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.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

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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June 14, 2012

By DAVE SKRETTA | Associated Press

 

One of boxing’s major sanctioning bodies will review Timothy Bradley’s controversial split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao, the first step toward what promoter Bob Arum hopes will be “clarity” in the judging of the fight.

WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel said in a statement Wednesday that the WBO’s championship committee will review video of the fight with five “recognized international judges” and make a recommendation. He said the WBO does not doubt the ability of the scoring judges.

Most reporters seated ringside and the vast majority of fans inside the MGM Grand arena on Saturday night thought Pacquiao had easily defended his welterweight title against Bradley.

The first surprise came when ring announcer Michael Buffer announced that there was a split decision, and the biggest surprise came in the reading of the scores. Jerry Roth had it 115-113 for Pacquiao, while judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross had it for Bradley by the same score.

The Associated Press scored the fight 117-111 for Pacquiao.

“The public saw the fight and they’re outraged, and we need clarity here,” Arum told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We need those responsible to investigate, to see what happened, how the judges could be so off.

“Was there any funny business going on? Or no funny business? Did they have a conversation with each other?” Arum asked. “We need to get clarity. The public is demanding it.”

Arum’s powerful promotional company, Top Rank, has staged thousands of fights over more than four decades, including some of the most significant in the history of the sport.

He said that the scoring of Saturday night’s fight was among the worst he’s ever seen.

“It puts boxing in a very horrible light,” he said. “I’m looking for the sport to do damage control, and the only way it does damage control is if you do a full and complete investigation.”

Arum submitted a formal request to the Nevada Attorney General's office on Monday asking for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the senior senator from Nevada, also has asked for an investigation.

Jennifer Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Attorney General’s office, said in an email to the AP that Arum's complaint is currently under review.

“We are treating the complaint like any other complaint our office receives,” Lopez said. “We do not confirm or deny if we have an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The Nevada State Athletic Commission’s executive director, Keith Kizer, said this week that he has no plans to review the fight, even though he acknowledged having Pacquiao ahead.

Commission chairman Skip Avansino told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was content with the scoring, while Ford defended his scorecard in an interview with the newspaper.

“I thought Bradley gave Pacquiao a boxing lesson,” Ford said. “I thought a lot of the rounds were close. Pacquiao missed a lot of punches and I thought he was throwing wildly.”

Arum believes the decision — along with the Nevada commission’s reluctance to conduct its own investigation — could provide the impetus for a federal commission to provide oversight for the sport, which has long battled the perception that it is rife with corruption.

“If the commission here in Nevada will be in intransigent, and won’t cooperate, we have to have a federal commission,” Arum said. “We have to examine who these are on the commission, how they got there, how they operate. Something is broke.”

Stats compiled by Compubox showed Pacquiao landing 253 punches to 159 for Bradley, and having a 190-108 edge in power punches. Pacquiao landed at 38.5 percent to 27.7 percent for Bradley.

The decision ended Pacquiao’s 15-fight winning streak, but also sets up a potential rematch later this year. There has been talk that it could happen in November.

Perhaps by then, Arum will have the clarity he is seeking from their first fight.

“Any other sport — football, baseball — the commissioner’s office would investigate,” he said. “I’m not saying hang anybody, but let’s get clarity here. Let’s get a complete report as to what happened. They could say, ‘Hey, all three judges had a bad night.’ That's possible, too. I’m not leaping to conclusions. I want to know as well as anybody else.” 

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June 21, 2012

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI | Associated Press

 

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Percy Harvin made it known that he wants out of Minnesota.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said there’s no way he’s going to let that happen.

Unhappy with several issues with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009, Harvin requested to be traded, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A few hours later, Spielman said the organization considers the star receiver a cornerstone player and will work to resolve any issues that have Harvin upset.

“We have no interest at all in trading Percy Harvin,” Spielman said. “We drafted Percy Harvin here. He’s a key part of our organization. He’s a key part of our football team. Any issues that are out there, or reported, we always handle those internally, and we’ll continue to handle those internally.”

The situation seemingly came out of the blue this week, surprising many Vikings players and coaches when Harvin voiced his frustrations with the team on Tuesday at the opening of a mandatory minicamp.

“I just put it this way: There’s a lot of different things that have to be sorted out,” Harvin said Tuesday. “Just haven’t been really happy lately. We’ve got a couple of things to work on. I’m here in the classroom. We’ll go from there.”

He is due to make $915,000 in the fourth year of a five-year rookie deal. That total is much lower than veterans Micheal Jenkins and Jerome Simpson, with neither coming close to his production on the field.

Requesting a trade now would be a curious move if his main motivation is a new contract. Most players in similar situations first voice their concerns, then threaten to holdout of training camp before going as far as to request a trade.

