National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Top priority for Blackhawks: Lock in Toews, Kane

CHICAGO (AP) Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane want to stay in Chicago, and the Blackhawks think the high-scoring forwards are a central part of their promising future.

Get ready for a pair of big contract extensions this summer.

With the Blackhawks still coming to grips with their dramatic loss in the Western Conference finals, general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday that megadeals for Toews and Kane are his biggest priority this offseason.

"There's no doubt that's what we're gonna do," Bowman said. "We've made it clear. We've never wavered from that. There's no doubting the importance of those two players."

The Blackhawks selected Toews with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, and grabbed Kane with the No. 1 overall selection the following year. They combined to lead Chicago out of a dark period to Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013.

Toews and Kane each have one more year left on their contracts, and Bowman can officially start negotiating with two of the NHL's biggest stars on July 1.

"I know we both love it here in Chicago and we love playing here and having a chance to win every year," said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as playoff MVP.

Toews expressed a similar sentiment.

"Who could ever think of a better situation to be in?" the captain said. "I think back to the day I was drafted, I had absolutely no idea that all this would be in store for me in my short career so far. I've been so fortunate to be a part an unbelievable group of guys, the majority of our team that has been together since I've been here. And just to see the growth of this franchise in the city of Chicago and the amazing fans we have here, there's no doubt in my mind that there's no better way to have it."

The Blackhawks had a chance for a second straight NHL title before they lost 5-4 to the Los Angeles Kings in overtime in Game 7 on Sunday night. Alec Martinez got the winning goal when his shot deflected off Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy and fluttered over goalie Corey Crawford.

If Chicago is able to retain Toews and Kane, it looks as if it could contend for the Stanley Cup for years to come. It is in a much better spot than it was following the 2010 title run, when the Blackhawks kept their core intact but parted with much of their supporting cast because of salary cap concerns.

Bowman thinks the roster will look largely the same when next season begins.

An overhaul "certainly is not warranted at this point," he said. "Our team performed very well in most areas of the game."

Patrick Sharp had a team-high 78 points during the regular season, but struggled for much of the playoffs. He had two goals in Game 7 against Los Angeles after scoring three in the first 18 playoff games, but if he was injured he wasn't saying.

"At this point in the year, everybody's got something going on," he said. "I'm not gonna make any excuses for the way I played at stretches of the playoffs."

It was a bitter finish for Sharp and for the Blackhawks. Instead of another Stanley Cup run, the attention turns toward the future.

Chicago needs some of its younger centers to develop quickly, including prospect Teuvo Teravainen. The promising 19-year-old forward from Finland played in three games for the Blackhawks this year and could take on a more prominent role next season.

"We're not going to put any pressure on him," Bowman said. "He's 19 years old still. The one thing we have done very well over the last few years is we've given players time to develop."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Teravainen "has skills to play here," but needs to add strength and develop the ability "to go into hard areas" on offense.

Forward Ben Smith and backup goalie Antti Raanta are restricted free agents. Brandon Saad will be after next season, and Bowman sounded as if he plans to keep all three players.

"That's the goal here is to keep this thing going," Bowman said. "I think the reason we've been able to do that is twofold. No. 1, we've been able to keep the main players together. But No. 2, we've been able to bring in some young players, and they've been able to support the role. We have to be able to continue to do that."

New York vs. LA can be as big as it gets

The last time New York and Los Angeles teams met in a big championship final, the Dodgers found themselves up against a pitcher who had undergone Tommy John surgery.

How long has it been? Well, here's a clue: The lefty on the mound was Tommy John himself.

Thirty three years after the Dodgers won a World Series against John and the Yankees, L.A. and New York finally meet again. This time it's on the ice, with the teams from the country's two biggest cities squaring off in the Stanley Cup final.

It may not bring thoughts back of Willis Reed limping onto the court, willing his team to a win in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Or Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in one game in 1977 as the Yankees beat the Dodgers.

The Big Apple and Hollywood don't have any championship history in hockey, but there's some buzz on both coasts for the first New York-Los Angeles major sports final since 1981.

"The big markets, that adds another level to the excitement of the finals here," said the Rangers' Dominic Moore. "I know New York is excited."

So is Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers to their last win over the Yankees and is friends with Kings executive Luc Robitaille.

"I'll be rooting for them, no doubt," Lasorda said. "I'm so impressed with what the Kings have accomplished through these playoffs. Even if they don't beat the Rangers they've got to go down in history of hockey with one of the greatest teams ever the way they've performed."

Why the New York-L.A. matchup hasn't happened any sooner can only be chalked up to the vagaries of sports. Certainly when the Lakers and Knicks met three times in four years for the NBA title in the early 1970s, there were high expectations the rivals would square off again. And when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the third World Series in five years between the teams, it seemed like they would trade championships for some time.

That World Series thrilled a lot of people in Los Angeles, which hadn't won a championship since 1965 when Sandy Koufax was on the mound. But the Yankees beat the Dodgers back-to-back in 1977-78, including the iconic game where Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October by hitting three home runs at Yankee Stadium.

"We were suffering and the guy was making a fool out of us," Lasorda said. "I was hoping and praying we would get another shot at him."

Longtime broadcaster Vin Scully said the rivalry between the Dodgers and Yankees was more intense than any other sport because the teams had met so often in the World Series when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and there were still bitter feelings about the Dodgers leaving town. The Dodgers biggest World Series win was arguably in 1963, when they swept the Yankees in four games.

"The ultimate was not only beating the Yankees but sweeping them in four," Scully said. "And to New York fans it was still the old Brooklyn Dodgers and there was a lot of bitterness toward them."

