National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Game on: Kings, Ducks say Dodger Stadium is ready

LOS ANGELES (AP) Teemu Selanne skated off the ice and walked to the visitors' dugout at Dodger Stadium, rubbing the eye black on his cheekbones in disbelief beneath the Southern California sky.

"If somebody would tell me 10 years ago that we were going to do this, I would have said they're crazy," Selanne said. "But we have the technology to do it now, and it's pretty great."

Dodger Stadium isn't a field of dreams for many hockey players, but the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks are thrilled by the chance to play the NHL's most unlikely outdoor game on Saturday.

Both teams got their only practice on the ice Friday under clouds and cooler temperatures than the recent string of 80-degree days. The local rivals came away fairly impressed with the ice sheet in place for the league's first warm-weather stadium game.

Although outdoor humidity and heat are bound to cause some slush and steaminess on the ice, it's nothing these teams can't handle when the puck drops well after sundown.

"It was a little better than I thought it was going to be," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "It's warm, but it's L.A. You're going to get cooler temperatures at game time, and that's going to help us out."

Speed and slick passing could be difficult on a naturally choppy surface, but the Ducks and Kings are confident they'll adjust to much the same challenges faced in every outdoor game - only without the snow. Los Angeles defenseman Robyn Regehr noticed he couldn't stop sweating after the opening minutes of practice, while Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller plans to pay special attention to hydration.

"It'll be very hot, and probably a lot of guys will be cramping up with the loss of fluids," Ducks forward Dustin Penner said. "The ice is a little sticky, sounds a little hollow, but it looks better than at other outdoor games."

The game counts for two points in the standings, but the players realize they've also got to enjoy this improbable moment. The teams skated with friends and family after their practices while workers put the final touches on the unique accoutrements for California's outdoor game.

Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf got his son on skates for the first time in his life - at least until he started crying inconsolably.

"It's amazing to get to play in an outdoor game, but I'm really glad I don't have to wear a toque and mittens," said Getzlaf, who grew up playing outdoors in Saskatchewan. "Obviously, the weather is a little different than what I'm used to, but that's great."

The beach volleyball court in left field is ready, and so is the performance stage in right where Kiss will play. There's a ball hockey court between the mound and the backstop, and a cordon of palm trees just behind the open center-field fence.

"This is the crown jewel for hockey in Southern California," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "We both live in a great part of the world, and this will be a great showcase for how far hockey has come in this area."

The boards, benches and glass were trucked in from the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., but the ice has been built up patiently over the last 10 days. The league's ice-making crew covered the sheet in a heat-reflecting blanket during the day and worked through the night to establish a game-worthy surface.

"It's a different feeling playing outdoors," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "There are so many different aspects in the game that are going to make it more challenging for both teams - getting your legs moving, getting used to the ice, getting used to the boards. So instead of a skilled, high-paced game, I think you're going to see a physical battle out there, and I think that's something a lot of real hockey fans will appreciate."

NHL facilities guru Dan Craig's improbable ice sheet actually has been among the smoothest aspects of this strange chapter in the league's expansion of its outdoor slate this season. While Southern California's growing hockey fan base embraced the novelty of the concept, the league overpriced tickets for the event, forcing reductions to avoid the embarrassment of a non-sellout.

But the hiccups likely will be forgotten when fans get a look at the ice in the middle of baseball's third-oldest active park.

"The lights are going to be different, and the glare is going to be a little different," said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who grew up playing indoors in Slovenia. "But come game time, I don't think we're going to be worried too much about that."

Bills hire ex-Lions coach Schwartz to run defense

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone wasted little time filling a big hole on his staff by reaching a deal with recently fired Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator.

Marrone also turned to Schwartz's former staff to address another need by agreeing to hire Todd Downing to coach the young crop of quarterbacks, led by last year's rookie first-round pick, EJ Manuel.

The additions were announced Friday night, a day after defensive coordinator Mike Pettine left the team after one year to take over as the Cleveland Browns' head coach.

"We are excited to add a talented and accomplished coordinator in Jim Schwartz to our staff," Marrone said in a statement released by the team. "Schwartz has led aggressive and productive defensive units throughout his time in the NFL, and we feel our defense will continue to improve under his leadership."

Schwartz was fired Dec. 30, a day after the Lions missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record. In four seasons in Detroit, the 47-year-old Schwartz was 29-51. That included a 10-6 finish in 2011 when the Lions reached the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

Schwartz becomes the Bills' fourth defensive coordinator in four years and has big shoes to fill in taking over a unit that emerged as the team's strength last season.

Pettine's departure had the potential of under-cutting much of the progress the Bills hoped would carry over into next season after a 6-10 finish that extended the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 14 seasons.

Though the Bills were inconsistent against the run, they still finished 10th in the NFL in fewest yards allowed - Buffalo's best ranking since finishing second in 2004. And they finished second in the NFL with a franchise-record 57 sacks.

Schwartz has 20 years of NFL coaching experience, including eight seasons as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator from 2001-08.

The Titans' defense three times finished among the NFL's top 10 in fewest yards allowed. Tennessee was particularly stingy in stopping the run, finishing sixth or better in yards rushing allowed, including a first-place ranking in 2003.

It's unclear how many positions Schwartz will have to fill on his defensive staff because there's a chance Pettine may lure some of his assistants to Cleveland. The Bills currently have one opening after inside linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach was fired last week.

Schwartz takes over unit that produced four Pro Bowl selections, defensive linemen Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus and safety Jairus Byrd. Byrd's status is uncertain after he played under a one-year franchise tag last season.

The defense also includes linebacker Kiko Alonso, an NFL rookie of the year candidate.

Schwartz has a fiery personality, and an aggressive approach to defense much like Pettine, which is being counted on to ease the transition.

The knock against Schwartz in Detroit was the Lions' inconsistencies and undisciplined style of play. In 2012, the Lions lost their last eight games after a 4-4 start. Last season, they collapsed during a stretch in which they blew fourth-quarter leads in losing six games during a seven-game stretch.

