National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Top-seeded Djokovic coasts in US Open opener

NEW YORK (AP) Top-seeded Novak Djokovic breezed past a U.S. Open novice in the first round Monday, beating Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in a match that finished a few minutes before midnight.

Djokovic was never in trouble against a 22-year-old opponent from Argentina playing in his first main draw at Flushing Meadows. Djokovic's final shot hit the net, and popped over to clinch the win.

Djokovic is always popular at Arthur Ashe Stadium, and fans kept yelling out to him from the far reaches as the hour ran late.

Djokovic has made it to the U.S. Open final in each of the last four years. The 27-year-old from Serbia won the tournament in 2011.

Redskins safety Meriweather suspended 2 games

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The NFL once again has suspended Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather for his latest blow to the head of an opponent, which the league said is his sixth violation of player safety rules.

The league announced Monday that Meriweather will be suspended for the first two regular season games for his helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Torrey Smith in the second quarter of Saturday night's preseason win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Meriweather will miss the opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7 and the Sept. 14 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He will not be allowed to attend team meetings or practices or appear at the team's facilities for any reason during the suspension.

The sanction was levied by Troy Vincent, a longtime NFL safety and now the league's executive vice president of football operations. The league said Vincent determined that Meriweather "delivered a forceful blow to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver with no attempt to wrap up or make a conventional tackle."

The league said Meriweather has previously been disciplined five times for illegal hits to defenseless players. He was suspended two games last season after two helmet-first hits in a win over the Chicago Bears, but the penalty was reduced to one game after an appeal.

Meriweather's tendency to lead with his helmet - and aim for an opponent's head - has been a major point of concern since he joined the Redskins in 2012. On the play against Baltimore, he and Smith lowered their heads at roughly the same time as Smith went for a pass over the middle, but Meriweather lowered the crown of his helmet and clearly wasn't going for a hit instead of attempting a tackle. The pass was incomplete, and Meriweather was given a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul.

"I'm trying to do what the NFL asks of me," Meriweather said after the game. "After going through this offseason and working on the things that I need to work on, I get the first chance, and it seems like I failed."

Meriweather also suggested he's being held to a higher standard because of his past.

"I think they've been keeping a close eye on me for the last couple years," he said. "I'm just going to continue to work on my game and try to get lower to do the things they want me to do."

Coach Jay Gruden, speaking before the suspension was announced, said Meriweather was trying to avoid hitting Smith's helmet.

"He saw the ball and he tried to lower his target," Gruden said. "Unfortunately, as he was lowering his target, the receiver felt him and lowered his head also at the same time. It was a bang-bang play."

Meriweather can appeal the suspension. If it is upheld, the Redskins will have few options at an already thin position for the start of the regular season. Safety Phillip Thomas' status is in doubt after he reinjured his left foot, and fellow backup Bacarri Rambo has not tackled well in the open field. Ryan Clark is the other starter.

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NFL, FIFA join forces to evaluate concussions

Medical officials from the NFL, FIFA and other sports organizations are banding together to look into better ways to identify, manage and treat concussions.

The "think tank," funded by an educational grant from the NFL, was held Sunday and Monday at league headquarters in New York. Dozens of scientific and medical personnel from football, rugby and equestrian circles participated.

Dr. Rich Ellenbogen, chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, said the various sports organizations "need to look at all variations of what is being done around the world."

"This will change the paradigm," Ellenbogen said of such cooperation among sports. "How can we accelerate the information? This can provide a unique perspective to get people back to health. There are a lot of big ideas that can come out of this that resonated with all the leagues that may have not come up if they had done it in isolation."

Among those on hand were FIFA's chief medical officer, Dr. Jiri Dvorak; Dr. Martin Raftery of the International Rugby Board; Dr. Willem Meeuwisse of the University of Calgary's sports injury prevention research center; and Dr. Paul McCrory, an associate professor at Australia's Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

McCrory, who works with Australian Rules Football, also emphasized the need to work collectively.

"This is an exciting development in the science of sports concussion," he said. "Working with international sports leaders not only benefits athletes in professional sports but amateur participants throughout the world."

Handling concussions was a major topic at the recently concluded World Cup in Brazil. In the wake of FIFA being criticized during the tournament for not effectively policing concussions, Dvorak insisted that the team doctor has final say over players returning to action after an apparent head injury.

He promised that FIFA would make it clear who is in charge if a player is suspected to be concussed.

"There is a controversy about overruling the decision of the team doctor," he said. "From FIFA's side, we will strengthen the position of the team doctor, as we did already in the past."

More meetings are planned, perhaps as soon as later this year. The methodology for future research must be determined, as well as which sports might have particularly strong insight into certain treatments. Funding for any initiatives must also still be decided.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli signs for Liverpool

Liverpool signed Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan for 16 million pounds ($26.5 million) on Monday, taking a calculated gamble on a headline-grabbing player known as much for his controversies as his goals.

Nineteen months after ending a 2 1/2-year spell with Manchester City to play for his boyhood club, Balotelli will return to the English Premier League as a replacement for Luis Suarez - another of world football's talented but disruptive stars.

"I'm happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake," Balotelli said. "I wanted to go to Italy but I realized it was a mistake."

Balotelli, who has signed what Liverpool said is a "long-term deal," spent his first day with his new team watching the Reds lose 3-1 to City in a Premier League game at Etihad Stadium later Monday. He wasn't registered in time to play.

Liverpool has been looking to strengthen its strikeforce after selling Suarez to Barcelona for $130 million but left it to the last week of the transfer window to secure one of the summer's most high-profile and intriguing signings.

During his time at City, in which he won the league title, Balotelli was sent off four times, threw a dart at a youth-team player and was involved in an incident that saw fireworks explode in his bathroom. Days before news of the fireworks incident emerged, Balotelli had revealed a T-shirt under his City jersey with the question, "Why Always Me?" after scoring in the team's 6-1 win over Manchester United.