The ultimate for Knicks fans was 1970. Without Reed in Game 7 the Knicks figured to have a tough time beating Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. But he suffered a torn thigh muscle in Game 5 and needed an injection just before game time to limp out on the court.

The sight of Reed in uniform sent the 19,500 fans into a frenzy. He scored just four points, but kept Chamberlain in check for a 113-99 win.

The Lakers would go on to beat the Knicks two years later, and lose to them again in 1973. Since then they haven't met in a championship final.

There's never been a Super Bowl between New York and L.A. teams and no possibility of one until Los Angeles gets an NFL team.

While the Rangers and Kings have never met in the Stanley Cup finals, teams from Southern California and the New York area have. New Jersey and the Anaheim Ducks played in 2003, and the Kings beat the Devils two years ago.

Still, New York against Los Angeles somehow seems different.

"I think it's important for the league. This league has done everything for us, I want it to grow," said Brad Richards of the Rangers. "These matchups are great for the game, and we understand that. It's great for hockey."

Despite the matchup of the two biggest cities in the country, executives at NBC had to be rooting for Chicago to advance instead of Los Angeles. Sunday's Western Conference Game 7 was the most watched non-Stanley Cup Final ever, averaging more than 4.1 million viewers, but a lot more of those were Blackhawks fans than Kings fans.

While nearly 23 percent of all homes with televisions watched in the Chicago area, less than 5 percent of the homes in L.A. were tuned in.

"I would have rather played Chicago, because I think it would have been like old school versus old school," said Rangers fan Matthew Geraghty, the head chef at Tir Na Nog, an Irish pub across from Madison Square Garden. "I've never been to L.A. to watch sports, but I wouldn't consider it a hockey town."

Marino says he's withdrawing from concussion suit

MIAMI (AP) Dan Marino says he inadvertently became a plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL and is withdrawing immediately.

The Hall of Fame quarterback said he doesn't suffer any effects from head injuries.

"Within the last year I authorized a claim to be filed on my behalf, just in case I needed future medical coverage to protect me and my family in the event I later suffered from the effects of head trauma," Marino said in a statement Tuesday. "I did not realize I would be automatically listed as a plaintiff. ... I have made the decision it is not necessary for me to be part of any claims or this lawsuit, and therefore I am withdrawing as a plaintiff."

Marino's withdrawal costs the litigants a high-profile plaintiff. He was by far the best-known of 15 former players who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia last week.

They joined more than 4,800 others who allege the NFL misled players about the long-term dangers of concussions. The league has denied those allegations.

"I am sympathetic to other players who are seeking relief who may have suffered head injuries," Marino, 52, said in his statement.

The NFL and the original group of players agreed on a $765 million settlement last August, but that deal was rejected by a federal judge in January.

Marino spent his entire 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins and retired as the most prolific passer in NFL history.

He worked as an analyst for CBS from 2002 to 2013 but wasn't retained for this season. He has had recent discussions with the Dolphins about a role in their front office, and a lawsuit might have complicated such a hiring.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling hit with lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is being sued by a woman who alleges that while she was employed by him, they had a romantic relationship and that he subjected her to racially and sexually offensive comments.

The complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that Maiko Maya King's resistance to Sterling's "stream of racist and sexist taunts" caused him to retaliate against her and terminate her employment as his personal assistant and caretaker in May.

King, who is represented by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, alleges discrimination, retaliation and "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and demands a jury trial.

Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini, said the suit was "baseless and ridiculous." He added: "She was never employed by Donald Sterling. Her claim was obviously prompted by opportunistic motives."

The lawsuit comes after Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million by the NBA for racist remarks recorded by girlfriend V. Stiviano that were made public. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver worked to oust him as owner of the team until his wife, Shelly Sterling, concluded a deal last week to sell it to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The $2 billion deal still needs to be approved by NBA owners.

King was romantically involved with Donald Sterling from 2005 through 2011 while she worked for him and his foundation, but they often "argued about his racist views," the suit states.

King was previously married to a black man and had two children. According to the lawsuit, Sterling allegedly asked her: "How could you be married to a black man?" and "Why would you bring black people into the world?" He allegedly also told her "I want to take you out of the black world and put you into the white world."

Because of the racist comments, Sterling and King broke up in 2011, the suit states. But when King's father died in 2013 she returned to work for Sterling knowing a woman named "V" was his girlfriend now, according to the complaint.

King said she accompanied him to doctor appointments, made sure he took his medications on time, took walks with him and accompanied him to business meetings.

The suit states that contrary to his agreement to pay her $10,000 a month, "Sterling dangled money only if she would have sex with him" and told her he was "bored with V."

She also alleges that he would humiliate her in public by groping her, and relates multiple other incidents of alleged sexual harassment.

Sterling "created an intimidating oppressive, hostile and offensive work environment based upon sex," the complaint states.

California Chrome on target for Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK (AP) Art Sherman got his first glimpse of California Chrome in action in two weeks, and the trainer liked what he saw.

Sherman arrived in New York on Monday afternoon and watched his Triple Crown contender gallop at Belmont Park on Tuesday morning. It was the first time Sherman had observed the chestnut colt since he captured the Preakness.

"I thought he looked better now than he did after the Preakness," Sherman said. "I couldn't believe how much weight he put on. Going on the Triple Crown trail, it's kind of rough. He's an amazing horse."

