June 20, 2013

Associated Press

 

WIMBLEDON, England — After 16 consecutive years of always showing up at Wimbledon, winning five titles along the way, Venus Williams pulled out of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament Tuesday, citing a lower back injury.

Williams, who turned 33 on Monday, never had missed Wimble­don since making her debut there in 1997, although she lost in the first round a year ago. She won the singles trophy — it happens to be called the Venus Rosewater Dish — in 2000-01, 2005 and 2007-08, to go with two more major championships at the U.S. Open in 2000-01.

But Williams has been dealing with a bad back for a while, playing only three matches in the last two-plus months. She was clearly hampered by the injury during a three-set, three-hour loss to 40th-ranked Urszula Radwanska of Poland in the first round of the French Open last month, then cited her back when she and younger sister Serena withdrew from the doubles competition in Paris.

The older Williams said after the singles loss at Roland Garros - her first opening-round exit there in a dozen years - that the inflammation in her back made it painful to serve hard, limiting one of the best parts of her game.

Once ranked No. 1, Williams is currently No. 34. Still learning to live as a professional athlete with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, Sjogren's syndrome, she has two first-round losses in the past four Grand Slam tournaments. That includes her defeat at Wimbledon last year, the first time she’d left a major championship that early since she lost in the first round of the Australian Open in 2006.

“With what I've gone through, it’s not easy. But I’m strong and I’m a fighter. You know, I don’t think I’m just playing for me now. I think I’m playing for a lot of people who haven’t felt well,” Williams said after her loss to Radwanska. “I think for me today, it’s a positive to be able to play three hours. I’m constantly finding ways to get better and to feel better.”

Play begins at Wimbledon next Monday.

Serena Williams, who is ranked No. 1, will be a big favorite to win what would be her sixth Wimbledon title and 17th major championship overall. She’s won 31 matches in a row, the longest single-season streak on the women’s tour since Venus put together a 35-match run in 2000.

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June 20, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

One day after negotiations were declared “off” by both teams, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics resumed talks on a blockbuster trade that would send Celtics head coach and star Kevin Garnett to the Clippers, according to multiple media reports.

Speculation had it that a deal could be achieved by late Wednesday.

 In return for Garrett and Rivers, the Clippers would send DeAndre Jordan to the Celtics in exchange for Garrett, while Rivers would likely command a price of two first-round picks from L.A.

Citing unnamed sources, ESPN reported that Rivers and Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge met Wednesday to finalize Rivers’ future with the team — or whether he will be granted the opportunity to go to the Clippers. Rivers said a decision by team management could come by Thursday morning.

Ainge wants Rivers, who has been in his post for nine seasons, to remain the Celtics’ head coach, a move which appeared heightened when talks between both clubs broke down Tuesday. It was at that point that Rivers appeared likely to remain with the Celtics, even though he has expressed concern about staying with the team if it began a massive rebuilding program.

“(Rivers) wants another championship or at least another chance at it,” said a source close to Rivers. “He doesn’t want to go through a rebuilding process.”

Rivers also has the option of leaving Boston and not coaching at all, perhaps working as a broadcaster next season.

ESPN’s report did not indicate which side contacted the other to reignite talks for a reported third time, although other media reports indicate it was Clippers star point guard Chris Paul that urged his team to try one more time for Rivers’ services. Paul is a free agent, but has hinted that he would re-sign with the Clippers if Rivers becomes their head coach.

The Clippers, who reportedly are willing to pay Rivers $7 million per year, similar to what he was making with Boston, are keeping their options open, continuing interviews with additional clients Byron Scott and Brian Shaw, according to media reports.

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June 13, 2013

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

 

The Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd as their coach Wednesday, bringing the former star back to the franchise he led to its greatest NBA success.

Kidd retired earlier this month after one season with the New York Knicks, his 19th in the NBA. The Nets decided to hire him to replace P.J. Carlesimo despite his absence of coaching experience.

''Jason Kidd has a long and legendary history with the Nets and with the city of New York,'' Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a statement. ''He has the fire in the belly we need, and has achieved as a player everything the Brooklyn Nets are striving to achieve. We believe he will lead us there. Welcome home, Jason.''