Downing's addition filled Marrone's desire to add a quarterbacks coach to his staff after offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett doubled at the position last year. Marrone had expressed an intention to ease Hackett's burden entering his second season.

Lack of experience and injuries didn't help the position. Manuel missed six games because of knee injuries. Undrafted journeyman Thad Lewis went 2-3 in five starts, while undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel struggled in a 23-13 loss to Kansas City.

Downing has 11 years of NFL coaching experience, and spent the past three seasons at the same position in Detroit, where he mentored Lions starter Matthew Stafford.

The 33-year-old Downing is familiar with Lewis, who spent last offseason in Detroit before the Bills acquired him in a trade in August. And he also coached Manuel at last year's Senior Bowl.

"Todd Downing is a bright and energetic coach," Marrone said. "He played a pivotal role in the development of Detroit's quarterbacks during his tenure: most notably Matthew Stafford, the franchise's all-time leading passer. Downing will be a valuable addition to our offensive coaching staff."

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

White Sox give manager Ventura extension

CHICAGO (AP) As their win total plummeted last season, one thing remained steady for the Chicago White Sox - their faith in Robin Ventura.

The White Sox rewarded their manager with a multi-year contract extension Friday, announcing the move hours before their annual fan convention opened.

The terms were not disclosed.

The extension comes after the White Sox dropped from second in the AL Central in Ventura's first season to last with 99 losses in his second year.

"You lose 99 games, there are going to be questions like that, about where this organization's headed and why they think the people in charge are the right people to get them through their end goal," general manager Rick Hahn said. "I would say we saw in 2012 and 2013 two extremes in terms of being a first-place club and being a club that was a disappointed in terms of performance. Throughout each of those extremes, Robin's leadership was unwavering."

Ventura's contract was set to expire after this year. He turned down an extension before the 2013 season, leading to speculation that he might not want to stick around much longer, but he insisted that wasn't the case. He wanted to give Hahn - then in his first season as GM - a chance to work with him before making a long-term commitment.

"I just felt it was important for Rick to have a full year of doing the job, us working together," Ventura said. "Then, you have the ability and freedom to decide if I'm the right guy for the job. Nothing really changed in my mind of where I want to be and what I want to do. It's just more of it being his first time going through, I just wanted to make sure he had the ability and the freedom to do that. Now with the way last year went, the offseason, a lot of communication, a lot of talks of where we're headed, how we're going to do it - I'm excited to just keep going."

Hahn, who got bumped up from assistant GM in October 2012 to replace the promoted Ken Williams, called it a selfless act by Ventura.

"(It) allowed me the latitude to get comfortable," Hahn said. "It speaks to what kind of good man he is and actually makes a decision like this all the easier because of it."

A former All-Star third baseman, Ventura had never managed at any level when he replaced Ozzie Guillen. And the results his first season were promising.

The White Sox led the Central for much of 2012 before finishing second to Detroit with 85 wins, but there was a huge drop-off last year. Chicago wound up last in the division at 63-99, giving Ventura a 148-176 mark in two seasons.

The White Sox hit just .249 as a team and their home run total dropped from third in the majors at 211 to 19th at 148. With little speed, there was no way to make up for the drop in power, and compounding the problem was the poor play on defense.

They went from leading the majors in fielding percentage to ranking 29th, with Alexei Ramirez committing 22 errors and tying the Cubs' Starlin Castro for the major league lead among shortstops.

"It's imperative that we show improvement," Hahn said. "It's imperative that we show growth, especially on the position player side. We feel we have the ability to contend. But the most important thing for us is going to be allowing these young guys room to grow."

Ventura's steady hand, his ability to relate, came up over and over on Friday. It's why the White Sox believe he is the right manager, particularly on a team with some key young players.

They signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract, hoping he can add pop. They'll have a full year with outfielder Avisail Garcia after acquiring him from Detroit in the midseason deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, too.

They've added some youth, athleticism, to their lineup. They believe they have enough pitching to compete with Chris Sale leading the rotation, even if they didn't land Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka.

And they insist Ventura's the man to lead them.

"He just doesn't miss on how to handle guys," longtime star Paul Konerko said. "He's stern with them, he gets his point across. But for a team of this makeup, Robin is such a good fit. I'm glad he would want to stay."

Heisman winner Winston begins baseball season

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston wants to help Florida State win another national championship - in baseball.

"I just want to have an effect on this team like I did the football team," Winston said Friday before his practice of the 2014 season with Florida State's baseball team. "I just want to be a team player and get this show going."

If the show is as successful on the baseball diamond as it was on the gridiron, the Seminoles will be hoisting the championship trophy at the College World Series in Omaha.

And that's a possibility. The Seminoles have the talent to be title contenders.

Florida State was picked to win the ACC Atlantic Division by the league's coaches and the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Winston is the favorite to win the closer role.

"Having Jameis win a national championship in baseball, I think that's going to bring a lot to our team," outfielder DJ Stewart said. "He's won a championship, so he's going to bring that to us.

"That definitely motivates us. We see our football team do it, we're like, `Why can't we do it?""

Winston has some work to do before he's in baseball shape, though he has a fastball that reaches 95 mph and an effective slider. Coach Mike Martin called Winston a "very dominating pitcher" by the end of the 2013 season, but he wants a change-up added to the repertoire.

"You've got to keep the hitters guessing," Martin said. "If you're a two-pitch guy, you're obviously looking for one or the other. Fifty-fifty, I don't like."

And being the Heisman winner won't force the coaching staff to be cautious with Winston's playing time.

"We will use Jameis just like we do everybody else," Martin said. "We're not going to treat him any differently and he doesn't want to be treated any differently. He's a Seminole baseball player now. We're going to use him outfield, we're going to use him on the mound, we're going to use him as a DH some.

"But we want him to be our closer when it's all said and done. That's what we're going to prepare him to be."

Winston said he takes the same mentality to the closing role as he does to the quarterback position. He admitted , however, that baseball brings a unique set of challenges.

"That's why I like playing both, because I can take my football mentality and put it with baseball," Winston said. "You can be successful that way, especially when you're as confident as I am.

