September 05, 2013
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns and Michael Beasley have reached an agreement to terminate the contract of the troubled forward.
The move on Tuesday will cost the franchise $7 million, a $2 million savings from what Beasley would have been due had he simply been waived. It also represents a significant reduction in what the hit on the team’s salary cap would have been.
Beasley was arrested a month ago in suburban Scottsdale on charges of felony marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. It was the latest in a series of incidents involving the drug that has plagued his NBA career after he was selected as the No. 2 overall draft pick out of Kansas State in 2008.
“The Suns were devoted to Michael Beasley’s success in Phoenix,” Suns President for Basketball Operations Lon Babby said in a statement released by the team. “However, it is essential that we demand the highest standards of personal and professional conduct as we develop a championship culture.
“Today’s action reflects our commitment to those standards.”
The Suns took a chance on Beasley despite his history of off-the-court problems.
In June 2011, Beasley was ticketed for marijuana possession and speeding in a Minneapolis suburb. He has acknowledged that while he was with the Miami Heat, he twice violated the NBA’s drug policy and entered a treatment facility in 2009.
But at the news conference announcing his signing of a three-year, $18 million contract with Phoenix, Beasley vowed that his marijuana days were over.
“I realize 10 minutes of feeling good is not really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy,” he said then, “so I’m confident to say that that part of my career, that part of my life, is over and won’t be coming back.”
But early on Aug. 6, his Mercedes was pulled over for a traffic stop and a Scottsdale officer said he smelled marijuana. Police said they found three marijuana cigarettes in the car Beasley was driving.
Lance Blanks was Suns general manager when Beasley was signed and enthusiastically supported the acquisition. Blanks was fired at the end of last season and replaced by Ryan McDonough, who hired new coach Jeff Hornacek and has overseen a wholesale change in the roster after the Suns compiled the worst record in the Western Conference and second-worst in franchise history.
“We have high standards for all of our players,” McDonough said. “We expect them to represent the team and the community in a positive manner both on and off the court.”
On the court, Beasley’s one season with the Suns was a disappointing one. He averaged career lows of 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 75 games while shooting a career-worst 40.5 percent from the field.
Beasley’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, did not respond to email or phone requests for comment. Beasley, 24, has played five seasons in the NBA, two with Miami, two with Minnesota and one with Phoenix. He is averaging 14.1 points per game for his career.
The Suns’ recent trade of Caron Butler to Milwaukee created $6 million in salary cap room to soften the financial blow to the Suns.
“The timing and nature of this, and all our transactions,” Babby said, “are based on the judgment of our basketball leadership as to how best to achieve our singular goal of rebuilding an elite team.”
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK -- After LeBron James won his second NBA championship this year, he talked about the improbability of his journey — ascending to world fame despite growing up with challenge after challenge in the inner city.
Now James plans to explore that theme as part of "Survivor's Remorse," a new show he's developing with Starz. While he won't star in the half-hour sitcom, he'll be one of the executive producers of the show, which will explore the lives of two men from the streets who attain fame — one is an NBA star and one is not — and how they deal with friends and families in the wake of that success.
"I think the main thing for me is, first of all, making it out of a place where you're not supposed to. You're supposed to be a statistic and end up like the rest of the people in the inner city — (and) being one of the few to make it out and everyone looking at you to be the savior," the Miami Heat superstar said in a phone interview last week.
"When you make it out, everyone expects for — they automatically think that they made it out and it's very tough for a young, African-American 18-year-old kid to now hold the responsibility of a whole city, of a whole community. I can relate to that as well," said James, who was 18 when he came to the NBA and is now a 28-year-old veteran.
James is developing the show with his longtime friend and business partner, Maverick Carter; Tom Werner, the producer behind classic shows like "Roseanne" and "The Cosby Show"; and actor Mike O'Malley, who will be an executive producer and is the show's writer. Paul Wachter will also be an executive producer.
"It's definitely not an autobiographical series about my life or LeBron's life; it's fictional characters living in a fictional world," said Carter, before adding with a laugh: "LeBron is actually too famous, he would screw the show up if I tried to make a show about him."
The show is based in North Philadelphia instead of Akron, Ohio, where the two are from: "More people can relate to it," explained Carter of Philadelphia.
Still, Werner said the inspiration for the series started in part with conversations he had with Carter, and later James, about their lives.
"I think the juxtaposition of great wealth — and then you go back to your home in Akron and the neighborhood that you come from — the chasm is a fairly big one, and I think it's some very interesting story material," he said.