Balotelli, with his physique, technical ability and qualities as a finisher, is one of the world's best strikers and, at 24, the best times of his career could still lie ahead of him. At Milan, he scored 26 goals in 43 league matches and he is the Italian national team's top striker, scoring 13 goals in 33 games.

But with trouble always seeming to follow him, some are questioning whether Balotelli is worth the risk for Liverpool, which has fostered a strong team spirit under manager Brendan Rodgers that helped it finish second in the Premier League last season. Jose Mourinho described Balotelli as "unmanageable" during their time together at Inter Milan, which the striker left in 2010 to join City.

"He knows himself this is probably is last chance," Rodgers said. "Mario is someone we can improve both as a footballer and as a person."

"He has a reputation but we hope he can curb that behavior," Rodgers added after the City game. "He knows his flaws and faults and he is looking for someone to help him. There is no better club for him. Of course it is a risk."

Rodgers, however, got the best out of Suarez and current first-choice striker Daniel Sturridge, who both had turbulent pasts before arriving at Anfield. Sections of the British media have reported that Balotelli has had to agree to behavior clauses being included in his contract with Liverpool.

"I believe we have the infrastructure, culture and environment to get the best out of him and help him achieve his true potential," Rodgers said. "We are a strong group here, committed to hard work and he will benefit from being around it.

"I am looking forward to working with him and helping him learn more, improve and progress as a player."

Rodgers' attempts to bring in a striker has seen him look at France forward Loic Remy of Queens Park Rangers, whose switch to Anfield broke down at the last minute, and former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea star Samuel Eto'o. Last month, during Liverpool's tour of the United States, Rodgers was linked with a bid for Balotelli but said "I can categorically tell you that he will not be at Liverpool."

The U-turn was completed on Monday.

"This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here," Rodgers said. "There is no doubting Mario's ability; he is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level."

Asked what his targets at Liverpool were, Balotelli said: "I want to take this team to the Champions League."

Zimmer names Matt Cassel as Vikings starting QB

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Matt Cassel has seen a lot in 10 years in the NFL, including by his count seven different offensive coordinators in his last six seasons in the league.

So when Cassel re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason and started to digest Norv Turner's new system, he knew he'd have to work harder and study longer than he ever had before to win the starting job.

Mission accomplished.

Cassel was named the starting quarterback over first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater on Monday for the regular season opener against the St. Louis Rams, an achievement that resonated with a player who has evolved from no-name rookie to backup sensation to embattled starter and then to a journeyman veteran scratching and clawing to get another shot.

"I've been through a lot in my career," Cassel said. "I've been through the ups, I've been through the downs. I've been through the highs and the lows. At this point nothing really surprises me in my career. Because of those (experiences), it callouses you to a few different situations that as a younger player I might not have taken it as well."

One of those situations happened last year in Minnesota, when Cassel outplayed Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman during the season, but wound up starting only six games during a miserable 5-10-1 season. The Vikings fired coach Leslie Frazier and the rest of the staff after the season, hired Mike Zimmer and Turner to turn things around and brought Cassel back to bring some stability to the position.

Cassel has been sharp while starting all three preseason games. He has completed more than 66 percent of his passes for 367 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

"Matt did not do anything to lose the job this preseason," Zimmer said. "I think he's played great. The team has a lot of confidence in him. They feel good about his veteran leadership and presence."

The Vikings traded back into the first round on draft night to get Bridgewater with the 32nd pick and have pegged him as the long-term answer for the team's unsettled quarterback spot. After an understandably up-and-down preseason opener, Bridgewater has played well in the last two games. In all three games, Bridgewater is 26 of 40 for 266 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while getting most of his action with the backups and has impressed with his unflappable demeanor and low-key presence.

"I told Teddy this morning that I'm so happy he's here with us," Zimmer said. "I'm glad he's the guy we picked. I've loved everything that he's done. It wasn't anything that Teddy did or didn't do. Teddy will be, still in my estimation, a great player for this franchise for years to come."

Bridgewater took the news in stride, saying he was looking forward to learning from Cassel, continuing to refine his understanding of the offense while staying ready if he's needed at any point this season.

"When camp first started, I just wanted to learn as much as I could and try to get better each and every day, try not to make the same mistakes twice," Bridgewater said. "So I take my hat off to Matt. He's been playing great this preseason. I'm just going to continue to learn under him."

In his first season as a head coach, Zimmer was asked if Cassel was his starter for the entire season or if there was a chance for Bridgewater to see time at some point in his rookie year.

"We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position. If you perform, you play. If you don't perform, then the next guy will get an opportunity at some point. And when we decide to do that, we sit down and discuss it.

"That position, just like the outside linebacker spot, we have an expectation of performance and as long as those guys perform, they play."

Notes: The Vikings announced their first round of cuts on Monday. Safety Mistral Raymond was waived/injured with a leg injury after three seasons with the team. The other cuts were: CBs Derek Cox and Robert Steeples, WRs Andy Cruse, Kamar Jordan, Ty Walker and Erik Lora, tackles Pierce Burton and Kevin Murphy, DLs Kheeston Randall, Tyler Scott and Jake Snyder, TE Kory Sperry and S Brandan Bishop. ... TE Chase Ford was activated from the physically unable to perform list.

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Tiger Woods splits with swing coach Sean Foley

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) Tiger Woods is leaving swing coach Sean Foley after four years and no majors.

Woods said on his website Monday he will no longer work with Foley, the Canadian whom he hired when his game was at its low point following the upheaval with his marriage. The announcement came one day after another Foley pupil, Hunter Mahan, won The Barclays.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him."

Woods has been coping with back problems for more than a year. He had surgery March 31 to alleviate a pinched nerve, forcing him to miss two majors during his three months of recovery. He missed two cuts, withdrew from another tournament and had his worst 72-hole finish in a major after returning.

He is taking three months off in a bid to regain his full strength, and said this would be the right time to dismiss Foley. Woods is not scheduled to play again until his World Challenge in Orlando, Florida, the first week in December.

He does not have a coach and said there was no timetable to hire one.

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said in a statement posted on Woods' website.

Foley was the third coach Woods hired as a professional.

