National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

AP Source: Burnett, Phillies agree to deal

PHILADELPHIA (AP) On the day Cole Hamels announced he won't be ready for the season opener, the Philadelphia Phillies helped their ailing starting rotation.

A person familiar with the deal said that A.J. Burnett agreed to a one-year contract with the Phillies on Wednesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Phillies haven't made an official announcement.

Burnett's deal reportedly is worth $16 million. If Hamels is healthy, he gives the Phillies a formidable top three along with Cliff Lee.

Kyle Kendrick is slotted to be fourth in the rotation. Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, and Cuban righty Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will compete for the fifth spot. Youngsters Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin provide insurance.

Hamels told reporters in Clearwater, Fla., that he has left biceps tendinitis, but expects to pitch in April.

Burnett was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA for Pittsburgh last season. The 37-year-old right-hander is 147-132 with a 3.99 ERA in 15 major league seasons. He helped the New York Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, winning Game 2 of the six-game series.

Hamels initially said he felt discomfort in his shoulder. He called the ailment a "kink in the system" after he rebooted his throwing program in mid-to-late November.

"It was cranking back up on top of the weightlifting I was doing," Hamels said. "I think it was just getting into the exercises too fast, too soon."

A three-time All-Star and MVP of the 2008 World Series and NLCS, Hamels is coming off a poor year. He was 8-14 with a 3.60 ERA in his first full season after signing a $144 million, six-year contract in July 2012.

Hamels, who made his first opening day start last year, said he no longer is feeling pain or discomfort, but is "eight to 10 days" behind the rest of the pitchers in camp.

Phillies pitchers and catchers reported to camp on Wednesday, and they will hold their first official workout on Thursday. Hamels is hoping to throw his first bullpen session in eight to 10 days.

Yankees star Jeter to retire after 2014 season

NEW YORK (AP) Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter says he will retire after this season "with absolutely no regrets," ending one of the greatest careers in the history of baseball's most storied franchise.

The 39-year-old New York captain posted a long letter on his Facebook page Wednesday saying that 2014 will be his final year.

A 13-time All-Star who has led the Yankees to five World Series championships, Jeter was limited to 17 games last season while trying to recover from a broken left ankle sustained during the 2012 playoffs.

"I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball," he wrote.

"I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets," he said.

Jeter was the last link to the powerful Yankees teams that won three straight World Series crowns from 1998-2000. Longtime teammates Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired after last year.

"Derek Jeter is Mr. Yankee of his era," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. "He was the face of one of the greatest teams ever."

But Jeter's joyride hit a big speed bump recently.

"Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle," Jeter wrote. "The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward."

"So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last. As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure," he wrote.

"And the thing is, I could not be more sure," he wrote.

Jeter hit just .190 with one homer and seven RBIs last season.

His agent, Casey Close, said Jeter wanted to declare his intentions before the Yankees start spring training later this week so that his future status wouldn't be a distraction.

"I'm excited for him. It's kind of nice to see him go out on his own terms," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said at spring camp in Glendale, Ariz.

Mattingly finished up his All-Star career with the Yankees in 1995, the same season Jeter made his big league debut.

"I saw him when he first showed for spring training. I always think about spring training when I think about him, just because he was this 17-year-old kid right out of high school who looked out of place. He was skinny, but he was tough. He's been winning since the day he got there," Mattingly said.

Jeter is the Yankees' career hits leader with 3,316. He is a lifetime .312 hitter in 19 seasons, with 256 home runs and 1,261 RBIs.

Jeter has scored 1,876 runs and stolen 348 bases. He also is a five-time Gold Glove winner.

Added up, his numbers put him among the greats in Yankees history, with fans often invoking the names of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and others when mentioning Jeter's legacy.

As for rating Jeter's place with the Yankees, Mattingly said: "It's hard. You're talking about DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mantle. But he's right there. He's got to be one of those."

Plus, No. 2 is defined by so much more than his numbers. His backhanded flip in the playoffs, his diving catch into the stands, his speech to close old Yankee Stadium and his home run for career hit No. 3,000.

As for rating Jeter's place with the Yankees, Mattingly said: "It's hard. You're talking about DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mantle. But he's right there. He's got to be one of those."

An October presence for so many years - he's a career .321 hitter in seven World Series - he also became Mr. November in 2001. His winning, 10th-inning homer came shortly after midnight in a Game 4 that began on Halloween.

"Just as DiMaggio represented his era, Mantle represented his era and Ruth represented his era. And Reggie represented the 70s teams," Steinbrenner said.

Jeter was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, the season the Yankees won their first World Series and re-established themselves as a major force. He was the MVP of the World Series.

Jeter has said he's fully ready for spring training this year and set to play.

Jeter worked out at the Yankees' spring training complex on Wednesday and left around noon, giving no hint that he was about to announce his plans.

Commissioner Bud Selig said that during his tenure, "Major League Baseball has had no finer ambassador than Derek Jeter."

"Derek has represented all the best of the national pastime, on and off the field," Selig said in a statement. "He is one of the most accomplished and memorable players of his - or any - era."

"Derek is the kind of person that generations have emulated proudly, and he remains an exemplary face of our sport," he wrote.

A staple for so long in the Yankees' lineup, Jeter missed the first 91 games last year after setbacks in spring training and the early months of the season.

Even after his 2013 debut, things didn't go well. Jeter felt pain in his right quadriceps when he returned July 11 and again went on the disabled list.

Jeter returned July 28 for three games, but strained his right calf. He played from Aug. 26 through Sept. 7, leaving for a pinch runner after hitting a single against Boston. Four days later, the Yankees said Jeter was done for the year.

The Yankees will open the 2014 regular season on April 1 in Houston. Their home opener is April 7 against Baltimore.

Like Rivera last year, Jeter is sure to be saluted wherever he goes in this final season.

"Now it is time for the next chapter," he wrote. "There are many things I want to do in business and in philanthropic work, in addition to focusing more on my personal life and starting a family of my own. And I want the ability to move at my own pace, see the world and finally have a summer vacation."

"But before that, I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life. And most importantly, I want to help the Yankees reach our goal of winning another championship," he said.

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AP freelance writers Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., and Norm Frauenheim in Glendale, Ariz., contributed to this report.

Patrick to drive in Nationwide race at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Danica Patrick will pull double duty at Daytona International Speedway.

Patrick will drive in the second-tier Nationwide Series season opener the day before the Daytona 500, which is scheduled for Feb. 23.

The former IndyCar star and current Stewart-Haas Racing driver will run a third entry for Turner Scott Motorsports. A rookie in the Sprint Cup Series last season, Patrick also drove two Nationwide races for Turner Scott. She led five laps at Daytona last February before an electrical problem ended her day. She crashed at Talladega in May.

Patrick will drive the No. 30 Chevrolet Camaro, which is sponsored by the Florida Lottery.

Patrick made her Nationwide debut at Daytona in 2010. She has raced in 60 Nationwide events, including a full season in 2012.

Five-year-old fox terrier Sky wins Westminster

NEW YORK (AP) — From wire to wire, Sky was America's top dog.

The 5-year-old wire fox terrier won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, finishing off a year in which she was ranked the nation's No. 1 dog.