Werner, James and Carter have worked together since 2011. They are part of Fenway Sports Group, and Werner is the chairman of the organization, which combines sports, media and entertainment. Werner said they were "delighted" to bring the show, which is in development but has no firm timetable to air, to Starz.
Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said the show would be different for the channel, whose original programming includes the recently launched "The White Queen."
"It's a contemporary piece, which we've been trying to find," he said. "But mostly it's an opportunity to bring us into a world where guys as producers and a terrifically talented guy as a writer who I think are going to take the audience on an interesting, fun and I would bet funny ride."
However, there will be serious subjects tackled in the show. Werner compared "Survivor's Remorse" to shows like "Roseanne," which dealt with difficult situations with humor interspersed with serious moments.
"Nobody's getting killed, nobody's dying from cancer on this show," Carter said. "It's light-hearted, but its real-life stories."
James said though it's been years, survivor's remorse is still something he feels.
"I live with that, knowing that I have to hold a huge burden and responsibility that a lot of people cannot even think about," he said.
August 29, 2013
ZURICH — Usain Bolt aims to achieve greatness with a third Olympic triple-gold medal haul at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
“To actually go to Rio and win again would be a feat in itself,” Bolt said Wednesday, speaking ahead of the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting.
The Jamaican will run in the 100 meters on Thursday after a world championship sweep in 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in Moscow, where he talked of working hard to attain “the greatness thing.”
He completed the same triple at the past two Olympics and is focused on repeating in Rio.
“For me, the key thing is just to go to defend my titles, and that’s my focus,” Bolt said. “It would be the first time anybody has ever won three times in a row.”
Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, right, meets with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, left, on Wednesday, …Bolt became the most decorated athlete in world championships history this month, with his career tally of eight golds and two silvers lifting him above American great Carl Lewis.
Three more golds for Bolt in Rio would still leave him trailing Lewis' Olympic track and field record of nine golds and one silver in the medal standings.
“I won’t be adding a fourth event in Rio for sure,” the 27-year-old Bolt said.
Bolt’s news conference was held at FIFA headquarters, across the city from the stadium where he will run Thursday.
Bolt was greeted on arrival by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and later accepted a blue FIFA soccer shirt bearing his name and the No. 9.
Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, right, meets with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, left, on Wednesday, …Blatter joked that nine seconds was probably the limit for Bolt, whose 100 world record set in 2009 stands at 9.58.
Bolt suggested he was capable of running in the 9.70s at Weltklasse, where a warm, still evening is forecast.
“I have gotten a lot of rest,” said Bolt, who set a Weltklasse meet record of 19.66 in the 200 who last year in cool, wet conditions. “This track is always a fast track and I’ve run some fast times here.”
By RACHEL COHEN
NEW YORK — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took issue with the notion that the league’s $765 million settlement with former players is a paltry sum compared to the sport’s revenues.
“This is a significant amount of money,” he said Wednesday. “The plaintiffs also agreed it was an appropriate amount. The mediator felt it was an appropriate amount.”
Goodell made his first public comments since the settlement to the lawsuits was announced last week. More than 4,500 former players, some of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or depression, accused the NFL of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field.
“We were able to find common ground to be able to get relief to the players and their families now rather than spending years litigating,” Goodell said at an event in Manhattan to promote February’s New York/New Jersey Super Bowl.
The settlement was announced last Thursday after two months of court-ordered mediation and is subject to approval by a federal judge. It does not include an admission from the NFL that it hid information from players about head injuries.
“We think it's the right thing to move forward and try to do what we can to help our players,” Goodell said.
Some former players questioned the size of the settlement, considering it stretches over 20 years and will be divided among thousands of people — and considering the NFL takes in more than $9 billion a year, a figure that will rise when new TV contracts start in 2014.
Goodell noted that those billions are revenues, not profits.
The settlement applies to all past NFL players and spouses of those who are deceased — a group that could total more than 20,000. It sets aside $75 million for medical exams and $10 million for medical research.
Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia.
The NFL’s litigation may still not be over. Four former players filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans on Sunday against the league and helmet maker Riddell, claiming they hid information about the dangers of brain injury. They want medical care for past, current and future NFL players.
As the league and retired players debate what happened in the past, the NFL has promoted its initiatives aimed at making the game safer. Goodell appeared on “CBS This Morning” earlier Wednesday to help announce a program with Under Armour and GE to donate money toward projects that prevent head injuries.
