June 21, 2012

By BERNIE WILSON |

Associated Press

 

SAN DIEGO (AP) — LaDainian Tomlinson was in the midst of saying goodbye to the NFL when his young son, Daylen, wandered across the dais and tugged on his pant leg, wanting a little attention.

Tomlinson reached down and lifted him up, holding him as carefully as he used to carry the football.

Joined by his family and several former teammates, Tomlinson ended his brilliant 11-year NFL career the same way he started it — with the San Diego Chargers.

Tomlinson signed a one-day contract with the Chargers on Monday and then announced his retirement.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t want to play anymore. It was simply time to move on,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson rushed for 13,684 yards, fifth all-time, and scored 162 touchdowns, third-most ever. His 145 rushing touchdowns are second-most in history. He also passed for seven touchdowns.

Just as importantly, he helped the Chargers dig out from one of their worst stretches to become a force in the AFC West. He played his first nine seasons with San Diego and the last two years with the New York Jets.

Tomlinson, who turns 33 on Saturday, said he knew at the end of last season that he’d probably retire. He said he was still physically capable of playing but mentioned the mental toll it takes to play at a high level.

Tomlinson didn’t shed any tears, as he did two years ago after being released by the Chargers.

L.T. recalled the news conference in 2006 when former teammate Junior Seau announced his first retirement.

“He said, ‘I’m graduating today.’ I’ve been playing football 20-some years and so at some point it almost seems like school every year where you sacrifice so much and there is so much you put on the line, mentally and physically, with your body, everything,” Tomlinson said. “So today, I take the words of Junior Seau: I feel like I’m graduating. I really do, because I’ve got my life ahead of me, I’m healthy, I’m happy with a great family and I’m excited to now be a fan and watch you guys play.”

Seau, who committed suicide on May 2, came out of retirement a few times to play for the New England Patriots.

Tomlinson said this is it for him.

Tomlinson said he has special memories even though the Chargers never got to the Super Bowl during his time with them.

His most memorable moment with San Diego came on Dec. 10, 2006, when he swept into the end zone late in a game against the Denver Broncos for his third touchdown of the afternoon to break Shaun Alexander’s year-old record of 28 touchdowns.

His linemen hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him toward the sideline, with Tomlinson holding the ball high in his right hand and waving his left index finger, while the fans chanted “L.T.! L.T.!” and “MVP! MVP!”

Tomlinson was voted NFL MVP that season, when he set league single-season records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points.

“Those were championship days, for not only myself and my teammates, but my family as well,” said Tomlinson, who won two NFL rushing titles. “So I’m OK with never winning a Super Bowl championship. I know we’ve got many memories that we can call championship days.”

Tomlinson was joined on the dais by wife LaTorsha, mother Loreane, son Daylen, who turns 2 next month, and 9-month-old daughter Dayah.

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates were among the several former teammates in the crowd, as were offensive linemen Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary and recently retired Kris Dielman. Also in attendance was Ryan Mathews, who replaced Tomlinson as the Chargers' featured back in 2010.

Tomlinson said of his offensive linemen, “They were my best friends.”

Dielman retired in March due to a concussion.

“I was a part of greatness,” Dielman said of Tomlinson’s career. “And it was awesome to be a part of it. It was awesome to watch. I mean, I had the best seat in the house. It was a fun time.”

Rivers became the Chargers’ starter in 2006 after Drew Brees was allowed to leave as a free agent.

“He carried us,” Rivers said of Tomlinson. “He had such a calming effect on the huddle, on myself. When things weren’t going good, we could always hand it to him. When I was struggling a bit during the first half of that season, it was never, ‘C’mon, you’ve got to get it together.’ It was just like, ‘You’re good, keep going.’ I tend to get excited but the game was slow for him. That part was certainly appreciated as a young player.”

Team President Dean Spanos said few players have had a bigger role or meant more to the team and the city than Tomlinson.

Spanos recalled being told by then-general manager John Butler on the day before the 2001 draft that the Chargers had traded the No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta for a package that included the No. 5 overall pick.