California Chrome will try for the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 on Saturday in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The flashy 3-year-old with four white feet will be the heavy favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, known as the "Test of the Champion" for its history of crushing Triple Crown dreams.

Only 11 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year. There have been 11 Triple tries since Affirmed, the most recent being Big Brown in 2008. He won the first two legs, and then was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux in the Belmont.

I'll Have Another won the first two legs in 2012, but was scratched on Belmont eve with a tendon injury that ended his career.

After the Preakness, Sherman, 77, returned to his stable in Southern California. He sent California Chrome to New York in the care of Alan Sherman, his son and assistant trainer. The Belmont will be the colt's third demanding race in a short five-week span.

"He's doing outstanding," Alan Sherman said. "I couldn't ask for anything more right now. I'm just enjoying the ride he's put us on."

The full California Chrome rooting section will be on hand Saturday. Perry Martin, co-owner and breeder of the colt with Steve Coburn, did not attend the Preakness. He was upset with treatment he received by Churchill Downs at the Derby.

Martin is not going to miss this chance to be part of history.

"Perry and his wife will get here late Wednesday night," Coburn said. "He'll probably lay real low until the day of the race. Him and his family are pretty reserved. That's why he gets out of town real quick so I can do all the talking."

Coburn and his wife, Carolyn, from northern Nevada are enjoying their first trip to New York.

"It was my first time in Kentucky, my first time in Maryland and now my first time in New York," Coburn said. "Carolyn would like to come back here and see all this when we got more time. We've kind of been rushed from here to there and back again."

For Art Sherman, it is a homecoming for the Brooklyn native.

"I haven't been back to Williamsburg in many years," Sherman said. "It's changed quite a bit. I probably can't afford Williamsburg now."

The Belmont draw takes place Wednesday morning. It's not fraught with as much drama as the Derby, where breaking from an extreme inside or outside post in a 19- or 20-horse field can quickly take a horse out of contention.

The Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races, is contested over a track with wide sweeping turns. It gives jockeys plenty of time to sort out early positions.

The Belmont lost a potential runner on Tuesday when trainer Linda Rice withdrew Kid Cruz from consideration. He ran eighth in the Preakness, 16 lengths behind California Chrome.

Kid Cruz might try an easier spot on the Belmont undercard, the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes at 1 1-16 miles.

The likely challengers for California Chrome include Commanding Curve, Commissioner, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Matuszak, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Social Inclusion, Tonalist and Wicked Strong.

Saban's new deal worth nearly $7 million a year

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban is a mere bonus or two from knocking down another salary barrier and becoming the $7 million man.

A unanimous vote by the Alabama system trustees' compensation committee Tuesday made Saban's new 8-year, $55.2 million deal official nearly six months after the university announced the agreement.

The 62-year-old Saban will make $6.5 million in base pay and what the university describes as a "talent fee" plus a $400,000 completion bonus for each year and other incentives.

It's a seven-figure raise over the eight-year contract worth about $5.6 million annually he received in March 2012. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will make $2.074 million over three years.

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said that Saban, often rumored for other college and NFL jobs, will "be our head football coach for many years to come."

"He is the best coach in the country and he's brought Alabama back to the pinnacle of college football," Battle said in a statement released by the university. "His success on the field is obviously second to none, but Coach Saban's influence on academics and all the other areas of our athletic programs are equally impressive to me."

Saban won't owe a buyout if he leaves for another head coaching job. His life insurance policy was upped from $5 million to $6 million and a $100,000 contribution will be made to his scholarship fund.

Saban is one of four coaches in The Associated Press poll era to win four national titles, joining Alabama's Bear Bryant, Southern California's John McKay and Notre Dame's Frank Leahy.

"We are honored by the commitment the University of Alabama has made to us with this new contract," Saban said in the prepared news release. "It is certainly a mutual agreement in terms of our commitment to the University of Alabama. We will continue to work hard to keep our football program among the nation's elite. My passion has always been to develop young men to their full potential as student-athletes.

"We've had great success in that area at Alabama and I'm appreciative of all the support and the resources we receive from the administration in order to make that happen."

Saban has led the Crimson Tide to three national championships and an average of 12 wins over the last six seasons. He'll make $400,000 if Alabama wins another national title with other bonuses including $125,000 for winning a Southeastern Conference championship and escalating payouts ranging from $65,000 to $125,000 depending on what bowl game the Tide makes.

He'll get $100,000 if Alabama football players' graduation rate ranks in the top 25 percent among SEC programs. Alabama's 28 graduates going into the Sugar Bowl led the nation.

Trustees also approved details on the contract for Kiffin. The former Tennessee and Southern California coach will make $680,000 salaries each of the next two years and $714,000 in the final year ending Feb. 28, 2017.

Other coaches got raises while defensive coordinator Kirby Smart had his deal extended one year through Feb. 28, 2017. Smart will make $1.385 million each of the next three years.

The non-coordinators all have two-year deals. All the coaches receive memberships to the North River Yacht Club plus performance bonuses that could rise to 18 percent of their salary with a national title.

New linebackers coach Kevin Steele will be the second-highest paid assistant, making $700,000 a year. Also a special assistant to the head coach, he is moving from a support staff role.

New defensive line coach Bo Davis will make a $450,000 salary. Receivers coach Billy Napier received a one-year extension but his $325,000 salary remains unchanged.

Other coaches with old and new salary:

-Burton Burns, associate head coach/running backs, goes from $400,000 to $428,000.

-Mario Cristobal, offensive line, $475,000 to $500,000.

-Lance Thompson, outside linebackers, $400,000 to $428,000.