The move reunites Kidd with the franchise he led to consecutive NBA Finals in 2002-03, when they played in New Jersey. He spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Nets, averaging 14.6 points, 9.1 assists and 7.2 rebounds, and is their career leader in numerous statistical categories.

''Jason is a proven winner and leader with an incredible wealth of basketball knowledge and experience,'' general manager Billy King said. ''This will be a natural transition for him to move into the role of head coach, as he embodies the tough, smart and team-first mentality that we are trying to establish in Brooklyn.''

Terms of the deal that made Kidd the 18th coach in franchise history were not disclosed. The Nets will introduce Kidd on Thursday during a press conference at Barclays Center.

Carlesimo wasn't retained after leading the Nets into the playoffs, where they lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. He went 35-19 after replacing Avery Johnson, who was fired in December.

The 40-year-old Kidd was considered one of the smartest players in the NBA, which he believes will help him make the transition into coaching.

''This is a tremendous opportunity to be named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, and it's a role I have been studying for over the course of my playing days,'' Kidd said. ''Championship teams are built on being prepared, playing unselfishly and being held accountable, and that's how I expect to coach this basketball team.''

The Nets interviewed him this week and chose him as their coach after talking with Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw earlier Wednesday.

Kidd has a close friendship with Nets point guard Deron Williams and the respect of many in the organization for his achievements as a player. He is second on the NBA's career list in assists and steals, won an NBA title with Dallas and has two Olympic gold medals.

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June 20, 2013

 

By Kenneth Miller

Assistant Managing Editor

 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is clearly the number one sports league when it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, but are Black coaches being treated fairly?

With 30 teams under its umbrella, the NBA has 12 Black head coaches led by the dean Doc Rivers in Boston (416-305 and one NBA title), Toronto’s Dwane Casey (57-91), Tyron Corbin of Utah (87-89), Golden State’s Mark Jackson (70-78), Monty Williams of New Orleans (94-136), Jacque Vaughn of Orlando (20-62) and New York’s Mike Woodson (74-34) who has the highest winning percentage between all of the current Black coaches. New hires Mike Brown returning to Cleveland, Maurice Cheeks in Detroit, Larry Drew fired in Atlanta and hired in Milwaukee, and Jason Kidd went from playing to the coaching bench in a surprised hiring in Brooklyn with the Nets.

Drew led the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Atlanta and finished no worse than third each season, but was let go after compiling a 128-102 record.

Woodson has been fantastic with the Knicks after also being successful in Atlanta, taking over the basically the same team Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni failed to win with and leading them to the brink of the conference finals in his first full season.

Jackson flirted with being the coach of the year in only his second season with the Warriors eliminating Denver in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and stretching the Spurs to six games in the second round before losing with a short roster.

Corbin has been steady for a Jazz franchise that has been a constant playoff team, but with a young overhauled roster it’s taking him some time and to the credit of management Utah is staying patient with him.

Meanwhile both Vaughn in Orlando and Casey in Toronto have been handed the keys to two bitter lemons. Vaughn without any previous coaching experience took over the Magic after they traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Casey’s Raptors have not endured a consistent roster during his reign there.

With coaching openings in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Philadelphia, Memphis and Denver, qualified Blacks such as Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and Nate McMillan are waiting to see if their phone rings.

Hollins is likely to get the nod over Shaw for the gig in Denver any day now. He led Memphis to the Western Conference Finals where the Spurs swept it, but Hollins has been among the best coaches in the NBA the past two-seasons going 97-51 in Memphis.

His five-year mark with the Griz of 214-201 is better than many during that span, but for some odd reason he was not even offered a new contract after the season.

Scott, a former Morningside High School star and member of the Lakers Showtime era, has coached in the league for 13 seasons compiling a 416-521 record with two berths in the NBA Finals with the Nets.

However, after being fired in Cleveland he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to continue the rebuilding effort with the Cavs, which in essence was a college team, riddled with injuries. Cleveland fired him to rehire the guy they fired after LeBron James left via free agency.

