October 25, 2012

By GREG BEACHAM |

Associated Press

 

(AP) — On one side of the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice court, Dwight Howard is shooting free throws and talking defense with Pau Gasol. On the other end, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are plotting out a pick-and-roll play with step-by-step precision.

And somewhere in the middle, Metta World Peace’s mind is blowing.

“Everybody on the starting five has led their own team and been the go-to guy, the best player on a team,” World Peace said. “We’ve all been the man somewhere else, and now we’re together. It’s unbelievable. They’re all rock stars, but everybody has a great attitude. It’s a great time, great time for us.”

The Lakers are a fantasy basketball team brought to life this fall. Thanks to the nimble offseason moves of general manager Mitch Kupchak, Los Angeles has assembled one of the most accomplished starting lineups in NBA history, from Nash’s MVP awards and Bryant’s scoring superlatives to Howard’s defensive dominance and Gasol’s international acclaim.

Whether those accomplishments translate into championship success will be learned over the next several months. The Lakers are loaded with talent, but it's mostly confined to the top half of their roster — and they’re not close to the NBA’s youngest team.

But with 82 games and the postseason still in front of them, the Lakers are incredibly optimistic about the chance they’ve been given to add a 17th championship banner to the Staples Center rafters. Los Angeles has said almost nothing about Miami, Oklahoma City, Boston, San Antonio or the other NBA title contenders in the preseason, focusing entirely on the work still necessary to turn this disparate group of All-Stars into a cohesive unit.

“We’re going to be a really good team, but we’ve got a lot of work in front of us right now,” said Bryant, the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history beginning his 17th season with the Lakers. “We’re not close to a finished product, and the teams that we want to compete with have all had their main groups together longer. We’ve got to keep improving every day, every week, and learning how to play together.”

Howard, a six-time All-Star with the Orlando Magic, was acquired by Los Angeles in a four-team deal involving Andrew Bynum last August. Although Howard has just one year left on his contract, he has embraced the Lakers’ tradition and history, making it clear he’s quite determined to follow in the footsteps of Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.

“This is a great franchise, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it,” Howard said. “It’s a motivation to look up on the wall and see all of those great retired jerseys. It’s just a blessing to be here. I still can’t believe it, really.”

On the opening day of training camp, Bryant designated the easygoing center as his successor as the Lakers’ franchise player when the 34-year-old Kobe walks away, perhaps just two years from now.

Bryant isn’t done yet, however — and he has never played with a point guard of Nash’s abilities. The two-time MVP agreed to move to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade to stay closer to his three children in Phoenix, yet he seems to be an ideal fit with the Lakers, whose biggest positional deficiency has been at point guard for several years.

Nash still isn’t sure how all of the Lakers’ pieces will fit together, but after several mostly mediocre years with the Suns, the 38-year-old Canadian is grateful for a real chance to chase his first ring.

“We’re covering a lot of ground in training camp, with the new offense and all the new guys,” Nash said. “We’re getting into a competitive space, though. You can see how these guys are coming together. We know we’ve got a chance to be a really good team.”

Coach Mike Brown has the keys to this impressive vehicle, and he acknowledges he’s mostly trying not to crash it. He has installed elements of the Princeton offense to encourage the Lakers to be mobile and creative on offense, but the defense-minded coach is most excited about a unit backstopped by Howard, the shot-blocking defensive dynamo.

“The big thing I’ve been telling these guys on defense is that they don’t have to gamble,” Howard said. “We’re solid on D. We just need to work hard for 24 seconds, get the rebound, and we’re out.”

Much of that confidence is based on Howard, who is still a bit peeved he didn’t win another Defensive Player of the Year award last spring despite his early end to the season for back surgery. Bynum thrived on defense at times, but the Lakers believe no center can match Howard’s combination of athleticism and intelligence.

“He can make plays defensively that no big man outside of Bill Russell can make,” Bryant said.

The Lakers’ weaknesses might include their bench, which was the NBA’s least productive group last season. Antawn Jamison, the high-scoring forward who has mostly spent his 15-year career as the best player on bad teams, should inject more offense as a reserve, while Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon will provide a new look in the backcourt. Jordan Hill, Steve Blake and Devin Ebanks return from last year.

But it’s tough to worry about the Lakers while Howard, Nash, Bryant, Gasol and World Peace are running drills together in practice.

They’re still getting to know each other, but they all sense the potential to become something greater than the sum of their parts.

“You don’t get an opportunity like this too often in life,” Gasol said. “We’re all excited to go on this journey together.”

