May 16, 2013
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — Looking up to someone for one of the few times in her basketball life, Brittney Griner leaned into the 7-foot man in front of her, watching and listening as he flipped in one hook shot after another.
Once he was done, Griner took a turn, spinning and flipping up a few hooks of her own over outstretched arms that reached farther than her own lengthy ones.
After getting a crash course in professional basketball from some of the WNBA’s best players over the past week, Griner was given the lesson of a lifetime on Wednesday with a one-on-one session on the skyhook with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
One of the NBA’s greatest players teaching the nuances of perhaps the most unstoppable move in any sport? Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
“I went to legend school today and it was awesome,” Griner said at the Phoenix Mercury’s practice court inside the US Airways Center.
Griner had gone through a rapid learning curve during her first week of training camp, getting a firsthand look at how physical the WNBA really is while being taught things like the pick-and-roll and how to avoid being called for illegal defense.
The intensity ratcheted up when Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree, some of the best players in the WNBA, joined the team after playing overseas.
Wednesday’s session was something different entirely.
Griner has earned her own level of fame as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft and one of the most heralded players in college basketball history.
But Abdul-Jabbar is on a different level: A Hall of Famer, six-time NBA champion, six-time MVP, one of the greatest athletes of a century and one of the most recognizable people in the world.
Even though she was too young to have seen him play in person —she was born a year after Abdul-Jabbar retired — Griner had seen footage of him and certainly knows who he is and his stature.
“I was star struck right there,” Griner said. “You know it when I don’t talk; I like to talk and you know I’m star struck when I’m just listening. I hit you with the yes sir, yes ma’am, I’m definitely star struck.”
The tutorial was put together by Mercury Vice President Ann Meyers Drysdale, who asked the NBA office to see if Abdul-Jabbar would be available to address the team and work with Griner.
He accepted and spent Wednesday’s practice watching from a perch above the court with his oversized feet — though a size smaller than Griner’s men’s 17 — poking through the rail.
Once practice ended, Abdul-Jabbar walked down to the floor and addressed the team before taking questions from the players and coaches.
After a group photo, he peeled off his sweat jacket, took off his blue UCLA hat and met Griner under one of the baskets.
Following a short discussion, Abdul-Jabbar had Griner play behind him in the post on the right block and gave her a few pointers about using leverage against the defender. He then started flicking up skyhooks, right-handed and left, then gave her a turn, providing running commentary the entire time. They switched to the left block for a few more skyhooks and chatted some more.
Griner didn’t look particularly comfortable with the shot at first, but seemed to be getting it down by the end of the 20-minute session, particularly after Abdul-Jabbar adjusted the way she was holding the ball.
“She did start to get it, how I used it,” he said. “Not everybody uses the same tool in the same way, so you’ve got to make adjustments to that. But I think with her potential and willingness to learn, she’ll do well.”
Griner seems intent on turning the lesson into something more.
Already tough to stop inside because of her size and athletic ability, the 6-foot-8 center would like to add the skyhook to her arsenal —eventually.
“You’ll see some hooks, but to do a true skyhook, that’s going to take a while to get it down perfect,” she said. “But you’ll definitely see once I get a feel. I definitely want to get that in there.”
If she does, Griner could become one of the most unstoppable players in the WNBA.
Abdul-Jabbar certainly did well with the skyhook, ending his career as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a shot that has not been close to being matched for productivity and indefensibility.
Perfect what she learned from Abdul-Jabbar and Griner has the potential to be a game-changer the way he was.
“She’s a very talented athlete,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “She’s not just tall, she has some skills. She runs the court very well, she’s active. I think she’s going to have a great career.”
She certainly had a good teacher, at least for one afternoon.
May 16, 2013
By SCHUYLER DIXON
DALLAS — NBA owners voted Wednesday to reject the Sacramento Kings’ proposed move to Seattle, the latest in a long line of cities that have tried to land the franchise.
The vote followed a recommendation made last month by the NBA's relocation committee and may have finally brought an end to an emotional saga that has dragged on for nearly three years.