-Bobby Williams, tight ends/special teams coordinator, $400,000 to $428,000.

-Scott Cochran, director of strength and conditioning, $355,000 to $395.000.

A healthy Dwyane Wade is ready to go in NBA Finals

MIAMI (AP) The last time Dwyane Wade played in an NBA Finals game, he needed fluid drained from his left knee and eight hours of intense game-day therapy just to get into uniform.

The Miami Heat guard later described it in a single word.

"Hell," Wade said.

It was also worth it, after he scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and hoisted his third Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Now, unlike last year, Wade is not dealing with any injuries heading into the Miami's finals rematch against the San Antonio Spurs. At 32 years old and with 866 NBA games already on his playing odometer, Wade still deals with plenty of aches and pains, good days and bad days, and basically has a standing appointment in the Heat training room.

But compared to last season's NBA Finals, his knees are good as new.

"He's a big-time, huge piece to our puzzle," four-time NBA MVP and Heat star LeBron James said. "To have him out there in the groove that he's in right now, it's going to help us."

The Heat are looking to win their third straight title and Wade is on the cusp of joining a list of all-time NBA greats.

There are just seven players with four championships and at least one NBA Finals MVP award on their resumes: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Havlicek, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the Spurs' Tim Duncan.

Wade could be the eighth person in that club.

"We just want to continue to add to what we're accomplishing," Wade said.

Almost forgotten amid all the memories of Wade limping about during last year's playoffs - he whacked what was his "good" knee at this time last year, the surgically repaired left one, in a collision with the Spurs' Manu Ginobili during Game 6 of the finals - is he had big games when Miami needed him.

Through his first 14 games of the 2013 playoffs, Wade was averaging 13.6 points.

In the final eight games of that postseason run, starting with Game 7 against Indiana, he averaged 19.8 points.

And in the last four games of the finals, he averaged 23.5 points against the Spurs to close the series. As his knees got worse, Wade seemed to get better.

"He still found a way last year," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He really did. He had some of his biggest games not only in the finals, but Game 7, we didn't think necessarily he was going to even play that game in the Eastern Conference finals."

This year, the Heat tried to leave nothing to chance with Wade's health.

The so-called maintenance plan for Wade - limiting his minutes to save his knees - kicked in on the second night of the regular season. He wound up missing 28 games in all, mostly because of that rest-and-rehab scheme, to ensure that he would be good to go in the playoffs.

The results can't be argued. Wade is averaging 18.7 points on 52 percent shooting, Miami is 12-3 in the playoffs and when getting more than three days rest - like the Heat will have before Game 1 in San Antonio on Thursday night - the perennial All-Star has had games of 23, 14, 27 and 23 points on a combined 60 percent shooting.

"Dwyane is playing great," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday. "He looks a lot more spry and ready to go then he did last year in the finals."

Maybe the biggest payoff of the regular-season maintenance plan has been how Wade has closed games in this postseason.

Wade is shooting 56 percent in fourth quarters during the playoffs, the best clip of his career and the best percentage of any guard with more than 30 shots in the final period of postseason games this season. San Antonio's Danny Green is second on that list, shooting just under 49 percent.

Wade doesn't like talking about his place in history.

But he knows what rarefied air he would be entering with a fourth title run.

"I think we've all put ourselves in great situations, and we're just going to continue to try to enjoy this moment that we're in because it's an amazing moment," Wade said. "It's something that, for a lifetime, is going to fulfill us as athletes. Even when we can't play this game, we're going to always be able to talk about this."

And now, when talking about his health, Wade has another one-word answer: "Better."

Spurs' Parker plans to play in NBA Finals Game 1

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tony Parker plans to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The San Antonio Spurs open their rematch with the Miami Heat on Thursday, and their star point guard is nursing a balky left ankle.

"He's getting better every day, and I expect him to play," coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday.

Parker aggravated the injury Saturday, missing the second half of San Antonio's series-clinching victory over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.

Parker didn't practice Tuesday, but said he expects to be back Wednesday.

Parker is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points and 4.9 assists this postseason but has been bothered by injuries the past two rounds.

"I always try to be honest with Pop," Parker said. "He knows, but if I'm 50 percent I'll try to play. If I'm under 50 percent, we can argue."

Parker conceded the ankle has bothered him since San Antonio's second-round series against Portland, although he did not divulge it at the time.

"I don't like to talk about when I'm hurt," he said. "I played on it for the whole series against Portland. That's why I think my hamstring got hurt because I was playing on a bad ankle."

Parker had tightness in his left hamstring midway through the second quarter of Game 5 against the Trail Blazers, forcing him to miss the rest of the Spurs' series-clinching victory.

He did not miss any of the Western Conference finals because of his hamstring. But he aggravated the ankle injury in Game 4 against Oklahoma City.

"I twisted it again, but didn't say anything," Parker said. "Played on it, and then Game 6 I think my body is like, `That's enough.' It's perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1."

San Antonio was still able to clinch the series without Parker, holding off Oklahoma City for a 112-107 overtime victory to advance to its sixth finals appearance.

Parker said he wanted to return for the second half, but was overruled by Popovich and the team's medical staff.

"I wanted to play. I wanted to play," Parker said. "Pop was like, `No, we never know for Game 7.' So I understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to watch from the locker room. At the same time, I was very proud of my teammates. They stepped up big. It was huge for us because I think those five days (off) are big for us to prepare for the finals."

Asked whether he would possibly hold Parker out if he was less than 50 percent, Popovich smirked and alluded to the calf injury that was supposed to keep the Thunder's Serge Ibaka out of the Western Conference finals - but didn't.