“I said, ‘Great,’ and then asked him who he liked with the fifth pick. I clearly remember him telling me, ‘Well, there’s this great running back from TCU who could help us.’

“It’s funny now, but I also remember asking him, ‘Is he any good?’ And I remember that John said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be something special.’ I wish John was here today so I could thank him for making what has probably become the most significant trade in the history of the San Diego Chargers.”

Butler died in 2003.

Spanos said no other Chargers player will wear Tomlinson’s No. 21, and that a retirement ceremony will be held sometime in the future.

Tomlinson and Spanos both signed the ceremonial one-day contract.

“I didn’t even check how much it was for. It was worth it,” Spanos quipped.

“People and players like LaDainian Tomlinson don’t come around very often, if at all,” Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson said in a statement. “His humility and work ethic made it clear why he will be remembered as one of the game’s best players. Without question, his next stop will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said Tomlinson “never took one day for granted when it came to any aspect of his performance. His commitment drew his teammates to him and elevated everyone that came in contact with him.”

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June 21, 2012

By DAN GELSTON | Associated Press

 

WEEHAWKEN, N.J. (AP) — Jayson Williams wants to walk. After 26 months behind bars, Williams never squanders an opportunity to stretch the legs that once helped make him one of the NBA's most ruthless rebounders. Besides, he doesn't have a driver's license.

Dressed in a New Jersey Nets T-shirt and Chicago Bulls practice shorts, the 6-foot-10 Williams looms larger than the Empire State Building behind him in the distance. He takes only a few steps out from a hotel around Lincoln Harbor when a pair of 11-year-old girls wants to know if he played in the NBA.

He sure did. Was an All-Star, too.

"You're lying," one of the girls teases from her bike.

"Naw, I'm telling the truth," a laughing Williams said.

"Swear."

"I can't swear. But I'll tell you, it's the truth. It's a sin to swear."

Before asking for an autograph, the girl tells Williams she'll look him up online. He encourages the search. "No. 55," he throws in for good measure.

What they'll find of his name in a search engine is more than his successes and stats over an injury-shortened nine-year career. They'll also discover a cascade of stories detailing legal troubles that stretched more than a decade once his career dried up. They'll find Williams served eight months for drunken driving in New York and 18 months before that in New Jersey on charges stemming from a limo driver's shooting death.

Google away.

"There's nothing I can do about that," Williams said.

Williams says all he can do today, and for the rest of his life, is apologize for his wrongs and crimes and start to move ahead, grateful for a second chance, with God on his side.

He quit drinking — 893 days sober and counting — discarded the guns, downsized the house and returned to civilian life with a renewed focus and vigor for community work.

He walked more than a mile to his barber for a cut Tuesday because he was due later that night at an Upper Montclair Country Club fundraiser for HIV shelters. On Father's Day, he took a group of homeless men to the same barbershop, after arranging for breakfast at a local shelter, to clean them up and restore a chunk of their dignity.

In his first extended interview since he was freed from jail in April, the 44-year-old Williams stressed over and over that he's sorry, and vowed to live life without the toxic tag team of booze and bravado that fueled his reckless behavior and led to the shotgun death in his New Jersey mansion of chauffeur Costas Christofi and the night he drove his SUV into a tree in lower Manhattan.

"People say, 'Jay, you're a great guy, you just had a couple of bad nights,'" Williams said. "People that have themselves under control don't have a couple of bad nights like that. Plain and simple. I could have been better. That's my goal now, to be better."

It's a start for a man rendered unable to get a handle on his life. Williams, who tackled the lighter side of the NBA in "Loose Balls," reveals how he lost his way, and the lessons learned and scars formed from childhood and prison in his latest book, "Humbled: Letters From Prison." Williams wrote candid letters, journal entries, even poetry, to pass time in prison, mailed them to a friend who saved them, and turned them into a collection of his works.

In one entry, he reveals a secret — saying he was sexually abused as a child.

"I don't like talking about it and I won't talk about it," Williams said. "That was the most embarrassing thing to write. The most painful. It was very painful for me to read the book again."

Even with a wife and children, Williams' retirement was filled with pain because of the 2002 fatal shooting of Christofi.

