August 15, 2013

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer

 

Goodbye, Rose Garden. Hello, Moda Center.

The Portland Trail Blazers announced a 10-year agreement with insurance provider Moda Health on Tuesday to rename the Rose Garden.

Blazers President Chris McGowan said a new logo should be unveiled within about a month, and the team hopes much of the new signage will be up by the season's home opener on Nov. 2 against San Antonio.

At the request of team owner Paul Allen, the new logo will incorporate a rose as a tribute to the fans and the city. Allen originally named the arena the Rose Garden.

''The Rose Garden is not going away. It's going to be a part of our history and heritage,'' McGowan said. ''The Moda Center is going to take us into the future.''

Moda Health, founded in 1955 and based in Portland, offers medical, dental, pharmacy and vision plans to 2 million members in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Formerly known as ODS, the company changed its name in May.

Williams Johnson, president of Moda Health, would not disclose terms of the deal. The partnership also will include other enhancements to the Rose Quarter district.

In April, Allen told reporters he was ''attached' to the Rose Garden, which was opened in 1995. The building is owned by Allen's company, Vulcan Inc.

''I understand people's investments in a particular name. I tried to pick a name, the Rose Garden, that was something like the Boston Garden or Madison Square Garden, there was something in those names that appealed to me as having some permanence,'' he said at the time. ''We'll see what happens.''

Asked what he would tell fans similarly attached to the Rose Garden name, McGowan said: ''Hopefully, they'll understand that this is what organizations do to go to another level.''

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August 08, 2013

(AP) Minnesota Timberwolves Presi­dent Flip Saunders says the team “fully supports” the decision to send first-round draft Shabazz Muhammad home from the NBA's rookie transition program due to a rules violation.

Muhammad was sent home after bringing a female visitor to his hotel room Tuesday night. Players are required to get approval for guests from program officials. Muhammad also will be fined for the infraction, which was first reported by USA Today. He will have to go through the program again next summer.

Muhammad was chosen 14th overall by the Timberwolves in June after one season at UCLA.

The rookie transition program is a four-day seminar that is held to help teach young players about making the jump from college, or overseas, to the NBA.

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August 08, 2013

By PETE IACOBELLI

AP Sports Writer

 

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley typically travels in the summer, but rarely on a trip like this.

The Gamecocks' women's basketball coach is on a 10-day visit to Africa with President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. They are part of a delegation assembled to see the progress of projects initiated by the Clinton Foundation.

''Each day is an eye-opening experience for me,'' Staley wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

She was asked by the WNBA to join the trip as their representative and jumped at the chance.

Staley said she has visited people in Malawi on a farm site that teaches them how to add protein to their diet. In Zambia, Staley toured several Clinton Health Access Initiative clinics in rural communities with Chelsea Clinton. In Tanzania, Staley saw the foundation work with Barclays to bring banking services to people without such basics.

''For the rest of my life, I will be able to tell people what it's like to witness someone hearing for the first time or to let them know what it's like to watch people drink clean water and how we can learn to appreciate the small things in life that we sometimes may take for granted,'' Staley wrote.

Staley attended a soccer match in Zambia where those attending could be tested for Malaria. She also gave out soccer balls donated by South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith.

Among the highlights for Staley was interacting with the Clintons. She had met President Clinton before as part of the U.S. Olympic team that won the 1996 gold medal in women's basketball, the first of three golds Staley would earn as America's point guard.

This time, though, Bill Clinton twice sat at her dinner table and the two shared stories of their lives.

''He is really an engaging person whose intellect is off the charts,'' Staley wrote. ''Those dinners are something I will treasure.''

She said the Clintons are ''genuine and caring individuals who truly want to make a difference in the world.''

Staley believes her time in Africa will have a lasting impact on her players, one as important as any skills camp or shooting drill. She's seen people and areas that are far less fortunate than many areas in the United States and hopes to share that with her players, stressing the need to finish their degrees and give back to those in need.

''I consider all of these experiences teaching moments,'' she wrote.

It's been a busy offseason for Staley after a successful year on the basketball court. The Gamecocks finished 25-8 and won a school-record 11 Southeastern Conference games. South Carolina reached the NCAA tournament for a second straight year, something it hadn't done since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Staley turned down an inquiry from Ohio State about its women's basketball opening, accepting a three-year contract extension that included raising her compensation package to $850,000.

