January 17, 2013

By BARRY WILNER  Associated Press

 

It's unanimous, on both sides of the ball.

Vikings 2,000-yard man Adrian Peterson and Texans pass-swatting end J.J. Watt were unanimous choices for The Associated Press All-Pro team announced Saturday January 12.

Peterson, who came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, and Watt, who led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks, were selected by all 50 members of a nationwide panel of media members who cover the league.

Peterson is a three-time All-Pro, while Watt represents lots of new blood. He's among 17 players making their All-Pro debuts.

"Obviously it's a huge honor, especially for being such a young guy," said Watt, a second-year pro. "It's crazy to even think about. It's very humbling and very motivating. It makes me want to do it again and again."

Peyton Manning made his sixth team, the previous five while quarterbacking Indianapolis. He led Denver to the AFC's best record, 13-3.

Also chosen for the sixth time was Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who this season moved into second place on the career receptions list. San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis made it for the fifth time in his six pro seasons.

The 49ers had the most All-Pros, six: Willis, fellow LBs NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, guard Mike Iupati, safety Dashon Goldson and punter Andy Lee.

"As an organization, we take great pride in the success and recognition of our players," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. "This type of acknowledgement only comes from hard work and a team-first mentality, which all six of these men exhibit on a daily basis. They play the game the way it was meant to be played, and are very deserving of this honor."

Seattle was next with RB Marshawn Lynch, center Max Unger, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. All were selected for the first time.

Sherman was incensed when he didn't make the Pro Bowl. He was thrilled with the news he made the All-Pro team "because that's comparing the whole league."

" That is taking individuals and saying they are the best in the NFL at that position and that's what I wanted to be," Sherman said. " The Pro Bowl is taking three from each side, it's more of a popularity contest. The All-Pro, you're the best at your position. It doesn't matter if you're a fifth-rounder or fourth-rounder or undrafted. If you play the best, you're All-Pro."

Denver had three All-Pros: LB Von Miller, tackle Ryan Clady and Manning. No other team had more than two.

The NFC had 17 players and only 10 made it from the AFC.

One rookie, Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh, was chosen.

Also on offense were Baltimore fullback Vonta Leach, making it for the third straight year; Detroit WR Calvin Johnson and Chicago WR Brandon Marshall; Houston tackle Duane Brown; New Orleans guard Jahri Evans, making his fourth consecutive appearance; Baltimore kick returner Jacoby Jones; Miami DE Cameron Wake; Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins and New England DT Vince Wilfork; and Chicago CB Charles Tillman.

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January 17, 2013

Associated Press

 

Listen up! Talk trash to Carmelo Anthony at Madison Square Garden and you may wind up on tape.

Days after Anthony’s overreaction to some bad words led to an NBA suspension, MSG chairman James Dolan had listening devices monitoring everything said to and by Anthony, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger.

The report Monday said Dolan had two MSG Network audio technicians stationed at opposite corners of the court during last week’s home game against Chicago. Holding umbrella-shaped parabola microphones, they were told to record Anthony’s interactions and send the tape directly to Dolan himself.

The Knicks did not comment on the report. The team left Monday night for a game Thursday in London against Detroit.

Anthony and Boston forward Kevin Garnett exchanged words during the Celtics’ 102-96 victory on Jan. 7. Anthony, clearly thrown off his game and finishing just 6-of-26 from the field, then tried to confront Garnett near the locker room and team bus following the game, and received a one-game suspension from the NBA.

Anthony would not reveal what was said by Garnett, only that it was something he felt a man shouldn’t say to another man.

Dolan apparently wants to ability to hear for himself.

Teams routinely send videotape of plays they felt should have been fouls to the league office, and perhaps Dolan wants to be able to provide NBA officials with audio proof of what goes on with Anthony.

Dolan hasn’t taken questions from reporters covering the Knicks in nearly six years, but remains keenly interested and insistent in knowing what is going on with the team. Public relations officials used to record interviews with players and coaches, and they continue to listen and take notes of what is said.

General manager Glen Grunwald rarely conducts interviews and Dolan is such a stickler for his media rules that when he fired Larry Brown in 2006, he withheld payment for cause because Brown had conducted a roadside interview with reporters without a public relations official present, in violation of MSG rules.

An NBA spokesman said there was nothing wrong with the extra equipment — there already were additional microphones around the court Friday because it was a national TV game — and added that the league doesn’t comment on anything teams send for review.