Woods began working with Butch Harmon as a teenager, and they changed his swing twice. The biggest overhaul was after Woods won the Masters by 12 shots. Many believe the new swing produced Woods' most dominant golf, though he also was in his early 20s and had not had serious issues with his knee. Woods won eight majors while with Harmon, including seven in 11 attempts and an unprecedented sweep of them in 2000-01. They parted in 2003.

Woods went to Hank Haney and produced another memorable stretch with an entirely different swing. In a two-year period covering 34 tournaments, Woods won 18 times (including four majors) and was runner-up six times. That ended with the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, right before his fourth and most invasive knee surgery.

That was his 14th major, and Woods has not won another since. He remains four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Haney announced in May he was leaving Woods, although those close to Woods felt a split was imminent. Woods went through most of 2010 without a coach until hooking up with Foley for the first time at the PGA Championship in 2010 at Whistling Straits.

Woods won three times on the PGA Tour in 2012, and then delivered a five-win season in 2013 when he returned to No. 1. But he rarely challenged in the majors, some of that because of injury.

He missed two majors in 2011 while letting leg injuries fully heal. Woods had a share of the 36-hole lead in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 2012, but he was not a factor on Sunday. He was two shots off the lead going into the final round of the 2013 British Open and fell back quickly.

He missed two more majors this year because of injury.

Foley, who first worked with Stephen Ames, has Mahan and former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose among his clients.

"It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport," Foley said. "I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

Ledecky leaves her mark in Australia

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) The long, deep breaths were a sign: Elation, satisfaction, relief. And just a touch of exhaustion.

Katie Ledecky had just wiped almost six seconds off her own world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle to win her fifth gold medal of the Pan Pacific championships, rounding off a phenomenal season of competition.

She now owns the world records in the 400- - she lowered her own mark at that distance the previous night - the 800- and the 1,500-meter freestyle events and is the world champion in all three.

And she's still in high school.

Before the Pan Pacific championships, the bulk of the attention focused on the return to international competition of Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time. Ledecky's performances made sure Phelps had to share the spotlight.

Phelps, who won eight Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and retired after lifting his tally to 18 golds by the end of the London Games in 2012, was frequently asked about his 17-year-old teammate.

"She's a stud. It's unbelievable," Phelps said of Ledecky after she lowered her record in the 400, describing her reaction to all the fuss over her times as "so nonchalant."

"Watching her swim is remarkable," he said. "She throws it on the line - she's very talented, she works hard, and it shows."

Ledecky enjoys swimming the 1,500, but it's not an Olympic event for women so it's not a big part of her longer-term plans beyond the world championships next year. She likes the challenge of it. Her reaction to winning the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle golds were fairly subdued and self-effacing.

Although she said it was "kind of cool" to be the first to set a world record at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre's new outdoor pool, she said she also loved playing a role in a winning 4x200 freestyle relay for the Americans.

All of her records came in some pretty difficult weather conditions - steady rain and a cold wind off the nearby Pacific Ocean during most of the sessions. It was a final, and uncharacteristic, blast of the last few weeks of the southern hemisphere winter in this part of Australia.

After completing the 30 laps in 15 minutes, 28.36 seconds - her third world record in 15 days - she really let her emotions show, slapping the water in delight after an intense final lap when she pushed harder and harder to the wall.

"That was probably one of my most painful races," Ledecky said. "But it paid off in the end. I figured pretty early on in the race that I was on world-record pace. I wasn't sure about the middle if I fell off too much, because it did really hurt. I was pretty sure I had it, but breaking it by six seconds was pretty surprising."

It was the third time in 13 months she's set the mark in the 1,500, and the second within three months since her 15:34.23 in June.

"The 1,500 is not a huge priority of mine because it's not an Olympic event - (but) it's certainly one of my favorite events," she said. "It was the last day of the meet - last time I broke it, it was the first day of the meet - so pretty different."

Now, for a change, the 2012 Olympic 800-meter champion will get a well-earned break from competition before training picks up again for the 2015 world championships.

Pettine, Browns preparing for life without Gordon

CLEVELAND (AP) While Josh Gordon waits to hear from the NFL, the Cleveland Browns think they have an idea about what is going to happen.

Coach Mike Pettine said Sunday that Gordon did not play in the Browns' previous exhibition game because the team is preparing to be without the All-Pro wide receiver for at least part of the season.

Gordon is waiting to hear from the NFL regarding his appeal of a possible yearlong suspension for again violating the league's substance-abuse program. He has been practicing and playing for weeks amid uncertainty about his career.

"Knowing that the decision is looming - that we're fairly certain that were not going to have him for a minimum of some part of the year - we wanted to make sure that we were getting repetitions with the guys that are going to be out there early," Pettine said.

The 23-year-old Gordon set the club's single-season franchise record with an NFL-best 1,646 yards receiving last year despite being suspended for the first two games. The breakout performance included one dazzling four-game stretch where had 36 receptions for 774 yards and five touchdowns.

But he has struggled in his preparations for this year, dropping passes during practices and preseason games. He hasn't spoken to reporters for months, and Pettine said his uncertain future is weighing on him.

An unspecified injury also contributed to Gordon being held out for Saturday night's 33-14 loss to St. Louis, Pettine said.

"As the game went on and there was the opportunity for him to get in there, with just the minor injury that he had, he wasn't loose," Pettine said. "I consulted with (wide receivers) coach (Mike) McDaniel and at that point we just didn't feel comfortable putting him in. It wasn't anything from a punishment standpoint or anything like that. It was just common sense."

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Bradford out for season with ACL tear

ST. LOUIS (AP) Jeff Fisher shared the bad news with Sam Bradford on Sunday morning.

By the time the St. Louis Rams coach began his day-after news conference, he'd had several hours to digest the impact of an injury that puts the team's once-rosy outlook in serious doubt, and to give a vote of confidence to journeyman backup Shaun Hill.

After announcing Bradford's season-ending torn ACL in his left knee for the second time in nine months, Fisher said speculation about a trade was premature.