A group led by investor Chris Hansen has a deal to buy the team. Hansen hoped to move the franchise to Seattle and rename it the SuperSonics. The original Sonics were moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and were renamed the Thunder.
Commissioner David Stern said the league will spend the next 24 to 48 hours talking to the Maloofs, the team’s owners, about working out a deal with a competing ownership group in Sacramento.
The Maloofs reached an agreement in January to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the team to Hansen's group at a total franchise valuation of $525 million, topping the NBA-record $450 million for Joe Lacob and Peter Guber to buy the Warriors in 2010. Then Hansen increased his offer to $550 million, which implies buying the 65 percent stake for about $357 million.
Following the relocation committee's unanimous recommendation on April 29 to deny the move to Seattle, Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dug deeper into their pockets in a final attempt to sway the NBA Board of Governors. They raised the valuation of the Kings to $625 million, or $406 million for the Maloofs' interest in the franchise, and offered a $115 million relocation fee, nearly four times what Clay Bennett paid to move the Sonics.
Hansen’s group also guaranteed owners that the franchise would pay into the league’s revenue-sharing system in Seattle and not collect money as it has in Sacramento.
They were aggressive and bold public statements that had been lacking from the Seattle group through much of the process while Sacramento openly made its case in the public eye.
As a backup, the Seattle group negotiated a plan to buy a minority stake in the Kings with the Maloofs retaining majority ownership and keeping the team in Sacramento.
It's the second time since 2011 that the Maloof brothers have made plans that would have ended in relocation for the Kings. The first target was Anaheim, Calif., but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former All-Star guard, convinced the NBA to give the city another chance to finance a new arena.
Johnson delivered on a promise for a plan for a new downtown arena with help from Stern, but the Maloofs backed out, saying it didn't make financial sense.
The Maloofs had another surprise when they announced a deal with Hansen’s group, which includes Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom department store family.
Johnson fought back again, this time lining up an ownership group led by TIBCO software chairman Vivek Ranadive and getting the Sacramento City Council to approve a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million arena with a $258 million public subsidy.
The potential Sacramento ownership group also includes 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family that owns communications giant Qualcomm.
Seattle has been without an NBA franchise since the SuperSonics moved. Led by star Kevin Durant, the Thunder have made the playoffs four straight seasons, reached the Western Conference finals in 2011 and lost to Miami in last year’s NBA finals.
The NBA’s relocation committee, coincidentally headed by Bennett, voted unanimously last month to reject the bid to move the Kings.
In a letter sent to the relocation and finance committees during its April 17 meeting, the Maloofs said they preferred to sell to the Seattle group and expressed discontent with Sacramento’s latest bid, saying it falls “significantly short.”
Stern has said the offers are in “the same ballpark,” and has reiterated his long-held stance that expansion is unlikely right now.
Hansen spent nearly two years working to get an arena plan approved by the city and county governments and spent more than $65 million buying land in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood where the arena would be built. Hansen has a five-year memorandum of understanding with the city and county on the arena plan.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Linebacker Rolando McClain has told the Baltimore Ravens that he's retiring from the NFL.
The 23-year-old McClain played three seasons with the Oakland Raiders before signing a one-year contract with Baltimore as a free agent on April 12.
''Rolando let me know that he plans to retire from the NFL,'' Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Wednesday. ''We have placed him on the Reserve/Retired list.''
Ten days after signing with the Ravens, McClain was arrested in Decatur, Alabama, and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
It was the third time McClain was arrested in Decatur since 2011. He was previously charged in a 2011 shooting, and police arrested him in January on charges of having his car windows tinted too darkly and trying to lie about his identity.
McClain was sentenced to jail on an assault charge after the shooting, but prosecutors later dismissed the case.
A city judge dismissed the January charge against McClain of trying to lie about his identity. He pleaded guilty to the window tint violation and paid a $182 fine.
Before joining the Ravens, McClain spent his first three NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Alabama.
In 41 games with Oakland he had 274 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and one interception. In his final season, he was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team.