"It's too early - he's either 50 percent or out for the rest of the playoffs," Popovich said. "One of the two . I had to do it. I'll never do it again, I promise. We're done with that joke."

Djokovic returns to semifinals at French Open

PARIS -- Novak Djokovic advanced to the French Open semifinals for the sixth time in his career, and he'll be looking for only his second win at that stage.

The second-seeded Serb beat eighth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 Tuesday on Court Philippe Chatrier, the main stadium at Roland Garros.

Djokovic is a six-time major champion, but he still needs to win the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

He reached the semifinals at Roland Garros the last four years, but only made one final, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2012. He also made semifinal appearances in 2007 and '08.

How and where to watch the 2014 Belmont Stakes on NBC

NBC Sports Group Presents 16 Hours of Belmont Stakes Programming; Coverage from Belmont Park Begins Friday, June 6, at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

TODAY, CNBC, MSNBC and The Weather Channel Live On-Site Friday; Access Hollywood and E! News to Provide Coverage

Special Documentary California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion Debuts Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

NBC Sports Live Extra to Live Stream Belmont Stakes on NBC with Exclusive Camera Angles and Analysis

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome runs for history, aiming to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, as NBC Sports Group presents 16 hours of programming surrounding the 146th Belmont Stakes – more than double the number of hours initially scheduled.

Coverage from Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., begins Friday, June 6, at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and culminates with the running of the 146th Belmont Stakes Saturday, June 7, at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Highlights of NBC Sports Groups’ Belmont coverage include:

  • Live coverage of every Saturday race in NBC/NBCSN telecast windows - including the first two events of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win & You’re In,” the Metropolitan Handicap and the Ogden Phipps Stakes, as well as the Manhattan Handicap
  • California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion, a special 30-minute documentary narrated by Bob Costas
  • Three hours of Belmont Classics highlighting past Belmont Stakes winners
  • A feature on California Chrome’s journey to the Triple Crown
  • Josh Elliott takes a look at Triple Crown spoilers of years past, including three consecutive Triple Crown upsets: 2002 winner Sarava (beat Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem), 2003 winner Empire Maker ridden by NBC analyst and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey (topped Triple Crown contender Funny Cide), and 2004 winner Birdstone (beat Triple Crown hopeful Smarty Jones)
  • A feature on the unlikely team of co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin coming together with trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza to take their horse to the brink of the Triple Crown
  • Bob Costas’ essay on the elusive Triple Crown

NBCUNIVERSAL SURROUNDS BELMONT WEEK: TODAY, CNBC and The Weather Channel will provide live reports on-site at Belmont Park Friday, MSNBC will air live updates Friday and Saturday, and SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports will be on-site Wednesday through Friday. Correspondents and hosts on-site include Dylan Dreyer reporting live for TODAY, Stephanie Abrams for The Weather Channel’s Wake Up with AlSam Champion for The Weather Channel’s AMHQ with Sam Champion, CNBC’s Morgan Brennan, and SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports and NBC Sports’ Carolyn Manno. NBC Sports Regional Networks will provide interviews and other Belmont-related content featuring NBC Sports Group’s on-air team throughout the week. On Friday, TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb toast to the Belmont Stakes with Belmont Jewel cocktails instead of their signature glasses of wine, The Dan Patrick Show features an interview with Belmont Stakes host Bob CostasE! News takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Belmont with Josh Elliott, and Access Hollywood provides a special Belmont feature. In addition, NBC Sports Radio will feature interviews with NBC Sports Group’s commentators during Belmont week.

COMMENTATORS: NBC Sports Group coverage of the Belmont Stakes features Bob Costas, a 26-time Emmy Award-winner, and veteran NBC Sports commentator Tom Hammond; analysts Randy Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey; analysts/handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier; NBCSN host/NBC reporter Laffit Pincay, III; reporters Kenny RiceDonna Brothers and Jay Privman, and race caller Larry Collmus. In addition, Josh Elliott and Carolyn Manno will provide a mix of features and interviews at Belmont Park.

NBC Sports Group’s programming around the Belmont Stakes begins Wednesday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. ET with California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion and continues throughout the week.

Following is a full schedule of NBC Sports Group’s Belmont Stakes programming:

THE BELMONT STAKES

Date Time Event Network Wed., June 4 6:30 p.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion NBCSN Wed., June 4 10:30 p.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion (Encore) NBCSN Thurs., June 5 5:30 p.m. Belmont Classics (2002 Winner Sarava, 2003 Winner Empire Maker, 2004 Winner Birdstone) NBCSN, Live Extra Thurs., June 5 6:30 p.m. Belmont Classics (2011 Winner Ruler on Ice, 2012 Winner Union Rags, 2013 Winner Palace Malice) NBCSN, Live Extra Thurs., June 5 7:30 p.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion  NBCSN Fri., June 6 3:30 p.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion  NBCSN Fri., June 6 4 p.m. Belmont Classics (2002 Winner Sarava, 2003 Winner Empire Maker, 2004 Winner Birdstone) NBCSN Fri., June 6 5 p.m. Belmont Stakes Access NBCSN, Live Extra Fri., June 6 8 p.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion  NBCSN Fri., June 6 8:30 p.m. 140th Kentucky Derby NBCSN Fri., June 6 9:30 p.m. 139th Preakness Stakes NBCSN Fri., June 6 10:30 p.m. Belmont Stakes Access (Encore) NBCSN Fri., June 6 12 a.m. California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion  NBCSN Sat., June 7 2:30 p.m. Belmont Prep NBCSN, Live Extra Sat., June 7 4:30 p.m. The 146th Belmont Stakes NBC, Live Extra Sat., June 7 7:15 p.m. Stanley Cup Final - Game 2: N.Y. Rangers at Los Angeles NBC, Live Extra Sat., June 7 7:30 p.m. Belmont Post-Race Show NBCSN, Live Extra

 

NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA BELMONT STAKES COVERAGE

NBC Sports Live Extra — the NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets — will stream NBC and NBCSN’s Belmont Stakes coverage. The vast majority of the content will be streamed live via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app for mobile devices and tablets is available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on select Android handset and tablet devices within Google Play and on Windows 8 and Windows mobile devices.