"It's different. But I've still got the same mentality. Baseball is a hard sport. It's a failing sport. It's far more stressful in the batter's box than on the mound because I actually have control of everything on the mound. Pitching is probably easier to me mentally than hitting."

Winston posted a 3.00 ERA in 2013 with a 1-2 record, two saves, 21 strikeouts and 12 walks in 27 innings pitched as a reliever. He hit .235 with seven doubles and three triples in 41 games.

The plate is where he really wants to improve.

"I've got to get back into the swing of things," Winston said. "I used to be a hitter in high school. Now I've got to get back in the groove of things.

"That's the one thing I don't like about baseball. In football I can make my adjustments fast. It's more of like a strategize sport. Baseball, if you mess up out there, everyone's looking at you. You can't hide it. I've got to get better at hitting."

Sharks sign Thornton, Marleau to 3-year extensions

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The San Jose Sharks locked up two of their cornerstone players before they could hit the open market this summer, signing three-year extensions Friday with captain Joe Thornton and franchise leading goal-scorer Patrick Marleau.

The contracts prevent the two stars from becoming unrestricted free agents this summer and keep them under contract with the Sharks through the 2016-17 season.

"We really appreciate them helping us keep this group together and contributing in this way," general manager Doug Wilson said. "They both did step up. It says a lot about both of them as people and teammates."

ESPN first reported the deals that will pay Thornton an average of $6.75 million over the three years and Marleau $6.66 million. Thornton also has a no-trade clause, according to his brother John, who is also his agent.

Thornton and Marleau were the top two picks in the 1997 draft with Thornton going to Boston and Marleau to San Jose. The Sharks acquired Thornton in a deal on Nov. 30, 2005, and the two have helped the Sharks win the most regular-season games in the NHL since that time.

They also both insisted on waiting to sign until knowing the other player was coming back, too.

"That created a unique dynamic in the negotiations because it was two individual negotiations but it was contingent to them knowing we're a better team with both instead of one," Wilson said. "That tells you the respect between the two players."

Despite all the regular-season success, San Jose is still searching for its first trip to the Stanley Cup finals. The Sharks lost the Western Conference finals in 2010 and 2011, and were knocked out in seven games in the second round last season against Los Angeles. San Jose is poised for another run this season and is currently fifth in the league with 72 points.

Even at 34 years old, Thornton and Marleau are still playing at an elite level. Thornton leads the NHL with 47 assists and is sixth with 53 points. Marleau was picked for the Canadian Olympic team and has 21 goals and 26 assists this season.

"They're elite level players that are still playing at elite levels," Wilson said. "They're only 34 years of age. They are both strong and healthy and very high fitness guys."

Thornton has 1,171 career points, the most of any player since he entered the league in 1997-98. He is currently 25th on the NHL's all-time assist list with 834 and 48th on the career points list.

Marleau has played all 1,216 career games with San Jose, notching 425 goals and 483 assists. He is fourth in the league in goals the past six seasons with 187 and is 72nd all-time.

Marleau ranks first on the Sharks career list for points, goals, power play goals, short-handed goals, game-winning goals and shots.

Wilson has always done a good job locking up his key players before they hit free agency at below market prices. Thornton is taking a slight pay cut from his expiring three-year deal that pays him an average of $7 million a year.

Marleau, who negotiated his own contract after the death of his agent, Don Baizley, this summer, also took a slight pay cut from the four-year deal that pays him an average of $6.9 million a year.

With these deals done, the Sharks have locked up almost all of their important players before free agency starts in July. The one key remaining potential unrestricted free agent is 37-year-old defenseman Dan Boyle, who is talks with the Sharks about a new deal.

The Sharks have already reached long-term deals with defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and forwards Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns.

"We think we're set very well for the future, and we also think we're in a very good position to focus on the now," Wilson said.

Seattle's Sherman fined $7,875 for taunting

NEW YORK (AP) Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was fined $7,875 for unsportsmanlike conduct/taunting in the final minute of the NFC championship game against San Francisco.

Sherman's fine was confirmed by the league Friday.

Sherman was flagged after he made a choking gesture toward the San Francisco bench that he said was directed at quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Sherman had just deflected a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone that was intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith and clinched Seattle's 23-17 victory.

Sherman ran over and after tapping Crabtree on the backside and extended his hand for a handshake. Crabtree then shoved Sherman in the face. The All-Pro cornerback then made the choking gesture.

Sherman was the only player fined in the game.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Ex-Cowboy Brent gets 180 days in jail, probation

DALLAS (AP) Former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent avoided prison Friday and instead was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation for a drunken car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown.

Brent was convicted Wednesday of intoxication manslaughter for the December 2012 crash on a suburban Dallas highway that killed Brown, who was a passenger in Brent's car. Brent could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. He was also fined $10,000.

Brent, 25, closed his eyes when the judge read the jury's verdict. He was kept in custody after the hearing.

One of his attorneys, Kevin Brooks, described the former defensive tackle as "somber."

"I'm really kind of overwhelmed with the results," Brooks said. "It's kind of what we've been fighting for from Day 1. I'm happy for Josh. Josh is still sad and grieving and that's something he's going to carry with him the rest of his life."

Brent's family members and supporters cried and hugged as the courtroom emptied after the hearing. His mother, LaTasha Brent, spoke briefly as she left the courthouse, saying she was there to support her son.

Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson, wasn't in the courtroom when the verdict was read. She publicly forgave Brent, and said during Thursday's sentencing proceedings: "He's still responsible, but you can't go on in life holding a grudge. We all make mistakes."

Jackson was the last witness the jury heard, and lead prosecutor Heath Harris said her testimony probably helped Brent get probation.

"The victim's family will always have a bearing on the punishment phase," Harris said. "Should it make a difference? What if she had been wanting the maximum? Would they have given the maximum? That's why we let the jury decide."

Prosecutors were pushing for prison time for Brent, whose trial came weeks after a teenage boy in neighboring Tarrant County received no prison time for an intoxication manslaughter conviction in a drunken crash that killed four people. In that case, a defense expert argued that the teen deserved leniency because his parents had coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility - a condition the expert termed "affluenza."