LAWT News Services
NEW YORK — Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the highest-earning athlete in American sports for the second straight year.
The boxer is projected to make $90 million in 2013, according to Sports Illustrated’s annual list released Wednesday. Miami Heat star LeBron James is a distant second at $56.5 million.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees vaults into the rankings at No. 3 at $47.8 million thanks to a new contract signed before last season. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is fourth at just under $47 million.
Tiger Woods is fifth with $40.8 million, his lowest spot since SI started the list in 2004. He was No. 1 through 2011.
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose checked in at No. 7, although he hasn’t played a game since tearing his left ACL on April 28, 2012.
The top 50 include 25 baseball players, 13 basketball players and eight football players, with no female athletes for the fifth consecutive year.
The estimates combine salary, winnings and endorsements.
NEW YORK (AP) -- David Garrard is out of the New York Jets' quarterback competition.
A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Garrard plans to retire because of lingering knee issues.
The 35-year-old Garrard was signed in March to provide veteran competition for Mark Sanchez. But Garrard, who hadn't played in a regular-season game in the NFL since 2010 because of injuries, is planning to step away because of knee troubles.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the team nor Garrard had officially announced the decision.
NFL Network first reported that Garrard planned to retire. SiriusXM Radio host Adam Schein said that Garrard told him in a text that he had to ''call it quits'' because ''my knee is not holding up. Continuing to swell after practices. Limiting what I can do.''
The former Jacksonville Jaguars star was cut by the Miami Dolphins last summer after he needed arthroscopic surgery on his ailing left knee. Garrard was expected to be in the mix to compete for the Jets' starting job along with Sanchez and second-round pick Geno Smith. New York, which cut Tim Tebow two weeks ago, also has Greg McElroy and Matt Simms on the roster.
In a conference call with season ticket holders earlier in the day, new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg insisted that the Jets starting QB job is up for grabs - and that included Garrard at the time.
''This will be a bona fide quarterback competition. Period,'' Mornhinweg said. ''I'm hoping that somebody will rise to the top quicker rather than later.''
Garrard, it now appears, will not be a part of that.
The Jets could look to add another veteran quarterback to the mix, but it appears to solidify Sanchez's spot on the roster. It was likely the team's 2009 first-round pick would remain on the Jets, mainly because he is owed $8.25 million in guaranteed money. But there was some speculation that New York could take the salary cap hit and eat the contract by releasing Sanchez - or trade him - and let Smith battle Garrard for the job.
Smith, the former record-breaking West Virginia star, was expected to be a first-round pick, but stunningly slid into the second round of the draft last month. The Jets, needing to fill several needs, surprised many by taking Smith and adding yet another quarterback to a crowded competition.
Smith said last weekend that he had spoken with the other Jets quarterbacks since being drafted, and was asked specifically about his conversations with Garrard.
''He spoke to me about just how he looks forward to competing with me, teaching me and mentoring me,'' Smith said. ''I told him, 'I'm all ears, I'm an open sponge here.' I'm just here to learn and I'm learning from every one. It's kind of like learning on the job.''
When he signed with the Jets, Garrard passed his physical with the team and said he had his sights set on having a chance at the starting job. He said he felt healthy at the time, adding that ''my knee is great now.''
Garrard had apparently been having issues with it, though. Another person familiar with the situation told the AP that the quarterback wanted to have his knee examined either Tuesday or Wednesday morning, so it had clearly been bothering him during offseason workouts.
That person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn't been announced, was not aware that Garrard was contemplating retirement as recently as last night.
Garrard was a fourth-round pick of Jacksonville in 2002, and became the team's full-time starter in 2007. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009, but was released before the 2011 season. Garrard signed with Miami in March 2012 and appeared to be the front-runner to be the starter ahead of rookie Ryan Tannehill and veteran Matt Moore, but was released after missing the preseason with a knee issue.
He has thrown for 16,003 yards in his career, with 89 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. Garrard, also known for his mobility during his prime, has 17 career rushing touchdowns.
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