Belmont Stakes coverage airing on NBCSN and NBC, including the running of the 146th Belmont Stakes, will be streamed to PCs, mobile devices and tablets through NBC Sports Live Extra.

NBC Sports Live Extra’s Belmont Stakes coverage includes:

  • An online-only isolation camera on Triple Crown contender California Chrome during the race
  • Exclusive analysis by NBC Sports commentators in the days leading up to the race plus post-race, online commentary by NBC commentators
  • Replays and highlights from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes

Belmont Stakes coverage will also air on the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, and telco services, via “TV Everywhere,” which is available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of participating MVPDs

BELMONT STAKES ALL-ACCESS

NBC Sports Group will implement its All-Access social media strategy for Belmont week, where horse racing fans can access content from the Belmont at a “social center” housed on NBCSports.com/Belmont. Fans can access and sort social media content from Instagram, Twitter and Vine through various streams including horse racing experts, horses (including the horses themselves, jockeys and trainers), a photos-only section and Vine videos. Belmont All-Access aggregates what’s trending around the race and what’s hot in the social world. In addition, fans can plug in their first and last names and will be given their ‘Horse Name’ to be shared on Twitter.

Twitter: Viewers and Tweeters alike will be encouraged to join the conversation by using the hashtag #TripleCrown. Reminders will appear on screen throughout all of NBC’s Belmont coverage.

  • On-air integration of live tweets from celebrities, horse racing experts and @NBCSN will be featured on screen throughout the broadcasts to keep viewers up to date with what’s happening on Twitter;

Facebook: Fans will have the chance to join in on the Belmont broadcast:

  • Everyone at home can pick their winner with the “Choose the Winning Horse” Facebook poll on www.facebook.com/NBCSports. The nation’s votes will be tallied and shown on-air during the Belmont broadcast.

For Listings and the NBCSN Channel Finder, visit http://www.nbcsports.com/tv-listings.

Sharapova moves to French Open semifinals

PARIS-- Maria Sharapova advanced to the semifinals of the French Open for the fourth straight year, beating Garbine Muguruza of Spain 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Russian made a slow start on Court Philippe Chatrier, falling behind 4-0 before finally winning a game. She then started to land her shots, and her serves, with more consistency and won nine of the last 10 games.

Muguruza, who was playing in a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time in her career, eliminated defending champion Serena Williams in the second round.

Sharapova lost in the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2011, then won the title a year later to complete a career Grand Slam. She lost in last year's final to Williams.v

10 things to watch in Stanley Cup finals

The Stanley Cup finals will be a coast-to-coast matchup featuring teams within the nation's largest TV markets: New York and Los Angeles.

It looks like a win-win deal for the NHL.

The Rangers will draw a lot of viewers tuning in to see if they can win a championship for the first time in two decades. The Kings, meanwhile, have a shot to win it all for the second time in three seasons in what would be an impressive feat because of the league's salary cap.

Here are 10 things to watch when the puck drops Wednesday night in Los Angeles:

MOTIVATED MARIAN: The Rangers traded Marian Gaborik 14 months ago to Columbus and now, they've got to face him as he's peaking. Gaborik has an NHL-high 12 goals this postseason and he ranks fourth with 19 points. He had the tying goal midway through the third period of Game 7 at Chicago, where the Kings won in overtime.

THANKS CBJ PART II: Gaborik is not the only former Blue Jackets player in the series. Columbus traded Jeff Carter to the Kings two years ago. The Blue Jackets sent Rick Nash to New York in the summer of 2012. And they dealt Derick Brassard, John Moore and Derek Dorsett to the Rangers last year.

QUICK TURNAROUND: Even though the Rangers have to hit the road to begin the series, they should be the fresher team. New York eliminated Montreal last Thursday, giving it almost a full week off before Game 1. The Kings, meanwhile, played late Sunday night in Chicago for their third Game 7 this postseason, traveled home and may not have much time to rest before the puck drops.

CALL IT A COMEBACK: The Kings might be the toughest team to knock out in sports. They're the only NHL team to win three Game 7s on the road in one postseason; the second to be 7-0 when facing elimination in one postseason; the fourth to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series; and they didn't have the lead against Chicago in their latest decisive game until winning in overtime.

LATE LEAD USUALLY SAFE: The Rangers are 10-0 in the postseason when leading after two periods.

LUCKY NUMBER 7S: The Kings trio of Gaborik, Mike Richards and Justin Williams is 7-0 in Game 7s and goalie Jonathan Quick is 4-0 in decisive games. Williams has seven goals and seven assists in Game 7s, passing Doug Gilmour's NHL record for points and tying Glen Anderson for the most goals in league history in Game 7s. Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter has surged past Scotty Bowman and Pat Burns for the most Game 7 victories - seven, naturally - in his career. If Sutter steers Los Angeles into another Game 7, it will be his 11th behind a bench to break a record shared by Mike Keenan and Claude Julien.

