called for the sprinting powerhouse's athletes to be far more vigilant about any supplements they take in the wake of revelations that two of the island's marquee sprinters and three others tested positive for banned substances at a meet last month.

In a Tuesday speech in Jamaica’s Parliament, Prime Mini­ster Portia Simpson Miller stressed that the sprinting powerhouse stands by its athletes but “as a country we reiterate the importance of integrity in sports, fair play and the maintenance of a doping-free sporting environment.”

Former 100-meter world-record holder Asafa Powell and Olympic medalist Sherone Simpson tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at the island’s national championships in June. Their agent, Paul Doyle, who told The Associated Press about the two track stars’ positive “A” tests on Sunday, says he suspects that their newly hired trainer might have given them supplements laced with a banned substance.

Italian police confiscated unidentified substances in a Monday raid on the hotel where the two sprinters and the physical trainer Christopher Xuereb were staying and preparing for a meet in the northeast town of Lignano Sabbiadoro. They were formally placed under criminal investigation for allegedly violating Italy’s doping laws.

National discus champ Allison Randall and two other athletes also tested positive for a banned substance at the same June meet in Jamaica.

So far, only one of the five athletes has requested testing of backup samples, Simpson Miller said. They have until Friday to make this request.

The five doping positives come a month after another revered Olympic champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, tested positive for a banned diuretic. Like the others, she expressed shock at the test results and says she is determined to clear her name.

The blow of all the recent allegations has staggered many people in Jamaica, where global domination in sprinting is a huge source of national pride. Some have criticized the prime minister for not addressing the matter publicly earlier.

On Tuesday, Simpson Miller said Jamaican athletes “need to be far more vigilant,” saying the “issue of supplement is one that we implore our athletes to be careful about.” The government intends to start high school-level doping test after consultation with parents, education officials and others, she said.

The local anti-doping commission has conducted 86 doping tests since 2009, including 504 in-competition tests, according to the prime minister. She said there have been 16 adverse findings among Jamaican athletes over that time.

She asserted Jamaica’s anti-doping commission had a rigorous program, noting that the recent positive tests were all found by the Jamaican agency.

Many islanders appear willing to give the athletes who delivered the positive tests the benefit of the doubt.

In a central Kingston square, office assistant Dawn Richards said she was waiting for more facts. But she said the swirling allegations were giving her a “very uneasy feeling.”

“They are saying they don’t know how this drug got in their systems so I think we have to believe them right now. I really hope what they're saying is true,” she said by a corner taxi stand.

Track fan Richard Morgan said Powell’s positive test in particular would be a “real shame” if it was intentional since he was the athlete who put the tropical island on center stage in the 21st century.

The soft-spoken Powell has been a major local hero since 2005 when he broke the world record in the 100 meters by sprinting the distance in 9.77 seconds — shaving one hundredth of a second off the previous record. Since then, he’s always showed promise to take a global title before disappointing at the event itself. He’s struggled with a groin injury for years.

But Olivia Grange, the opposition’s sports spokeswoman, called on Jamaica not to lost faith in their athletes, asserting that people should not jump to conclusions since “there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.”

But Karl Samuda, another opposition lawmaker, said the island’s brand has been rocked by news of the positive tests. “That certain knowledge that we are the best has been damaged,” he said Tuesday in Jamaica’s Parliament.

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July 18, 2013

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) —The Los Angeles Lakers have signed free agent guard Jordan Farmar, who returns to the team that drafted him in 2006 and that he helped win back-to-back NBA titles.

Farmar played last season in Turkey, where he averaged 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists for Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the Euroleague.

Farmer spent his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers, averaging 6.9 points and 2.1 assists during 301 career games. He was part of their 2009 and 2010 NBA title teams. He was taken as the 26th overall pick out of UCLA.

Farmer, a Los Angeles native, played two seasons with the now-Brooklyn Nets after leaving the Lakers.

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July 11, 2013


AP Basketball Writer


Just about every NBA team would like Dwight Howard.

Only the Houston Rockets could get him, and on Wednesday a couple of his other suitors announced their backup plans - while one lost out on another big target.