In April, Staley was among 12 people voted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies will be held next month.

Staley said her highlights were in Zambia watching a child hearing for the first time after getting fitted with a hearing aid - ''I will never lose that image,'' she wrote - and in Rwanda when they learned of 10 critically ill children in need of medial help and the delegation pledged the money to provide the care.

Earlier this summer, Staley organized INNERSOLE, a movement to provide new sneaker to school-age children in need. She received over 850 pairs at a kick-off drive in June and has plans for other events when she returns later this week.

Staley didn't have time for any basketball on the visit, she said, although she did post a photo of herself and actress Dakota Fanning in front of zebras last Friday in Zambia.

And while President Clinton was the tour's big draw, Staley got noticed, too, when the group arrived a hospital in Rwanda. One of the Clinton Foundation staffers there grew up a fan of Staley's hard-nosed basketball style and couldn't believe it when the six-time WNBA all-star walked in.

''She told me that I was her childhood hero and that she had my jersey,'' Staley recounted. ''She was so happy about the encounter that she texted her dad about meeting me.''

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August 08, 2013

By TIM REYNOLDS

AP Basketball Writer

 

Greg Oden has taken his physical, done a bit of house hunting in South Florida and signed on the dotted line.

Nearly four years after he last played, he’s officially back in the NBA.

The former No. 1 overall pick signed his contract with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, the last in a series of formalities that needed to be completed before the team could finally announce the move. Oden announced late last week that he was accepting Miami’s offer, one that will pay him about $1 million this coming year and includes a $1.1 million player option for the 2014-15 season.

“I am very excited and happy to be here,” Oden said. “I’m thankful to the Miami Heat organization for bringing me in and I'm ready to get to work.”

Heat President Pat Riley said Wednesday that the team will take a cautious approach with Oden, who has been through the cartilage-repair procedure known as microfracture surgery three times.

“It’s a great challenge for him,” Riley said in a statement released through the team. “We know all about his past injuries, but we feel that there is a huge upside and the possibility of him helping us. We will continue his program and then we will tackle basketball issues after that.”

Riley said the team spent “many months” getting to know Oden, evaluating him both on and off the court before coming to the realization that the time for his comeback may be now. And when he decided to accept Miami’s offer – there were about a half-dozen serious suitors in all for the 7-footer – Oden said he was won over in part by how the Heat will not have the expectations for him to play big minutes right away.

Oden’s last NBA appearance was Dec. 5, 2009, for Portland against Houston. He went up to defend a layup attempt by the Rockets’ Aaron Brooks, fracturing his left kneecap on the play and doing so without even making contact with anyone. Oden collapsed to the floor in obvious agony, was wheeled off the floor after a delay, taken for surgery and the Blazers quickly announced that his season was over.

At the time, no one knew that the following three seasons were basically over as well.

Oden’s health issues started overshadowing his NBA career before it even started. What would have been his rookie season coming out of Ohio State was lost after he had microfracture surgery during the summer of 2007 to repair cartilage problems in his right knee.

In February 2009, he chipped his left kneecap and missed about a month. And when he broke that kneecap 10 months later, he was playing like an All-Star – matching a career-high with 24 points against Chicago a couple weeks before that injury, and setting a career-best with a 20-rebound game against Miami on Dec. 1, 2009.

Four days later, he was gone, and NBA fans haven’t seen him play since.

Another microfracture surgery awaited him in November 2010, and a third one was needed early last year. The Blazers waived him in March 2012, and nearly a year and a half later, he’s getting another shot.

“Congrats Greg,” Heat managing general partner Micky Arison wrote in a tweet. “The journey continues.”

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August 08, 2013

(AP) — New York City police are investigating swastikas and hate speech scrawled on a statue of Jackie Robinson and a teammate outside Brooklyn’s minor league baseball stadium.

A manager at MCU Park noticed the defacement Wednesday at about 8:30 a.m. The words “Heil Hitler,” an expletive and racist epithets were scrawled on the statue in black marker. Workers later covered up the vandalism.

Police are investigating it as a hate crime and are hunting for video evidence.

The statue is of Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodgers teammate Pee Wee Reese.

MCU Park in Coney Island is the stadium for the Brooklyn Cyclones, an affiliate of the New York Mets. The team marked the return of professional to Brooklyn, which lost the Dodgers to Los Angeles in the late 1950s.

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