National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Arenado's 28-game hit streak breaks Rockies record

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has broken the team record with a 28-game hitting streak.

Arenado had a two-out single in the third inning Thursday night against the Texas Rangers.

The streak is one game longer than teammate Michael Cuddyer's 27-gamer last season.

Arenado's streak is the longest for anyone 23 or younger since Albert Pujols had a 30-game run in 2003 when he was 23.

The streak for Arenado began April 9, a week before his 23rd birthday.

Attorney: Shelly Sterling wants to keep Clippers

LOS ANGELES (AP) The estranged wife of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling will fight to retain her 50 percent ownership stake in the team, her lawyer said Thursday, adding an unwanted twist to the NBA's plan to force new ownership on the franchise.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said his client "will not agree to a forced or involuntary seizure of her interest."

"As her lawyers we will fight vigorously to defend her property rights," he said.

O'Donnell said Mrs. Sterling has no interest in managing the Clippers and wants a new investor group to come in with a professional management team.

O'Donnell also told The Associated Press that Shelly Sterling has been separated from her husband for the last year and is considering divorce. There is no record of legal separation documents being filed, though O'Donnell said the couple is living apart.

Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling from the NBA for life and urged league owners to force him to sell the team. The move came after a recording surfaced in which Sterling made racist comments, telling friend V. Stiviano that he didn't want her to bring black people to Clippers games.

At a news conference announcing the decision, Silver said no decision had been made regarding whether Mrs. Sterling or any other Sterling family member will be allowed to retain an ownership position.

O'Donnell said he spoke with NBA officials Thursday morning but declined to elaborate. He said Mrs. Sterling has been working cooperatively with Silver and his staff and supported his announcement seeking a new chief executive officer for the team and the NBA's decision to place longtime team President Andy Roeser on leave.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league wouldn't comment on its discussions.

O'Donnell said Mrs. Sterling "abhors" her husband's comments and that "the Sterlings may share the same last name, but she does not share his values on race." The Sterlings have been married 57 years, O'Donnell said.

"We abhor guilt by association in America," O'Donnell said. "The sins of the husband cannot be imputed to the wife or children."

Shelly and Donald Sterling faced allegations that they discriminated against tenants based on race in Los Angeles according to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Department of Justice in 2006. The Sterlings, who at the time owned and managed about 119 apartment buildings or 5,000 apartments throughout Los Angeles County, agreed to settle the suit for $2.725 million.

The settlement also included two suits filed by former tenants at one of the properties, including an African-American family and an interracial married couple with biracial children, who alleged the Sterlings demolished their private yards among other actions because of their race, according to the Justice Department.

"The charges against her by former tenants are false, unfounded and were never ever determined to be valid in a court of law," O'Donnell said. He said the case was settled without any admission of liability. "She doesn't have a racist bone in her body," O'Donnell said.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Thursday at the team's training facility that "it would be a very hard situation" if Mrs. Sterling retained her portion of ownership in the team.

"I guarantee you every person wouldn't be on board with that," Rivers said. "Whether I would or not, I'm not going to say."

O'Donnell said Mrs. Sterling hasn't been asked to stay away from games and will not. She is an ardent Clippers fan and plans to attend Friday night's playoff game against Oklahoma City. Rivers said "that's her choice. She can be a ticket buyer or whatever."

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA All-Star guard who was asked to serve as a spokesman for NBA players after the Sterling scandal broke, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

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AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles, and AP writers Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles and Juliet Williams in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams

Kaymer ties course record with a 63 at Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Martin Kaymer stopped thinking, started swinging and played his way into the record book Thursday in The Players Championship.

Kaymer missed only two fairways. He putted for birdie on all but one hole. And the former PGA champion finished with four straight birdies to become only the fourth player to shoot 9-under 63 on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass, giving him a two-shot lead over Russell Henley.

Kaymer took advantage of a perfect day for scoring - warm weather, hardly any wind and soft greens.

There were 28 rounds in the 60s, which made the score by Adam Scott look even worse. With another chance - his best one yet - to get to No. 1 in the world for the first time, Scott finished with a pair of double bogeys from shots in the water and signed for a 77. It was his highest opening round at The Players since his first trip in 2002.

Kaymer was flawless, hitting whatever shot he felt he needed. His final blow was a hybrid that ran through the ninth green and into a bunker, leaving a simple up-and-down for birdie. He had a 29 on the back, the first player in the 32-year history at Sawgrass to break 30 on either nine.

Roberto Castro also opened with a 63 last year. The only others with 63 were Greg Norman in the first round in 1994, and Fred Couples in the third round in 1992.

"It's just a nice bonus," Kaymer said. "It's only the first round of a long, long tournament. It's nice to make some history. No one shot 29 on that golf course before."

Kaymer would not have seemed like a good candidate.

He has not won since the HSBC Champions in Shanghai at the end of 2011. He hasn't had a top 10 all year. But the 29-year-old German has felt his swing start to come together in recent weeks. His name has been featured on leaderboards more and more.