UP THE MIDDLE: The Kings appear to have a clear advantage at center. They've won 53 percent of faceoffs in the playoffs, trailing only Boston statistically, while the Rangers rank 12th out of the 16 playoff teams. Los Angeles has a pair of great centers, Anze Kopitar, and Carter, and two solid ones, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards. The Rangers, meanwhile, don't appear to match up quite as well at the pivotal position with Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore.

TWO-WAY BLUE LINERS: Los Angeles and New York each have a playmaking defenseman. Drew Doughty has four goals, 12 assists and as many points (16) as he had in the 2012 playoffs when he helped the Kings hoist the Cup. Ryan McDonagh leads the Rangers with 10 assists and he's tied for the team lead with 13 points.

IN THE NET: Quick and Henrik Lundqvist are not among the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, but Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs in 2012 when Los Angeles won its first Stanley Cup and Lundqvist was voted the league's best goaltender that same year. Quick is giving up 2.86 goals a game this postseason and that's at least one more goal than he gave up on average in the previous two postseasons. Lundqvist is allowing just two goals a game and he blanked Montreal in Game 6 for his ninth career shutout in the playoffs.

LAST, NOT LEAST: Both teams roll four lines of forwards and when their final trio is on the ice it is not necessarily a break for the other team. Sutter does not label his lines, but Richards appears to his fourth-line center and Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are usually on his wings. Richards ranked fourth on the team in points during the regular season and has chipped in with eight points in the playoffs. Moore centers New York's fourth line with Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett. Moore scored the only goal in Game 6 to eliminate the Canadiens and has three goals in the playoffs after scoring just six times in the regular season.

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AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham and Ira Podell contributed to this report.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage

Police: Bills' Dareus involved in traffic accident

HAMBURG, N.Y. (AP) Police in upstate New York say Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus was involved in a traffic accident last week.

Hamburg Police Lt. Bob Krone said the accident happened Friday afternoon and is still under investigation. He didn't provide any other details. The accident occurred after the Bills' final practice of a three-day minicamp.

Dareus is already facing charges in Alabama where he was arrested last month for possession of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He called it a youthful mistake.

His agent, Todd France, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Dareus was selected third overall in the 2011 draft and is in his fourth season with the Bills. The 24-year-old played for Alabama.

The Buffalo News first reported the accident on its website Monday evening.

Seager has 4 extra-base hits as Mariners beat Yanks

NEW YORK (AP) Kyle Seager homered, tripled twice and doubled, leading Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners past the New York Yankees 10-2 Monday night.

Hernandez (8-1) won his fifth straight start to match a career high. The Mariners broke open a game of odd bounces with a four-run seventh inning, and Seager hit a three-run homer in the ninth.

Robinson Cano was again relentlessly booed by Yankees fans, this time in a makeup of a game washed out April 30. In the lineup after sitting four straight with a bruised left hand, he went 1 for 3 with two walks. The former New York star drew a mocking cheer when he was caught too far off first by David Phelps (1-3).

Seattle, which won games at Yankee Stadium on April 29 and May 1, took all three games in New York for the first time since sweeping three in 2002.

Police: Stiviano reports attack outside NY hotel

NEW YORK (AP) The woman Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was talking to when he made racist remarks says she was assaulted by two men outside a New York City hotel.

Police say V. Stiviano spoke to detectives on Monday and told them the assault happened outside the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan's Meatpacking District on Sunday night.

Police say Stiviano said there was an exchange of words and she was punched in the side of the face. Police say they're investigating the possibility the unidentified men used racial slurs during the attack. Stiviano is of black and Mexican descent.

Messages seeking comment from Stiviano's lawyer haven't been returned.

Stiviano's audio recording of the Clippers owner led to his being banned from the NBA. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to buy the Clippers for $2 billion.

Pele's son sentenced to 33 years in prison

SAO PAULO (AP) A Brazilian judge sentenced the son of soccer legend Pele to 33 years in prison after finding him guilty of laundering money for a drug gang.

Judge Suzana Pereira said Monday that Edson Cholbi do Nascimento must surrender his passport to the court this week. She said the 43-year-old can remain free as he appeals, which can take years in Brazil.

"The process is still open. He can still appeal and have another court review the case," Pereira said.

Pereira said she couldn't reveal many details about last week's ruling because both parties agreed to handle the case privately. But she said she found enough proof to convict Do Nascimento.

The defendant's lawyer could not be reached for comment. Do Nascimento previously denied the charges, although he said he had used drugs out of curiosity after he quit professional soccer. He spent six months in a maximum-security prison in 2005 after being arrested with 50 others in a sweep aimed at a gang in the port city of Santos. Prosecutors said he was associated with the criminal group.

Pele is considered the best soccer player ever and in Brazil he is hailed as a national hero. He is currently in the spotlight as the country makes final preparations to host the World Cup in 10 days.

His personal adviser, Jose Fornos Rodrigues, said the sports star was traveling in China and had no comment on the case.

Known as Edinho, Pele's son played as a goalkeeper and is now a coach for the Santos professional soccer team, where his father rose to fame in the 1950s. The club said it would not comment, calling the case a personal matter for Edinho.

It wasn't his first run-in with the law. He was charged in early 1990s with taking part in a high-speed race where the other car hit and killed a motorcyclist. He was sentenced for manslaughter years later and then acquitted in 2005.