At the least, they'll likely wait to see who hits the market in the first round of cuts on Tuesday when rosters must be at 75 players.

"It makes no sense to jump and react right now and try to fill the hole at whatever cost," Fisher said. "We're going to take our time and evaluate this.

"There's going to be some quarterbacks that are released and there may or may not be some quarterbacks out there that have trade value."

Fisher confirmed the extent of the injury first reported by ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said no timetable had been set for surgery.

"We lost Sam for the year," Fisher said. "The news was devastating to him."

The coach quickly added that everyone at Rams Park must quickly become accustomed to the 34-year-old Hill running the offense.

"We're going to move forward, we're not going to change anything," Fisher said. "We have to move on and Shaun's the guy."

In all, five starters were hurt in the first half against the Browns Saturday night. Fisher called it a "nightmare."

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson was carted off with a knee injury and three others - guard Rodger Saffold and defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers - left with ankle injuries.

Johnson will be out 4-6 weeks with an MCL tear, but Fisher said Saffold, Langford and Brockers could play if needed in the preseason finale Thursday at Miami.

Bradford was injured in the first quarter of Saturday night's 33-14 preseason victory at Cleveland. He was hit on his left side by Browns defensive end Armonty Bryant as he threw a pass, and hopped briefly on his right leg before dropping to the ground.

Fisher said the injury was a "one in 100" rarity.

"The knee was locked and something has to give," Fisher said. "Unfortunately, the ACL gave."

Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, missed the last nine games last season after getting injured at Carolina. The Rams also have rookie Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis on the roster.

Hill strolled through the auditorium to a meeting as Fisher walked to the podium and Davis also made an appearance during the news conference.

"Shaun's our guy," Fisher said. "I brought him here."

The Rams shifted to a ground-heavy offense after Bradford was injured last year and Kellen Clemens inherited the job. They were 3-4 with Bradford and 4-5 with Clemens.

Unlike Bradford, Clemens was a bit of a scrambler. Hill is more in the Bradford mold of a drop-back passer.

After the game, Fisher thought Bradford might have hyperextended the knee and was "very optimistic." Bradford walked off the field, and then walked to the locker room after the injury.

Wide receiver Brian Quick said he was assured by the quarterback that he was "OK."

"It is a tremendous loss for them," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "We knew that it didn't look like much when it happened, but I just think it was a good amount of weight that got put on it. It's such an unfortunate thing."

Pettine said there "certainly wasn't any intent" by Bryant to hurt Bradford.

Bradford had 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions last season. The Rams then upgraded their offensive line by drafting guard-tackle Greg Robinson No. 2 overall.

Bradford played in two preseason games and was 4 for 9 for 77 yards against the Browns.

The 34-year-old Hill has thrown only 16 passes the past three seasons as the backup in Detroit. He made 10 starts in 2010 for the Lions in place of injured Matthew Stafford and beat the Rams for Detroit's first win after a 0-4 start.

"He makes good decisions, he's mobile and just understands defense," Fisher said. "He's very reliable."

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Panthers QB Newton has hairline rib fracture

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Quarterback Cam Newton will miss the Carolina Panthers' final preseason game after an MRI on Sunday revealed a hairline fracture in his ribs.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Newton will be evaluated at the end of the week, but expects the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback will be ready for Carolina's Sept. 7 regular season opener against Tampa Bay.

"I do" expect he'll play, Rivera said. "But he has to get past the soreness. Then we will see how he starts to progress."

Newton did not speak with reporters, but walked gingerly to and from the practice field.

"He's pretty sore and he's hurting right now," Rivera said. "It is of concern."

Newton was hit after scrambling from the pocket in Carolina's preseason game Friday night against New England.

The injury came one day after Rivera talked about Newton needing to get down and slide and avoid hits in the open field. Newton was wearing a flak jacket at the time, but was hit in a small opening where there isn't any protection.

"That was the only crease in between the protection and, wouldn't you know it, that's the one spot he got it," Rivera said.

Newton has never missed a regular-season start in his three seasons with the Panthers.

Newton has run for 2,032 yards and 28 touchdowns in three seasons.

"We expect him to get past the soreness the next few days and be able to do a lot more," Rivera said.

Rivera said the injury to Newton likely means the Panthers will reconsider whether to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.

He said the injury increases Joe Webb's chances of making the team as the No. 3 quarterback behind Newton and primary backup Derek Anderson.

In other injury news, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly wore a small cast on his right hand after suffering a sprained thumb, but did go through drills Sunday. Starting left tackle Byron Bell was held out with an illness, but veteran safety Roman Harper returned to practice for the first time since the start of training camp. Harper has been bothered by a turf toe injury.

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US OPEN 2014: Serena chasing major title No. 18

NEW YORK (AP) Serena Williams stopped hiding from history and started making more of it.

Up until a couple of years ago, she practically plugged her ears at any mention of records or firsts. Now she says it out loud: Coming into the U.S. Open, her next goal is matching two tennis greats for the second-most major titles in the Open era with 18.

"Obviously just getting closer to tying with Chris (Evert) and Martina (Navratilova)," she said.

Then she added: "But been doing that all year and still hasn't happened. Not going to stress out about it anymore."

Williams has been stuck on 17 since winning the U.S. Open a year ago. When she started working with coach Patrick Mouratoglou in mid-2012, he urged her to embrace the record chase. Williams went on to capture four of the next six Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and two straight WTA Championships in a scintillating 16-month run.

But in the first three major tournaments of 2014, she didn't even make the quarterfinals. Her last appearance on the Grand Slam stage took a bizarre turn when an out-of-sorts Williams pulled out of a Wimbledon doubles match, blaming a viral illness.

Evert, for one, figured she'd be looking up at Williams by now. Or that maybe Williams would be chasing Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major titles.

Evert won her 18th and final major title at 31, the same age Williams was when she played at Flushing Meadows in 2013. Motivation gets harder with time because of the mental fatigue season after season.

"You just are not as fresh," Evert said. "Some days you just don't want to get out of bed."