And he had a simple explanation.

"I stopped thinking," Kaymer said, a former world No. 1. "I thought a lot the last two years about swing changes ... that every shot I made I reflect on it, what I did wrong, what I did right."

A few weeks before the Masters, he spent time with longtime swing coach Gunter Kessler in Phoenix, and then they had another good session in Germany.

"And then it just clicked a little bit," he said. "I thought, `OK, I know I can hit pretty much every shot when I needed to hit it.' If it's a draw, if it's a fade, low or high, I know that I can do it. It's just a matter of getting the confidence on the golf course and then letting it happen and really doing it."

Henley, who won the Honda Classic in a four-way playoff in March, made birdie on half of his holes to atone for one big mistake. He hooked a tee shot into the water on No. 7 and compounded that with a three-putt for double bogey. But he answered with six birdies on the back nine for a 65.

"I knew I was playing well and felt really comfortable on the greens," Henley said. "But it was one of those back nines where you get to 18 and I just realized that I had a putt for 7 under. So that was pretty cool."

Bae Sang-Moon had a 66.

The group at 67 included Sergio Garcia, who spent last year in a war or words with Tiger Woods that lasted right up until the Spaniard hit three balls into the water on the two closing holes and Woods walked away with the win. Garcia looked sharp, happy and was confident in his game.

And he had loads of company. Lee Westwood, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose also were at 67. The group at 68 included Ernie Els and Dustin Johnson. There were 67 rounds under par, and the scoring average of 71.99 was the eighth-lowest for an opening round at The Players Championship.

But it wasn't easy for everyone.

Rory McIlroy made three bogeys over his last seven holes and tumbled to a 70. That was nearly as bad as Phil Mickelson. Coming off a 76 in the final round at Quail Hollow last week, he started his round by missing a 3-foot par putt and shot 75.

Of the four players with a mathematical chance to reach No. 1, only Masters champion Bubba Watson broke 70. He had a 69, while Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar each had a 71. Only four players had a worse score than Scott.

Kaymer reached No. 1 three years ago, and then sought to change his swing because he could only hit a fade. He prefers to play by feel, not by mechanics. A swing change left him little choice but to think too much. Now, he can only hope it's as simple as see the shot and hit the ball.

Jamal Crawford of Clippers wins NBA Sixth Man

LOS ANGELES (AP) Just as he has to wait to come into games, Jamal Crawford had to be patient about receiving the NBA Sixth Man Award.

The 34-year-old guard was honored on Thursday, a week later than usual. The delay was caused by the controversy involving team owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life by the NBA after a recording surfaced in which he made racist comments.

"We've known it for a while, but obviously with all the stuff going on we decided to try to let it die down before we gave him the award or he would never be able to talk about the award," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I'm glad we're finally able to do this."

Crawford became the oldest recipient and the first to win with different teams. He also was honored as the league's best player off the bench while with the Atlanta Hawks in 2009-10.

"It's pretty cool," he said during a presentation at the team's practice facility, with teammates including Chris Paul and Blake Griffin cheering him and poking fun of his suit and tie.

"I didn't know what a family was on the court until I got with these guys," an emotional Crawford said. "I've been on a lot of teams and usually guys, they go their own way. But with us, everybody is included, everybody is a part. They make everybody feel like family."

Crawford led the league's reserve players in scoring this season, averaging 18.6 points. He came off the bench in 45 of 69 games he played in, helping the Clippers to a 57-25 record, their best regular-season mark in franchise history.

Crawford went so far as to say he hopes to spend the rest of his career with the Clippers, an organization roiled by Sterling telling his friend V. Stiviano that he didn't want her to bring black people to Clippers games.

"As long as I'm with this group of guys and with Doc leading us, everything else will work itself out," Crawford said.

The Clippers had a 31-14 record when Crawford came off the bench this season.

Crawford set the single-season franchise record for 3-pointers made with 161. That surpassed his record from last season, his first in Los Angeles, when he was runner-up for the Sixth Man award.

"He can score in his sleep," Rivers said. "I've never seen a guy that can sit for 15 minutes and literally be on the floor for a half-second and they swing him the ball and he's ready to shoot and make some shots."

Rivers even made an exception to his policy of not running a play for someone when they first enter the game.

"He's a lethal scorer, but he adds more value when he does other things," the coach said.

Rivers was among those in the NBA who knew Crawford by reputation, a player who only wanted to score and not defend. But Crawford put that to rest this season, especially when Paul was injured.

"This year he's ran the point guard position, he's been my best passer at times when C.P. was out," Rivers said. "He's been our defender, he's in the right spots. He's been a complete team guy, so I'm really happy for him."

Crawford received 57 first-place votes and 421 total points from a panel of 125 sports writers and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada. He joined Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf as two-time winners.

Taj Gibson of Chicago finished second with 395 points and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili was third with 138.