BY HOWARD FENDRICH
From the earnest explanation of why Gary the Snail is her favorite “SpongeBob SquarePants” character to the name-check of rapper Lil Wayne, Victoria Duval made quite clear she is very much a 17-year-old kid.
One who just so happened to stun 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the first round of the U.S. Open.
Overcoming the sort of nerves that derive from never before having played this highly ranked an opponent — let alone beaten one — and never before having won a match at a Grand Slam tournament, Duval hopped up and down with arms overhead after pulling off her big surprise at Flushing Meadows, a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 11th-seeded Stosur.
“I don’t even remember match point,” the 296th-ranked American said Tuesday night, less than two hours after closing out Stosur with a forehand winner. “I guess I was really happy. I mean, you could tell by all the jumping I did.”
She wore a white towel around her neck, giggled at her own squeaky-voiced answers, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying the whole experience during a news conference that was a meandering affair, befitting Duval’s bubbly personality — and the long, unique journey that brought her to this point.
Duval, currently based in Bradenton, Fla., was born in Florida, but grew up in her parents’ home country of Haiti. She said that when she was 7, she and some cousins were taken hostage there by robbers.
“It’s not a good memory, so I’ve tried to forget as much as I could about it,” Duval said when the subject was raised. “I don’t remember too much of it anymore, which is great.”
Then, in 2010, when Haiti was rocked by an earthquake, her father was buried in rubble and badly injured, Duval said.
“There’s a lot to be thankful for. I don’t take anything for granted. ... My Dad is really fortunate to be here,” she told the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd during an on-court interview.
Duval, who needed to go through qualifying to get into the U.S. Open because her ranking is so low, joined eight other American women in the second round of the main draw. Tuesday also was a good day for American men, who went 5-2, led by No. 13 John Isner and No. 26 Sam Querrey.
“We’re obviously trying to make American tennis become what it used to be,” Duval said. “We”re all working toward the same goal. We’re all a tight-knit group. Helping each other is important. I think we’re on an amazing path.”
The first American to play Wednesday was CoCo Vandeweghe, who dropped her second-round match 6-3, 6-4, to 18th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro. Others on the schedule included past champions Serena and Venus Williams, 15th-seeded Sloane Stephens, 23rd-seeded Jamie Hampton, and 33-year-old James Blake, who announced the U.S. Open will be the last tournament of his career. Also on the schedule: Andy Murray, the defending men’s champion who added a Wimbledon championship last month.
In other early matches Wednesday, No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Li Na advanced to the third round with straight-set victories.
Until Tuesday, Duval did not own a victory over anyone ranked higher than 69th. She had not faced a woman in the top 20. She only had played one match at a major tournament, a first-round loss to Kim Clijsters at last year’s U.S. Open (which turned out to be the final singles victory of the Belgian's career).
Stosur was unhappy with the way she played Tuesday, including 10 double-faults and a total of 56 unforced errors, 21 more than Duval.
“I’m not going to be a sore loser and say she didn’t do anything,” said Stosur, an Australian. “But, you know, I think I certainly helped her out there today, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps. But Duval’s game also has benefited from time spent in heady company recently, including mentoring from Billie Jean King and tips from famed tennis coach Nick Bolletieri.
“We have a great relationship,” Duval said. “I call him Uncle Nick.”
Seconding Stosur’s assessment, Duval summed up their match this way: “Although she didn’t play nearly her best today, I played amazing, so I’ll take it.”
And why shouldn’t she? We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and rather recently: In 2009, another 17-year-old American, Melanie Oudin, made it all the way to the quarterfinals in New York by upsetting a series of seeded players, including past champion Maria Sharapova. This year, Oudin lost in U.S. Open qualifying.
Next for Duval, who wears white-framed eyeglasses and a visor on court, is a matchup against Daniela Hantuchova, who has been ranked as high as No. 5 and been a Grand Slam quarterfinalist.
But for an evening, anyway, Duval wanted to relish the biggest win of her nascent career.
And the kid sure seemed to be having a grand ol’ time speaking to reporters, describing herself as “very goofy off the court” and “a child at heart.”
So it made sense that when the subject of the “SpongeBob” cartoon series came up during her media session, she pointed out that “Gary’s cute; Gary doesn’t get enough credit.”
And she brought this up, too: “I heard that Lil Wayne tweeted me. I need to go check that out. I don’t have Twitter. I’m going to go hit that up.”
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