October 10, 2013
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was charged Wednesday with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a party at his home in June 2012.
The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office said in announcing the charges that Smith is expected to surrender on his own later this month. The 24-year-old Smith is on an indefinite leave of absence from the NFC champion Niners while undergoing treatment for substance abuse at an in-patient facility following a DUI arrest Sept. 20.
“We’ve been aware of the incident, the serious nature of it. We’re all accountable for our actions, good and bad,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday. “There’s a process, due process, that will take place. I don’t feel any need to comment further on it.”
When asked whether Smith — who set a franchise record with 19 1/2 sacks last season — would play again this year, Harbaugh said only, “I don’t have any need to further comment on it.”
On Monday, the coach said he had traded a few text messages with Smith, saying, “Heard that things are going very well, very positive reports back.”
If convicted, Smith could face up to four years and four months in jail, the district attorney's office said.
“The preamble to the assault weapons law states that each assault weapon ‘has such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings,’” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “California’s prohibition of these powerful weapons is not about hunting or target practice. It is about interrupting the long history of death, carnage and grief assault weapons have inflicted on California communities.”
Smith also is likely to face a suspension from the NFL, perhaps pushed back to next season or after his legal issues are resolved.
The 49ers issued a statement Wednesday.
“The 49ers organization is aware of the recent developments with Aldon arising from an incident at his home in 2012,” the team said. “We recognize the serious nature of this situation, as does Aldon, and will continue to monitor it closely. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment.”
Last month, Smith and former teammate Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by a Northern California man who said he was shot at a party at Smith’s house on June 29, 2012.
The players charged a $10 admission and $5 per drink, the lawsuit said. Smith and now-Titans tight end Walker, 29, were allegedly intoxicated on Smith's balcony when they fired gunshots in the air while trying to end the party, the lawsuit said.
Before the 2012 home opener last September, Smith was the passenger in a car during an accident in Santa Clara County in which the driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer. Smith sustained a cut beneath his right eyebrow. He apologized and insisted he had grown up.
Smith, selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, had previously been arrested on suspicion of DUI in January 2012 in Miami shortly after the 49ers lost in the NFC championship game.
He is on the reserve non-football injury list while in rehab, and there is no NFL minimum for number of games he must miss while on the list.
Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22 and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. Smith apologized for his behavior after the game.
October 03, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Meet Mr. Hitner.
Called by that name for years out of respect for his hard-hitting defense, San Francisco safety Donte Whitner has filed paperwork in Ohio through his lawyer to formally change his name by removing the ‘W’ — after receiving permission from his mother, Deborah, to do so.
“My last name was Whitner, now it’s Hitner,” Whitner said Wednesday. “Yeah, it’s legal, I’m taking the ‘W’ off. I asked my mom first, though. She said no in the summer, then she said yes three nights ago. It’s pretty cool.”
Whitner has been in touch with Nike to determine how many No. 31 Whitner jerseys are still for sale in retail stores and elsewhere and whether he might need to financially contribute to make the switch.
He doesn’t seem overly concerned about that small part of the process.
“Depending how many there are,” he said. “I haven’t really seen that many around Candlestick, unless somebody’s hiding them.”
The $27 fee for legally changing his name is money well spent, Whitner said.
His uncle, Mario Whitner, helped encourage Whitner’s mother — Mario’s sister — to go along with the switch.
“The only person I really take instruction from is my mom. That’s why I’m happy this week she said yes. I asked her again,” Whitner said. “My uncle just came home and he pretty much convinced her. He was a guy that was there for me when I was a little, little boy and went away for a while, to prison.”
While he would love to debut his new name for Sunday night’s prime-time game at home in Candlestick Park against the Houston Texans, he said it realistically would probably take another week before his new name is on the back of his uniform. That would be Oct. 13 at Arizona.
Coach Jim Harbaugh learned of Whitner’s plans Wednesday, then approached him in the locker room with encouraging words: “It’s kind of catchy.”
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick also approved, offering a “good change” with a thumbs-up of support.
Is he taking a cue or two from Chad Johnson — who became Chad Ochocinco for a time — or NBA star Ron Artest’s change to Metta World Peace?
“That was a lot,” Whitner said of World Peace. “I think one word is not as big as 10 words. It’s what I do. It’s my last name. Removing a letter makes it pretty cool.”
No matter what it says on the back of the safety’s jersey Sunday, everybody on the defense has one name they want on the field: Willis.
Linebacker Patrick Willis missed last Thursday night's 35-11 victory at St. Louis with a strained groin sustained against the Colts on Sept. 22, an injury even the All-Pro thought was far worse than it is.
Defensive teammate Justin Smith deemed Willis a go for Sunday, and he returned to practice Wednesday.
“He’s playing, so definitely,” Smith said when asked about Willis’ impact.
Willis is encouraged with his progress considering this is an injury he has never had before. Yet he insists he won’t play unless he knows he is healthy enough to help the team — and he is still dealing with some pain.
“The only thing I can do is have the right mindset,” Willis said. “The biggest thing right now is making sure I stay on pace and don’t do too much and at the same make sure that if I’m going to be out there I can help my teammates and help us win.”
The 49ers have no imminent updates or announcements planned on the status of linebacker Aldon Smith, who entered an in-patient rehab facility last week for substance abuse. He is on an indefinite leave of absence and the team doesn’t comment on personal matters.
Also Wednesday, San Francisco signed quarterback John Skelton to a one-year contract, giving them a strong-armed third-stringer.
Skelton signed a day after the Niners waived rookie B.J. Daniels, whom Harbaugh had hoped could still be a practice squad option before the rival Seahawks snatched him up off waivers. Skelton was cut by the Bengals on Aug. 31 when they set their 53-man roster. Cincinnati claimed Skelton off waivers when the Arizona Cardinals — the 49ers’ NFC West foe — let him go in April.