Crawford had his best month in January, scoring in double figures in 15 of 16 games and helping the Clippers go 12-4 that month.

On Jan. 25, he had 37 points and 11 assists in a win over Toronto - the most points he scored off the bench in his career and his most with the Clippers. It was the second time this season he had that many points and assists; he totaled those numbers against Sacramento on Nov. 29.

Crawford missed 13 games in March and April because of a sore Achilles tendon, but rallied to return in time for the playoffs. The Clippers and Thunder are tied 1-1 in their Western Conference semifinals series.

The award sponsor Kia will donate a 2015 vehicle to a charity of Crawford's choice.

Yankees to retire Joe Torre's No 6

NEW YORK (AP) The Yankees will retire former manager Joe Torre's No. 6, leaving Derek Jeter's No. 2 as the last single digit in New York's pinstripes.

Torre, Rich Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill also will be honored with plaques in Monument Park, the team said Thursday.

Torre managed the Yankees to World Series titles in 1996 and from 1998-00 and six AL pennants during 12 seasons as manager that ended in 2007. Currently Major League Baseball's executive vice president for baseball operations, he is being inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame this summer.

"I am incredibly humbled," Torre said in a statement. "The Hall of Fame became possible for me because of what our players accomplished in 12 memorable years representing this historic franchise together. I hope that number 6 will stand for everything that our players achieved."

Torre's number will be retired during a ceremony in Monument Park on Aug. 23. His number will join those of Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7), Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey (8), Roger Maris (9), Phil Rizzuto (10), Thurman Munson (15), Whitey Ford (16), Don Mattingly (23), Elston Howard (32), Casey Stengel (37), Mariano Rivera (42), Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

Jeter, the Yankees' captain since 2003, said in February this will be his final season.

Martinez's ceremony will be June 21 as part of Old-Timers' Day weekend followed the next day by the honors for Gossage, one of only a handful of pitchers in the Hall of Fame who primarily were relievers. O'Neill's ceremony will be Aug. 9.

The Yankees said the ceremonies are part of a recognition series that will include Bernie Williams in 2015, but they did not specify what honor Williams will receive.

Agassi says Nadal is greatest ever tennis player

SINGAPORE (AP) Andre Agassi says Rafael Nadal should be considered the greatest tennis player ever, not Roger Federer.

Agassi made the comments in an interview with Singapore newspaper Straits Times, saying Nadal's achievements are more impressive because he has had to deal with tougher opponents.

Federer has 17 Grand Slam titles to Nadal's 13, although the Spaniard leads his Swiss rival 23-10 in head-to-head meetings.

Agassi is quoted as saying that "I'd put Nadal No. 1, Federer No. 2," adding that "it's just remarkable to me what he has done, and he has done it all during Federer's prime."

The former No. 1 says "Nadal had to deal with Federer, (Novak) Djokovic, (Andy) Murray in the golden age of tennis. He has done what he has done and he's not done yet."

3 Oregon players investigated, no charges filed

The University of Oregon isn't allowing three basketball players to participate in team activities after a student told police they sexually assaulted her at a postgame party and later at an apartment.

Police in Eugene investigated the allegations against Damyean Dotson, 19, Dominic Artis, 19, and Brandon Austin, 18. Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner decided there was not enough evidence to prove the sex wasn't consensual.

Assistant athletic director Andy McNamara said the three players are not currently participating in any team activities.

The university has refused to say why the players have been disciplined.

"We are deeply concerned about information contained in the police report recently released by the Eugene Police Department," university President Michael Gottfredson said in a statement, adding that the school "takes allegations of misconduct very seriously. The university has established internal conduct processes for handling misconduct allegations."

The police report released by the Eugene Police Department states that the players say the sex was consensual. Austin's attorney, Laura Fine Moro, did not return calls seeking comment. No phone listings could be found for Dotson or Artis in Eugene. It was not known whether Dotson or Artis had attorneys.

Citing federal privacy laws, university spokesman Tobin Klinger would not say whether an internal university investigation had been initiated, or whether the basketball players were barred from team activities because of the allegations. He did say that the woman's father reported her allegations to the university on March 9, the day after the party where she met the players. The party was the same night the Ducks beat No. 3 Arizona in the final game of the regular season, and before they went on to the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.

Robin Holmes, university vice president for student affairs, said in general, the university "immediately" investigates all allegations of sexual assault involving students, both on campus and off.

Gardner said police asked the university not to take disciplinary action until they finished their investigation, because that gives police the best opportunity to gather evidence.

The Student Athlete Code of Conduct requires athletes "to conduct themselves as responsible citizens," and "in a manner that brings respect to the University of Oregon and its athletic teams."

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the university was handling the situation appropriately.

"I've been monitoring it very closely," Scott told The Associated Press while attending Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix on Wednesday. "I've been in touch with the university, certainly feel that they're handling it with appropriate seriousness and handling it the right way."