Handler Gabriel Rangel scooped up Sky in one arm and kissed judge Betty Regina Leininger's hand after the title was awarded inside a nearly full Madison Square Garden.

Rangel may've learned that from his dog.

"Her personality is she loves to kiss people and she connects with everybody," Rangel said.

This was Sky's 129th best in show ribbon overall — she became a Triple Crown winner in dogdom, too, having previously taken the National Dog Show and the top AKC event.

A wire fox terrier has won 14 times at the nation's top dog show. No other breed has won more than eight times.

The winner with the ginger-and-white coat and little terrier goatee beat out an impressive lineup for the final ring. Also competing were a standard poodle, a bloodhound, an Irish water spaniel, a Cardigan Welsh corgi, a miniature pinscher and a Portuguese water dog.

Matisse the Portie had a great history. He is a cousin of President Barack Obama's newest house pet — the White House, that is.

But once again, a terrier prevailed. Terriers have taken 46 of the 105 best in show ribbons presented at an event that dates to the late 19th century.

"She has the 'it' factor. She owned this night," Leininger said.

The standard poodle named Ally was chosen as the runner-up.

Nathan the bloodhound was clearly the crowd's pick as all seven dogs circled around in the final ring. The min pin called Classie had won 121 times.

Rangel, who lives with Sky in Rialto, Calif., has plenty of experience in winning. He guided Sadie the Scottish terrier to victory at Westminster four years ago.

There were 2,845 dogs entered in the 138th Westminster Kennel Club show. They were eligible in 190 breeds and varieties.

Sky entered the ring only a half-hour or so after winning the terrier group, and was still fresh.

"We're kind of saving it," Rangel said shortly before the final competition.

By Wednesday night, the pooch might be pooped. She's scheduled to tour the morning TV news shows, eat a steak lunch at famed Manhattan restaurant Sardi's and also go up the Empire State Building.

And on Thursday night, Sky was set to make her Broadway debut with a walk-on part in the Tony Award-winning musical "Kinky Boots."

Pretty lofty doings, indeed, for a dog with the champion's name of Afterall Painting The Sky and accustomed to top treats.

"It's like winning an Oscar," said Victor Malzoni Jr., one of the owners who is an economist from Brazil.

Poodles always seem to show up well at these events, and Ally represented her breed well. She takes three to four hours to prep, and came out perfectly trimmed.

Fancy that.

The Cardigan Welsh corgi called Coco might've been familiar to dog fanciers at the Garden, and to the several million who tune each year to the Westminster telecast.

Queen Elizabeth II loves all kinds of corgis, and is often seen with them in her royal reign.

The Irish water spaniel called Riley originally came from the Seattle. In this, an event known as the Super Bowl of dogs, she was trying to repeat the win that the Seahawks posted in the real Super Bowl this month right across the Hudson River.

Wyoming upends No. 5 San Diego State, 68-62

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) Riley Grabau scored 17 points, Larry Nance Jr. had 14 and Wyoming beat No. 5 San Diego State 68-62 on Tuesday night to end the Aztecs' 20-game winning streak.

The victory by Wyoming (15-9, 6-5 Mountain West Conference) came almost 16 years to the day after the Cowboys last beat a top-5 team at home, a 62-56 win over No. 5 Utah.

Fans stormed the court after the final buzzer, mobbing Wyoming players.

Dwayne Polee II led San Diego State with 15 points, followed by Xavier Thames with 13.

The Aztecs (21-2, 10-1) won 20 in row after losing to Arizona in their second game of the season. Their streak tied the school mark set by the 2010-11 team, which finished a school-record 34-3 after reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history.

Roy Oswalt retiring after 13 seasons in majors

Roy Oswalt retired from baseball on Tuesday after winning 163 games and making three All-Star teams in 13 major league seasons.

The pitcher's agent, Bob Garber, confirmed the decision and said Oswalt would go to work for his agency, RMG Baseball. Oswalt will be vice president of baseball operations.

"Roy is now going to be representing players with me," Garber said Tuesday night. "He's now an agent."

The 36-year-old right-hander had a 163-102 career record with a 3.36 ERA. Oswalt won 20 games in consecutive seasons (2004-05) with the Houston Astros and was the 2005 NL championship series MVP. He pitched more than 200 innings seven times but was hampered by injuries in recent years.

"He was a tremendous competitor," Giants right-hander Matt Cain said. "He was one of the guys I always loved to watch pitch. I remember facing him for the first time and I knew if I gave up more than a couple runs that it wasn't going to be a good day for us. He went about his business every fifth day like a true pro."

Oswalt got hurt with Houston on June 11, 2003, when he and five other pitchers combined to no-hit the New York Yankees in an 8-0 victory in the Bronx. It was the only six-pitcher no-hitter until Seattle did the same thing against the Dodgers on June 8, 2012.

Oswalt strained his right groin and left in the second. He looked toward catcher Brad Ausmus after his second pitch of the inning, his 23rd of the game, and immediately was replaced.

The Yankees had gone 6,980 games - the longest streak in major league history - without being no-hit, since Hoyt Wilhelm's 1-0 victory for Baltimore on Sept. 20, 1958.

Oswalt was 0-6 with an 8.63 ERA in nine outings and six starts for Colorado last year. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies in May 2013 and missed time with a strained left hamstring.

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington was thrilled to acquire Oswalt in the middle of the 2012 season, when he went 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA in 17 appearances with nine starts.

He joined the Rangers on June 22, 2012, but didn't know if the team just planned to trade him away. Washington often said Oswalt "has been a pro" in handling a tough, unclear situation that called for him to be used primarily out of the bullpen.

That was after Oswalt spent two stints on the disabled list during 2011 with Philadelphia because of lower back inflammation. He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts for the Phillies that year, and his 139 innings were his fewest since 2003. He didn't go more than 59 innings in his last two years.

A 23rd-round pick by Houston in the 1996 amateur draft, Oswalt pitched his first nine-plus seasons for the Astros (2001-10) and then played for Philadelphia (2010-11), Texas (2012) and the Rockies (2013).

On Aug. 25, 2010, Oswalt became the first Phillies pitcher to play a position in the field in 39 years after Ryan Howard was ejected in the 14th inning of a 4-2, 16-inning home loss to the Astros. With the Phillies out of position players, Oswalt went to left field and Raul Ibanez took over at first for Howard.

Oswalt drew a rousing ovation from the crowd when he caught a routine fly ball. He was the first Philadelphia pitcher to play a position since Bill Wilson on Aug. 6, 1971.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

After chartering 787, Tanaka introduced by Yanks

NEW YORK (AP) The latest high-priced addition to the New York Yankees stood at the dais in front of a large news conference, put on his pinstriped jersey with No. 19 and smiled.

"Hello. My name is Masahiro Tanaka," he said slowly in English. "I'm very happy to be a Yankee."

After chartering a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for his trip from Tokyo to New York, the 25-year-old right-hander with the $155 million, seven-year contract was introduced Tuesday not in the news conference room downstairs at Yankee Stadium, but in the Legends Suite Club, where the high rollers congregate on game days.

Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo concluded the team's latest Pacific overture drew New York's most-attended news conference since Hideki Matsui arrived in January 2003.

Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said obtaining Tanaka was worth the economic pain of exceeding the $189 million luxury tax threshold New York had hoped to stay under this season.

"We needed another starter, and when we do things, we try to do them right," Steinbrenner said. "And this guy, he's tough. He's got tremendous ability. We all know that. And he's going to be very exciting to watch. And he's going to be great for the team, a great teammate. And $189 (million) or not, we wanted a good, quality starter, and we got it."

Tanaka charted a Japan Airlines plane, which seats about 200, for the trans-Pacific trip to New York, reportedly costing about $200,000. There were just five passengers on the plane, including his pop star wife Mai Satoda, plus their poodle Haru. The flight, originally scheduled to depart at noon, was delayed many hours by a snowstorm.

"There wasn't many choices of planes," Tanaka said through a translator when asked about the big jet.

And a lengthy commercial trip could have been uncomfortable.

"I thought about my conditioning, just wanted to get here in the best condition possible," he said.

For his first meal in New York, he ventured outside his room at the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Central Park.

"I ate a sushi," he said, "which I bought at a grocery store nearby."

New York, which also added Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran during the offseason, figures to have a big following in Japan this year. Tanaka joins pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on the roster, and reliever Yoshinori Tateyama will be at spring training with a minor league contract.

"This would make the Boss proud," general manager Brian Cashman said in a reference to late owner George Steinbrenner. "The Yankees obviously are about always trying to acquire the best talent and a collection of talent that can compete for a championship, but he also liked a lot of attention, and this certainly represents a lot of attention. So this is Yankee big. This is Steinbrenner big."

Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year, leading the Rakuten Golden Eagles to the Japan Series title. That left him with a 99-35 record and a 2.30 ERA in Japan, where he had 53 complete games in 172 starts.

New York had one of the most successful Japanese players in the major leagues in Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP. And the Yankees experienced costly flops with pitchers Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa.

Manager Joe Girardi was behind the plate for Irabu's debut in 1997.

"They feel a little bit more weight of representing their country than maybe players that are here on an everyday basis, because they kind of pave the way for the next guy and then the next guy," he said.

Girardi's advice: "Don't feel like you have to live up to the contract."

On a tour of the U.S. with a Japanese high school all-star team in 2006, Tanaka met Matsui when one of the young pitcher's games was rained out. During the offseason, he spoke briefly about his pending decision with Matsui, who plans to be a guest instructor at Yankees spring training.

New York appealed to Tanaka's desire to pitch on the biggest stage.

"This is where you need to be. A great star. The biggest franchise. The biggest brand. The biggest city," Yankees President Randy Levine remembered saying during the team's pitch to the player on Jan. 8 in Beverly Hills, Calif. "He said some other teams he had met with wanted him to transition in, and he didn't like that. He wanted to take the ball on Day One, and that told us a lot about him."

Tanaka sounded prepared for the Yankees' win-or-else mentality.

"I've heard that this place is - it could be very harsh to you at times," he said. "Just wanted to put myself, though, in this environment and try to see where I can get to with my ability."

Cashman is trying to lower expectations, saying Tanaka will slot in as No. 3 in the rotation behind CC Sabathia and Kuroda.

"We could be getting more than a 3. Maybe it's a 2. Maybe it's even a 1 at some point," Cashman said. "I think that the adjustments are real, and as excited as we are to have and as much as we need a player of his capabilities, I want to make sure that people understand how difficult this game is over here and that there should be expectations of growing pains."

Nolan Ryan to rejoin Astros as executive advisor

HOUSTON (AP) Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan rejoined the Houston Astros on Tuesday as an executive adviser.

Ryan worked as a special assistant to the general manager in Houston from 2004 until he became president of the Texas Rangers in 2008. He added CEO to his title with the Rangers in 2011 and remained in that position until he stepped down in October.

Ryan will serve as an adviser to owner Jim Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and his son and president of business operations Reid Ryan.

"I'm very excited to be back with the Astros," the elder Ryan said in a statement. "I'm happy to assist Jim, Jeff and Reid in any way I can. The Astros have a solid foundation with a strong farm system. I think the future is bright for Houston and I'm looking forward to my involvement."

The Astros have lost more than 100 games in each of the last three seasons, but their minor league system has been ranked among the best in baseball this offseason.

Crane is glad to have Ryan back in Houston after his time with the Rangers.

"We will use his experience, expertise and knowledge to improve the Astros in all areas," Crane said. "He will be an integral part of our management team. Nolan wants to be a part of our success moving forward."

Ryan, who played for the Astros for nine seasons, is major league baseball's career strikeout leader and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

"Nolan Ryan's experience and insights will help us on the baseball side - both in terms of decision-making and in maximizing the productivity of our players," Luhnow said. "I'm fortunate as a general manager to get advice and guidance from great former players and Astros - Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens and now Nolan Ryan."

Ryan won 324 games and set records for strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven) in a 27-year major league career. He signed with the Astros in 1980 and helped them to their first postseason appearance that year and back to the playoffs in 1981 and 1986.

Reid Ryan joined the Astros last season and is looking forward to working with his father.

"The opportunity to work with my father is very special," he said. "He's had success in baseball on many levels and will be a great addition to our organization."

The team said Nolan Ryan will join the team at spring training in the next few weeks.

Americans impressed with Brazil's World Cup setup

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Back with the San Jose Earthquakes after their nearly monthlong stint on the U.S. national team and training in Sao Paulo, Clarence Goodson and Chris Wondolowski believe Brazil will be ready for the World Cup stage come June.

The U.S. held a training camp in Sao Paulo for almost two weeks last month, giving the Americans a feeling of already being acclimated to the culture and an idea of what to expect during this summer's tournament.

Goodson and Wondolowski hope they will return to Brazil in June as part of the Americans' 23-man World Cup roster. They were impressed with their setup in Brazil, which has less than four months to complete venues and finish all other details in some of the 12 cities across the country set to host games.

The Americans will be based out of Sao Paulo FC.

"It was very nice where we were," Goodson said after Tuesday's Earthquakes training. "I know there's been a lot publicized about them not being ready, but everything that we did with the U.S., all the facilities we were at and the hotels, they were all top notch and ready to go. I didn't experience the other part. Certainly everything with the U.S. was top class."

Earthquakes defender Victor Bernardez, a member of the Honduran World Cup team, isn't worried about Brazil meeting its deadline and ultimately being prepared.

Bernardez and Honduras are set to face Ecuador at Arena da Baixada - one of the delayed stadiums that could be dropped from competition - on June 30.

"It's not a problem with that," Bernardez said during an interview in Spanish. "I think everything will be fine. We'll be there in June to compete and I think they'll be ready. We're confident it will be a beautiful World Cup."

Brazil promised to finish all 12 World Cup stadiums by the end of last year as planned by FIFA, but five remained under construction as of last week.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann took his players to Brazil for 12 days in January as part of its "dry run" preparations.

"It was hot down there, but it was a great experience and one of those you'll always remember," Wondolowski said. "There's always speculation (about the conditions), but I think when it comes down to it, it will be great."