Skelton worked out for the team last month.
“He had an excellent workout when he was here a few weeks back, one of the better workouts I’ve seen from a quarterback in those workout environments,” Harbaugh said. “Felt like we wanted to have two veteran quarterbacks, two guys that have started games, played in games, won games. Felt that’s what we needed to do at this time.”
By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Wednesday that J.R. Smith needs to ''grow up and do the right things'' after the sixth man was suspended five games by the NBA for violating the anti-drug policy.
Woodson said he was disappointed in Smith's actions, but would continue to support him.
''I'm not going to throw him out to the pasture,'' Woodson said. ''My job is to coach him and make sure something like what happened doesn't happen again. That's what we do as coaches, and I expect his teammates to show him love. But at the end of the day he's got to do the right thing by J.R. and his teammates, and me as a coach and this organization and the fans that support him. I mean, that's what it's all about.
''He's got to grow up and do the right things.''
Smith has been in trouble on and off the court during his career but was credited with showing more maturity last season while winning the Sixth Man of the Year award. Then he received a one-game suspension in the playoffs for foolishly throwing an elbow into Jason Terry's face in Game 3 of a first-round series against Boston, before getting hit with the five-game ban last month.
Smith is recovering from knee surgery, and Woodson doesn't know when he will be able to return. Once the guard is healthy, he will miss his first five games. Woodson said he hopes that's a learning experience for Smith.
''You talk about missing the first five games, I'm not happy about it,'' Woodson said. ''But hey, we know what we're facing and we've got to get through it, and we've got to make sure that he understands it's something that can't happen again.''
Smith said Monday that he was disappointed that he let his teammates and coaches down. He was asked Wednesday if he thought he had something to prove after the negative publicity he has received in the last few months.
''I think every day I step into the gym I have something to prove, not to anybody else but to myself,'' he said. ''I feel I can always get better. I have so much room for improvement, and I just want to be the best player I can be. Right now I'm not at the elite level yet.''
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) —NBA legend Michael Jordan believes he could beat LeBron James in a one-on-one basketball game when he was in his prime.
He’s not sure about Kobe Bryant.
In a video promoting the NBA 2K14 video game that was released Tuesday, Jordan said there’s a long list of players he would’ve liked to have played one-on-one — Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Bryant and James, who dons the cover of this year’s game.
“I don’t think I would lose,” Jordan said in the video, before smiling and adding, “Other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves.”
Responded James: “MJ said that?”
James was told of Jordan’s comments after the Miami Heat completed their first training camp practice in the Bahamas on Tuesday, and said that the buzz would serve as good promotion for the game.
“Absolutely, I thought about the matchup,” James said. “But no one would ever see it. It’s not going to happen. But it’s good for people to talk about.”
Jordan was listed as 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds during his prime. He averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game during his 15 seasons in the NBA.
Jordan, a six-time NBA champion and considered by many the greatest basketball player ever, has had a sponsorship deal with 2K Sports since 2011, when he first appeared on the cover of the popular game. James, 6-8, 250 pounds, has averaged 25.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6 assists during his first 10 seasons in the league.
The 50-year-old Jordan, who was a five-time league MVP and is the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, also shared the cover in 2012 with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
September 26, 2013
By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday September 24 backed a resolution urging the National Football League to bring back at least one, and possibly two teams to the region.
The resolution will now go before the full City Council.
Councilman Tom LaBonge, the author of the resolution, said it “puzzles me why, out of 32 teams, one doesn’t want to come here to sunny Southern California.”
While local football enthusiasts have had difficulty getting even one team to call Los Angeles home, LaBonge’s resolution declares an interest in making it a two-team town.
Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the NFL, said today the league is keeping an eye on Los Angeles.
“We continue to closely monitor all stadium developments in the Los Angeles area,” he said.
LaBonge said his “real hope is the league expands” to 34 teams, so that Los Angeles would actually be getting its own team — or teams —rather than poaching from other cities.
The St. Louis Rams, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are seen as likely candidates to relocate because they may be interested in upgrading their stadium facilities.
All three of those teams used to play in Los Angeles. The Chargers played in Los Angeles during the team’s first season in 1960 as part of the American Football League.
Asked if he would welcome the Raiders back to Los Angeles, LaBonge quipped he would as long as several former Raiders players from the 1980s are “called out of retirement,” including Marcus Allen and Howie Long.
McCarthy did not respond to a question asking if the NFL plans to expand.
LaBonge earlier this month addressed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging an end to an 18-season NFL drought in Los Angeles. In his missive, LaBonge professed his deep love for the sport and said it's time to “call an audible” after years of unfulfilled plans.
“We’ve waited far too long to root for the home team,” LaBonge said of the renewed efforts to show the NFL the city's enthusiasm for the sport.
“Our collective excitement for the new NFL season is dampened by Los Angeles’ lack of a team,” he said.
The Los Angeles area has not had an NFL team since 1994. In 1995, the Los Angeles Raiders returned to Oakland after playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 1982-1994 and the Los Angeles Rams, who played in Anaheim Stadium, moved to St. Louis.
City leaders last fall signed a deal with entertainment and sports events company AEG to redevelop the Los Angeles Convention Center to include additional exhibition space. The agreement includes using a football stadium project at the site as leverage for bringing in financing for the convention center improvements.
Earlier this year, the announcement by Tim Leiweke, a key AEG negotiator in the deal, that he would be resigning from the company cast doubt on the future of the convention center improvements. By then the latest deadline for securing an NFL team to play at the proposed stadium had also come and gone without any action taken.
The mayoral transition also brought a shift in the city's attitude toward bringing in an NFL team, with new Mayor Eric Garcetti saying that while he would welcome a team, it was not his top priority.
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