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, whose headquarters isn't far from the spot where Brent crashed, said in a statement that it was "shocked and appalled" by the athlete's sentence.

"This punishment sends the message that it's OK to drink and drive - but it's absolutely not," MADD said.

Brent and Brown, a linebacker on the practice squad, also played together at the University of Illinois and were close friends. They were headed home from a night of partying with Dallas teammates when Brent lost control of his Mercedes and crashed. Officers who arrived on scene saw Brent trying to pull Brown's body from the wreckage.

Blood tests pegged Brent's blood alcohol content at 0.18 percent, which is more than twice the state's legal limit to drive of 0.08 percent. Prosecutors told jurors that the burly, 320-pound lineman had as many as 17 drinks on the night of the crash.

"We never quarrel with a jury's decision," said Harris, who passionately urged the jury to send Brent to prison. "All we can hope and pray is that I believe the jury saw something salvageable in him ... and he does get some help."

Judge Robert Burns scolded Brent after reading the verdict, saying his actions "bring shame to the city of Dallas." The judge also mentioned Brent's 2009 drunken-driving conviction in Illinois, which the prosecution revisited in making its case for prison time.

"The judge obviously has a right to express his opinion," said George Milner, one of Brent's attorneys. "I guess the difference is there's no one in that courtroom that knows Josh the way Kevin and I do. And so I see a different person."

Brent played in all 12 games of the Cowboys' 2012 season prior to the crash. He retired from the NFL in July, but less than a week shy of his 26th birthday, he's still young enough to play, although he hasn't said if that's what he wants.

"He's never talked about football to me unless I specifically asked questions about football," Milner said. "I think he's just trying to figure out how he's going to deal with the situation where he is."

If Brent did want to play again, it's unclear if he'd have to serve a suspension before he could take the field again.

"This is an issue we will deal with down the road," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email Friday.

After wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who was then on the Cleveland Browns, pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter for striking and killing a Florida pedestrian with his car, Goodell suspended Stallworth for the entire 2009 season.

---

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Aldridge scores 44 as Blazers beat Nuggets

PORTLAND, Ore. -- LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 44 points and 13 rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied for a 110-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.

Wesley Matthews added 24 points for the Blazers (32-11), who snapped a two-game losing streak coming off a 2-2 road trip. The Blazers have not lost three straight this season.

Wilson Chandler had 18 points for Denver (20-21), which has lost four of their last five games after a five-game winning streak.

The Blazers trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but chipped away at Denver's lead to pull to 91-90 on Wesley Matthews' turnaround fadeaway before taking the lead on his 15-foot jumper.

The teams wrestled for control, but Aldridge's jumper put Portland up a 102-99 with 3:08 left.

Chandler and Timofey Mozgov made consecutive baskets to regain the lead for Denver, and it was back-and-forth until Aldridge made four consecutive free throws to shouts of "M-V-P," from the Portland crowd, giving the Blazers a 108-105 lead.

Chandler missed a jumper with 8 seconds left and Aldridge made more free throws for the final margin. The two-time All-Star, who came in a disappointing fifth among Western Conference frontcourt players in All-Star voting, made eight straight free throws to close the game.

Blazers owner Paul Allen addressed the media at halftime, talking on a wide range of topics including a contract extension for Aldridge, which the team will consider "at the appropriate time."

Kenneth Faried got two quick fouls early in the game and had to sit, but the Nuggets still led 30-28 at the end of the first quarter, paced by Anthony Randolph off the bench.

Nate Robinson's 3-pointer stretched Denver's lead to 44-37, and the Nuggets went on to lead by as many as 12 points in the second quarter.

Portland went on a 9-0 run to close to 51-48, but Denver held on to 67-59 lead at the half.

Randy Foye hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to stretch Denver's lead to 78-63. The Nuggets led 91-86 heading to the fourth.

Earlier in the day, Aldridge and teammate Damian Lillard were named to the 2014-16 U.S. men's national team pool, the first step toward making the Olympic team. Faried was also invited.

The All-Star team starters were also announced before Thursday night's game. Aldridge finished fifth in fan voting among Western Conference frontcourt Blazers, while Lillard finished seventh among guards. Both players will have a chance to make the team if they are selected by the league's coaches.

NOTES: The Blazers defeated the Nuggets 113-98 in Denver their first meeting of the season on Nov. 1. ... Portland is the only team to have used the same starting lineup all season. ... The Nuggets announced earlier this week that forward Danilo Gallinari will miss the rest of the season after undergoing a second surgery on his left knee. Gallinari averaged 16.2 points per game last season for Denver. ... Actor Billy Dee Williams was at the game.

Bosh, James carry Heat past Lakers, 109-102

MIAMI (AP) Chris Bosh scored 31 points, LeBron James added 27 points and 13 rebounds and the Miami Heat never trailed in a 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole each finished with 11 points to help the Heat beat the Lakers for the eighth time in their last nine meetings. Ray Allen added 10, and Miami shot 58 percent and outrebounded the Lakers 48-35.

Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol each scored 22 points for the Lakers, who lost for the 14th time in their last 17 outings. Nick Young added 19 points - needing 20 shots to do it - for Los Angeles, which nearly came all the way back from a 16-point second-half deficit.

Michigan St F Dawson breaks hand in film session

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State's latest film session was a major flop.

Junior forward Branden Dawson will be out four to five weeks after breaking his right hand Thursday when he banged it on a table while watching video.

Dawson said he was reviewing film of the third-ranked Spartans' win over Indiana with teammates and coach Tom Izzo and became angry with his play of late.

"I know I haven't been playing how I know I can play and I got frustrated and slammed my hand against the table," Dawson said. "When Dr. (Jeff) Kovan told me how long I was going to be out, tears came down my eyes because this team is really important to me and I love Michigan State. I want to be a part of it, playing."

Dawson was scheduled for surgery Thursday night, and the Spartans (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten) will be without him for Saturday's home game against No. 21 Michigan (14-4, 6-0).