Bernardez's Honduras team will play four friendlies leading up to the World Cup. First, it will host Tunisia on March 5, then face Colombia on May 31 in either New York or Chicago. Coach Luis Fernando Suarez also is scheduled to lead his team against Ivory Coast at a to-be-determined location June 4 before facing England in its final tuneup three days later at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

CFL players fined for posts about Michael Sam

The Canadian Football League fined two players Tuesday for making inappropriate comments about openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam.

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Arland Bruce and Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle Bryant Turner Jr. were penalized undisclosed amounts on Tuesday for postings on social media. Bruce misspelled the word "gay" in his message, which urged Sam to "man up" and get on his knees and "submit to God fully."

"The comments made by these players are extremely disappointing and do not represent the CFL's views or the views of the vast majority of our players," CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon said in a statement. "The CFL is supportive of openly gay athletes in professional sports and we commend the courage shown by Michael Sam."

The 36-year-old Bruce is a three-time CFL all-star and two-time Grey Cup champion who appeared in two NFL games with San Francisco in 2003. He and Turner both played college football in the United States, Bruce at Minnesota and Turner at Alabama-Birmingham.

While the CFL was condemning their words, Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization formed in 2010 to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in sports, began to solicit online "signatures" from athletes and fans that will be presented to Sam as a show of solidarity.

Sam was the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year last season at Missouri. He's projected to be a mid-round pick in April's NFL draft and, if so, would be the first openly gay player in league history.

The NFL has publicly pledged its support, but a Sports Illustrated article published after Sam's announcement anonymously quoted several general managers around the league suggesting lukewarm support for drafting an openly gay player.

"It's important for us to show the teams that might be considering him the draft that the public is ready," said Lia Parifax, a board member and co-founder of Athlete Ally. "This is about showing Michael the support from the community at large."

Parifax said more than 1,500 names had been collected as of Tuesday. Former Baltimore fullback Brendon Ayonbadejo, also a member of the board, helped start the campaign. Others who've voiced their support, Parifax said, are current and former NFL players Chris Kluwe, Scott Fujita and Dante Stallworth and retired tennis star Andy Roddick.

Turner apologized in a series of tweets, calling his post "inappropriate and insensitive." The Bombers said team President Wade Miller and general manager Kyle Walters have spoken to Turner.

"It is unfortunate that Bryant made this comment through social media," it said. "Any athlete with the ability and determination has the right to succeed in their sport."

The Alouettes denounced "the regrettable comments" by Bruce.

"Our organization supports all types of diversity. Every individual is unique and free to make his or her own choices," said Jim Popp, the Alouettes' general manager and coach. He said no decision had been made on whether Bruce will remain with the team.

"As an organization, we'll discuss the matter thoroughly and decide what to do next," he said.

Browns CEO, GM leaving team in stunning shakeup

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns fired their coach after one season. Now they're sweeping out their front office.

Owner Jimmy Haslam announced Tuesday that CEO Joe Banner will step down in the next two months and general manager Michael Lombardi is leaving the team.

"Mike and Joe have left us in good position in terms of free agency and cap space as well as this year's draft, where we have 10 overall picks and three of the first 35," Haslam said at a news conference.

It's yet another stunning development for a franchise that has undergone nearly constant change in the past 15 years.

Haslam also said assistant GM Ray Farmer, who was pursued by Miami to be the Dolphins' GM this winter, has been promoted and will immediately take the over the team's football operations and lead the Browns during free agency and draft. Cleveland has two first-round picks in May's draft and is well under the salary cap to spend on free agents.

Haslam added that president Alec Scheiner will keep his current role.

"Alec Scheiner will run our business side and remain as president, Mike Pettine will be our head coach and Ray Farmer will be our GM," Haslam said. "We will not have a CEO and those three people will report directly to me."

The shake-up comes one month after the Browns finally hired coach Mike Pettine. Banner and Haslam had fired coach Rob Chudzinski after a 4-12 season, the team's sixth straight with at least 11 losses. Wisconsin said Tuesday that coach Gary Andersen was contacted by the Cleveland Browns for their coaching vacancy but decided not to pursue the position following a conversation with the NFL team, which spent 25 days to hire Pettine.

"Mike will have final say on the 45-man roster- who plays on Sundays - and Ray will have final say on the 53-player roster," Haslam said.

Banner, who previously worked in Philadelphia, was hired by Haslam to run the team shortly after his ownership was approved by the league in 2012.

"We appreciate Joe's contributions to the Cleveland Browns, especially in helping us as new owners," Haslam said in a release. "He was committed to creating a successful organization and bringing in talented individuals. We thank him for his work and dedication. We wish him and his family the best."

Banner will transition out of his job over the next two months.

"It is bittersweet leaving the Browns organization," Banner said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Jimmy Haslam and helping him set the infrastructure for this franchise. I am proud of the talented individuals we brought in to help lead this team and feel that the Cleveland Browns are in good hands moving forward."

Lombardi's departure ends a curious second stint with the team.

His hiring was widely panned by some Cleveland media members and many fans because of his time with coach Bill Belichick when he was Cleveland's coach. Lombardi kept a low profile over the past year in Cleveland and was not in attendance at any major news conferences.

"We're also grateful for Mike Lombardi's efforts and commitment since rejoining our organization," Haslam said. "He is an experienced and creative NFL executive with a unique ability to see the big picture. He has tremendous instincts and I know he'll be a valuable addition to any NFL organization. We simply wanted to give Ray this opportunity that he's earned. We wanted to move forward under his leadership and capabilities."

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, contributed to this report.

Kansas State holds off No. 7 Kansas, 85-82 in OT

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State's Will Spradling remembers beating Kansas back in 2011, how the students flooded out of the stands in Bramlage Coliseum and joined in a merry celebration at midcourt.

He ought to remember Monday night just as vividly.

The senior guard scored 15 points and was instrumental in holding his young team together down the stretch, helping the Wildcats upend the No. 7 Jayhawks 85-82 in overtime.

"I've played in this game three times now," Spradling said of the annual Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan, which Kansas State had won just twice in 25 tries in Bramlage.

"People were asking me if I'd be nervous today, and really I wasn't nervous at all, until I got into the gym," Spradling said. "But I came out ready to play."

So did the rest of the Wildcats, who blew a nine-point lead with less than 2 minutes left in regulation, but persevered in overtime to pick up another signature victory.

And just like they did three years ago, all those students flooded the court to celebrate.

"I couldn't be more proud of our guys, so happy for them, the seniors," said Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, who'd never beaten the Jayhawks in five tries. "We've talked about leaving a legacy, and to get this on their resume, for the rest of their life, they can remember this."

Marcus Foster scored 20 points to lead the Wildcats (17-7, 7-4 Big 12), despite turning his ankle in the second half and needing a walking boot for the post-game news conference.

"Marcus is Marcus," Weber said of the freshman. "He hit a lot of big shots."

So did Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who scored 16 points. It was his putback off his own miss with 6.9 seconds left that forced overtime - only for the Wildcats to answer the call.

"Give them credit though," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "That's kind of deflating the way we came back against them, and they came back in overtime."

Perry Ellis finished with 19 points for the Jayhawks (18-6, 9-2), while Naadir Tharpe added 13 and Brannen Greene scored 10, making two key baskets near the end of regulation.