Two years after a freak leg injury suffered with the New Jersey Nets forced him to retire, Williams killed Christofi with a 12-gauge shotgun while showing it to friends, having failed to check the weapon's safety mechanism before snapping the gun closed.

Williams then wiped down the weapon and placed it in the chauffeur's hands, stripped off his own clothes, handed them to a friend and jumped into his pool, according to testimony. Williams' lawyers maintained that the shooting was an accident and that his actions were driven by panic.

The tragedy will always haunt Williams.

"To be honest, you just think about the damage you caused, from the shooting to the irresponsible way I acted after," he said. "It's just so painful, you try not to think of it. I acted that way. I've got to take responsibility."

Williams made a tearful apology to the victim's family when he was sentenced for the shooting in 2010. He wants to sit across from Andrea Adams, Christofi's sister, and personally apologize and show his true remorse in person. He says if she's willing, he'll meet on her terms. Christofi's family received a reported $2.75 million settlement from Williams in 2003.

"I have to deal with what happened that night, every night, and the pain of that," Williams said. "But I don't have to deal with demons. The demons are anything that takes me from sobriety. Those demons are gone.

"I just had to turn it over to somebody. And the only one I could turn it over to was God."

He scribbles a bible verse next to his autograph and has eschewed the heavy drinking that was as much a part of his routine as shootarounds and road trips.

"I've never been in trouble without alcohol," he said. "So I took it away. I'm damn sure not going back to jail."

He's in an alcohol recovery and treatment program and also visits a psychiatrist.

Looking fit at 245 pounds, Williams says God and sobriety make him feel the best physically he has in years even though he has trouble sleeping.

On this walk, Williams is hilarious and heartfelt, quick with a quip and a hug and autograph for fans on the street or in the barber shop. Williams is so gregarious, he would have thrived as the life of any party, without getting loaded on booze or trying to play Doc Holliday in a mansion.

"No excuses, but when people come to your house as a young man," he said, "they don't want to see your Picassos, they want to see your pistols. The department of justice took the pistols off. So you're left with the Picasso, which is a lot safer."

The series of delays in the case led to Williams finally serving time eight years after the accident. Williams believes the ripple effect of that night in his mansion was the overwhelming stress that caused his father to have a stroke at 70 and die in 2009.

"Two lives were taken," that night, Williams said. "I'd tell my dad everything was going to be all right. He said, 'Not this time."

Williams did have staunch supporters while he was in prison. Former NBA star Charles Oakley was a frequent visitor. Williams calls former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin his spiritual advisor. And through all his legal woes, Williams maintained a tight friendship with director Penny Marshall.

It seems like a cast straight out of "Hollywood Squares." For Williams, the trio helped form the backbone of support through his darkest days.

Williams recently filmed an interview for Marshall for a documentary on Dennis Rodman. Marshall and Williams talked for more than an hour Monday night, connecting much as they have for most of their 27-year friendship. Using his best nasal whine, Williams recalled how Marshall implored him for years to cut down or cut out his drinking — he just failed to listen.

Williams also exchanged letters with NBA Commissioner David Stern while in prison.

Unemployed, Williams has friends in the entertainment business who pitched projects at him. But Williams is on parole until September 2013 and sure isn't going to Los Angeles.

A first-round draft pick in 1990, Williams would love to somehow return to the NBA via coaching or TV studio work. At the very least, he could be the type of motivational speaker to scare rookies straight at orientation.

"I think I can explain to those young folks better than anybody can how one mistake, one reckless act, can change your life," Williams said.

Williams, who lives alone in Hudson County, is close to finalizing his divorce from his wife, Tanya. He's tried to establish a daily routine with volunteer work and his longtime manager and best friend, Akhtar Farzaie, is always near for support. His legal woes took a toll on the $63 million he made in his playing career, but Williams insists he's not strapped for cash.

For eight years he talked to no one more than his attorney, Joe Hayden.

"He'd never give you, 'It's a good day,'" Williams said. "And how could it be? Everything was half empty."

On his best days, Williams knows brighter times are finally on the horizon.

They're just not here yet.