In addition, Adreian Payne has missed MSU's last four games with a foot injury, and Izzo said the senior center probably won't be ready to play against the rival Wolverines in a showdown between the only Big Ten teams without a conference loss this season.

"His chances of playing Saturday are slim to none," Izzo said. "When he'll play is going to be strictly between me and him. The doctors are in it only to give me information. I swear to you, he's champing at the bit to play."

Payne was averaging 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds before sitting out wins over Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois and Indiana. Izzo didn't totally rule out a Saturday return for Payne, but insisted it's unlikely.

"He won't practice (Friday)," Izzo said. "If he wakes up Saturday morning and can run 10 miles on the treadmill and come in here and cut and jump, I'm starting him."

Michigan State must also replace Dawson in the starting lineup after he broke the fifth metacarpal in his right hand Thursday morning.

Dawson ranks second in the Big Ten with 8.7 rebounds per game. The most likely candidate to start in his place is forward Kenny Kaminski. A redshirt freshman, Kaminski has appeared in 12 games this season and made 17 of 31 attempts from 3-point range.

"I came out in practice today knowing my role is going to be a little bigger," Kaminski said. "I'm not going to be sleeping too much until Saturday. I'm going to live in the film room, live in the gym, just trying to prepare."

Izzo said he isn't sure who will start against the Wolverines yet, but someone will have to step up in Dawson's absence. He's also hoping this becomes a teachable moment for Dawson.

"Somebody else is going to get another chance," Izzo said. "If you want to try to find the silver lining, then my hope is (Dawson) sits back, looks at things and figures out he is a difference-maker for us."

Dawson addressed the team before practice Thursday.

"I'll be ready around tournament time," he said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team out on the bench, in the locker room, during the game, in practice, just to see those guys do great against Michigan and from here on out."

Browns hire Mike Pettine after twisting search

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Mike Pettine knows he might not have been Cleveland's first choice or even the Browns' second pick.

All that matters to the son of a high school coaching legend is that he's the one they selected.

"It's been my life-long dream to be an NFL head coach," Pettine said Thursday, "and however that opportunity presents itself, it's fine with me."

After nearly a month of twists, turns and talk, the Browns found their man.

Buffalo's defensive coordinator, who didn't seem to be on Cleveland's radar when the team began a coaching search last month, signed a five-year contract Thursday and was named the Browns' seventh full-time coach since 1999. Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski, fired on Dec. 29 after just one season.

The Browns interviewed 10 candidates before deciding on the 47-year-old Pettine, who has built a solid reputation with a no-nonsense approach with his players.

"I have been nicknamed BFT - Blunt Force Trauma," he said. "The days are too short to dance around subjects some time and I think guys appreciate that."

His straight-forward style attracted Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who set out to find a "strong winner" and feels the clean-shaven Pettine can lead Cleveland's resurgence.

"He's very smart," Haslam said. "He's aggressive. He's innovative. You can see he's tough. He's going to be very demanding. He's going to set high standards for our organization."

Pettine spent one year with the Bills after four as Rex Ryan's defensive coordinator with the New York Jets. Before that, Pettine was an assistant coach in Baltimore, giving him some familiarity in Cleveland's division.

Pettine understands there are challenges in turning around the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons and made the playoffs once in their expansion era. Pettine believes the Browns have talent - as evidenced by their six Pro Bowlers - and wants to be the one to return them to glory.

"There's only 32 of these jobs and they don't come along often," Pettine said. "People ask me, `Why didn't you wait? There will be chances next year?' I don't know if I believe in that. When you put all the factors together, this franchise is in position, given the right leadership, to win."

Pettine emerged as the favorite to become Cleveland's fourth coach in six years as the Browns eliminated candidates and Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, considered the front-runner when the search started, told the team to move on without him.

His hiring ends a 25-day odyssey for the Browns. It was a quest filled with rumors, denials, withdrawals and far too much drama for a franchise seeking stability.

At the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Browns tight end Jordan Cameron echoed the sentiments of most Cleveland fans.

"I'm just happy to have a coach," he said.

The Browns flew to Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday to interview Pettine for the second time at the Senior Bowl. The four-hour meeting came shortly after Gase, the first candidate the team contacted, called Haslam and withdrew from consideration.

The team had been expected to give Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn a second interview, but if he was their pick, the Browns would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl to finalize a deal. Banner said the decision to hire Pettine before speaking with Quinn a second time was "tough."

As six other teams filled their head-coaching vacancies, the Browns kept looking. The lengthy delay led to a national perception the team didn't have a clear plan.

Aware of the criticism, Haslam sent a letter to Cleveland fans last week explaining why the team was being "methodical" in finding Chudzinski's replacement.

Haslam argued the view of the Browns was media driven.

"That's a perception that you all have generated," he said to reporters. "That's not the perception among candidates or football people that I've talked to around the country."

Browns CEO Joe Banner took a playful jab at Cleveland's front office, which was characterized locally as "The Three Stooges" when the search began.

"I don't know if you had a chance to meet Mike, but since (GM) Mike Lombardi and I are Moe and Larry, we went and set out to find Curly and we succeeded," he said. "That's why it took so long; there aren't a lot of Curlys running around the country."

Now that he's in place, Pettine is ready to roll up his sleeves and fix the Browns. Football is in his blood.

He learned the game from his father, Mike Pettine Sr., who won four Pennsylvania state championships and retired as the winningest coach in state history.

Not long after getting the job, Pettine phoned his dad.

"It was special," he said. "It didn't last very long because he knew I had a lot of stuff to get done. My poor mom answered the phone and he said "Is that Michael?" He ripped it out of her hands. They were both excited and knew how much work it went into this."

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Four first-timers voted to NBA All-Star game

NEW YORK -- Kobe Bryant called for younger players in the All-Star game, and the fans listened.

They still want Bryant, too.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Paul George and Kyrie Irving were voted NBA All-Stars Thursday, putting four first-time starters in the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans.

Bryant was elected by fans to his 16th All-Star game, second-most in NBA history, but this one is shaping up as a kids' game.

Curry, perhaps the biggest snub last season, will join him in the Western Conference backcourt. Love passed Dwight Howard in the final days of voting and will start in the frontcourt along with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Clippers' Blake Griffin.