"I thought momentum was on our side," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Tarik Black even scored the opening basket of overtime, but every time the Jayhawks tried to build a lead, the Wildcats had an answer - a three-point play by Foster, a free throw by Omari Lawrence, or a big putback from unheralded big man D.J. Johnson, who had nine points.

"We felt good. We felt energized," Ellis said. "We just couldn't get no stops. We couldn't get no stops in the second half and overtime."

Still, it wasn't over until Foster's two free throws with 21.9 seconds left gave Kansas State an 83-79 lead, and Wiggins missed a 3-pointer at the other end. Black missed another shot, and the Wildcats finally corralled the rebound, allowing time to run out.

"If we lost," Weber said, "it would have been a heartbreaker."

Unlike the first meeting in January, when the Jayhawks raced out to a big lead and simply nursed it through the second half, the rivals played to a draw Monday night.

Kansas State surged to an early lead thanks to some poor shooting by the Jayhawks, only to go into a slump of its own. Both teams eventually got into foul trouble as the game began to resemble an old Big Eight tussle, and the result was a 29-29 halftime tie.

In fact, there may have been more bodies on the court than baskets made, and the Jayhawks' Black even had to limp off after twisting his ankle while going up for a rebound.

The angst reached a crescendo midway through the second half, when Thomas Gipson of the Wildcats and Kansas guard Frank Mason got into a shoving match. Both were given technical fouls.

Kansas was already playing without reserve forward Jamari Traylor, whom Self sat for disciplinary reasons. With the nagging injury to Black on top of the foul trouble, one of the deepest teams in the nation had its depth tested in one of the rare instances all season.

"Both teams are beat up," Self said afterward.

After taking a 35-34 lead with 17:34 remaining, the Wildcats ripped off the next nine points. And even when Foster turned his ankle and briefly went to the locker room, Kansas State was still able to match the Jayhawks basket for basket.

The Wildcats couldn't close the game in regulation, though.

Given a second chance in overtime, they finally did.

"We made mistakes," Weber said. "To their credit they came back, but our character, and that's something we talked about, let us overcome the emotion."

SOCHI: U.S. hockey GM Poile can't go to Sochi after injury

SOCHI, Russia -- David Poile earned a chance to be general manager of the U.S. hockey team after paying his dues as an NHL general manager for more than three decades and giving up a lot of his free time to help USA Hockey.

Since last summer, he spent countless hours trying to shape a roster that would give the Americans a shot to win Olympic gold for the first time since he witnessed what's known as the "Miracle on Ice," in 1980.

Poile, though, won't be at the Sochi Games to see the team he helped set up.

The Nashville Predators GM and former Washington Capitals executive was hit in the face by a deflected puck during an NHL game last week, a freak accident that will force him to watch the U.S. go for gold on TV from his home in Tennessee.

"Serving as GM of the U.S. Olympic Team has been the opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever grateful to USA Hockey," Poile said Monday in a statement from the Predators. "However, it is not possible for me to travel at this time, but I will remain in contact with Ray Shero, Brian Burke, Jim Johansson and our coaching staff during the games.

"Team USA is in great hands and I will be there in spirit. I wish all the best for our players, coaches and entire group as they begin play in the 2014 Olympics and go for the gold."

Poile is recovering from surgery and stitches he needed after the puck hit him while he was standing in a tunnel behind the Predators' bench in Minnesota.

"I first want to thank everyone who has reached out to me since suffering this injury," Poile said. "The outpouring of support and comfort has been overwhelming."

He led a selection committee that picked the Olympic team after months of work, and his role during the 12-day tournament would have been largely behind the scenes in a supporting role.

"To hear that he had been hurt and to know that he's not going to be coming over is a huge disappointment," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said.

Shero, who is general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be acting GM in Sochi.

"Having worked with Dave for eight years in Nashville, and knowing, as I told the team, how much passion, time and effort he has put into putting this team together, it's disappointing," Shero said.

Poile won the Lester Patrick award in 2001 for his contributions to hockey in the U.S., and is a three-time finalist for NHL GM of the year. He has also filled various roles with USA Hockey.

He was the associate GM for the U.S. at the Olympics four years ago, when he assisted Burke after he dealt with tragedy. Burke's 21-year-old son, Brendan, died Feb. 5, 2010, in a car accident, and he skipped the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games.

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed to this report.

SOCHI: What to watch on Tuesday

Here's a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, Feb. 11. A complete list of every Tuesday event can be found here.

Freestyle Skiing

Women's ski slopestyle final, 4 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Canada is favored in the Olympic debut of ski slopestyle with Kaya Turski and Dara Howell, who went one-two at the 2013 World Championships.

Turski won the Winter X Games in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and tore an ACL for the third time in August. She came back to win the 2014 Winter X Games in January. Howell was third and fourth at the last two X Games.

The top U.S. skier at this year's X Games, Maggie Voisin, withdrew from the Olympics after breaking her fibula in training last week and was set to be the youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1972. The rest of the U.S. contingent includes X Games silver medalists Keri Herman and Devin Logan, as well as Julia Krass.

Qualifying begins at 1 a.m. for the 12-woman final.

Speed skating

Women's 500m, 7:45 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

American Heather Richardson is among a few women who appear to be in the running for silver and bronze in the shortest distance on the program. If she wins a medal, it would be the first for a U.S. women's speed skater since the 2002 Olympics.

The heavy favorite for gold is reigning Olympic and world champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea, who is also the world-record holder. Richardson, who finished sixth in the 500m in her 2010 Olympic debut, has made the podium three times in eight World Cup races this season.

The other contenders are Russian Olga Fatkulina, the 2013 world 1000m champion, German Jenny Wolf, who took silver to Lee in Vancouver, and China's Wang Beixing, the reigning world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist.

The 500m is raced twice with a skater's times added together for a final standing. Richardson is joined by Americans Brittany Bowe, Sugar Todd and Lauren Cholewinski. Richardson and Bowe are better medal contenders in the 1000m, which comes Thursday.

Cross-country

Men’s and women’s individual sprint (session 1): 5 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Men’s and women’s individual sprint (session 2) (NBCSN): 7 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Four-time Olympian Kikkan Randall is favored to win the second-ever U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing medal, first by a woman and first gold by a man or woman.

It could be a showdown with Norway's Marit Bjoergen in the six-woman final. Bjoergen is the defending Olympic champion and has a chance to become the first Winter Olympian to win six medals in a single Games.

Randall and Bjoergen have split victories in the four World Cup freestyle sprints they've entered together this year. Randall will have another shot at a medal in the team sprint Feb. 19.

Luge

Women's runs 3 & 4, 9:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

American Erin Hamlin is in position for the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medal ever. She sits third behind two favored Germans after two of four runs at the Sanki Sliding Center.

Hamlin, the 2009 world champion, is .216 ahead of the fourth-place luger but only .052 out of second-place Tatjana Huefner. Hamlin finished 12th and 16th at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

Natalie Geisenberger leads and is expected to slide to her second straight Olympic title. The other two Americans, Kate Hansen and Summer Britcher, are 10th and 15th.

