April 04, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Reggie Theus is returning to college basketball to coach the men’s team at Cal State Northridge.

Athletic director Brandon Martin announced the hiring of the former NBA player on Wednesday. Theus succeeds Bobby Braswell, who was fired March 17 after 17 years that included three 20-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances and a 251-258 record.

Martin calls it “a game-changing hire” for the Big West school, saying it will help the Matadors build a national profile. It’s also Martin’s first big hire since he officially began as AD on Monday.

Theus signed a multiyear contract that takes effect April 15. He has coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA’s D-League since October 2011.

“I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to get back into college basketball,” he said in a statement. “This is what I really want to do. To have an opportunity to coach in my hometown area is really a dream for me. This is what I really wanted.”

He will be introduced on Friday.

The Matadors were 14-17 this season, when they won their first seven games and then lost six of their final seven. They finished ninth among 10 teams in the Big West with a 5-13 record, and failed to make the conference tournament.

“This is a program that everybody in the near future is going to be proud of,” Theus said. “If the team is willing to work, it’s going to happen.”

Theus coached at New Mexico State from 2005-07, compiling a 41-23 record with one NCAA tourney berth. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2003-05. In Theus’ second season there, the Cardinals reached the Final Four.

He also had coaching stints in the NBA, running the Sacramento Kings from 2007-09 and serving as an assistant at Minnesota from 2009-11.

He played 13 years in the NBA after a college career at UNLV.

Theus becomes the fifth men's basketball coach in the program’s 55-year history.

He is the third coach hired at a Division I school in Los Angeles in recent days after UCLA hired Steve Alford and Southern California hired Andy Enfield.

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April 04, 2013

By CHARLES ODUM (AP Sports Writer)


Brian Banks said signing with the Atlanta Falcons is his second-biggest accomplishment.

The biggest was Banks' exoneration of rape charges one year ago.

Banks, 27, signed with the Falcons on Wednesday, giving him an opportunity he said he did not believe would be possible when he spent five years in prison and five years on probation following his conviction of rape and kidnapping charges a decade ago.

''I felt at the time in order for me to exit prison with a sane mind and be able to just function as a person I had to let go of certain dreams and goals I once held in life, football being one of them,'' Banks said.

Banks said he ''couldn't have asked for a better place to be'' than with the Falcons.

''I can't believe this is happening,'' he said. ''It's surreal.''

Banks was a 16-year-old junior and had made a verbal commitment to sign with Southern Cal when a Long Beach Poly high school classmate accused him of the rape.

The woman recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after he was out of prison. That helped lead to the conviction being overturned by a California court and Banks' record cleared on May 12, 2012.

Banks said he read every book he could find while in prison and also learned to value every opportunity.

''It's almost impossible to explain, the feeling of not having freedom, to be stripped away of your freedom, of your dignity, the respect you once had,'' he said. ''To lose it all and watch the world pass you by as you sit inside a prison cell, knowing you shouldn't be there, knowing you're there because of another person's lies, to lose it all and then get it all back, it's a very humbling, spiritual feeling that you just don't want to take anything for granted.

''I've had the opportunity to see both sides of the human spirit. ... My journey has been crazy but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other.''

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Banks will be given an opportunity to win a spot on the team at inside linebacker. He met with Falcons coach Mike Smith at the team's facility Wednesday.

''I had a really amazing one-on-one conversation with him,'' Banks said. ''He congratulated me and said he was happy for me to be here but this was just the beginning of a long road to making that next step and making that 53-man roster. We both agreed that I don't expect any handouts or any favoritism. I'm here to work like everybody else and the result of my hard work will be whatever they deem necessary.

''All I can do is my best and however the turnout will be, I thank God for the opportunity.''

Banks will participate in Atlanta's offseason workouts, which begin on April 22.

The Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, but he has had chances with other teams. He took part in the Seattle Seahawks' minicamp last June following workouts with Kansas City and San Diego. He had one tackle in two games with Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL).

Banks also worked out for the Falcons before the 2012 season.

''We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then,'' said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff in a statement released by the team. ''He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL and we look forward to seeing him on the field.''

Banks has become a spokesman for the California Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused.

He said he is working with producer James Moll on a documentary about his story. He said publishing companies are interested in a book.

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April 04, 2013

By Kenneth D. Miller

LAWT Assistant Managing Editor


It had been eight years since the last Lakers NBA championship when general manager Jerry West pulled off the coupe of the century in trading for a super star center named Shaquille O’Neal in 1996.

Shaq arrive at the same time West managed another brilliant maneuver in drafting a high school phenom from Lower Marion High School in Philadelphia we recognize today as Kobe Bryant.

Few knew what to expect when O’Neal arrived from Orlando where he managed to lead the Magic to an NBA Final and also lead the league in scoring.

After all many of us had become so spoiled by the five championship reign of Magic Johnson and the million dollar smile that Johnson wore that when he announced he had contracted HIV it was like losing a family member.