For all that, Williams still has to rate as the heavy favorite at Flushing Meadows when the year's last major tournament starts Monday. She's seeking to join Evert as the only women to win three straight titles here in the Open era, which began in 1968.

Williams is seeded No. 1 in New York for just the third time, a surprisingly low number for someone who has been the world's top-ranked player for 204 weeks in her career. The two previous times, she won the championship.

Williams' five titles in 2014 are the most on the WTA tour; nobody else has more than three. Over the last seven Grand Slam events, the five titles not won by Williams went to five different players, and two of them won't be at Flushing Meadows: the retired Marion Bartoli and the injured Li Na.

Five-time major champ Maria Sharapova makes by far the best case to fill the void, but she hasn't looked that sharp since winning her second French Open title in June.

Petra Kvitova is coming off her victory at Wimbledon, but she's always struggled at Flushing Meadows - never even reaching the quarterfinals. After her first Wimbledon title in 2011, she promptly lost in the first round at the U.S. Open.

And Victoria Azarenka, the runner-up to Williams the last two years, has been stymied by injuries all season.

This state of affairs isn't too uncommon on the women's side in recent years. What's unusual is that the men's draw looks a bit similar. With Rafael Nadal unable to defend his title because of a wrist injury, the top players come in uncharacteristically shaky.

After winning Wimbledon and getting married, top-seeded Novak Djokovic was, in his own words, "emotionally a little bit flat" in losing early in two hard-court tournaments.

"I was a bit slow, I have to say, to get into the competition mode," Djokovic said. "It was a very unique five, six weeks that I had with the wedding and winning Wimbledon and getting back to No. 1 in the world. I couldn't ask for more. I was extremely fulfilled and happy with where I am in my life."

Meanwhile, Andy Murray has yet to rediscover his championship form after back surgery. Perhaps this is 33-year-old Roger Federer's last, best chance to win another major title.

For more than two years, he's been stuck on No. 17 - a number Williams is also all too familiar with.

Logano edged Keselowski for first win at Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) Joey Logano surged past Matt Kenseth with 44 laps to go and won for the first time in his career at Bristol Motor Speedway, foiling Kenseth's gambling attempt to secure a spot in NASCAR's playoffs.

Logano became the fifth driver this season to win three times, joining the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and teammate Brad Keselowski, who finished second.

"It's awesome," Logano said in Victory Lane. "I've never won more than one race in a season, and now I've won three."

Kenseth elected to stay on the track when most of the field pitted after a caution flag with 67 laps to go, picking track position over new tires. But once the green flag flew again, Logano and then Keselowski proved the choice faulty.

Orioles 3B Machado to have season-ending surgery

CHICAGO (AP) Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado has decided to have season-ending surgery on his ailing right knee, leaving the Orioles without one of their best players as they try for their first division title in 17 years.

Machado hurt himself on an awkward swing against the New York Yankees on Aug. 11, crumpling to the ground in the batter's box. He tried rest in an effort to return to the AL East-leading Orioles this year, but he said the knee just isn't getting better.

"There's nothing else we can do," Machado said before Baltimore's 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. "Only thing is going in there and fixing it up. It's just something it didn't get any better at all."

The 22-year-old Machado, who was selected by Baltimore with the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove last year in his first full season in the majors. He played in every game before he sustained a similar injury to his other knee and missed the final week of the season.

He got his left knee fixed last October in California, and he likely will return to Dr. Neal ElAttrache in the next week or so for the procedure on his right knee. The previous operation included an arthroscopy and open reconstruction of the medial patellar femoral ligament.

"Ideally, you'd like players to be healthy for the whole season and Manny hadn't been able to get through the first two full campaigns," said Dan Duquette, the vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles. "So hopefully these surgeries will address the issue so that when he comes back he will be able to see it through the whole season."

Machado did not play in a regular-season game this year until May 1. He hit .278 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs in 82 games.

It's a difficult blow for the Orioles, who are in prime position for their first division title since 1997. They lead New York by seven games after the Yankees beat the White Sox 5-3 in Saturday.

"I don't get into that `Woe is me, the Earth is shaking and the sky is falling,' you can't get into that mentality," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "We played 50 games without him."

Slugger Chris Davis got the start at third on Saturday. Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty also have played the position this year for Baltimore.

Duquette did not rule out bringing in someone to help make up for Machado's absence, but acknowledged that the pool of available players was thin and indicated he believes the best options are currently on the roster.

"The thing about the team and on behalf of the Orioles, we've been able to field a very competitive team this year in spite of our injuries," Duquette said. "And our team has been competitive because players step up."

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Yankees retire Torre's No. 6

NEW YORK (AP) Joe Torre lingered on the field at Yankee Stadium, hugging each one of the guests on hand Saturday to honor New York's four-time World Series winning manager.

If Torre's time with the Yankees always felt like a family affair why should the day his No. 6 was retired be any different?

"It's a long, long journey from the field to Monument Park," Torre said. "However, I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players."

The recently inducted Hall of Famer unveiled his number alongside those of 16 other retired numbers in Monument Park at the start of the ceremony. With No. 6 forever out of circulation, that leaves Derek Jeter's 2 as the only single digit number still being worn on Yankees pinstripes.

The Yankees captain, who is retiring after this season, escorted Soot Zimmer, the wife of the late Don Zimmer, onto the field to present Torre with a proclamation from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio naming Saturday Joe Torre Day.

Torre rode in a golf cart with Yogi Berra to the area in front of the mound, where the Yankees presented him with the 29th plaque to be placed in the area beyond the center field wall at the stadium. The team also gave Torre a flashy commemorative ring.

Torre, now an executive vice president for Major League Baseball, is the fourth member of the Yankees teams that won four World Series titles from 1996-2000 to be honored in Monument Park. Mariano Rivera was celebrated last season and Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill were give plaques earlier this summer. Bernie Williams will be recognized next year.

All but Rivera were on hand Saturday to pay tribute to the man who guided the Yankees to their first title since 1978 with a sense of calm and familial congeniality under George Steinbrenner, the combative owner.