Paul Millsap is headed to Atlanta. The Golden State Warriors acquired Andre Iguodala. But the Dallas Mavericks missed out on another center when Andrew Bynum agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Los Angeles Clippers never had to look beyond their top target, with Chris Paul committing to stay on the first day of free agency. They also added Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to a team that won the Pacific Division last season, surpassing the Lakers as the best team in Los Angeles.

“We’re loaded at every position,” said Matt Barnes, who re-signed with the Clippers. “Who doesn’t want to play with Chris? He’s arguably the best point guard in the game. It just shows this organization has come a long way. They’re making the right moves.”

It’s hard to see anything changing in Los Angeles next season after Howard passed on re-signing with the Lakers and instead opted for the Rockets in a deal that still hadn’t become official as of Wednesday night.

That was the first day transactions could be completed and contacts signed following the completion of the NBA’s moratorium period. The Rockets couldn't wait to talk about their All-Star center, getting fined $150,000 by the league on Tuesday for premature comments about Howard on TV and in social media.

The rest of the league waited until rules allowed Wednesday.

The Clippers held a press conference for Paul, the three new players and the re-signed Barnes and Ryan Hollins on what Paul called “one of the biggest days in franchise history.”

While they were celebrating, Bynum was meeting with Dallas, another team that wanted Howard. But he went with a previous two-year offer from the Cavs, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet announced.

Bynum was part of the four-team trade that sent Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles last summer, but never played a game for Philadelphia because of knee problems.

Charlotte got bigger by adding Utah center Al Jefferson, while his former Jazz teammate Millsap is also bound for the Southeast Division with the Hawks.

Atlanta missed out on Howard, and forward Josh Smith left for a $54 million, four-year deal with Detroit, but the Hawks bounced back by giving Millsap a two-year, $19 million contract.

“We’ve been following Paul for a year, hoping for the opportunity to have him on our team,” general manager Danny Ferry said. “His competitiveness, night in and night out, is unique. He’s not like most players.”

The Jazz also got involved in the deal that landed Iguodala with the Warriors, who gave him a four-year, $48 million deal last week. Golden State cleared more than $24 million by sending Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush to the Jazz along with four draft picks and cash. Denver received guard Randy Foye from the Jazz.

Chris Andersen signed a $1.7 million, one-year deal to stay with the Miami Heat, who will have to hold off some stronger challengers next season in the Eastern Conference. Indiana re-signed power forward David West and added C.J. Watson as a backup point guard, while the Chicago Bulls improved their outside shooting by signing Mike Dunleavy.

The New York Knicks hope they did, too, with the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani. However, the former No. 1 overall pick from Italy struggled during an injury-plagued 2012-13 season for the Toronto Raptors, who shipped him to New York for Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby and three future draft picks.

The NBA’s other big deal of the offseason, the trade sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston to Brooklyn, will be completed Friday. The Nets could pay more than $70 million in taxes in the first season of the NBA’s harsher penalties for teams who exceed the limit.

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July 18, 2013


AP Sports Writer


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons had been waiting a while for this offseason - and it showed.

The Pistons have finally been able to give their roster a significant makeover, adding Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Italian star Luigi Datome. It remains to be seen how much the team will improve, but for the first time in a while, there's a bit of a buzz surrounding this struggling franchise.

After four straight seasons without a playoff berth, Detroit entered the offseason with plenty of space under the salary cap. Dumars, the general manager, said this week he's accomplished what he wanted to via free agency.

''The only thing left now is trade possibilities, and that door will continue to be open,'' he said.

Detroit's rebuilding process has been slow. First, Tom Gores became the team's new owner in 2011 following a drawn-out sale that added to the sense of gloom hanging over the team. Over the next couple years, the Pistons parted ways with Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, giving themselves flexibility they would put to use in 2013.

Smith is the key free agent addition. The 6-foot-9 forward joins a front line that already includes promising big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

''We spent a lot of time preparing for this offseason,'' Gores said. ''Our folks put the pieces in place to make some important moves that will make this team more competitive immediately, while at the same time nurturing our nucleus of young talent.''

Detroit hired Maurice Cheeks as its new coach in June, but when the Pistons drafted guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope later that month, passing on local favorite Trey Burke of Michigan, it looked like they would again struggle to win back the support of an increasingly apathetic fan base.

The free agent moves have added some much-needed intrigue to the coming season.