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January 10, 2013

By BRIAN MAHONEY Associated Press

 

Carmelo Anthony said Tuesday he lost his cool after Kevin Garnett said things to him that he feels shouldn't be said to "another man."

Anthony said he sought out Garnett after the Knicks' loss to Boston on Monday night so they could discuss it. He would not elaborate on what was said.

Anthony went toward the Celtics' locker room and waited for Garnett outside the team bus. He said they have spoken and sorted out the matter.

"There's certain things that you just don't say to men, another man," Anthony said. "I felt like we crossed a line, but like I said, we both had an understanding right now, we handled it the way we handled it. Nobody needs to know what was said behind closed doors, so that situation was handled."

The All-Star forwards exchanged words during the game and Anthony clearly was affected. He shot 6 of 26, seeming at times in the second half to be most concerned with pushing and shoving Garnett, and acknowledged Tuesday that he "allowed some negativity to come into my circle."

The NBA is investigating and has video evidence. It could decide to penalize Anthony, who said he shouldn't be suspended.

"Nothing happened for me to be suspended," he said. "I wanted to talk to KG. I think it was something we both needed to get off our chest and see what really the problem was. No altercations, it was just some words and a conversation that we needed to have."

Anthony and Garnett had both received technical fouls with 9:03 remaining in the game after some physical play followed by jawing back and forth from the baseline to midcourt. After the Knicks' 102-96 loss, Anthony went the wrong direction toward the Celtics' locker room in hopes of finding Garnett.

"It's over with for me. Whatever happened last night, happened. The words that was being said between me and Garnett, it happened, can't take that away," Anthony said. "I lost my cool yesterday, I accept that, but there's just certain things that push certain people's buttons."

Anthony has been called for eight technical fouls, one off the league lead, and was thrown out of a physical loss against Chicago after he picked up two. Anthony was once suspended 15 games by the NBA for punching former Knicks guard Mardy Collins in the face during a brawl while playing for Denver, and the Knicks need their leading scorer and the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week to walk away rather than be baited into exchanges.

"We've sat down and we've talked about it," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Listen, Melo's been playing at a high level and Melo likes winning. He's tasted that here and he's a big part of why we're winning and hey, he just can't have slippage like that."

The Knicks' next game is Thursday at Indiana.

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January 10, 2013

By TIM BOOTH 

Associated Press

 

Investor Chris Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about buying the Sacramento Kings, setting up the possibility of the NBA’s return to Seattle.

Hansen’s interest was confirmed Wednesday by people with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.

One person said the Kings could sell for more than $500 million. The Kings’ future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and the city haven’t been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen. Yahoo! reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the 2013-14 season where the team would play at KeyArena as a temporary home until a new arena is constructed.

“I know as much as you do,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. “If it’s true, ain’t it cool?”

His counterpart in Sacramento thought the news anything but cool. At an afternoon news conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday was significant because for the first time Kings fans know the team is for sale. Johnson said he would do all he could to try to find a buyer with a Sacramento connection to possibly purchase the team and keep it in California’s capital city.

Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a $490 million arena near the city’s other stadiums: CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.

Hansen’s group is expected to pitch in $290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The plans also call for the arena to be able to handle a future NHL franchise. The remaining $200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest. Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.

Hansen’s goal has been to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound after they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Asked in September if he could envision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen was cautious about finding an option that quickly.

The NBA had no comment. Representatives for Hansen did not return messages seeking comment. Any franchise looking to relocate must submit their plans to the NBA by March 1 and the move must be approved by the league.

“As we have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise,” Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said when contacted Wednesday by the AP.

The Kings’ asking price would top the NBA-record $450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. Johnson said he’s had past discussions with more than one group about possibly stepping forward as owners if the Kings were up for sale.

“All indications that I have seen and read and heard is they are exploring opportunities to sell the team and that is public and that is the first I have ever heard,” Johnson said. “We need to put ourselves in a position to find an ownership group and buyers to keep the team here in Sacramento.”

Johnson said he had not spoken with any members of the Maloof family or NBA Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.

News of the discussions came a day after officials in Virginia Beach, Va., announced they were dropping their efforts to build a new arena. Virginia Beach was thought to be a relocation option for the Kings.

The Maloofs backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new downtown arena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the Kings saying the deal didn’t make financial sense for the franchise.