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Category: Sports

October 25, 2012

LAWT Wire Service

 

The Dorsey High School football team, coaches and administrators celebrated this past Friday with Los Angeles real estate developer Sonny Astani and former Labor Leader, Martin Ludlow with a new state-of-the art weight room.

Astani made his donation to the Dorsey Football Boosters, a non-profit organization which was created by Ludlow to help purchase uniforms, medical supplies, training equipment and college-bound computer programs.  Astani’s donation enabled the boosters to completely renovate the school’s weight room. Now, student-athletes for the Dorsey Dons can work out with new free weights and gym equipment in a freshly-painted facility adorned with state-of-the-art flat screen televisions and audio systems. High school game films can now be assembled and viewed on a digital editing system.

“For years, Dorsey High student-athletes have worked out in an inferior facility,” said Dorsey Football Boosters founder Martin Ludlow. “With the monetary donation from Sonny Astani and the enthusiastic support of the principal and head coach, this renovated weight room is a symbol of progress, and it’s a show of support for the outstanding legacy of Dorsey High athletics.”

Astani added: “One of the joys of being able to help others is to witness the work of organizations like the Dorsey Football Boosters. I am proud to be associated with a group that’s dedicated to helping young men and women achieve success in life -- now and in the future.”

The ceremony on Friday in the weight room included Dorsey head coach Paul Knox and Dr. Reginald Sample, Dorsey principal.

 

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October 18, 2012

By DAVID GINSBURG Associated Press

 

Ray Lewis has been placed on injured reserve with the “designated to return” tag, which provides him the chance to play again this season.

Lewis tore his right triceps in Sunday’s game against Dallas. He was scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday.

His return this season is unlikely, but by being designated to return, the 37-year-old is eligible to come back in six weeks.

Coach John Harbaugh says, “We have no idea whether that time frame has anything to do with the injury, but there’s an opportunity and we’re going to keep the door open.”

The loss of Lewis was balanced somewhat by the return of linebacker Terrell Suggs, who practiced Wednesday for the first time this season. Suggs has been out with a torn right Achillies tendon.

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October 18, 2012

Associated Press

 

Connecticut’s Tina Charles was the leading vote-getter for the All-WNBA team, and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings earned her seventh first-team selection.

Catchings, a first-team pick for the fourth straight season, tied Seattle's Lauren Jackson and Phoenix's Diana Taurasi for second place on the career list with seven selections to the first team. Former Los Angeles star Lisa Leslie is the leader with eight.

Charles, who won her first MVP award, received 196 points from a national panel of writers and broadcasters. Joining Charles and Catchings on the first team were the Sparks’ Candace Parker, New York's Cappie Pondexter and Minnesota's Seimone Augustus.

The Lynx’s Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen were selected to the second team, along with Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, Los Angeles’ Kristi Toliver and San Antonio’s Sophia Young.

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October 18, 2012

BRETT MARTEL

Associated Press

 

The NFL is again urging a federal judge to avoid interfering in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s efforts to discipline four players for the Saints’ cash-for-hits bounty pool.

In a response to papers the players filed earlier this week, the NFL says its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union gives Goodell the power to handle discipline involving conduct detrimental to football “at his discretion.”

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is considering the players’ request to overturn varying suspensions to Saints linebacker Jon Vilma (full season), Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (seven games) and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (one game).

The players also want Berrigan to appoint a “neutral arbitrator” to handle any discipline in the matter.

The NFL argues that the players’ request “turns the CBA (and the law) on its head.”

“The parties agreed to trust in (the Commissioner’s) personal judgment,” the papers filed by the NFL said.

The players have argued Goodell’s public comments about the matter, dating to before he had even disciplined to the players, prove he cannot be impartial, and therefore has violated the players’ industrial due process rights, which are also an inherent part the league’s labor deal.

The NFL responded that the standard to prove partiality for an arbitrator within the framework of a labor agreement is much higher than for a judge in a court case. The league cited case law stating, “Nothing in the parties’ contract requires arbitrators to arrive with empty heads.”

The NFL also argued its evidence in the bounty matter is strong enough to justify the commissioner’s actions, whether he was partial to one side or not.

“When all of the circumstances are considered, it is clear that the reasonable observer would not have to conclude that ... the outcome is due to ‘bias,’” the NFL said. “The circumstances here include the fact that Plaintiffs do not dispute that the Saints program offered incentives for cart-offs and knockouts, and that cart-offs and knockouts were plays in which an opposing player was disabled or injured, at least temporarily.

“Not disputing that this program existed, Plaintiffs should not be heard to complain that an adverse appeal decision would have to be due to bias.”

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