"I'll say life is simpler," he said. "I'll let you know when it's good."

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 June 21, 2012

By BRETT MARTEL |

 

Associated Press

 

 

 

WESTWEGO, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Hornets officially advertised Anthony Davis’ visit as “pre-draft workout (hash)4,” even though the 6-foot-11 Kentucky star wore jeans during his tour of the club’s training center and never broke a sweat.

 

Since winning the NBA’s draft lottery late last month, the Hornets have tried to play things close to the vest, declining to confirm publicly whom they will take with the top overall pick. That, of course, is among the worst-kept secrets in the world.

 

The Hornets didn’t ask Davis to perform on the court during his visit, but they had him pose for pictures in a white Hornets jersey bearing the No. 23 he plans to wear next season. Those images are almost certain to make their way into marketing campaigns that the Hornets will be primed to unleash soon after Davis' addition to the squad is made official at the NBA draft on June 28.

 

In the meantime, Davis demonstrated he can be a team-first guy, playing along with the charade as if he wasn't entirely positive he'd be the next big basketball star in the Big Easy, where he has already won and celebrated one championship at the college level.

 

“If I get drafted here, it’d be great to win another championship in New Orleans,” Davis said. “It’s a great city. If I get drafted here, it’ll be awesome.”

 

The real question, of course, is what will happen after he is drafted by the Hornets. Although general manager Dell Demps stopped short of announcing that Davis would be the first pick, he did address the matter by saying that the Hornets don’t want Davis or any rookie to join the club feeling pressure to put the team on their shoulders right away.

 

“I don’t want to add pressure. It’s already there,” Demps said. “Sometimes, the expectations become so high they become unrealistic at times. When guys come in, they’re supposed to be the savior. You don’t want them to feel like that. ... (Davis) is the ultimate team player, so just let him be a team player.”

 

Davis doesn’t sound worried about pressure. He’s dealt with plenty of it at Kentucky, a team that has one of the most rabid fan bases in college basketball. There, Davis played under a high-profile coach in John Calipari, and for a team that was expected to win it all the whole season and actually fulfilled that promise.

 

“Playing at Kentucky (under) Coach Cal and being the No. 1 team, the pressure came then, and we kind of felt it when I was playing there,” Davis said. “So I think it kind of helped me a lot.”

 

The Hornets, by contrast, are working to become more relevant in a Saints-centric city.

 

Davis arrived in New Orleans on Monday night and spent some time with coach Monty Williams, who has said in recent weeks that the Hornets plan to build around restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon, and that expectations on rookies should be measured, no matter how high they are picked.

 

Davis talked to Williams about life in the NBA and seemed to like the coach’s philosophy.

 

“It’s not a one-player sport. It’s a team sport,” Davis said. “I think (the Hornets) do a great job putting it on the organization and just trying to have the player focus on basketball and the game.”

 

Demps saw Davis play a handful of times in person, in part because Kentucky played six times in Louisiana last season — once at LSU, three times at the SEC tournament and twice in the Final Four — en route to winning a national title. Davis led the way with his shot-blocking prowess and his ability to spread opposing defenses with his smooth mid-range jumper.

 

Because he initially played guard, before a growth spurt, and has a relatively complete game for a big man, he is the consensus best player in the draft. The Hornets seem to like him personally, as well.

 

“He has this great big smile on his face and he has this personality that I hope that he can stay enjoying the process, because he’s going to have enough time during the rest of his career when the pressure’s going to come and he’ll have to make big plays in big games,” Demps said.

 

Demps didn’t want to discuss whether the Hornets saw Davis as a center or power forward in the NBA, noting that he will be interested to see how the slender 19-year-old player develops not only his skills but his body as he goes from NBA rookie to seasoned veteran.

 

Davis’ itinerary in New Orleans included lunch with new Hornets owner Tom Benson — also the longtime owner of the NFL’s Saints — at Saints headquarters in Metairie. Team officials also planned to show Davis around the metro area.

 

Davis apparently has a lot to learn about the city. He said he hadn’t seen much beyond Bourbon Street before this trip and that the extent of his experience with local cuisine went little beyond Popeye’s, the fried chicken chain that started in south Louisiana.