Police did not release the victim's age, but the police report says she is a female college student and is under the age of 21.

In a three-page statement detailing his reasoning for not bringing charges, Gardner notes the focus of the determination was not on whether the sex took place, but whether the woman had consented or was too drunk to consent.

Based on interviews with the woman, her friends, the players, and recordings of telephone calls the woman made to the players afterward, there was no evidence she was substantially impaired when she entered a bathroom where the first two sexual encounters happened, Gardner wrote.

For Austin, it's the second sexual assault allegation he has faced. While at Providence College, he and another Providence player were accused last year of sexually assaulting a female student on campus. The two were suspended and Austin subsequently transferred to Oregon. He had to sit out a calendar year under NCAA transfer rules.

Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Attorney General's office, said that case remains under investigation.

If the three players were to leave the team, Oregon will have lost a dozen players from a program that went 24-10 in 2013-14 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Seven seniors and two transfers have already left the team since its season-ending loss to Wisconsin on March 22.

Westbrook, Durant help Thunder beat Clippers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook had a triple-double, MVP Kevin Durant fell one assist short and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-101 on Wednesday night to tie their Western Conference semifinal series at one win apiece.

Westbrook had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to claim his third triple-double in his past five playoff games. Durant had 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists before leaving the game with 1:21 remaining. According to information provided to the Thunder by the Elias Sports Bureau, no pair of teammates has had triple-doubles in the same playoff game.

J.J. Redick scored 18 points, Chris Paul had 17 points and 11 assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points for the Clippers.

Game 3 will be Friday in Los Angeles.

Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha each scored 14 points for the Thunder, who shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded the Clippers 52-36.

The Clippers made 15 of 29 3-pointers in Game 1, but just 9 of 27 in Game 2.

Durant scored 17 points in the first quarter on 7-for-11 shooting to help the Thunder take a 37-28 lead. Paul, who scored 17 points in the opening quarter of Game 1, went scoreless in the first quarter of Game 2 and watched most of the period from the bench with two fouls.

The Thunder led 46-40 when both Westbrook and coach Scott Brooks were called for technical fouls. Westbrook felt he was fouled on a drive against DeAndre Jordan and didn't get the call. The Clippers made both free throws, then Paul made a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma City's lead to 46-45. The Clippers went ahead when Griffin connected on a mid-range jumper with just over 4 minutes remaining in the first half.

The Thunder closed the half strong and took a 61-56 lead. Durant had 21 points and Westbrook 19 at the break as Oklahoma City shot 53.3 percent from the field.

Oklahoma City got an offensive boost from an unlikely source - Sefolosha, a defensive stopper. He hit a mid-range jumper, then dunked after a steal by Westbrook to give the Thunder a 78-66 lead. Sefolosha dunked again, then got a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Westbrook and gave Oklahoma City a 90-73 advantage.

Sefolosha scored 12 points in the quarter to help the Thunder take a 94-77 advantage into the fourth.

Westbrook clinched his triple-double with 1:21 remaining when he was credited with an assist after a pass to Sefolosha, who took two dribbles on his drive to the basket.

Notes: A power surge took out much of the arena's lighting with 27.2 seconds left in the first half. The coaches agreed to finish out the half with the limited lighting. The power returned, but halftime was extended briefly to give the lights the necessary 15 minutes to return to full brightness. ... Rapper Jay-Z attended the game. ... 2K Sports has announced that Durant will be the lone player on the cover of NBA 2K15. He shared the cover of 2K13 with Griffin and Chicago's Derrick Rose. Miami's LeBron James was on the cover of 2K14. ... Commissioner Adam Silver presented Durant with the MVP trophy before the game, and he held it up for the fans to see. ... Thunder C Steven Adams was called for a technical foul with 9:17 remaining for falling on Paul after a pump fake and knocking him into the Thunder bench. Los Angeles' Jamal Crawford was issued a technical with 7:28 to play, and Paul was given one with 2:24 remaining.

M's affiliate overcomes 16-run deficit, wins 20-17

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) A minor league team of the Seattle Mariners has pulled off a major rally, coming back from a 16-run deficit to win in the Class A Midwest League.

The Clinton LumberKings trailed the Burlington Bees 17-1 after five innings Wednesday night in the game between clubs based in Iowa. Clinton wound up winning 20-17 in 12 innings.

Clinton scored six runs in the sixth inning, five in the eighth and five more in the ninth to tie it at 17.

Justin Seager, the younger brother of Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th. Seager finished with four hits.

Burlington is an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

Pens win 3rd straight, take 3-1 lead over Rangers

NEW YORK (AP) Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal to break a second-period tie, and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved within one win of the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh, which has won three straight following a series-opening loss, can advance with a Game 5 victory at home Friday night.

Evgeni Malkin scored 2:31, and Jussi Jokinen made it 3-1 at 7:02 of the third before the teams traded late goals. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 13 shots.