In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a “slow death” and compared the city’s efforts to keep the Kings a “Hail Mary.”

Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors in April 2011, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team’s current outdated suburban facility. He also bought time by presenting more than $10 million in commitments for new advertising, ticket purchases and other financial support from regional businesses for this season.

The NBA’s relocation committee, headed by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett — who moved the team now known as the Thunder from Seattle in 2008 — recommended that the league give the city a shot to follow through and handed down a March 1 deadline to come up with a plan to help finance an arena. Johnson delivered the agreement that March 1 to send the plan to the City Council.

On the night of March 6, 2012, the Sacramento City Council passed a deal — brokered by the NBA and with Stern’s blessing — for a new downtown arena. A sea of supporters packed the grounds for the vote, which seemingly saved the Kings from relocation.

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January 10, 2013

By ERIC OLSON Associated Press

 

If BCS championship game star Eddie Lacy declares for the NFL draft, Alabama fans needn't worry about any drop-off in the running game next season.

T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as the other half of Alabama's tandem running-back system, including 108 yards and a TD against Notre Dame this week.

If Yeldon replaces Lacy in the featured role, Kenyan Drake is next man up to co-star. Drake averaged 6.7 yards a carry while running 39 times for 273 yards and five TDs this season, including a season-high 67 against Auburn.

Like Yeldon, Drake was a freshman.

Now imagine if Lacy comes back for his senior year after being named offensive player of the game for his 140-yard, two-touchdown performance against Notre Dame. He ran for 1,322 yards and 17 TDs for the season.

The stockpile of running backs at Alabama is reminiscent of the embarrassment of riches Nebraska enjoyed at the position while winning its three national titles in four years in the 1990s.

No doubt, Yeldon-Drake could be just as good in 2013 as duos Lacy-Yeldon in 2012, Trent Richardson-Lacy in 2011 and Mark Ingram-Richardson in 2010.

YOUR 2012 STAT CHAMPS: Alabama dominated the major defensive categories, ranking first in total defense (250 ypg), rushing defense (76.4 ypg) and scoring defense (10.9 ppg). Florida State had the top pass defense (161.9 ypg).

Team leaders in offense: Louisiana Tech in total offense (577.9 ypg) and scoring (51.5 ppg), Army in rushing (369.8 ypg) and Marshall in passing (365.1 ypg).

Individual leaders were Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey in rushing (148.4 ypg), Marshall's Rakeem Cato in passing (350.1 ypg), Baylor's Terrance Williams in receiving (140.9 ypg), and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in total offense (393.5 ypg).

SPARTAN WORKHORSE: Remember when Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 44 times against Boise State? That was back on Aug. 31 in one of the opening-week showcase games.

It also was a precursor. Turns out no one had more rushing attempts in any game the rest of the season.

In fact, Bell's 382 carries for the season were 200 more than he had last season and the most in major-college football since Javon Ringer of, yes, Michigan State ran 390 times in 2008.

Bell had 35 or more carries in five games and accounted for 92 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,793 of 1,942).

Bell, who has declared for April's NFL draft, ran for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns in 40 games.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS I: Georgia Tech's Orwin Smith finished his career with a per-carry average of 9.3 yards, best in Atlantic Coast Conference history for a running back with 1,000 yards.

Smith battled shoulder and ankle injuries this season and had only 9 yards on four carries against USC in the Sun Bowl.

YARDS IN BIG CHUNKS II: Nebraska's defense had a split personality. The Cornhuskers allowed an average of 258 yards in home games, ranking sixth in the country. They gave up 463 yards a game on the road or at neutral sites, ranking 91st.

The difference was big plays.

Of 13 opponent runs of 30 yards or longer, 12 occurred away from Lincoln.

TOUCHBACK TIME: The new kickoff rules produced the desired results.

Touchbacks in the BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame, increased from 23.4 percent in 2011 to 39.4 percent in 2012, according to STATS LLC.

The spot of kickoffs moved up from the 30- to the 35-yard line this season, and when a touchback occurred, the offense started at its 25-yard line instead of the 20.

The rule was changed in an attempt to prevent injuries. NCAA data indicated that players were hurt on kickoffs more than in other phases of the game.

UCLA's Jeff Locke led the nation with 76 percent of his kickoffs (68 of 89) going for touchbacks. He was among 22 kickers, compared with only two in 2011, who produced touchbacks on at least half of his kickoffs.

 

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