National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Rafa takes tennis to another level -- with some help

A few years ago, during a Serena Williams match at the U.S. Open, Chris Evert was in the announcers' booth when the director decided to show an old match between her and Tracy Austin. The two all-time greats were locked in some sort of baseline rally, and as a tennis fan, I have to say there was an obvious and inescapable response to seeing this classic bit of tennis history.

After a few shots, Chris Evert put that response into words.

“My gosh,” she said, “Look how SLOWLY we’re hitting the ball.”

Tennis is not the same game it was 30 years ago. It’s not the same game it was 20 years ago. Realistically, it’s not even the same game it was 10 years ago. No sport on the American landscape -- unless you consider video games sport -- changes as rapidly and as radically as tennis. Yes, football players get bigger. Golf balls fly longer. Basketball players get stronger.

But in tennis, because of the equipment, the court conditions, the tennis balls and the players training regimens, the very game sheds its skin and reforms into something new every few years.  This makes comparison through the years -- one of the wonderful things about being a fan of an individual sport -- almost pointless. It's hard to watch film or John McEnroe hitting those gorgeous touch volleys or seeing Steffi Graf dominate her opponents with her powerful forehand without thinking: "Holy cow, they would not stand a chance against players with today's equipment."

Rafael Nadal is probably the best example of this phenomenon. You watch him whip forehands with that extreme semi-Western grip and crush two-handed backhands from the most defensive positions and it's almost painful to go back and watch Rod Laver or Jimmy Connors or Arthur Ashe. They were not playing the same sport. Heck, even Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were not playing the same sport. It's hard enough comparing LeBron James and Michael Jordan, who were at least playing basketball under similar conditions. You go back and watch highlights from the French Open in the 1970s, you will watch two players bloop topspin pop-ups at each other until one wilts from exhaustion or boredom.

You watch Nadal crack shots past the amazing Novak Djokovic from 10 feet behind the baseline ... not the same game.

Does this make Nadal the best tennis player ever? It's an utterly fascinating question, and one I probably spend way too much time thinking about. You can look at the statistics: Nadal has now won 14 grand slam championships -- three clear of Rod Laver (for years considered the "greatest player ever"), tying him with Pete Sampras (who had his own time as the "greatest player ever”) and putting him just three behind the leader Roger Federer (who seems in the minds of many to be the reigning “greatest player ever”).

Federer's lead probably won't last long. He won 16 of his 17 slams before he turned 30. Nadal doesn’t turn 30 until the French Open in 2016 -- eight grand slams away. I think Nadal is going to tie Federer’s record before he turns 30. In time, he might smash Federer’s record.

Nadal has won one Australian Open, nine French Opens, two Wimbledons and two U.S. Opens. The nine French Opens is a grand slam record. He has beaten the great Federer in the final of the Australian, French and Wimbledon. He is 66-1 at Roland Garros, has reached the final of his last nine non-Wimbledon slams (this, even while dealing with a devastating injury that some thought might end his career) and he is an absurd 137-48 (74 percent) against the next ten ranked players combined.

But how do you compare Nadal to previous generations? Nadal is only capable of playing the style he plays because of the advances in the tennis racket. This is not a knock -- you play with the equipment you're given. But it's fair to say he could not have used Connors' trampoline Wilson T2000 or Martina Navratilova's graphite Yonex R-7 and hit anything resembling the shots he hits now. The frame heads were way smaller, they did not have the lightness or whip of rackets today, they had a sweet spot about the size of a Canadian penny, the strings were not nearly as responsive, on and on.

Nadal also plays a Wimbledon where the grass courts are much slower and truer. In 2001, Goran Ivanisevic hit a preposterous 212 aces to become the one and only player to win Wimbledon as a wildcard entry. That's more than 30 aces per match -- and that doesn't even count all the serves he hit that were returned long or into the net. That's how grass tennis was in those days, ace after ace after ace -- I will never forget the post-match press conference of a bewildered Frenchman named Arnaud Boetsch after Ivanisevic blew him off the court in 84 minutes. "Boom! Boom! Boom!" Boetsch said when asked to describe the match.

I don't know that Nadal could have won that version of Wimbledon. It is true that Andre Agassi won it playing a power-baseline game not unlike Nadal's -- Agassi beat Ivanisevic in five sets in the 1992 final -- but again those were different rackets. You give servers like John Isner and Milos Raonic and Ernests Gulbis and others the old Wimbledon surface, it's hard to see how Nadal competes against the blur (as it stands, Nadal is 16-0 against Isner, Raonic and Gulbis).