The only negative for the Penguins was that Fleury allowed a goal for the first time in three games. Carl Hagelin's tying tally in the second period was the Rangers' first goal in 145 minutes, 30 seconds of playing time.

Mats Zuccarello backhanded in a goal with 6:53 left to cut the Rangers' deficit to 3-2, on only their second shot of the third, but Chris Kunitz restored Pittsburgh's two-goal edge 57 seconds later.

Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves in the loss.

The weary Rangers played for the sixth time in nine nights, and not even a full day of rest on Tuesday or the return of forward Chris Kreider helped them. Kreider played for the first time since breaking his left hand a month ago.

Jokinen, who has an eight-game points streak, scored his insurance goal with a flip shot that struck the right leg of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and bounded past Lundqvist.

Pittsburgh had regained the lead late in the second period by taking advantage of New York's inept power play. Not only did the Rangers fail to score for the 36th consecutive time on the power play, they fell behind for the second time.

In what was shaping up to be the Rangers' best second period of the series, New York threw all the momentum back to the Penguins when Sutter scored with 1:33 left. The Rangers turned over the puck shortly after a drop pass in the neutral zone. Brian Gibbons streaked in alone and had his shot stopped by Lundqvist, but the rebound sat in front. Sutter swooped in to knock in his fourth of the postseason to put Pittsburgh back in front.

The Rangers broke out of their scoring drought 4:30 into the second when Ryan McDonagh passed the puck from his end into the neutral zone to Hagelin, who took off with a burst of speed, split the defense, and snapped his third goal of the playoffs past Fleury to tie it.

It was New York's first goal since Derick Brassard's overtime winner in Game 1.

Any early lift the Rangers got from the return of Kreider was lost when Malkin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

New York contributed greatly as a turnover by defenseman Anton Stralman started the play. The Penguins pressured and moved the puck freely. Sidney Crosby got it to the right of Lundqvist and sent a pass across the slot - that slid past Kunitz and somehow eluded Staal - onto the stick of Malkin, who turned and snapped in a backhander for his fifth of the playoffs on Pittsburgh's first shot.

The Rangers' sloppiness didn't end there as several passes missed their targets, and multiple clearing attempts ended up on Penguins sticks. But New York mounted an extended challenge and kept the puck in the Pittsburgh end for at least a minute with about 6 minutes remaining in the first period.

However, despite tiring out the Penguins who were caught on ice for a long shift, the Rangers recorded only one shot during the sequence and ended it when Staal was called for slashing - Pittsburgh's second power play of the period.

The Rangers killed it and then got their first power play when Kunitz took a retaliatory slashing penalty against Staal that carried into the second period.

NOTES: Penguins D Brooks Orpik returned after missing five games with an injury. He took Robert Bortuzzo's place in the lineup. ... Rangers LW Daniel Carcillo, a healthy scratch in Game 3, came back in. To make room for him and Kreider, Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller sat out.

Arenado's 27-game hit streak ties Rockies' record

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has tied the team record with a 27-game hitting streak.

Arenado needed little time to extend his string Wednesday night. He hit a two-run double in the first inning against the Texas Rangers to equal teammate Michael Cuddyer's 27-game streak from last season.

Arenado's streak is the longest for anyone 23 years or younger since Albert Pujols had a 30-gamer in 2003 when he was 23.

The streak for Arenado began April 9, a week before his 23rd birthday. According to Elias, his streak is the longest that began when a player was 22 or younger since Benito Santiago's 34-game hitting streak in 1987, which is still a major league rookie record.

Spurs' Buford named Executive of Year

In a franchise that has no time for spotlights, with a roster that has no interest in headlines, R.C. Buford may be the very embodiment of the all-for-one San Antonio Spurs.

For more than two decades he has toiled in the shadows, happy to let the attention fall on coach Gregg Popovich and the team that Buford has played such a pivotal role in assembling. He quietly - happily - lives in the back channels and has built a reputation as one of the most respected executives in the NBA.

Yet for all his impressive work over the previous 11 years as a general manager and architect of the most enduring success story in modern American sports, Buford had never been honored by his peers as the league's executive of the year. Until now.

Buford won the award Wednesday, and as is the custom in the Alamo City, did as much as he could to downplay his significant contributions to a team that posted the best record in the NBA.

"I think it's not why we do what we do," Buford said. "I think it's a great honor for the group of people that have been here and have been through here that have built and an ownership group that's allowed a continuity to build a program that we're proud of so to be recognized as a program that people respect by your peers, that's rewarding."

That Buford had never won the award before while helping to put together a team that won four championships and has posted a staggering 15 straight 50-win seasons has been one of the great mysteries in league annals. He's helped put the Spurs at the forefront of the international invasion, implemented a system that demands commitment and humility over recognition and individual achievement, and has been partly responsible for so many teams pilfering his staff to run front offices or teams across the league.

Yet he may have finally earned the award in his 12th season as GM because of what he didn't do.