Figure skating

Pairs short program, 10 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Russia begins its quest to regain dominance in an event in which Soviet, Unified Team and Russian skaters won gold at every Olympics from 1964 through 2006. The 2010 Olympic podium included zero Russians.

This year, Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are the gold-medal favorites, though not by as big of a margin as a few months ago. Stumbles at the Grand Prix Final and European Championships opened the door for Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalists.

Savchenko and Szolkowy skate their short program at 12:25 p.m. ET. Volosozhar and Trankov go at 1.

The U.S. sends two pairs, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (10:55 a.m.) and Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay (11:01 a.m.). Neither is expected to win a medal following the free skate Wednesday, extending an American pairs drought dating to 1988.

Curling

U.S. women vs. Great Britain, 10 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

The U.S. faces a measuring stick game against the gold-medal favorites skipped by Scot Eve Muirhead. Curling was founded in Scotland.

Erika Brown, 41, skips a U.S. rink on a mission for the first Olympic medal by an American women's curling team. She competed in the 1988 Olympics at age 15, when curling was a demonstration sport.

Muirhead and Scotland are the reigning world champions and looking to win Great Britain's first curling gold since 2002.

Snowboarding

Men's halfpipe semis, 10 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Men's halfpipe final, 12:30 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Shaun White will attempt to become the first U.S. man to win the same Winter Olympic event three times. His biggest competition could come from Russian-born Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov, if they make it through earlier qualifying to the 12-man final.

White has dealt with crashes and injuries in the run-up to Sochi and in training at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, putting a little doubt into his favorite status.

Podladtchikov attempts a trick called the YOLO Flip, a cab double cork 1440, that White has added to his repertoire in the last year. However, Podladtchikov has not had a great success rate landing the trick cleanly. If he goes before White in the final start order and can't put it down, perhaps White won't have to attempt his 1440.

The other three Americans are medal threats -- Greg Bretz, who was 12th in Vancouver; Danny Davis, the reigning Winter X Games champion; and Taylor Gold, the older brother of women's snowboarder Arielle Gold.

Keep an eye on Japan's Ayumu Hirano, who took second to White at the 2013 Winter X Games as a 14-year-old.

Ski Jumping

Women's normal hill trials, 11:25 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Women's normal hill final, 12:30 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

At long last, women will jump at the Olympics. A group of 30 will contest the final round under the lights at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, following a decade-long fight for inclusion alongside the men, who have been jumping at the Winter Games since the first edition in 1924.

The clear favorite is Japan's Sara Takanashi, who is 5 feet, 100 pounds and 17 years old. She has won 10 of 13 World Cup events this season after taking silver at last year's World Championships.

The gold medalist at those worlds was American Sarah Hendrickson, who blew out her right knee in a crash Aug. 21 and furiously rehabbed to make it back in time to compete. This will be her first competition this season, making her medal chances a bit unclear.

The other Americans are 2009 world champion Lindsey Van and U.S. Olympic Trials winner Jessica Jerome.

Pinkel, Mizzou applaud Michael Sam's courage

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Michael Sam was just another recruit when he left his small Texas hometown and arrived in Missouri. Playing for the Tigers, he turned into a private loquacious leader ready to make a trailblazing announcement.

The defensive star wants to become the first openly gay NFL player.

"I told him: This is going to be mammoth," coach Gary Pinkel said Monday, a day after Sam came out to the world. "I don't have a word, OK, for how big this is going to be."

It's a bigger deal for the older generation. Sam's teammates and acquaintances easily made the adjustment, plus he proved himself on the field.

"He's a leader," former 49ers great running back Roger Craig said. "I would definitely welcome him on my team. I'd play with him any day. I like people who stand up for themselves."

Sam revealed he was gay at one of the football team's get-acquainted dinners last summer hosted by Pinkel and assistant coaches. The next day, Pinkel said, Sam told the entire team.

Realizing the enormity of the situation, Pinkel left the next move up to the senior who blossomed into one of the best defensive ends in the country - and one surrounded by teammates who didn't worry one bit about sexual orientation or reveal his secret until he came out on Sunday.

Athletes across the campus approve.

"Love is love," basketball guard Jordan Clarkson said. "That's their personal life."

Pinkel, athletic director Mike Alden and other school officials applauded Sam's courage Monday at Faurot Field. As a backdrop, the first two letters of Sam's last name were etched in snow to join the giant "M" just beyond the north end zone.

"Pretty cool," Pinkel said.

Coaches and Sam agreed that making an announcement during the season might be a distraction. It was Sam's call to skip all the weekly media days and postgame news conferences, too, the better to avoid the risk of the topic coming up. Sam broke his silence prior to the Cotton Bowl and the conversation stayed on football, just like he wanted.

Sam was prompted to make his decision to come out after the Senior Bowl, where it became apparent the player's sexual orientation was widely known. This meant a declaration just days before the NFL combine and shouldering the pressure that goes along with the historic declaration.

"It's very clear that everybody in the NFL knew," said Howard Bragman, a consultant hired by Sam's agent to help manage the announcement in the media.

The NFL and many others, including the White House, publicly applauded Sam's decision. President Barack Obama's spokesman, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all called him a courageous and inspirational athlete.

But now, after a few high-profile interviews, it's back to silent Sam. The fifth level of the stadium was jammed with dozens of reporters for Monday's news conference but there was no sign of the star attraction. Bragman said Sam was traveling Monday to a camp at an undisclosed location where he'll prepare for the combine.

Though he's been a most reticent public speaker, Pinkel described Sam as a virtual chatterbox.

"He drove me crazy a lot of times, he doesn't shut up sometimes," Pinkel said with a chuckle. "He talks and talks and talks.

"You always know he's in with my secretary because I can hear him and I have to close the door - I can't concentrate."

Sam arrived at Missouri without fanfare. Rivals.com gave him just two stars when he was coming out of Hitchcock High School. He had 10 career starts before his breakout senior season.

The All-America defensive end led the Southeastern Conference with 11 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He was the co-SEC defensive player of the year.

But Sam has been projected as a mid-level NFL draft pick, probably because he's a bit undersized at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds and is likely headed for a transition to outside linebacker. Pinkel doesn't think the announcement will hurt Sam's draft status.

"Our team was able to move past it and work together," defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. "So why shouldn't a bunch of professional football players be able to do the same thing?"

There have been a few NFL players who have come out after their playing days, including Kwame Harris and Dave Kopay.

"There will be some adjustments that will have to be made, sure," Craig said. "I think it will be a learning curve for the whole league."

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Twins GM Ryan says he has treatable cancer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Diagnosed with cancer in his neck, Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan has taken leave from his job for treatment and recovery.

The timetable for his return is unclear, but the prognosis is optimistic. Though sobered by and concerned about the news, the Twins expressed confidence in the ability of their front office's long-time leader to beat the disease and get back to running the team.

"I don't doubt he'll get this knocked out," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He's a tough bird, as he would say."

The Twins released a statement on Monday from Ryan, who thanked his doctors, friends and colleagues for their work and support.

"It's my intention to see you back at the ballpark as soon as possible," Ryan said.