The point here is that there is no particularly satisfying answer for "greatest tennis player ever" because the game changes so radically. That doesn't stop us from playing the game, though. If I had to choose the best ever, I'd choose Nadal. I'd like to say Roger Federer, and I could make a case. Roger Federer's peak is unmatched -- to reach at least the semifinal in 23 consecutive grand slams is a feat that might never be matched. He is older than Nadal, so they haven't been often matched peak-to-peak. Most of Nadal's head-to-head dominance comes on clay, which is Federer's least effective surface.

But the numbers are simply too striking; Federer's game simply could not handle Nadal -- Rafa's high topspin forehands dominated Federer's backhand and he lost 23 of the 33 times they two have played. He beat Federer at Wimbledon too. He has dominated Federer on the Australian hardcourts. It's hard for Federer to be the best ever when Nadal beat him so regularly.

Sometimes it seems like Novak Djokovic plays tennis better than it has ever been played before; but again he could not beat Nadal in the French Open. And then you go back: Pete Sampras' game was blunted on clay, Andre Agassi's game was like Nadal's game minus about 5 percent, John McEnroe's game is an anachronism; it belonged to a specific time and it's hard to translate it to 2014. Rod Laver's game or Bill Tilden's game are even harder to imagine in our time.

Maybe McEnroe would invent a whole new way to play tennis with these new rackets. He had a particular tennis genius. Maybe Bjorn Borg would find a whole other level of speed and power. Maybe Jimmy Connors or Ivan Lendl or Jim Courier would create a kind of power tennis that would overpower the seemingly invincible Rafa Nadal. We will never know.

What does seems clear, though, is that Rafa Nadal plays tennis better than it has ever been played. He was given many advantages over previous generations. Much better rackets. More comfortable surfaces. Advanced medical treatments. But advantages are a part of tennis. Nadal has taken the game to a new level. That's what the greatest do.

Blatter urged not to run for FIFA presidency

SAO PAULO — In a stinging rebuke for Sepp Blatter, European football leaders told the veteran FIFA president on Tuesday that he should leave the scandal-hit governing body next year.

Blatter has sought support in Sao Paulo for a re-election bid in 2015 and faced a hostile UEFA membership, which bucked the trend of overwhelming backing from FIFA's other five continents.

They had urged the 78-year-old Swiss this week to run for a fifth presidential term next year despite a slew of scandals and negative headlines under his leadership.

UEFA executive committee member Michael van Praag and English Football Association President Greg Dyke directly challenged Blatter not to stand again during a closed-door meeting of Europe's 54 football nations — described by one delegate as "a grilling."

"People link FIFA to corruption and bribery and all kinds of old boys' networks," Van Praag told reporters later.

"FIFA has an executive president and that means you are responsible," the Netherlands federation president said he told Blatter. "People tend not to take you very seriously anymore."

The volatile meeting recalled open conflict between Blatter and European football that flared around his original election in 1998, and again for his re-election in 2002 during a financial scandal after FIFA's then-World Cup marketing agency collapsed into bankruptcy and sparked a kickbacks investigation.

UEFA, with 53 of the 209 FIFA members, has a second chance Wednesday to oppose Blatter. That will come in the public arena of the FIFA Congress floor, when he says he will seek acclaim for his expected re-election run.

Van Praag insisted his was not a personal attack on Blatter and deflected questions on whether he could be proposed by UEFA as a rival candidate.

UEFA members reminded Blatter he promised them in March 2011 that his current four-year term would be his last.

"He said that he changed his mind and every human being is allowed to change his mind," van Praag said.

Blatter arrived at the UEFA session after telling other confederations he had a burning desire to remain in office.

UEFA board members lined up later to list grievances with Blatter, including his handling of the 2022 World Cup bidding contest and subsequent issues with Qatar as host, plus criticism of European media for reporting allegations of corruption implicating FIFA officials.

In meetings with Asian and African delegates on Monday, Blatter suggested racism was a factor in the British media's reporting of the Qatar controversy.

"I said to him, 'I regard the comments you made about the allegations in the British media in which you described them as racist as totally unacceptable,'" Dyke told reporters.

England's delegate on the UEFA board, David Gill, said he thought Blatter should go in 2015.

"Personally, yes, I think we need to move on," said the former Manchester United chief executive, comparing FIFA to the International Olympic Committee, which changed its president after the Salt Lake City bidding scandal.

UEFA President Michel Platini, long seen as Blatter's likely successor, is expected to decide in September if he will challenge his former mentor.

Platini did not meet with reporters Tuesday, though his secretary general, Gianni Infantino, denounced Blatter's description in Sao Paulo this week of a "storm" around world football.