In the wake of a devastating loss to Miami in the NBA Finals last season, Buford didn't panic. He didn't give up on an aging Manu Ginobili. He didn't let Tiago Splitter get lured away by big money elsewhere.

He followed the Spurs' creed: Stay the course. Believe in the system. Never give in to outside influence.

While other teams chased huge stars and made big splashes, Buford quietly re-signed Ginobili and Splitter and added second-tier free agent Marco Belinelli. The moves weren't flashy, but were exactly what the Spurs, who enter Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday night leading Portland 1-0, needed to recover from that bitter defeat.

"It's pretty cool," Popovich said. "We're all excited for him; long overdue. He's done a great job for a very long time. We're giving him the requisite amount of you-know-what all over the offices. He walks down the halls we hit the walls we hit the sides to make room for him."

Buford received nine first-place votes and 58 total points to win the award. Phoenix's Ryan McDonough (47) finished second for his superb job in turning the Suns from an afterthought into a 48-win team that just missed the playoffs.

Neil Olshey, who added Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson to bolster the Trail Blazers' depth and get them into the playoffs, finished third in the voting with 34 points. Toronto's Masai Ujiri and Miami's Pat Riley rounded out the top five.

Popovich and Buford have made the Spurs the envy of the league, assembling one of the most uniquely stable systems in professional sports built around Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili, a trio that has won three championships together and keep coming back for more.

"We've been working with each other for a long time," Popovich said. "We participate in everything. It's been a great relationship in that regard. We share everything it's benefited both of us and the organization without a doubt. Just having that ability to communicate and having an owner that allows us to do that."

Popovich gets more of the credit for making the Spurs machine go, and that's just fine with Buford. But most around the league, and certainly everyone in San Antonio, recognizes what a big role Buford has played in helping the Spurs avoid the teardowns that almost every franchise has endured since he and Pop took over.

"You recognize how difficult that is and how fortunate we've been that an ownership group has allowed us to stay together and have the opportunity to survive through the growing pains," Buford said. "To have a group of players that have wanted to be a part of what this community of San Antonio and what our fans mean to them. To have wanted to stay with an ownership group the sacrifices that they've made to make this a unique environment and then how they've handled themselves that presents a platform that other players want to come join.

"Again, we're not in this to win an award. We're in this to try to win a championship. That's the reward we're all hoping for."

Seattle, Sherman agree to 4-year extension

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Richard Sherman finally got his moment of being a top pick.

He stood on the stage with spotlights beaming directly on his bow tie. With the coach on one side and general manager on the other, Sherman held up a Seattle Seahawks jersey with his named across the back.

When Sherman entered the NFL as a fifth-rounder, there was no fanfare. That all came on Wednesday as Sherman became the latest piece of the Super Bowl champions to be locked up for the long term.

"I guess this is how it feels to be a first rounder," Sherman said after signing a four-year contract extension with the Seahawks that will make him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in NFL history.

Much in the tenor of doing things the way he wants, Sherman unveiled the extension on his website before the team could make the announcement. The two-time, first-team All-Pro selection wrote the deal will pay him $57.4 million with $40 million guaranteed and will keep him in a Seahawks uniform through the 2018 season. The deal includes a reported $11 million signing bonus.

It's a massive deal for a player who earned $375,000 in base salary as a rookie in 2011. But Sherman insisted the money will not change the approach or attitude that has made him one of the top defensive players in football and a magnet for attention.

"I'm still the guy scrapping for a spot. You never lose that mentality. You can take a ragged dog that has been living on the streets for 10 years and put him in a brand new house with steak and lobster every night and he's still the ragged dog that you got off the streets," Sherman said. "So I'm still the ragged dog off the street. That mentality isn't something that I can change I don't think. Even I wanted to, I can't do it, It's not a switch that I have."

Sherman's deal wraps up a solid offseason for the Seahawks prior to the NFL draft. Seattle re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett before the start of free agency. They then reached extensions with coach Pete Carroll through 2016 and a four-year, $40 million extension with All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas.

"I'd like to thank Paul Allen for anteing up," Sherman said.

Sherman said it was important to get the extension done before the start of the 2014 season and take any lingering doubt about his future out of the equation. He made a point of thanking nearly everyone on the Seahawks defense during his opening remarks. Sherman wanted to spend his career playing alongside Thomas and Kam Chancellor as part of a secondary that has developed into the best in the league. Sherman and Thomas will be under contract through 2018 and Chancellor is under contract through 2017.

"It was headed in the right direction for several weeks," Seattle general manager John Schneider said. "I thought it was time to get it tied up and let everybody move forward."

Despite the pedigree of being a fifth-round pick, the one thing Sherman has never lacked is bravado. Whether it was getting in the face of Tom Brady after a win in 2012, offseason social media arguments with other players or his comments about Michael Crabtree after the NFC championship game, Sherman has never hidden the swagger.

"The thing I struggle with Richard on is his confidence level," Schneider joked.