"Hey, I'm popular now," Love joked. "It's very humbling to me to be starting in the All-Star game. I tip my hat to the fans in the Twin Cities and all over Minnesota and beyond."

The four first-time starters are all 25 or younger. Curry went to All-Star weekend as a kid when his father, Dell, competed in the 3-point contest, and now he'll finally get to play in the game.

"It's kind of just a surreal feeling," Curry said. "I saw Kobe come on the screen and you knew that next person on the screen was going to be me or I was going to get left off that list. Just when I saw my name it was a real emotional kind of experience and glad my wife and daughter were here to watch it with me."

LeBron James was the leading vote-getter with 1.4 million and Miami teammate Dwyane Wade also was voted in Thursday. George, who has led Indiana to the league's best record, and New York's Carmelo Anthony are the other East forwards, and Irving will start at guard.

Bryant has been limited to just six games this season because of injuries and will be out until at least early next month. He said recently he hoped fans wouldn't vote for him and would instead look toward younger, more deserving players.

Fans picked him anyway. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 19, was selected to more All-Star games.

But even Bryant could finish only second to Curry among West guards, a remarkable turnaround for the Golden State sharpshooter. He was the highest-scoring player not chosen last year, but moved past the Clippers' Chris Paul in the third returns of balloting, then passed Bryant in the final days to finish with more than a million votes and become the Warriors' first All-Star starter since Latrell Sprewell in 1995.

"I understand how big a deal it is to be selected on the team," Curry said. "And just how different the feeling was from last year, having gone through that experience and just trying to get back healthy, first and foremost, to give myself a chance come All-Star selection time."

Love also made a late move to surge into the top three, finishing about 8,000 votes ahead of Houston center Dwight Howard to become Minnesota's first All-Star starter since Kevin Garnett in 2007.

"I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and knowing the worst was I was going to still probably end up in the All-Star game (as a coach's pick) and represent the West and the Wolves and the Twin Cities." Love said. "Right now, I'm very happy."

Indiana hadn't had one since Jermaine O'Neal a year earlier, but now George will get to play for Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who has already clinched the East's coaching spot.

"It means a lot because that means the fans are really watching us as a team," George said. "For us to have the No. 1 record in the league, and playing at a high level, I think the fans are starting to follow us as a whole and I think that's the biggest thing with me being a starter."

The reserves will be announced next Thursday. Head coaches in each conference will vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position.

---

AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, Calif. contributed to this report.

---

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

Harvin excited for Super Bowl chance with Seattle

RENTON, Wash. (AP) With all the setbacks Percy Harvin has faced in his first season with Seattle, it would be easy to dwell on the problems.

Harvin is trying not to linger on the past, whether it was his hip surgery and recovery that kept him out of 15 of 16 regular-season games or the concussion that left him a spectator for the NFC championship game.

Not with the Seahawks headed for a Super Bowl matchup against Denver.

"It's been a roller coaster, but it's all been a blessing. I wouldn't take anything back that happened this year. It's made me a stronger person," Harvin said on Thursday. "It's definitely been frustrating for a lot of people, not only myself but my teammates. Doug (Baldwin), some of the guys playing my position, not knowing whether I'm going to be at practice. So it was definitely frustrating but it's all over now. We get to play for the Super Bowl. That's all in the past."

Harvin returned to practice Wednesday after passing the league's concussion protocol following the concussion he suffered in the NFC divisional playoff game against New Orleans. The injury was the latest bump in a season filled with starts and stops for Harvin.

First was the trade from Minnesota and a lucrative contract with Seattle. Then came the discovery of a damaged labrum in his hip that required surgery in early August and caused him to miss the first 10 games of the regular season.

When he returned in Week 11, Harvin was used sparingly, but the amount was too much for his hip and complications followed. He returned for the playoffs and was a significant part of Seattle's game plan against the Saints in the divisional round when the next setback hit. Harvin's head bounced off the turf of CenturyLink Field after leaping for a pass in the end zone in the second quarter of Seattle's 23-15 win.

And again, Harvin was left to be a spectator.

"Frustrating. That's the word that I'll use. This whole year watching every single game was frustrating," Harvin said. "But like I said having great teammates, great coaches it was good to be on the sideline and watch those guys perform."

Hitting his head on the turf, just as New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins was hitting him in the back, was the second big hit Harvin took against the Saints. He said Thursday he did not believe he was being targeted. Harvin was hit by safety Rafael Bush in the first quarter of the game, a hit that drew a 15-yard penalty and a $21,000 fine from the NFL.

"I thought they were just playing football," said Harvin, who said his history with migraines had no influence on the speed of his recovery from the concussion.

The opportunities Harvin got against the Saints showed just what he could add to Seattle's offense. He was used as a runner on a sweep to the perimeter that went for 9 yards and could have gone for more. Seattle tried to find him on deep routes down the seam of the defense and also underneath crossing patterns.

He was also a successful decoy. On Marshawn Lynch's 15-yard touchdown run against the Saints, Harvin faked that he was about to catch a screen pass. The defense reacted and Lynch had a cutback lane open en route to the end zone.

"Last year when we prepared for Percy, there were just so many things that we had to look for in a guy like him," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said. "It's a guy that can be in the backfield, a guy that can be split out at receiver, it's just so many ways you can use him."

Despite all the setbacks, Harvin's not viewing the Super Bowl as an opportunity to salvage his season.

"I'm trying to go out there and win a Super Bowl. I'm not trying to save or be a hero or do anything," Harvin said. "I'm trying to go out there and prepare to play a game I know how to play."

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Knicks' Bargnani out with torn left elbow ligament

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Knicks say forward Andrea Bargnani has a torn ligament in his left elbow and is out indefinitely.

Bargnani was hurt Wednesday during a 110-106 loss to Philadelphia when he landed hard while attempting to dunk. He had an MRI on Thursday that revealed the injury.

It's the latest injury for the Knicks (15-27), who have lost five in a row and have battled injuries all season. They are already missing forwards Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin from their frontcourt because of sprained left ankles.