Trainer, co-owner reunite with California Chrome

NEW YORK (AP) The trainer and co-owner of California Chrome have reunited with their horse at Belmont Park days before he attempts to win racing's first Triple Crown in 36 years.

Trainer Art Sherman and co-owners Steve and Carolyn Coburn arrived at the track on Monday to see the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. Sherman had not seen the chestnut colt since his Preakness victory on May 17. He returned to his Southern California base after that race, leaving California Chrome in the care of his son and assistant Alan Sherman.

Sherman says he knows the colt is all right because he tried to bite the trainer, thinking Sherman had his favorite cookies in his hand. He didn't, but a groom produced the treats for California Chrome.

Dan Marino files concussion lawsuit against NFL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino is among the latest group of football players to file a concussion-related lawsuit against the National Football League.

The 52-year-old former Miami Dolphins quarterback is one of 15 former players who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia last week.

Marino and the other 14 plaintiffs join more than 4,800 others who have alleged the NFL misled players about the long-term dangers of concussions. The NFL has denied those claims.

The lawsuit doesn't specify any medical problems suffered by the plaintiffs including Marino, who retired in 1999. It seeks unspecified damages and medical monitoring.

The NFL and the original group of players agreed on a $765 million settlement last August. But the settlement was rejected by a federal judge in January.

Astros prospect Singleton to make debut Tuesday

HOUSTON (AP) Highly touted Houston Astros prospect Jon Singleton has agreed to a five-year contract and will make his major league debut on Tuesday.

The Astros announced the deal and his promotion Monday during an off-day. Houston hosts the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.

Singleton is rated by many as baseball's top first baseman of the future. His new deal runs through the 2018 season with club options for the following three seasons. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

The 22-year-old was hitting .267 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Singleton was acquired from Philadelphia in the 2011 trade for Hunter Pence. He was suspended 50 games last season for a second failed drug test.

Singleton told The Associated Press in spring training that he has an addiction to marijuana and had spent a month in a rehabilitation center last year.

First baseman Marc Krauss was sent to Triple-A to make room for Singleton.

Heat locking in on Finals, not what summer brings

MIAMI (AP) For the Miami Heat, it's all about June.

July can wait.

Four years ago, when LeBron James uttered that now-infamous phrase - "not two, not three, not four, not five ..." - about how many championships he hoped to win with the Heat, it was almost immediately turned into a punch line. It rings prophetic in some ways now, with the Heat back in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season.

How the Heat fare against in their NBA Finals rematch with the San Antonio Spurs might dictate what happens in July, when James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can become free agents if they choose. A looming offseason of decisions has been a taboo subject for the Heat "Big 3" this season, and Wade insisted Monday that Miami's stars have not said a word to each other about what may or may not happen.

"I'm not lying," Wade said.

Still, as long as Miami keeps winning, it seems logical the "Big 3" will stay together.

"I want to come back. That's OK to say, I think," Bosh said Monday after the Heat finished their first workout in preparation for the NBA Finals, which begin Thursday in San Antonio. "I can't speak for anything else and I don't want to take away from the subject at hand, but I like it here. It's Miami. Enough said. People are dying to get here."

Regardless of the outcome of this Heat-Spurs series, there will be changes to the Heat, which is an annual rite for just about every team. James, Wade and Bosh can all opt out of their current deals. Shane Battier is retiring, Ray Allen may think about doing the same, while Mario Chalmers, James Jones and Rashard Lewis are notable free-agents-in-waiting.

It's not just the "Big 3" who aren't thinking too far ahead, yet.

Allen said no one in the room is looking past anything but this series - especially with the Spurs' Tim Duncan saying San Antonio will get it done this year after falling short against the Heat last season. But as James noted, both teams have their own motivation.

"That's the great thing about having veterans," Allen said. "Nobody worries about what's not here yet."

Winning a third straight title could make some of those stay-or-go decisions pretty simple. And Wade believes Miami's legacy has been secured.

"Whenever it's all said and done, the legacy of this team, it's going to be a great team," Wade said. "It's going to go down in history as an unbelievable team not only in South Florida but in NBA history."

Given that, it's easy to see why so much attention gets paid to how long this team can stay together.

Bosh, Wade and James all made it very clear in September that they were not going to let the summer of 2014 turn into the circus that the summer of 2010 was, when all three became free agents and decided to bring their talents together.

Entering the season, James said that his teammates "understand where I stand" regarding the future. And on Monday, James said he wasn't going to let himself be distracted by thinking about what impact the result of these NBA Finals will have on the legacy the Heat have created over the last four seasons.

"No, because I live in the moment," James said. "It's almost the same with my individual accomplishments. I never really understand them. The only time I'll be able to appreciate it is when I'm done playing the game. I'm in the moment. I don't even think about it."

Bosh was the last player off the practice floor Monday. And when the conversation turned to what happens after these finals, he was reluctant, he said, to think about anything beyond Game 1 on Thursday night.

"It's difficult enough concentrating on trying to get back to this point, let alone trying to win it," Bosh said. "We've done that before. All of us made a lot of mistakes in 2010, which is going to happen because that was our first time being in it. But now, not only are we vets in the league, with playoff experience, we know what to expect."

What decisions to expect this summer, that's another story.

"We still don't know," Battier said. "It's hard to explain with our group. We have a bunch of guys that sort of go with the flow. I think when the Big 3 signed here there was talk of legacy and there was talk of history. That's all academic at that point. Once you put the uniform on it's about competing your tail off and putting yourself in position to win, which we have."

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