"Joe's demeanor was always the same during the course of a game, during good times, bad times," said Joe Girardi, the Yankees current manager and catcher on three of Torre's World Series teams.

Torre, a Brooklyn native, took over as manager of the Bronx Bombers in 1996, and found instant success despite a losing record in 14 seasons at the helm of the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

The Yankees made the playoffs in each of Torre's 12 seasons, winning six AL pennants. He was 1,173-767-2 in the regular season and 76-47 record in the postseason.

"This group I had as far as nobody really cares who went to the All-Star game and nobody cared who got the headline in the newspaper - it was all about rolling up their sleeves and pretty much letting me decide on the direction we were going," Torre said. "I wasn't always right but they always respected the fact that it was my decision."

Torre left after the 2007 season after turning down a one-year contract, his relationship with the organization strained.

But when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July, Torre said, "Let's cut to the chase, I'm here because of the New York Yankees."

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AP Freelancer Charles O'Brien contributed to this report.

Red Sox sign Cuban outfielder to 7-year deal

BOSTON (AP) The Boston Red Sox are hoping another touted Cuban outfielder can help them turn things around next season.

The team signed Rusney Castillo to a seven-year contract Saturday that begins immediately. Several reports indicated the deal is worth $72.5 million.

"You're trying to build a winning team as quickly as you can, and we feel Rusney can be a part of that," general manager Ben Cherington said during a news conference after the last-place Red Sox lost 7-3 to Seattle, their seventh straight defeat.

"There's obviously been some other high-profile guys coming out of Cuba," Cherington added. "We've had several scouts see him over the last couple of years."

Castillo will join fellow Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes in Boston's new-look outfield. Trying to improve a weak lineup, the Red Sox obtained Cespedes from Oakland and Allen Craig from St. Louis at the July 31 trade deadline.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have benefited from the strong play of another Cuban outfielder, Yasiel Puig.

"I have actually spoken to Cespedes a little about this and he made me aware that it's the same game we play down in Cuba and success comes with hard work," Castillo said through a translator.

Cherington said Castillo first needs to obtain a work visa, then he'll go to the team's spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida, to get back into game shape. The club hopes to have him play in some games in the majors before the end of the season, but he'll likely be in the minors first.

"Our hope is once all these steps are completed that we'll see him in some major league games in September," Cherington said.

Castillo appeared at Fenway Park about 3 hours before the game wearing Red Sox shorts and a T-shirt. He wore No. 38 for a photo with Cherington, the same number pitcher Curt Schilling wore with the Red Sox.

"It's really a dream come true to have this opportunity to play, especially with the success of the recent Cuban players," Castillo said.

Castillo chatted with Mariners star Robinson Cano in front of the Seattle dugout.

During his pregame media session, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Castillo was going through the final stages of an exam and the completion of administrative paperwork.

"I talked to him this morning. He's glad to be here and glad the process has moved along to this point and excited to get started - when that day comes," Farrell said. "There's still some things to work through. He's obviously a strong athlete, a shorter version to Puig. What that means performance-wise, we'll see. We're confident in the athleticism and the overall strength."

The 27-year-old Castillo hit .324 in 2011 and .332 in 2012, his two best years in Cuba.

Rays protest game over timing of replay challenge

TORONTO (AP) - Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon protested Saturday's game against the Blue Jays in the fourth inning after the umpires granted Toronto a replay challenge after the next play had begun.

Jose Reyes singled home the winning run in the 10th inning as Toronto beat Tampa Bay 5-4. Maddon, however, said afterward that he felt his grievance was "pretty cut and dried."

"I'd be really surprised if the protest is not upheld," Maddon said.

Rays designated hitter Wil Myers reached on a one-out single in the fourth and was called safe by first base umpire Bill Welke on Mark Buehrle's pickoff throw.

After Yunel Escobar stepped back into the batter's box and Buehrle returned to the rubber, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out and asked to challenge Welke's call.

Maddon came out to speak with crew chief and third base umpire Bob Davidson about the timing of the challenge. After Myers was called out following video review, Maddon spoke to Davidson again and indicated he was playing the game under protest.

"It was inappropriate for Bob to do what he did and permit that to happen," Maddon said. "I'm trusting that they're going to interpret the rule properly and get us back to that point in the game."

Davidson told a pool reporter that he saw Gibbons emerging from the dugout just as Escobar was stepping back into the box.

"(Escobar) was just about getting in, but I'm looking at Gibbons and he's coming out and he's not a speed merchant, and I thought, it's on time," Davidson said. "We want to get the play correct. That's what we're out here for."

Baseball's replay rules say any challenge must be made before the next play or pitch, which is said to begin "when the pitcher is on the rubber preparing to start his delivery and the batter has entered the batter's box." The rules also say, however, that the crew chief has "the final authority to determine whether a manager's challenge is timely."

The San Francisco Giants on Wednesday became the first team since 1986 to win a protest after Major League Baseball ruled that the tarp at Wrigley Field had not been properly put away after its previous use. The Giants were able to resume Tuesday's rain-shortened game that the Cubs thought they had won 2-0, eventually beating Chicago 2-1 on Thursday afternoon.

Chelsea secures 2nd straight win; Arsenal draws

LONDON (AP) Chelsea welcomed back club great Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge on Saturday but it was another striker who maintained the team's winning start to the Premier League season.

Scoring for the second straight game, Diego Costa set Chelsea on its way to a 2-0 home victory over Leicester to join Swansea with back-to-back wins after two rounds.

The Spanish league got underway with Malaga's eventful win over Athletic Bilbao and the German league was treated to its quickest goal ever.

Here is the best of the action from Europe's top leagues:

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ENGLAND

Diego Costa kept up the prolific start to his Chelsea career, scoring his team's first goal in the second half in the 2-0 win over Leicester.

The Spain striker scored on his Chelsea debut in a 3-1 win over Burnley on Monday and netted again five days later, breaking down Leicester's stubborn resistance at Stamford Bridge in the 63rd minute.