Spielman would not say if money was an issue but also reiterated the organization’s approach to signing players to extensions.

“Our philosophy has always been as players enter the last year of their contract we have a history of extending players going into the last year of their contract,” Spielman said. “And that's been our history.”

Harvin has emerged as perhaps the most versatile and dynamic player on the team. He earned respect in the locker room for his willingness to play through injuries and still produce late in last year’s miserable 3-13 season. In May, Harvin showed up at voluntary workouts despite still recovering from shoulder surgery and spoke of asserting himself as a leader and encouraging other players to participate in the team’s offseason program.

He caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns last season, rushed for another 345 yards and two scores and also returned a kick for a touchdown during a sensational year.

But indications are that Harvin’s issues go far deeper than just money. His role in the offense, which diminished greatly last season when the Vikings reached the red zone, and the organization’s decision to go into a rebuilding phase coming off of consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North combined with his modest salary all figure to factor into his mindset.

Harvin dealt with migraine headaches and numerous other minor injuries as the result of his punishing style of play, missing one game his rookie season and two in 2010, which brought concerns about his durability over the long term.

He played in all 16 games last season, establishing himself as one of the game’s top slot receivers and one of its most dangerous kick returners.

“Percy is a phenomenal player on the field,” Spielman said. “And you look at his statistics he had last year and how important he is to this franchise. He’s a vital part of us moving forward with this team.”

After making the NFC title game as a rookie, the Vikings have taken significant steps backward the last two seasons. They are centering their rebuild on Harvin, Peterson, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, and second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.

Harvin is far and away Ponder’s best option in the receiver corps that includes non-descript veterans Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, rookie fourth-round picks Jarius Wright and Greg Childs and Simpson, who will be suspended for the first three games this season after being arrested on drug charges while with the Cincinnati Bengals.

After signing tight end John Carlson from Seattle, there has been a lot of talk about the Vikings going to more two tight-end sets to take advantage of him and second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph. That could also be a concern for Harvin, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he was unaware of any problems Harvin had with the playbook. Musgrave said he planned to get the ball to Harvin even more this season.

“We’re looking forward to getting him on the field and as an offense we’re looking forward to having a better year,” Musgrave said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Harvin attended the team’s morning practice Wednesday, leaving the field before reporters asked questions. Peterson said he hadn’t spoken to his friend about it but planned to have a conversation to try to help smooth things over.

“I wouldn’t say it’s distracting. It’s more bothering. It’s like, we definitely don’t want to lose this guy. ... I’m sure the organization will do what it has to do to keep this guy around,” Peterson said. “If it was me, I would make sure that we kept him around. But we’ll see.”

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June 14, 2012

By RACHEL COHEN | Associated Press

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Not urban legend: The Dream Team really did lose to a group of college stars.

 

A new documentary commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the Olympic gold medalists has the footage to prove it. The video shot at the time so coaches could analyze practice will now be televised to the world.

 

"The Dream Team" premieres Wednesday night on NBA TV, chronicling the future Hall of Famers — led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — who became the first NBA players to compete at the Olympics at the 1992 Barcelona Games. All 12 members sat down for fresh interviews.

 

NBA Entertainment cameras followed around the team during the Olympics, and some of that footage aired in various forms then. This is the first time all the behind-the-scenes moments have been shown together in one place.

 

"A lot of these things, we all kind of heard these stories," executive producer Dion Cocoros said. "'Hey, I heard they lost to the select team. Did they really have these intense practices?' To show it takes it to the next level. A lot of this has been discussed for 20 years but never seen."

 

The players participated in individual interviews from September through March. Each seemed to add a new anecdote or observation that the next Dream Teamer was asked about.

 

"It really sparked almost like a memory in them when we'd mention something they hadn't thought of in a while," Cocoros said.

 

In the 90-minute film, Jordan recalls his initial reluctance to commit to the team, signing on only after hearing that so many of his fellow superstars were on board. There's footage of the Dream Teamers going at each other in practice with the vigor of a playoff game.

 

Off the court, the players reminisce about all the topless bathers when they trained in Monte Carlo. Another clip shows John Stockton, camcorder on his shoulder, walking around Barcelona with his family and trying — unsuccessfully — to get fans to recognize him.

 

As far as that one loss, Mike Krzyzewski, a Dream Team assistant, insists in the film that coach Chuck Daly "threw" the scrimmage as a lesson to his players during pre-Olympic preparations in San Diego by not making adjustments and using Michael Jordan very little. Still, it would seem any combination of five of the future Hall of Famers should have been able to defeat the college kids without any strategizing.

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