 

“If I get picked here, of course it'll feel like home,” Davis said. “But right now, not as much.”

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 June 21, 2012

By TIM REYNOLDS |

 

Associated Press

 

 

 

MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade has asked a Chicago judge to suspend his ex-wife’s right to visitation with their two children after a weekend incident that delayed the boys’ return to his custody and led to her arrest.

 

Wade’s attorney, James Pritikin, filed an emergency motion and appeared in court Tuesday to have it heard, hours before the Miami Heat guard was to play in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

A hearing was set for June 26, which would be the date of Game 7 if the Heat and Thunder extend the series to its limit.

 

Wade told The Associated Press that his sons have been with him in Miami since about 6 a.m. Sunday — “That’s what mattered most to me, getting them here to be with me on Father’s Day,” he said — and that the incident has not adversely affected his play in the championship series.

 

Siohvaughn Funches-Wade was charged with two counts of attempted child abduction, two counts of unlawful visitation interference and one count of resisting arrest, Cook County Sheriff's spokesman Frank Bilecki told The AP on Tuesday. Another woman at the home at the time, Nadgee Alarcon, was charged with one count of resisting arrest, Bilecki said. All the charges are misdemeanors.

 

Funches-Wade posted $10,000 bond on Monday, Bilecki said, and is due back in court in August. It was not known if she had an attorney. According to a filing late Tuesday, the law firm of Kalcheim Haber LLC asked the court for permission to withdraw as attorney for Funches-Wade, saying it has been “unable to resolve significant issues regarding” the direction of her representation.

 

“Once again, S.L. has used our minor children as the proverbial pawns in this contentious dissolution of marriage action,” Wade wrote in the filing, using initials to protect identities but referring to his ex-wife. “This court must take action to protect our minor children from further exposure to the present environment S.L. creates while they are in her care and preventing S.L. from exercising her parenting time in a manner that is harmful to our children.”

 

The couple was divorced in 2010. Wade was awarded custody of the boys in March 2011. His ex-wife’s appeal of that decision was denied in December, and the couple is scheduled to return to court in September in an attempt to complete financial terms of the divorce.

 

“The minor children have been subjected to great deal of drama/trauma as a result of S.L.’s conduct,” the filing said.

 

According to the filing, the two boys were to be picked up by Wade’s sister around noon Saturday so they could make a 3:05 p.m. flight from Chicago to Miami so they could be in South Florida for the entirety of Father’s Day.

 

Wade’s sister got no response at the home, and after “several hours” the sheriff's office was called to send someone to the scene, according to the filing. It also said Funches-Wade attempted to leave the home without the children when one of the responding deputies tried taking her into custody. The boys, at that time, were with Alarcon inside the home, according to the filing.

 

Wade eventually hired a private jet to bring his sons home early Sunday, and upon their arrival, his older son told him that Alarcon “smacked him on the head,” according to court records.

 

Records show Funches-Wade was transferred to a hospital after the incident on Saturday. She told officers she was experiencing shortness of breath and thought she was having an asthma attack.

 

Wade recently finished writing a book primarily about fatherhood and the custody fight for his sons. It will be released Sept. 4.

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June 21, 2012

By JIM ARMSTRONG | Associated Press

 

TOKYO (AP) — Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo is doing his bit to help basketball continue to grow internationally.

Appointed as the NBA's global ambassador in 2009, Mutombo is in Japan to conduct basketball clinics with the Basketball Without Borders program.

The four-day camp in Japan is attended by the top 50 young basketball players from 18 Asian countries.

Samuel Dalembert of the Houston Rockets, Vladimir Radmanovic of the Atlanta Hawks, Corey Brewer of the Denver Nuggets and former NBA player Yuta Tabuse of Japan also are taking part in the clinics.

"We bring our knowledge of the game and pass it on to young people," Mutombo said. "I am proud to say that there are now about 200 or 250 young men who took part in Basketball Without Borders who are now playing in American high schools and colleges."

When he started his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets in 1991, Mutombo was just the third African player in the league following Manute Bol and Hakeem Olajuwon.

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