Scott is a prime candidate to land with the Clippers, particularly because of his relationship with Chris Paul. He coached the star point guard in New Orleans and the Clippers job would be his first with a legit team since he was with the Nets.

Shaw is the one candidate that almost everyone concurs is the best coaching candidate without a head coaching job.

The associate head coach with the upstart Pacers, Shaw was supposed to be the heir apparent to replace Phil Jackson when he left the Lakers, but was passed over by Brown whom they abruptly canned after just five games into his second season.

He reportedly turned down both the Magic and Bobcats jobs, was a candidate for the Warriors job that went to Jackson and is now being considered the leading choice for both the Nuggets and the Clippers gig.

 

It was Phil Jackson who publically stated that the Nets job was perfect for Shaw, and then they went out and hired Kidd who has never called a timeout.

Could it be that the reputation of being linked with Phil Jackson is hurting Shaw?

He is credited with the development of Andrew Bynum while an assistant with the Lakers and the emergence of Pacers star Paul George.

Could it be that Shaw is just a better assistant coach than he would be a head coach? We don’t know because he hasn’t got the chance, while other assistant White coaches are being hired instead.

Frequently when Blacks are hired as head coaches it is with a team that is rebuilding, but they seldom are granted the time to see the job through.

The tasks for Cheeks in Detroit, Drew in Milwaukee, Brown in Cleveland is brutal. The Nuggets hire will have a chance for success and the Clippers hire will be under intense pressure to do better than their first place division finish.

No one is complaining or feeling sorry for any of these men who are each handsomely paid for the job they do.

However, with the lack of Blacks in front office positions and in ownership (Michael Jordan is the only Black owner), the question is fluid as to whether any of these current coaches will really get a chance to be successful.

Doc Rivers was the last Black coach to win an NBA championship, who will be the next one?

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June 13, 2013

By CURT ANDERSON

Associated Press

 

MIAMI (AP) — The backside pat former NFL star Chad Johnson gave his lawyer in court was not meant as disrespect to a judge and certainly wasn’t something that warrants a 30-day jail sentence, the attorney said Tuesday in a motion seeking another chance.

Adam Swickle asked Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh to reconsider the sentence she imposed Monday. Johnson had reached a deal with prosecutors for community service and counseling to resolve a probation violation from his no-contest plea last year to battery on his then-wife, TV star Evelyn Lozada.

McHugh, just elected last August to her first term on the bench, seemed poised to approve the plea deal until Johnson’s backside pat of Swickle triggered a wave of laughter in the court. The judge then angrily said she wouldn’t sign off and tossed the six-time Pro Bowler formerly known as Chad Ochocinco in jail.

“This isn’t a joke,” the judge said, raising questions about his sincerity.

Swickle said the backside pat was merely Johnson’s way of showing appreciation for his attorney’s work on the case. Moments before it had meant he wouldn’t do any jail time despite skipping out on meetings with his probation officer for three months.

“Mr. Johnson has been a professional football player in the National Football League for 11 years and patting another individual on the backside is viewed as a sign of respect and gratitude,” he said in the motion. “It is clear that the court misinterpreted Mr. Johnson’s interaction with his attorney.”

As for the courtroom laughter, Swickle added, “this is not Mr. Johnson’s fault and he should not be punished for the actions of third parties.”

Prosecutors say they’ll leave Johnson’s sentence up to McHugh, who presides over Broward County domestic violence cases. A hearing has been set for next Monday.

Johnson, 35, spent most of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, catching 766 passes for more than 11,000 yards and 67 touchdowns. He played one year with the New England Patriots and then was in training camp last year with the Miami Dolphins, who cut him after he head-butted Lozada during a domestic altercation. Lozada, a star on VH-1’s “Basket­ball Wives” show, quickly filed for divorce.

Johnson, a Miami native, said in court he still hopes resurrect his football career. Under the plea deal that had been reached, Johnson would do 25 hours of community service and attend counseling sessions twice a week during his probation. In addition, the probation would be extended three months into December.

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