Belgium winger Eden Hazard's solo effort in the 77th ensured Chelsea has maximum points after two games against teams promoted from the second-tier League Championship. Didier Drogba was given a standing ovation when he came on as a second-half substitute for Costa for his first home match in his second spell at Chelsea.

Swansea is the only other side with back-to-back wins so far after beating Burnley 1-0, while Arsenal has four points after getting goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud in the final seven minutes to recover for a 2-2 draw at Everton.

West Ham won 3-1 at Crystal Palace while the games between Aston Villa-Newcastle and Southampton-West Bromwich Albion finished 0-0.

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SPAIN

Malaga held on to beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to kick off the Spanish league on Saturday and give new coach Javi Gracia a winning debut at La Rosaleda Stadium, although the game was marred by two red cards in the final minutes.

Malaga scored in the 34th minute when Luis Alberto converted the rebound from his own missed penalty after goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz blocked his spot kick.

Tempers flared near the end, when Malaga lost two players with direct red cards. Sergio "Duda" Barbosa was first sent off for shoving Bilbao's Iker Muniain to the turf in the 88th, and Vitorino Antunes compounded that error by earning his exit with a dangerous tackle to cut down Fernandez two minutes into stoppage time.

Also, 10-man Valencia salvaged a 1-1 draw at Sevilla, while Granada came from behind to beat visiting Deportivo La Coruna 2-1.

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GERMANY

Karim Bellarabi scored the quickest goal in the 52-year history of the Bundesliga to help Bayer Leverkusen beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the opening round on Saturday.

Bellarabi scored nine seconds after kickoff, beating the previous record of 11 seconds set by Giovane Elber for Bayern Munich in January 1998, Ulf Kirsten for Leverkusen in March 2002 and Paul Freier for Bochum in May 2003.

Bellarabi took a pass from Sebastian Boenisch, eluded Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter and slotted inside the left post from 12 yards.

Schalke let a one-goal lead slip by conceding twice in three minutes to lose to Hannover 2-1. Haris Seferovic's 15th-minute goal on his Bundesliga debut was enough for Eintracht Frankfurt to beat Freiburg 1-0 and Werder Bremen came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Hertha Berlin. Hoffenheim defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home.

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FRANCE

Bordeaux extended its perfect start to the season by rallying past Nice 3-1 on Saturday for a third straight victory in the French league.

Marseille beat Guingamp 1-0 to earn its first win of the season under Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, Lille kept a third straight clean sheet by defeating Lorient 2-0 and Bastia edged Toulouse 1-0 with a penalty from Ryad Boudebouz.

Promoted Caen stunned Reims 2-0 with late goals from N'Golo Kante and Herve Bazile, and Montpellier needed a free kick from Siaka Tiene and a header from Souleymane Camara to down promoted Metz 2-0.

Lovefest: Kevin Love traded to Cavs, joins LeBron

CLEVELAND (AP) Olympic champions together, Kevin Love and LeBron James spent the last 30 days waiting to become teammates again.

Cleveland has craved a championship for 50 years.

One drought over. One to go.

On the first day they were able to complete the long-discussed blockbuster trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves sent Love to the Cavaliers, who capped a spectacular summer on Saturday by acquiring the All-Star power forward as another running mate for James to make them instant title contenders.

James didn't waste any time in making Love feel at home.

"Welcome to the Land (at)kevinlove!" the four-time league MVP posted on his Twitter account.

Yes, Cleveland, a city without a major sports championship since 1964, has another new superstar.

The Timberwolves receive a bountiful return for parting with Love, the disgruntled face of their franchise. They acquired No. 1 overall draft choice Andrew Wiggins and former top pick Anthony Bennett from the Cavs and veteran forward Thaddeus Young from the Philadelphia 76ers in the three-team deal.

"When it boils down to it, Kevin over his six years, he kept on saying `I want to win. I want to win,"' Timberwolves President Flip Saunders said. "Unfortunately over these last years, both him and the team haven't been able to do that. He felt it was best for him to go elsewhere.

"I was happy we were able to work with him and (agent) Jeff Schwartz and put him in a situation that he's going to have the ability to do that and we're going to have the ability for us to have an identity of where our team is at and continue to grow."

The Sixers received a 2015 first-round draft choice from Cleveland - ironically, one of the ones the Cavs got from Miami for James in 2010 - and guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Mbah a Moute from the Timberwolves, who also receive a trade exception worth about $6.3 million.

The Cavs and Timberwolves had discussed a trade involving Love for months, long before James decided to end his magnificent run with the Heat and come back home to Ohio. The deal dragged through the summer, first because of Cleveland's unwillingness to include Wiggins, and then due to a rarely used league rule that prohibited it from being completed until 30 days after Wiggins signed his rookie contract.

That bit of fine print in the collective bargaining agreement triggered an agonizing wait in both cities, more so in championship-starved Cleveland where generations of fans have longed for the Cavs, Indians or Browns to win it all.

But once the teams completed a conference call with the league on Saturday, there was nothing to prevent the planet's best player from aligning with the league's best power forward. Add in All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and James is the ringleader of a trio as potentially devastating as the one with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh he broke up last month.

"Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team," Cavs general manager David Griffin said. "At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one the NBA's elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team's vision for success."

Love's arrival caps a stunning two-month turnaround for the Cavs, who won just 33 games last season and haven't been to the playoffs since James left in 2010.

Cleveland locked up Irving, last year's All-Star Game MVP, to a maximum contract extension on the first day of free agency and then James rocked the league by announcing his return to bring a title to Northeast Ohio. Beyond that, Cleveland signed free agents Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones, veteran players with NBA titles on their resumes.

Love is the biggest piece. He's coming off of his best season, averaging career highs in points (26.1) and assists (4.4) while grabbing 12.5 rebounds per game and shooting 37.6 percent on 3-pointers.

"Welcome to Cleveland Wes," Irving tweeted at Love, alluding to a Sprite ad campaign the two players starred in where Love played a character called "Uncle Wes."

Despite his play, the Wolves finished 40-42, well out of the playoff chase in the demanding Western Conference, and he made it clear to the organization that he would opt out of his contract next summer and look for a contender.