Bargnani is averaging 13.3 points, second on the team, in his first season in New York. The Knicks acquired the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft from Toronto during the summer.

Tiger opens with a 72 on tough South Course

SAN DIEGO (AP) The best score belonged to Stewart Cink. The best round belonged to Pat Perez. Tiger Woods didn't come close to claiming either Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Cink ran off three straight birdies late in his round on the easier North Course at Torrey Pines for an 8-under 64. That gave him a one-shot lead over Gary Woodland. Perez had a 67 on the South Course, which is by far the tougher track. The South Course, which hosted a U.S. Open, played nearly four shots harder.

In his 2014 debut, Woods opened with a 72 on the South. He failed to birdie any of the par 5s. It was the first time in his career he failed to break par in the first round of this tournament.

Brewers in talks with free agent RHP Matt Garza

MILWAUKEE (AP) The Brewers say they're in talks with free agent Matt Garza to fortify their pitching staff.

Milwaukee issued a statement Thursday evening following reports of a $52 million, four-year agreement between the Brewers and the 30-year-old right-hander, pending a physical.

The statement says "despite media reports, negotiations between the Brewers and Matt Garza are ongoing, but there is no deal yet."

Garza would join Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse to form what could be a solid rotation top. Garza went 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA last year for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, striking out 136 in 155 1-3 innings.

Balfour gets $12 million, 2-year deal from Rays

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Rays couldn't resist adding Grant Balfour to solidify the back end of their bullpen, giving the closer a $12 million, two-year contract Thursday about a month after his $15 million agreement with Baltimore fell through.

The Orioles said they had concerns with his physical. Balfour proclaimed he's healthy and looking forward to helping Tampa Bay get back to the playoffs.

"I'm 100 percent healthy," Balfour said, adding he had more lucrative offers from other teams but was eager to play for a perennial contender and return to the Tampa Bay area, where he still resides after spending time with the Rays from 2007-10.

"I've had an eventful offseason to say the least," he said. "It's always been a place on my radar. I'll be honest, I never wanted to leave here."

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg made the announcement at a news conference held following a team sponsorship event at the Tampa Museum of Art.

He called it a significant move for the budget-minded Rays, who have made the playoffs four times in the past six seasons despite one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

Sternberg noted the team did not enter the offseason expecting to be in a position to pursue the 36-year-old, who was 62 for 67 in save opportunities the past two seasons with the Oakland Athletics.

"We've have had some exceptional teams," Sternberg said, explaining the decision to spend above the team's projected payroll. "We want to give this organization the best chance to win, and we know it's going to cost us more than we can afford to pay."

In his first stint with the Rays, Balfour was part of an improbable run to the 2008 World Series, where Tampa Bay lost to Philadelphia in six games.

Sternberg called him a "known quantity" for the Rays. Manager Joe Maddon added the signing will make an already impressive bullpen even more formidable.

"He wants to go back to the World Series," Maddon said. "So do we, so do I."

Balfour was a first-time All-Star in 2013, when he had a 1.63 ERA while going 25 for 25 in save opportunities the first half of the season.

The right-hander's 383 appearances, 380 1-3 innings and 410 strikeouts over the past six years are the second-most among AL relievers. He's first Australian-born pitcher to make an All-Star team and has been a part of five teams that made the playoffs, including two with Tampa Bay.

"I want to win a World Series," he said. "We got really close here in 2008, and I'm really hoping here in the next two years, or whatever it is I get to play here, that I can win one it would be awesome."

Tanaka says Yankees wanted him most

TOKYO (AP) Masahiro Tanaka says he chose to play for the New York Yankees because they appreciated him the most among the many teams in the majors who were chasing the prized signature of the star Japanese pitcher.

"They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world-famous team." Tanaka said at a press conference in Japan on Thursday after agreeing to a $155 million, seven-year deal with the Yankees.

Tanaka said he was "relieved" the deal was done and looked forward to standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium.

When asked what his goal will be, Tanaka's response was direct: "To become World Champions."

In addition to the personal deal with Tanaka, the Yankees must pay a $20 million fee to his Japanese team, the Rakuten Eagles.

His agreement calls for $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020, and it allows him to terminate the deal after the 2017 season and become a free agent.

Asked to deliver a message to Yankee fans in English, Tanaka said he plans to let his performance on the field do the talking.

"I don't speak English so I'll just have to win the trust and confidence of the fans with my performance on the field," the 25-year-old right-hander said.

Big league teams had until Friday to reach an agreement with Tanaka, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year as the Eagles won the Japan Series title. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros all said they were among the failed bidders.

Tanaka said he consulted with 2013 Rakuten teammate Takashi Saito and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish about life in the major leagues before deciding on the Yankees.

"Everything will be new and challenging," Tanaka said. "But I have to rely on the ability that got me this far."

Tanaka was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Eagles, striking out 1,238 in 1315 innings. Yankees official has tracked him since 2007, scouting 15 of his games.

The Tanaka deal caps an offseason in which the Yankees added catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. The four big deals totaled $438 million.

"We're going to do what we've got to do to win," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We had to make sure we had enough pitching to go together with our new lineup."

Tanaka receives the highest contract for an international free agent and the fifth largest deal for a pitcher, trailing only those of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($215 million), Detroit's Justin Verlander ($180 million), Seattle's Felix Hernandez ($175 million) and the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia ($161 million under his original agreement with New York).

Tanaka replaces the retired Andy Pettitte in the Yankees rotation, and joins Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.

Sanders takes Luck, Newton early in Pro Bowl draft

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) NFL great Deion Sanders took quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Cam Newton with his first skill position picks in the Pro Bowl draft Wednesday, going for passers early before focusing on defense in building a team for one win.

Jerry Rice chose New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and then Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy with his first two picks, giving active player captain Drew Brees his top target early to go along with two Saints offensive linemen picked Tuesday.

"I wouldn't rather be with anybody else, obviously," Graham told reporters after being picked. All five Saints in the Pro Bowl ended up on Rice's team.