During his recent annual physical exam, the 60-year-old Ryan asked team physician Dr. Vijay Eyunni to examine a hard lump on his neck about an inch in diameter that had appeared a few weeks earlier. Further tests revealed squamous cell carcinoma.

The squamous cells are in several parts of the body, but Eyunni said the source and cause of the cancer was undetermined. All that was known, he said, was that it was in his lymph node but had not spread to anywhere else.

"The good news is we caught it early," Eyuinni said, adding: "As you know, both mentally and physically, he's very strong. So with treatment and radiation, it's going to help him a lot. He'll recover better than someone who is not healthy."

Ryan was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and expected to have surgery on Tuesday. Radiation treatment will likely follow. But once removed, Eyunni said, this type of cancer does not come back.

"It should be completely done. It does not regenerate anymore," Eyunni said.

Despite the positive outlook for a full recovery, this close-knit organization felt a collective anxiety and letdown upon learning of Ryan's condition.

"My family is praying for Terry Ryan and his family. Cancer is a terrible thing and we are hoping for a fast recovery," reliever Brian Duensing said on Twitter.

"Cancer news hit close to home today. Sickened to hear about one of the men I respect most. My prayers are with you Terry," closer Glen Perkins tweeted.

Manager Ron Gardenhire, in an e-mail, said he's had a "rough few days" in regard to Ryan's cancer.

"You won't find a better boss or a better friend," Gardenhire said.

Ryan's primary concern, his colleagues said, was with his wife and adult children and how they would take the news.

"But beyond that, he took it really well," Eyunni said. "He says, `Doc, let's move on. I want to get this done."'

Ryan initially became general manager in 1994, stepping down 13 years later, citing burnout. After serving as a special assistant to general manager Bill Smith for four seasons, Smith was reassigned, and Ryan reassumed the job in 2011.

In his statement, Ryan expressed confidence in Gardenhire, Antony and the rest of the baseball operations department to keep the Twins on the right track.

"I met with Terry last week when he told all of us what was going on, and I started asking him questions about how he wanted me to handle this and that, and he just looked at me and basically said, `You've been around here long enough. You've been in all these meetings. You know what goes on in spring training. Just go down and do your thing,"' Antony said. "He said, `You know what you're doing.' So that felt good."

In addition to vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff, a member of the organization since 1987, special assistants Smith and Wayne Krivsky and have each previously been major league general managers, Krivsky with Cincinnati.

For now, there's no plan on when or how much to consult with Ryan regarding general operations and key decisions. Antony told Ryan to call him when he feels good enough to participate. The Twins start spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., next week.

"All I want to hear is the call that he says he had his checkup and the thing is completely gone and now he can start getting back to a normal routine and life, and whether that comes in March or April or whatever, it doesn't matter," Antony said. "It's the end result more than anything."

He added: "There comes a time you need to put your family and your personal health and everything in front of your job and the game, and he's a smart enough guy to know that this is the time to do that right now."

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Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

With a new commissioner, NBA enters its Silver age

NEW YORK (AP) His name is already on the ball. Now Adam Silver can put his stamp on the NBA.

On All-Star Saturday in New Orleans, Silver will deliver his first state of the league press conference as commissioner, a chance to tell a worldwide viewing audience how he plans to make the NBA bigger and better than it was under David Stern.

Don't expect anything major.

After working so closely with Stern during his 22 years at the league, Silver's fingerprints were already all over the $5.5 billion business long before he became in charge of it 10 days ago.

"I'm not coming in with a five-point plan," Silver told The Associated Press during an interview in his office at NBA headquarters. "I'm not an outsider coming into the league. I've been part of this league for a long time and if there was something that I thought should've been done markedly different than the way it's done now, I think David and I would have pushed each other to do it.

"My priority is the game and that's what I'll be telling people next Saturday."

He has been at the NBA since 1992, overseeing the league's entertainment empire, helping negotiate collective bargaining agreements, and on Feb. 1, he replaced Stern. He is liked by owners and respected by players, all believing Silver is the person to continue the massive growth the league saw under Stern.

"He's someone who has the same kind of feel that we have, in the sense of how can we make this pie bigger? How can we make this game bigger? Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade said.

"He's going to be a good commissioner I believe. Strong in what he believes in. He was in the (CBA) meetings as well, so we know what kind of guy he is and we respect him."

Silver, 51, ended up at taking Stern's old job after ignoring his advice early in his career.

He laughs now when recalling the path that led to him becoming the NBA commissioner.

"It never even was a consideration of working at the NBA," Silver said. "I don't think I understood what that meant. I truly stumbled into working at the NBA."

Silver began his career in the legal field but was interested in transitioning to business, the same move Stern had so successfully made. So he wrote to Stern, who had worked at the same firm where Silver's father, Edward, was a lawyer. Silver had handled some media cases and was aware of Stern's accomplishments in negotiating cable TV deals.

Stern gave him the number of someone to call, but the job was outside New York. Silver wasn't interested in moving, which he explained to Stern when they spoke again.

"He said, `Why didn't you tell me? I've got some other ideas,"' Silver said.

"It was happenstance," he added. "I don't think I quite understood what I was getting into at the time."

He doesn't plan on changing much, insisting that he and Stern would have already made whatever changes they felt necessary. But while the NBA's international growth is frequently considered Stern's greatest achievement, Silver seems focused on boosting the game's popularity in the United States.

Silver has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to basketball.

He attended Duke in the early 1980s before the Blue Devils became a powerhouse, when nobody camped out outside Cameron Indoor Stadium because you could just get into games with a student ID. He moved to Chicago to attend law school and began going to games with friends in the early days of Michael Jordan, before the Bulls became the biggest thing in basketball.

Now Silver is following one of sports' greatest commissioners.

He acknowledges there will be times it will feel "lonely" without Stern there to face big decisions together, but Silver has worked so closely with Stern and been involved in so many aspects of the league that the transition should be a natural one.

"Adam has been preparing for the job for a long time, he understands the business and I don't see him having much difficulty shifting into the role of commissioner," former NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said.

But Silver, designated as Stern's successor in October 2012, knows that doesn't mean it will always be easy.

"I didn't have the same appreciation for what he was going through on a daily basis as the commissioner until I really thought about, `What if that were I and I had to make that decision?"' Silver said. "And it's very different being sort of the voice in the ear of the guy making the decision as opposed to the guy making the decision."

Nonetheless, he believes the league is in a good place and ready to grow. He met with executives from Facebook and Twitter while visiting Sacramento and Golden State during his first week as commissioner, seeking ways to bring the NBA to a larger audience than ever.

"To me," Silver said, "the game is fantastic. The challenge is to use these new technologies and platforms to help more fans discover the game."

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

SOCHI: Curling's opening day brings familiar feel

SOCHI — All the best sports, at their core, come down to something very basic, something that can generally be described in just a few words of what I like to call caveman language.

The 100-meter dash: “Me run faster than you to tree.”

Baseball: “Throw rock. Me hit with stick.”

Soccer: “Me kick ball.”

Biathlon: “Me ski. Me shoot gun.”

Boxing: “Me punch person in face.”

Football: “Me tackle and give person concussion.”

Half pipe snowboarding: “Me do rad cab double cork 1440.”