So, when O’Neal arrive with an equally wide grin and a jovial personality to boot it was precisely what we needed, but championships are what we really craved. After all this is the Lakers we are talking about, Showtime, big parties and long parades.

When O’Neal got the news that he was traded from the Magic where he won NBA Rookie of the Year during the 1991-’92 season, he thought it was a joke.

He subsequently called Jeanie Buss to confirm what he thought was a rumor and, Jeanie passed the phone to her late father Dr. Jerry Buss, and he confirmed the trade and told him “we’re gonna take care of you big fella.”

Unlike another former Orlando Magic center that nearly mirrors the fate of O’Neal, Shaq embraced coming to Los Angeles and the challenge to follow in the giant footprints left in the sand by Magic.

The Lakers won their first title with O’Neal four years later in 2000 and three NBA championships later and a trio of NBA Finals MVPs, it turned out that O’Neal had actually taken care of the Lakers instead.

There are many African American NBA millionaires who play in areas that sit center of blithe urban neighborhoods, community’s strife with poverty, gangs and drug abuse.

For the most part, many of them rarely frequent those communities, they seldom embrace those communities, they collect their fat NBA paychecks, and reluctantly sign autographs and peddle you over priced sneakers through Nike or one of the other shoe companies.

But, not Shaquille O’Neal. He came to Los Angeles and gave it a big 7-foot-1 bear hug, not just the stars sitting in the courtside seats, but the kids who would not have enjoyed a Christmas gift if it weren’t for him.

And, he didn’t do it for publicity. After all, he was raised by a mother and father who taught him the value of giving back.

He identifies with the kids who didn’t have a father and those who were raised by a step-father, because his biological dad left his home long before he was a two-time All America and National Player of the Year at LSU.

He knew what it was like to have a stepfather who cared for him as if he was his own, thus he respected more than just the game of basketball---he respected life.

If you were to randomly talk to the street hustler on the corner to the gang banger in the ‘hood, you will discover that Shaquille O’Neal was universally respected and loved because he respected them.

It is not easy being a multi-million dollar super star athlete, playing a game dominated by Blacks and other Blacks feeling a belonging to you although they have never met you.

Magic before him, who was reared by two doting parents in Lansing, Michigan, understood that.

The eight years that O’Neal spent here as a player, he also spent here as a member of the Black community.

He didn’t peddle Nike’s and Reeboks, he produced his own shoe the Dunkman with a silhouette of him dunking a basketball and they sold in Pay Less, not the high priced Mall. You could get a pair for less than $40 bucks.





O’Neal gave the Lakers the best eight years of his life, he had matured into a grown man who realized there would be life after the ball stopped bouncing and understood that his legacy was defined by championships on the court.

He dominated while Kobe matured just as he did, and then the Lakers traded him to Miami where he teamed with Dwayne Wade and won another title.

However, it was a trade that hurt O’Neal personally and set the Lakers back. It was one that many thought and still believe was spurned by Kobe which is why he is not a revered as he should be.

Shaq would move on to collect the $100 million contract the Lakers refused to pay from the Heat and at every opportunity would ridicule Kobe and even performed an infamous rap about his former teammate.

He would go on to play with LeBron James in Cleveland, a stop in Phoenix and a last dance with the hated Boston Celtics.

In each of those communities he was bigger off the court than he was on it. His power dunks had began to fade by then. Injuries to his massive frame piled up, limiting him to a bit player.

His personality remained enormous, his smile seldom dimmed and so when he returned for his jersey retirement celebration on Tuesday April 2 it was only right the game against the Mavericks was an after- thought.

Shaq hovered over Staples Center one more time, his No. 34 to be a lasting reminder of his lively personality, the candid jokes, the big rigs of Christmas gifts to the kids in the hood, and oh all those NBA titles.




Shaq Stats

2 NBA scoring titles

First-team All-NBA selection 8 times

4 NBA Championship teams

3 NBA Finals MVP awards

15-time All-Star

3 All-Star Game MVP awards

1 of the 50 greatest players in NBA history

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April 04, 2013

By JANIE McCAULEY (AP Sports Writer)


Free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha reached agreement on a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday that could pay him as much as $3 million this year.

Asomugha's representative, Ben Dogra, said that Asomugha is expected to sign his new deal Wednesday. He was busy taking high school students around his familiar Bay Area turf on Tuesday in an effort to show them their future options and college choices.

The contract has no guaranteed money. Asomugha is due to earn a base package of $1.35 million with salary and bonuses, and could make an additional $1.65 million in incentives for playing time, awards such as the Pro Bowl and reaching the playoffs.

''He's excited to be a 49er and feels it's a great football team, and he's returning home,'' Dogra said in a phone interview. ''It's such a unique set of circumstances that he's coming back. It's not about the money for him. He wants to play for a winner. He had a very good visit with them 10 days ago and again over the weekend. He thinks they have a great chance to win a Super Bowl and he wants to be part of it. He has a chip on his shoulder, in a good way.''