The picks kicked off the three-hour process of divvying up 60 players for Sunday's all-star game. The draft played out on a beachside estate used for weddings and luaus on Oahu's west side, adjacent to the plush Ko Olina resort where the players are staying for the week with their families.

About 1,000 fans attended the draft, which had cheerleaders, mascots, lei for each player and colored surfboards used as draft boards.

The game is being played in an "unconferenced" format for the first time, straying from its usual AFC vs. NFC teams. Sanders and Rice picked captains and their first 11 players each on Tuesday.

The new format is meant to liven up the Pro Bowl, which has been criticized by fans and even Commissioner Roger Goodell for the quality of play.

The draft embraces the popular hobby of fantasy football and put many players in the interesting situation of having to watch two of the NFL's biggest personalities pass them up.

"It looks like I'm waiting," Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall said after watching four receivers come off the board - including his teammate, Alshon Jeffery. "This is sad - real sad."

Sanders retorted: "Somebody get him some aspirin."

Eric Weddle, a San Diego safety who was the third safety picked, said he didn't mind having to wait in a lounge area with the other players while Sanders and Rice took 2 minutes each to make picks, with breaks for commercials in the live telecast.

"It doesn't really matter - just chilling 17 hours in here right now," Weddle said. "When it comes to Sunday, I'll be on the field in the fourth quarter and ready to wreck shop."

Defensive end Mario Williams became the first player to be assigned when he was the last player at his position off the board.

"Just be careful where you throw the ball," Williams told Brees afterward.

Williams said things played out largely how he anticipated, with teammates picking one another and Sanders playing mind games.

Other players assigned included Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle and New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski to Rice. Sanders was assigned tight ends Jordan Cameron of Cleveland and Jason Witten of Dallas, along with Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny.

"There's been some questionable picks," Posluszny said.

Quarterbacks Nick Foles and Alex Smith were the last players taken. Sanders selected Foles, and Smith was then assigned to Rice as the final pick - nine years after being the top choice overall in the NFL draft.

Rice then forced a trade on Sanders as allowed under the rules, taking Sanders' sixth-round pick of Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis, sending back Brian Orakpo.

Rice had said since being named captain that he wanted Mathis on his team, while Mathis and Sanders have traded jabs on Twitter after Sanders asserted he only wanted young players on his team.

Sanders picked wideouts Dez Bryant and A.J. Green, while Rice chose Josh Gordon along with Jeffery.

Luck playing for Team Sanders puts him on the same team led by his head coach in Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano. Luck said that will help him as players get accustomed to Pagano's style.

Beyond McCoy going second to Rice on Wednesday and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles being a captain for Sanders, neither manager took a running back early, preferring to pick defenders and receivers. Rice later took DeMarco Murray and Matt Forte, while Sanders took Eddie Lacy and was assigned Washington's Alfred Morris.

Li to meet surprising Cibulkova in Aussie Open final

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Li Na has advanced to her third Australian Open final and will have to beat Dominika Cibulkova to win her first title at Melbourne Park.

No. 4-seeded Li won the first give games to set up a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the first semifinal Thursday before No. 20-seeded Cibulkova trounced 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.

Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was the only major winner in the semis after the fourth-round upsets of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka's quarterfinal loss to Radwanska.

Cibulkova has been the biggest surprise of the tournament. The diminutive Slovakian has won all but one of her matches in straight sets - her win over Maria Sharapova went to three.

She completed three of those wins in an hour or less, including her 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 11 Simona Halep.

But even Cibulkova was stunned that her first win in a Grand Slam semifinal took only 1 hour and 10 minutes. After Radwanska held in the third game, Cibulkova won the next eight in a dominating roll.

"To tell you the truth yes because Aga she's an unbelievable player, her defense in the game is unbelievable," Cibulkova said. "It will be my first final I just want to enjoy it, like I have every match here."

Touted as the shortest women in the top 50 at 1.61-meters (5-foot-3), Cibulkova has shocked her bigger rivals with the power in her ground strokes.

"It's something inside of me, I was born with it," she said. "It's my gift - that's how I play."

The win was a significant upset only a day after Radwanska outplayed No. 2-ranked Azarenka, who won the previous two Australian titles.

Cibulkova had lost her only previous semifinal at a major - at the 2009 French Open - and had lost four of her five previous tour-level matches against Radwanska, including a 6-0, 6-0 defeat in the Sydney final last year.

Li lost last year's Australian Open final to Azarenka, after falling over and hitting her head twice on the court. She lost the 2011 decider to Kim Clijsters.

"I think is the third time, so pretty close to the trophy," Li said. "Yeah, at least I try to not fall down this time, because last year in the final I think I played well but I only can say I was unlucky. At least I'll try to enjoy and stay healthy."

Li raced out to a 5-0 lead in 14 minutes against Bouchard while people were still entering Rod Laver Arena.

Bouchard had a lot of support in the crowd - there were people with Canadian flags painted on their faces, and a couple even wearing the national hockey jerseys.

Her own personal cheering section, the "Genie Army," serenaded her throughout the match, at one point competing directly with a group of Li's supporters across the stadium who chanted "Let's Go Li Na" in Mandarin.

Bouchard was playing only her fourth Grand Slam tournament, was seeded 30th and became just the second Canadian to reach a major semifinal.

"I think maybe she will be best player in the world. But today (I'm) so lucky," said Li, who jokingly apologized to the Genie Army. "Sorry about that. If you guys be happy, I will go home."

Li considered quitting the tour after the French Open last year, when she was beaten in the second round and was struggling with the off-court pressure. After reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the Chinese star opted against retiring and then reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Li, who turns 32 next month, has gone another step further in Australia.

After saving a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she has started all her matches aggressively.

It worked against Bouchard, who didn't win a point in her first three service games. In the second set, the pair exchanged four service breaks in the first six games before Li finally took charge.

The next rankings list will reflect a big jump for Bouchard, who was one of the few people unsurprised by her rapid improvement.

"I wouldn't say I exceeded my expectations, but I'm happy with how I did," Bouchard said. "I always want to do better. To me it's not a surprise. I've been working hard my whole life to do this - play at Grand Slams and do well. It's not an overnight thing."

Pages