But perhaps the most basic sport of the Winter Olympic Games— even if it doesn’t seem that way at first — is curling. People have been curling, in one form or another, for about 500 years and that’s because in those days all they had were rocks. There may be numerous baffling things about curling (not even including the Norwegian men’s pants), but the objective is as basic as it gets.

Me slide big stone down ice. You slide big stone down ice. Winner gets rock closest.

This target premise — the winner is the one who pushes, throws, slides or hits an object closest to the target — is the objective of countless games. Golf. Darts. Bowling. Archery. Horseshoes. Bocce. Shuffleboard. Skee ball. Curling is in the family of just about every great drinking game in the world. Curling, people in Canada will tell you, is a pretty good drinking game in its own right.

But the point is that there’s something basic and innate about the game. Curling feels familiar the first time you see it. You’ve played something like it in your life no matter where you are. If you watch curling a few minutes, you begin to understand the rules. A few more minutes you start thinking along with the strategies. Watch for a few more minutes, you want to play. Watch for a few more after that and you just might play.

This doesn’t seem like such a crazy pipe dream. The other great thing about curling is that the curlers look like people you know. Take the U.S. women’s curling team — what has become my favorite team at the Olympics. The U.S. team lost 7-4 to Switzerland on Monday, but it was just their first game. They seemed pretty chill about it. “We knew we weren’t going undefeated,” said team coach Bill Todhunter, a sensible way of looking at things. And, no, I’m not sure what a curling coach does either.

Then, everything about the team is sensible. All four players have been at an Olympics before. The team’s skip — one of the countless joys of curling is that they call the captain “skip” — is Erika Brown, a 41-year-old physician’s assistant from Wisconsin who has three kids and season tickets to the Packers. She trains during her lunch break. This is also true: She began curling when she was five in part because her Dad, Steve, owns a curling supply store.

What is the name of this Steve’s curling supply store? Right. It’s “Steve’s Curling Supplies.”

The vice-skip — yeah, she’s called the vice-skip, how awesome is this sport? — is Debbie McCormick, a 40-year-old curling supply distributor (not for Steve’s, unfortunately), who also lives in Madison. Her father Wally was also in the curling business; he was on two teams that won bronze at the world championships. In 1998, at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Debbie’s boyfriend Peter (they met curling) proposed to her on Valentine’s Day. “I know you came her for a gold medal,” he told her. “But I hope you’ll accept this gold ring instead.”

Third, Jessica Schultz, the baby of the group at 29, works as a physical therapy assistant in Minneapolis and she tries to get in her curling training after work. She also likes crocheting, sewing, running, biking, hiking, cleaning, shopping, traveling and cooking. I’m taking this right off the list.

Fourth is my wife Margo, who likes all those same things that Jessica likes. Well, OK, no, Margo’s not on this team. But she should be. This isn’t an Olympic team; this is Margo’s book club. They might be talking about “Gone Girl” during the intermission. Fourth is actually Ann Swisshelm, 45 years old, a 14th generation American and Cubs fan who was on the Olympic team 12 years ago and is back.

Seriously — how can you not love everything about that team? I don’t just want them to win the Olympic gold, I want to have a barbecue with them. See here are a few athletes we recognize, we associate with, we could imagine trading places with. Yes, that last part’s an illusion. Curling is a game meant to look easy when it’s played brilliantly. Sliding a stone to an exact spot takes absurd feel. The sweeping (which slightly heats the ice and makes the stone go farther) is funny looking but takes a great deal of dexterity and awareness. The strategies are actually quite dizzying.

So yes, curling is an illusion. But it’s a good illusion. All around us are athletes doing the most impossible things. They are doing quad jumps on the ice, they are jumping off mountains in the snow, they are skating blindingly fast around a track roughly the size of a silver dollar. Most of the Olympians are just that, Olympian, they are athletic phenoms, they are driven geniuses, they are obsessives who dreamed of being the best in the world and could never let go.

Meanwhile, Curling looks, you know, fun and kind of relaxed and a great way to spend an afternoon on ice. Its origins are pretty ancient. Its rules are built around sportsmanship. The 42-pound stones are polished granite from Scotland’s Alisa Craig. The rules are comprehensible. There’s no instant replay, no steroid advantages, very small concussion risk.

And people still go crazy when the situation calls for sweepers to vigorously sweep that ice. People love the sweepers. Funny, no other sport has brooms. Except Quidditch. That would be a great Olympic sport too.

Richard Petty doubts Patrick's ability to win

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty says Danica Patrick can only win a Sprint Cup Series race "if everybody else stayed home."

The seven-time champion made the comment during a Sunday appearance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo in Toronto, according to the website wheels.ca.

Petty also said Patrick only gets attention because she's a woman, but added that publicity is good for NASCAR.

"If she'd have been a male, nobody would ever know if she'd showed up at a racetrack," Petty said, according to the website. "This is a female deal that's driving her. There's nothing wrong with that, because that's good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport."

Petty still maintains partial control of Richard Petty Motorsports, which fields cars for Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola in the Sprint Cup Series.

Patrick is headed to Daytona International Speedway this week to begin her second full season at NASCAR's top level. She became the first woman a year ago to win the top starting spot for the Daytona 500 and she finished eighth.

It was Patrick's best finish during a rough rookie year in which she averaged a 26th-place finish. Patrick was 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings.

A year ago, Petty's son, Kyle, called Patrick a "marketing machine" during various media appearances. Kyle Petty is a former driver and current television analyst.

"That's where I have a problem - where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she's a race car driver," Kyle Petty said. "She can go fast, and I've seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast. She's not a race car driver. There's a difference. The King (Richard Petty) always had that stupid saying, but it's true, `Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.' Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs."

Patrick, who recently starred in her celebrity-leading 13th Super Bowl commercial for sponsor GoDaddy, dismissed Kyle Petty's comments at the time.

"It's true that there are plenty of people who say bad things about me; I read them," she said at the time. "At the end of the day, you get over that stuff and trust that you are doing a good job."

Patrick was defended by team co-owner Tony Stewart, the three-time champion, who called Kyle Petty's comments "way out of line and very inappropriate." Stewart also said Patrick's finishes weren't indicative of her talent.

"When somebody like Kyle beats you up like that, you take it to heart," he said. "She's somebody who wants to do things the right way. She works at it. It's a scenario where somebody has to tell you, `You are doing the right thing and disregard what one person says."'

Syracuse still unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25

Syracuse is a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press college basketball poll for the second straight week while SMU moved into the Top 25 for the first time in almost three decades.

The Orange (23-0) received all 65 first-place votes from the national media panel Monday. Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, San Diego State and Villanova remained second through sixth. Wichita State (25-0) is the only other unbeaten team in Division I.

Kansas moved up one spot to seventh and Duke jumped three spots to eighth. Michigan State and Cincinnati round out the Top Ten.

Wisconsin and Ohio State, Nos. 21 and 22, both returned to the rankings after a one-week absence. SMU, which beat then-No. 7 Cincinnati last week, moved in at No. 23, the Mustangs' first ranking since the next-to-last poll of 1984-85, a season they were ranked as high as No. 2.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Gonzaga fell out of the Top 25.

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