Displaying his self-confidence has made Sherman a target for criticism. It was never louder than the gap between the NFC championship and Super Bowl when Sherman's shouting postgame rant on national television overshadowed the play he made to clinch the conference title against rival San Francisco.

But all those moments have made Sherman known outside of football and his consecutive seasons with eight interceptions. It's why he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine and invited to the White House Correspondents' dinner last weekend.

"It's a great statement about a young man that demonstrated an extraordinary belief in himself and dedication to be a nerd in high school way back in his Dominguez (High School) days when he was a track star and a football player," Carroll said. "He was always in the classroom working on his stuff. He had a real vision on what he could become way back then and see it come all the way through to this day today, it is a new beginning for Richard and his career with all that goes along that makes this guy up. He's really special."

Bills GM Whaley disappointed in DT Dareus' arrest

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley is disappointed to learn that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was arrested on drug charges in Alabama.

Whaley says the team will contact the NFL regarding the arrest and will offer Dareus support and assistance. Whaley provided no further details in the statement released by the Bills on Wednesday, a day after the player's arrest became public.

Police say, Dareus was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia after being stopped by an Alabama state trooper Monday night. Dareus spent less than an hour in jail before being released.

Dareus is from Alabama, and was selected by Buffalo with the third pick in the 2011 draft. His agent has not commented on the arrest.

NFLPA files grievance for Saints TE Graham

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The NFL Players Association confirmed Wednesday that it filed a grievance on behalf of Jimmy Graham concerning the Saints tight end's franchise tag designation.

At issue is whether the NFL was correct to apply the tight end tag to Graham or whether Graham should have received the more lucrative wide receiver tag, a difference of $5 million.

The NFL's current collective bargaining agreement states that a player should be tagged according to the position at which he lined up most often. Graham and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, are contending that the frequency with which Graham lined up split out from the line merits the $12.3 million receiver's franchise tag, not the $7 million tight end tag.

No date for a grievance hearing has been set, but the filing alone could provide Graham with a measure of additional leverage as he seeks to have his franchise tag designation removed in favor of a long-term extension.

July 15 is the final day a team can sign 2014 franchise players to long-term extensions.

Graham's agent, Jimmy Sexton, did not return a message seeking comment on the matter. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday there had been no progress to report on negotiations with Graham.

The Saints have asserted that lining up split from the line is a significant part of every tight end's job description.

When asked in January whether the Saints viewed Graham as a tight end under the league's CBA, Loomis responded: "Isn't that what we drafted him as? Isn't that what he made the Pro Bowl as? That's what we see him as - a tight end.

"The tight end has always been part of the passing game," Loomis continued. "He's part of the running game. So he's part of both. So are receivers. So are running backs."

According to an analysis by ESPN Stats and Information, Graham lined up split out from the line on 67 percent of his snaps - 45 percent of the time in the slot and 22 percent out wide.

Unless the Saints and Graham pre-emptively agree on a long-term deal, an arbitrator may have to decide whether those numbers alone, under the language of the CBA, would require the league to apply the receiver designation to Graham.

If so, it likely would set a precedent for negotiations involving other tight ends who figure prominently in their teams' passing games, and could substantially lower the franchise tag number for tight ends who more often line up next to offensive tackles.

It could also affect other positions in which players have varying roles, most notably some outside linebackers in a 3-4 defensive scheme, who could argue their right to receive the higher defensive end tag.

Blues extend Hitchcock through next season

ST. LOUIS (AP) The St. Louis Blues have extended coach Ken Hitchcock's contract through next season, though there will be some staff changes.

Assistant coaches Brad Shaw and Ray Bennett also will return. A third assistant coach, Gary Agnew, and goaltending coach Corey Hirsch are not being retained.

The 62-year-old Hitchcock led the Blues to a franchise-record 52 victories this season and has taken them to the playoffs all three of his seasons. He's 124-55-20, a franchise-best .673 winning percentage, and is seventh on the NHL career list with 657 wins.

The Blues have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons, both times losing four straight after taking a 2-0 series lead against the defending Stanley Cup champion.

NBA owners meet again to update Clippers situation

NEW YORK (AP) NBA owners went back to work Wednesday on Commissioner Adam Silver's desire to end Donald Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The advisory/finance committee held its second conference call in the past two weeks, reviewing the timing and process for forcing Sterling to sell the franchise following his lifetime ban for making racist comments.

League spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the committee also discussed the search for a new CEO and got an update on Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum's visit with Clippers employees. The owners plan to meet again next week.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor chairs the committee that also includes Miami's Micky Arison, the Lakers' Jeanie Buss, Oklahoma City's Clay Bennett, New York's James Dolan, Boston's Wyc Grousbeck, San Antonio's Peter Holt, Phoenix's Robert Sarver, Indiana's Herb Simon and Toronto's Larry Tanenbaum.

Silver banned Sterling from anything to do with the league or the team, fined him $2.5 million, and said he would urge owners to force Sterling to sell the franchise he has owned since 1981.