"I want to personally thank Kevin Love for his six seasons with the Wolves," Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. "On the floor, Kevin has worked hard to make himself a great player in the NBA. He also made it a priority to give back to the community ... we wish him nothing but the best in Cleveland."

The Cavs were initially reluctant to deal Wiggins, the super-athletic small forward who spent one year at Kansas. The Timberwolves entertained offers from several other teams for Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer. But they stayed patient, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Taylor agreed last month in Las Vegas that Wiggins had to be included.

Adding Wiggins, Bennett and Young, an underrated seven-year veteran who will start in Love's spot, along with first-round draft pick Zach LaVine transforms the Wolves into a far more dynamic team around pass-happy point guard Ricky Rubio.

"We've all of a sudden become athletic, exciting and fast instead of being maybe a little bit slower and more plodding," Saunders said.

For Cleveland, Love could cure years of frustration.

The city's pained wait to celebrate a title may be nearing an end.

James and Love are together again, and the hope of ending so much sports heartbreak rests on their shoulders.

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AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski reported from Minneapolis.

Yankees pitcher Tanaka tests elbow against batters

NEW YORK (AP) Masahiro Tanaka took another positive step toward returning to help the New York Yankees make a run for a playoff berth, facing batters for the first time since he was sidelined six weeks ago with a partially torn right elbow ligament.

In front of several dozen reporters and photographers, the Japanese ace threw 35 pitches in a two-inning simulated game Saturday morning and reported no problems with his elbow. His control is expected to come later.

"I feel it's a little bit still rusty, but there were some good balls that I was able to throw," Tanaka said through a translator. "I want to keep moving forward."

Tanaka said he was cautious, thinking about his elbow with each toss, but it didn't prevent him from throwing all of his pitches, including his devastating splitter, while working against teammates Brendan Ryan and Zelous Wheeler.

After watching the 25-year-old right-hander from behind the mound, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he thought Tanaka was on the right track. He felt his arm strength was good - about the same as it would be during spring training.

"I thought it was a good progression, as long as he's healthy," Rothschild said.

The Yankees will wait until Sunday before deciding on the next step. It depends on how Tanaka's elbow responds a day later.

The young ace got off to a blazing start after signing a $155 million, seven-year contract in January - New York also paid $20 million to his Japanese team - going 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts and earning an All-Star nod. But he was placed on the disabled list two days after a rough start July 8.

The Yankees have fallen eight games back of Baltimore in the AL East and 3 1/2 games back of the second AL wild card and could use some help for a rotation that has been ravaged by injuries.

Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka will have to make some sort of rehab starts before he could return.

"I was pleased. He felt good, and that's the most important thing," Girardi said. "Big thing is we'll see how he feels tomorrow then we'll make a decision.

US picks 12-man roster for basketball World Cup

NEW YORK (AP) The U.S. has picked the 12 players it believes can defend its world basketball title.

The Americans kept Derrick Rose and cut All-Star Damian Lillard and three others early Saturday morning, getting their roster down to the limit for the FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

Though team officials had previously said they might carry extra players when they left for Spain on Saturday, and final rosters aren't due until next Friday, the Americans decided there was no need to wait.

Kyle Korver, Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons also were cut, shortly after the Americans beat Puerto Rico 112-86 in their final home exhibition game.

"Since taking over the USA Basketball men's national team program in 2005, this was without doubt the most difficult selection process we've gone through," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "I can't stress enough the outstanding effort and commitment that has been given by each finalist.

"I also want to make it clear that this is not just about talent - each player is incredibly talented and each player offered us unique skills. In the end it was about assembling the best team, selecting guys who we felt would be able to best play the kind of style we envision this team playing."

The rest of the roster is: Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, Andre Drummond, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee.

The Americans can still change the roster in event of injury or withdrawal before Friday, a day before the World Cup opener, which is why they originally considered bringing extra players to Spain.

"We feel that it's better to go with 12 because that's really difficult on anybody if they're not going to be on the team to travel that far," coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game at Madison Square Garden.

Lillard, Drummond, Hayward and DeRozan didn't play in the game, but Krzyzewski stressed afterward the final decisions on the roster hadn't been made - and it turned out two got tickets on the plane.

"I'm excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team," Krzyzewski said.

Rose came off the bench and scored six points in 14 minutes. He had sat out the previous game and a couple of practices this week after feeling soreness following last Saturday's exhibition opener against Brazil, his first action since missing most of the last two seasons after a pair of knee surgeries.

But he proved he was healthy enough to make his second U.S. team, having played for the Americans when they won the former world basketball championship in 2010.

"These guys want to play with him. That's part of getting back is to be around a group of peers," Krzyzewski said.

Curry scored 20 points, while Harden and Gay had 13 points apiece for the Americans, who will play a final exhibition game in Spain against Slovenia and open the World Cup next Saturday against Finland.

The U.S. led 52-47 after Thompson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of an entertaining first half before a divided crowd that included plenty of Puerto Rican fans. Knicks All-Star and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony, who is part Puerto Rican, was in the front row along with golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis star Andy Murray.

The Americans lost a number of key players this summer but are still good enough to defend their world title with the roster that remains, though they are vulnerable, which Puerto Rico proved by staying right with them for 20 minutes.

But they can also turn close games into blowouts in a hurry, which they did by outscoring Puerto Rico 14-2 to open the second half, with some energetic plays from Faried on both ends, to open a 66-49 lead.

"The team is looking great," Puerto Rico guard Carlos Arroyo said. "A lot of young guys motivated to represent their country with a lot of pride and honor, and you've got to give respect to that."

Puerto Rico's veteran backcourt of Arroyo and J.J. Barea has loads of international and NBA experience, and they didn't wilt under relentless U.S. pressure the way so many other teams do. Former Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman also started for the Puerto Ricans, who play in Group B along with regional rival Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Senegal and the Philippines.

Barea scored 16 points and Arroyo had 15.

"Not every game is going to be pretty when we get to Spain, so this is a good test for us and a good experience for everybody on the roster," Curry said.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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