The popular Billups was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals with the Pistons. He was traded four years later, and bringing him back as a free agent gives the team a veteran who may be able to help mentor young guard Brandon Knight.

''Obviously, the team and the organization have kind of struggled for a few years. It's not what it used to be when I was here, and I just want to be a part of bringing it back to respectability,'' Billups said. ''I think we've got some really good young players on the team.''

The 25-year-old Datome, meanwhile, is a bit of an unknown commodity. The 6-foot-7 forward could give Detroit some quality outside shooting if he can adjust after arriving from Europe.

''I'm curious to see how I can fit in the NBA game. For sure, it looks more athletic, more physical,'' he said. ''I know that maybe I will need some time to adapt myself and my game for the NBA game, but I know that I have veteran players who can help.''

Dumars remained open to the possibility of more changes, but the roster that starts the season may look similar to what's already been assembled. Dumars said the team didn't use its amnesty waiver on forward Charlie Villanueva because Detroit didn't need more cap space. Dumars also said Villanueva's skill set - he's a 6-foot-11 forward who made 90 shots from 3-point range last season - could still be of use to the Pistons.

''I'm really comfortable now with this roster,'' Dumars said. ''But as I was saying a little while ago, you can't shut the door now and say, 'OK, we're done.' It's the middle of July right now.''

There is still plenty of room for improvement, but as promised, the Pistons have been busy this offseason. They couldn't afford to wait any longer.

''We're on our way to fulfilling our promise to revitalize this franchise and make the Pistons competitive again,'' Gores said. ''We're not finished yet, and we still need to prove it on the floor. But I'm pleased with the moves we've made so far. Joe Dumars and the basketball operations team have put a lot of pieces in place to move this team forward.''

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July 11, 2013

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant is working hard to get back on the court and not wasting any time thinking about Dwight Howard.

Bryant said Wednesday his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon is ''progressing faster than anybody expected,'' though he won't start shooting again until next month.

''I could shoot right now, but you just don't trust that the tendon's holding yet,'' the Lakers' All-Star guard said. ''Typically it's four months minimum until the tendon's holding and it's not going to overstretch.''

Bryant spoke at a brief press conference at the start of his annual youth basketball camp at UC Santa Barbara. He said he will be on the court with the campers and walk through some drills.

"I'm not going to be able to go out there and do too much without the Lakers having a heart attack,'' he said.

Last week, he joined the Lakers in their meeting with Howard, who eventually chose Houston instead of re-signing in Los Angeles.

Bryant said he doesn't know why Howard left.

''You think once a guy decides to go someplace else I'm going to waste my time trying to figure out why that happened?'' Bryant said.

Bryant created a stir shortly after Howard's decision when he stopped following the center on Twitter.

''It's just me. It's just how I am,'' Bryant said. ''I have a hard time following people that, you know, want to beat us. I have a hard time doing that. Not to say we're not friends, I don't respect him. It's just hard for me to do that.''

Bryant and Steve Nash sat in on a meeting with Howard and Lakers executives three days before the center decided to leave the team. Nash took Howard's rejection harder than he did, Bryant said.

''Steve's like a quintessential teammate. Steve takes that stuff to heart. I didn't really care,'' Bryant said.

Bryant implied that Howard was not a good fit with the Lakers, who offered a contract worth about $30 million more than Houston.

''Everybody's cut differently,'' he said. ''He has his way of leading that he feels like will be most effective and work for him. Obviously, the way we've gone about it with this organization, the leaders we've had - myself, Magic (Johnson) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) - we've done it a different way.''

Of the Lakers' struggles during the past season, Bryant said, ''It was a lot of moving pieces going around, a lot of things that happened.''

He repeated a word Nash had used to characterize it.

''Nightmare's a pretty good description,'' Bryant said of a season that ended with a first-round sweep against San Antonio after his late-season injury.

The Lakers recently agreed to a deal with veteran center Chris Kaman. Bryant said the team needs ''a couple guys with length and the ability to cover ground at the defensive end of the floor.''

Asked if he might be writing off the 2013-14 season, looking ahead to next year when the free-agent market and the draft will be more favorable to rebuild the team, Bryant responded sarcastically

''Fold the tent. White-flag it. We have no shot,'' he said. ''Come on, guys. Jeez.''

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