That would require Silver or another owner to charge Sterling with violating Article 13 of the NBA's Constitution and bylaws, which addresses acts that could lead to the termination of ownership. A hearing would then be held and require a three-fourths vote of the board of governors for approval.

If that happens, control of the team would fall to the commissioner. The league may already be planning for that, announcing last week that it was working with the Clippers to appoint a CEO.

Beyond Sterling's ban, team president Andy Roeser has taken an indefinite leave of absence.

Flyers promote Ron Hextall to general manager

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ron Hextall got his "dream job."

Hextall was promoted to general manager by the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday to replace Paul Holmgren, who was elevated to president. Hextall is Philadelphia's all-time winningest goalie and served as assistant GM last year.

"When I was done playing 15 years ago, my next goal was to become a general manager," Hextall said. "I've been very fortunate to work under Bobby Clarke, Paul Holmgren, and Dean Lombardi out in Los Angeles - three very good people but also three very astute people who I took a lot of lessons from the last 15 years.

Holmgren replaced Clarke as GM during the 2006-07 season and led the Flyers to within two games of the Stanley Cup title in 2010. He played for the Flyers from 1975-84 and coached them from 1988-92.

"I'm excited about what's ahead for me," Holmgren said.

The Flyers were eliminated by the New York Rangers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. They haven't won a Cup since 1975, but have reached the Finals and lost six times.

Despite heavy criticism in Philadelphia for failing to win it all, the Flyers have long been considered one of the top NHL franchises. They've earned a playoff berth in 39 of their 46 seasons.

"The culture of winning is nothing to be embarrassed about," said Hextall, adding the Flyers are a "model" organization. "We should all be proud of this organization and what they've done. Short of winning the Stanley Cup, this organization has done everything. There's nothing anyone here won't do to win a Stanley Cup."

Hextall previously spent seven seasons as vice president and assistant GM with the Los Angeles Kings. The 50-year-old Hextall played 13 seasons in the NHL and had two stints covering 11 years with the Flyers.

He burst on the scene in 1986, won the Vezina Trophy and helped the Flyers get within one win of the Stanley Cup before losing to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers on the road in Game 7 in 1987. Hextall was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the playoffs that year.

Hextall had 296 career wins in the regular season, including 240 for the Flyers. He retired in 1999 and joined the Flyers' front office. He spent three years as a pro scout and four as director of pro player personnel before joining the Kings in 2006.

"Ron is one of the league's bright young stars on the management side, and we're very fortunate to have him," Flyers chairman Ed Snider said. "He's had success in Los Angeles and will now put that experience to work for us as general manager. We all remember the enthusiasm, work ethic and personality he had as a player, and we're excited to watch him bring those qualities to building a team that will contend for the Stanley Cup."

Hextall became the first NHL goalie to score a goal by shooting the puck into the opponent's empty net. He also became the first goalie to score a goal in the playoffs. Hextall was known for his fiery temper as a player. His attacked Montreal's Chris Chelios during the 1989 playoffs, sparking a brawl.

"There is an on-ice guy and an off-ice guy," Holmgren said. "What I see now is an off-ice guy who is very intelligent, very articulate and knows the game inside and out. It has been growing over the last 15 years so he's obviously learned from that."

Hextall has a strong core of players, including Hart Trophy finalist Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. After years of searching for a true No. 1 goalie, it seems they have one now in Steve Mason.

"The thing I really like about our team is everybody talks about our forwards, and that's a good group, but it's a young group as well. And that's important," Hextall said. "A lot of these guys are going to get better, and we've got to take it upon ourselves to help them get better every day."

Colin Kaepernick eager to have Miami case resolved

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says on Twitter he's eager to have the truth come out in a Miami investigation involving him and two other NFL players.

Miami Police on Tuesday released two calls to a 911 dispatcher saying a woman identifying herself as Jesus was lying naked in a bed and refusing to leave. The callers said the woman wanted to spend time with a third man who wasn't there.

Kaepernick posted Wednesday: "On 911 calls, I'm glad the truth is getting out. Info that came out earlier was totally wrong. I look forward to this matter being resolved."

Police say the players also involved in the case are 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette. None has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Indy expects Irsay to help make Super Bowl pitch

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts owner Jim Irsay is expected to make the final pitch for Indianapolis' Super Bowl bid May 20 in Atlanta.

Irsay has been undergoing treatment since March when he was arrested near his home in an Indianapolis suburb. The arrest report said he had $29,000 in cash and bottles of prescription drugs in his car.

Pete Ward, Irsay's assistant in the Colts' organization, told reporters Wednesday that Irsay would speak during the five minutes owners are given to lobby other owners to award their city the Super Bowl. That will follow 15-minute presentations from each city vying to host the 2018 Super Bowl - Indy, Minneapolis and New Orleans.

The owners meetings would be Irsay's first public appearance since the arrest.

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