November 01, 2012

By GREG BEACHAM The Associated Press

 

Southern California's national championship dreams are dead, and Robert Woods believes it's partly because the Trojans care about each other too much.

Stick with him here: The All-American receiver says pride and team togetherness are why 18th-ranked USC leads the nation in penalties.

When the Trojans (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12) spend too much time sticking up for their teammates with late hits, taunts and other shenanigans, those emotions lead to more mistakes between the whistles, and it all adds up to a bumper crop of penalties - a jaw-dropping 82 of them, in fact.

''I feel like this team has too much pride,'' Woods said. ''It's a brotherhood here. Guys are looking out for each other, (but) you need to play within the rules. We've made dumb mistakes. I retaliated and got a penalty, too.''

It's only one man's theory, but few Trojans can come up with anything better to explain the surprising lack of discipline from a team that had no significant penalty predilections last year. The Trojans committed just 71 penalties last season while going 10-2, but they've already vaulted over that mark with five or six games left in this season.

With No. 2 Oregon coming to the Coliseum on Saturday, the Trojans have run out of time to fix their mistakes before the start of their toughest stretch of the season. They've still got a sizable shot at the Pac-12 title game, but it's getting smaller with each yellow flag.

''SC, we have a reputation of being a nasty bunch or whatever,'' linebacker Dion Bailey said. ''We go a step too far on some plays, and the referees aren't cutting us any break.''

USC has been pushed back 677 yards by its penalties - a bit of a contrast from FBS-leading Navy, which has just 28 penalties for 213 yards. The Trojans' 10.25 penalties per game are significantly more than 119th-place Florida International's 8.56 per game.

USC coach Lane Kiffin and his staff have received much of the fans' criticism for his players' lack of discipline, despite weekly sessions rehashing those lapses on film.

''It's not a street fight,'' Kiffin said. ''It's a game, and there's rules within that. A lot of them have the mentality where they're trained to protect their brother, and that's cost us in a lot of situations.''

A week after Kiffin said he hoped the Trojans had ''hit rock-bottom'' in the penalty department with 10 penalties for 90 yards in a blowout win over Colorado, USC committed 13 penalties for 117 yards last weekend in the 39-36 loss at Arizona that knocked them out of the national title race and endangered their chances of playing in the Pac-12 title game.

''I'm completely shocked that we would still be having these conversations at this point,'' Kiffin said. ''Sometimes you have them in the first couple of weeks with newer players or guys making mistakes, but to see the same ones over and over is really disappointing. It cost us the game (at Arizona), on top of all the plays we could have made.''

USC has been penalized for at least 65 yards in every game this season. The Trojans have never committed fewer than seven penalties in a game, and they've hit double digits in five of their eight games, including the last four.

''We've got to take within ourselves the fact that we're representing a lot of people out there on the field,'' hard-hitting safety T.J. McDonald said. ''The players that came before us, all the people that are watching us. We don't want to display an undisciplined team.''

Even when the Trojans don't exactly make major mistakes, they're not getting many breaks. McDonald was whistled for a taunting penalty that extended a scoring drive by the Wildcats last weekend, but replays showed his facemask had actually become entangled in the helmet of the aggrieved Arizona player.

''I don't want to go back to it,'' McDonald said. ''I put the team in some bad positions, and I apologized for that. It's unfortunate, but I've just got to keep playing hard and being me.''

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October 25, 2012

By TOM HAYS / Associated Press

NFL great Lawrence Taylor, reliving a night to forget, admitted on Wednesday that he paid for sex with a "very, very pretty" prostitute in 2010 but denied accusations that he ignored obvious signs she was a teen runaway in distress.

Taylor, 53, told a Manhattan jury at a civil trial that he had a history of hiring women for "company" when on the road but didn't expect them to automatically have sex with him.

"I still like the chase," Taylor testified. But he added, "I like to stack the odds in my favor. ... I don't like to work too hard."

The former New York Giants linebacker was arrested in 2010 after having sex with the then-16-year-old girl in a hotel room in Montebello, just north of New York City. He's serving six months of probation after pleading guilty last year to misdemeanor charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute.

His accuser, Cristina Fierro, claims that an abusive pimp forced her to have sex with Taylor for $300. She sued Taylor in federal court in Manhattan, claiming he should be held accountable.

The Brooklyn-born Fierro, 19, wept while testifying on Wednesday that a hulking Taylor refused to stop having sex with her, even after she told him it hurt and tried to push him away.

"I kept telling him I didn't want to be there," she said. "He's much bigger than me. I couldn't do anything."

Taylor, in his testimony, painted a much different picture, saying he was respectful to Fierro after a friend arranged for her to go to his room after midnight in the spring of 2010. During "chit chat," she told him she was 19 years old and Dominican, he said.

"I thought she was very, very pretty," he said. "I thought she was a cute girl. ... I thought she was very sexy."

He testified that he tried to perform oral sex on her but stopped when she resisted "because a lot of island girls don't like that."

But after that, "She didn't seem to have a problem," he said. "She didn't tell me to stop."

Taylor's lawyer has called Fierro's lawsuit, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, "a money grab" because of Taylor's fame.

Taylor, who lives in Broward County, Fla., led the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

The Associated Press doesn't normally publish the names of accusers in sexual-assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Fierro has done.

Taylor was expected to resume testifying on Thursday.

 

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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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October 25, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Fever and their fans didn't let a little rain ruin their celebration of the WNBA championship.

The team and several thousand fans moved their party indoors to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday as morning rain scrapped plans for a parade. The Fever wrapped up the title Sunday night, beating the Minnesota Lynx three games to one.

Kelly Krauskopf watched the celebration swirling all around her. For 13 seasons after leaving her position as the WNBA's first director of basketball operations, Krauskopf built this team literally from scratch as the Fever’s general manager and chief operating officer.

Krauskopf remembered picking her first six players in the 2000 expansion draft. Her team won just nine of 32 games in the first season, not great, but providing a foundation.

The franchise gained legitimacy when Krauskopf took a chance in the 2001 draft and chose Tennessee standout Tamika Catchings, who sat out her entire senior season with an injury. On Tuesday, Krauskopf smiled and exhaled an audible sigh of relief.

“I feel I can breathe for the first time in 13 years,” she said. “You’re always busy. Every offseason, it’s ‘What do we need to do? What do we need to do? What do we need to do?’”

Krauskopf and her staff kept building and on Sunday, the title was finally theirs — over the defending champion Lynx, no less.

“This is a tribute to those who helped get this organization started,” Krauskopf said during the ceremony.

The crowd reserved its loudest cheers for Catchings, who earned playoff MVP honors to go with her WNBA championship, a NCAA title at Tennessee and three Olympic gold medals.

“This is a journey like no other,” Catchings said, a huge smile lighting her face. “It’s awesome. Amazing. It’s such an honor to be with such a great group of ladies.”

Krauskopf said this was the idea, from the very start.

“It’s a long building process,” she explained. “The first couple of years, you have to pay your dues. But you don’t go into this without thinking about it and dreaming about it.”

The dream took a beating when the Fever fell to Phoenix in five games in their first finals appearance in 2009.

“I really felt we had to get back to the finals,” Krauskopf said. “I felt if we got to the finals again, we could close it out this time, and we did.”

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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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