The former All-Pro was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on March 12 after two disappointing seasons - and now he is ready to help the 49ers return to the Super Bowl and win after losing 34-31 to the Ravens on Feb. 3 in New Orleans. Now, he gets another start right back where his football career began.

The 31-year-old Asomugha spent his first eight NFL seasons, from 2003-2010 with the Oakland Raiders, who selected him 31st overall in the first round of the 2003 draft out of nearby California in Berkeley. He made three Pro Bowls during his time with Oakland.

Playing in the 49ers' talented secondary means more to Asomugha at this stage of his career than a hefty pay day. Before his release in Philadelphia on the first day of free agency last month, he had been due to make $15 million this season, including $4 million guaranteed, after signing a $60 million, five-year deal with the Eagles in 2011.

''He believes in karma and timing,'' Dogra said. ''He wants to show everybody it's not about the money for him. He wants to prove something. He could have walked away and retired. He wants to play for a winner. He's inspired. He wants to be part of a great team and take care of unfinished business from last year. He wants to end this on his terms. Hopefully, he can get a ring and stay happy.''

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March 28, 2013

By Tracie Cone

Associated Press


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- With the clock clicking down, Sacramento city officials took their last shot at keeping the NBA Kings in California’s capital by approving a public-private deal to build a new 18,500-seat arena and retail center downtown.

The city council’s approval of the arena Tuesday was the last step in what has been a full court press by Mayor Kevin Johnson to keep Sacramento’s only major league sports team from bolting to Seattle, where a new ownership group and arena deal awaits. He now must convince NBA owners to block the Maloof family from initiating the move, a deal made public in January.

Since then, the mayor, himself a former NBA All-Star, has scrambled to assemble a group to buy the team, convince Commissioner David Stern to consider a counter offer, and get approval for the financial deal that would build a $448 million arena on the site of a shopping mall — a development many say will revitalize a problem area in its bustling city core.

Next week, Johnson will present the arena plan and purchase offer to an NBA committee. The following week, the NBA Board of Governors will vote on whether the team can be sold, and whether it will stay or move.

“We want the folks of Seattle to get a team, we wish them well, but we want to keep what’s ours,” Johnson said after the 7-2 vote to approve the arena. “We’re going to New York to talk about the viability of this market and the love affair we’ve had with our team.”

The Sacramento investment group includes Silicon Valley software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and billionaire Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Johnson announced late Monday that Paul Jacobs, CEO of the international technology company Qualcomm, also agreed to become part of the Sacramento bid.

“We have four billionaires who have said that Sacramento is worthy. It's been a long time since people have validated us in this way,” said city councilmember Steve Hansen, who voted in favor of the deal.

The NBA has said the aging Sleep Train Arena in the suburbs four miles north of downtown no longer is adequate.

“We’re in competition to keep the Sacramento Kings from being taken away from us,” said City Manager John Shirey as he began outlining the arena plan for council members. “We’ve known all along that we need to present the NBA a first-rate, quality place for them to play.”

The Seattle group, led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, has had a deal to acquire a 65 percent stake in the team for $341 million.

The Chamber of Commerce, labor groups and fans spoke in favor of the arena deal, saying that keeping the Kings saves 800 jobs and creates 6,500 more during the construction and downtown revitalization process.

The plan was opposed by several groups and speakers, some of whom asked the council to take more time to study whether the deal is good for the city. City officials reached a preliminary arena agreement Saturday with the investment group, but the late negotiations left little time for community members to study the proposal before the vote.

“Mr. Mayor, your attempts to pull off an upset win could adversely affect this community for decades,” said attorney and professed Kings fan Jeffrey Anderson, who asked the council to put the plan before voters or he would file a lawsuit to stop it.

Other speakers said the timing of the deal was ironic given that nearby Stockton is in bankruptcy court after over-extending itself with debt, including a minor-league hockey arena.

Development partners compared their vision of a downtown arena to other projects that have revitalized urban areas such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the new Barclays Center where the Nets began play in Brooklyn this season. Architect AECOM, tapped to build a new Kings arena, recently completed the Barclays venue.

“I have a lot of faith in this site. It's nothing short of world class,” said AECOM's Bill Crockett.

The arena will be built on the west end of city center on the site of the Downtown Plaza, an aging mall that has lost more than half of its sales revenue in the last 10 years as stores have moved to the suburbs. It’s just blocks from Interstate 5, a short walk from Amtrak and sits at a gateway to downtown and the city of 475,000.

The city’s share is $258 million, the bulk of which would come from event parking collections and ticket surcharges. Nearly all of the city’s parking lots are used by government workers who vacate downtown after 5 p.m. The city would own the arena.

The investment group will contribute $189 million to the arena construction and would be responsible for all capital improvements.

The 18,500-seat downtown arena also could host hockey, concerts and family entertainment. The development would include 475,000 in office space, 300,000 in retail space, 250 hotel rooms and 600 housing units.

The arena term sheet includes a 35-year non-relocation agreement with two five-year extensions that would keep the Kings in the city until the last quarter of the century.

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