"There is not a storm in football. There is a storm in FIFA and this storm is not new," Infantino said. "It's something which is coming for years and years and years, and every time it's something else."

UEFA honorary president Lennart Johansson, who lost the 1998 FIFA election in a ballot long dogged by allegations of vote-buying by Blatter supporters, said his old rival should go.

"He has done some good things for FIFA," Johansson said, "but he should stick by what he said (in 2011)."

Still, FIFA members outside Europe show little desire to change a system and leadership that have delivered booming revenues.

Blatter told the 11 Oceania countries earlier Tuesday in a different Sao Paulo hotel they could expect bonuses from 2014 World Cup revenues higher than four years ago, when each got $550,000.

Oceania leader and FIFA vice president David Chung promised Blatter full support in the presidential ballot scheduled next May 29.

"Rest assured, the 11 members in this room are the first in line," Chung said.

Knicks hire Derek Fisher as head coach

Derek Fisher was never the best player, certainly not the tallest or quickest.

But whether on the court with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, or across the bargaining table from David Stern and Adam Silver, he never feared taking the shot, speaking his mind, or doing whatever else was expected of a leader.

So he has every attribute the New York Knicks need - except experience as a coach, the job they hired him to do.

"But I am experienced," Fisher said Tuesday. "Basketball is a game that I am experienced in playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group of people achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete, and that's being a champion. That I have experience in, and that's the experience that I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization."

That's what made Phil Jackson turn to one of his most trustworthy former players for his first coaching hire. Just days after finishing his 18th season, the 39-year-old Fisher was tabbed to replace Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired in his first major move as team president.

Fisher won five championships playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and was known for his knack for hitting clutch postseason shots while playing an NBA-record 259 playoff games. But some of his most important work came in the locker room, just as it will now.

"He made some incredible shots in the playoffs, always stepped into the vacuum of leadership, but more than anything else it was the ability of Derek to speak the truth from what the sense of the group was," Jackson said during a press conference at the Knicks' training center in Greenburgh, New York.

The Knicks went 37-45 and missed the playoffs, just a year after winning the Atlantic Division and advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jackson, who declined an original offer to coach the team, was instead hired to run the front office in March and fired Woodson the week after the season ended.

He was seeking someone familiar with the triangle offense and someone with little or no coaching experience that he could teach. The Knicks had nearly closed a deal to hire Steve Kerr, who instead left the TNT broadcast table to take the Golden State Warriors' coaching job.

Jackson then turned his attention to Fisher, even getting fined $25,000 last week when he was too open about his interest in the point guard who was still under contract with the Thunder.

Terms of Fisher's deal were not released, but a person with knowledge of the details said it was worth $25 million over five years - the same length of Jackson's contract and about the same deal Kerr signed with the Warriors.

Fisher won three straight titles from 2000-02 on the Lakers teams led by O'Neal and Bryant, and helped them win again in 2009 and '10. He is respected among players around the league and was the president of the Players Association during the 2011 lockout.

The 6-foot-1 Fisher was still a key contributor for the Thunder this season, helping them reach the Western Conference finals. Fisher, who is tied for third on the career list for 3-pointers in the NBA Finals, said thinking like a coach helped him play so long despite never being the most athletic or talented player.

And now, like Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, he is prepared to make the leap right from the court to the bench without any coaching experience on any level.

They Knicks won titles in 1970 and 1973, when Jackson was a player in the organization, but have had little postseason success in this century. Fisher, dressed sharply in a brown suit and purple shirt, believes he and Jackson can bring winning back to New York.

"We know without a doubt that we can re-establish what that means, what that is," Fisher said.

Fisher said he likes the triangle but would run what was best for the team. Jackson said he would always be available to help.

The Knicks hope the duo can reach a group that admittedly tuned Woodson out at times. And perhaps can help persuade Carmelo Anthony, who can become a free agent in July, to remain in New York.

Fisher, a former first-round pick from Arkansas Little-Rock, will certainly give New York a credibility that only champions can bring.

"That's why I'm here," Fisher said. "That's why I took advantage of this opportunity, to be a part of that process."

Chisenhall's 3 HRs, 9 RBIs lead Tribe past Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Lonnie Chisenhall had nine RBIs and three home runs in a five-hit game, Michael Brantley scored five times and the Cleveland Indians beat the Texas Rangers 17-7 Monday night.

The only other nine-RBI game in Cleveland history was by Chris James in a 20-6 victory for the Indians on May 4, 1991, against Oakland.

Chisenhall had two-run homers in the second and fourth innings before hitting a three-run shot down the right field line in the eighth to give the Indians a 17-6 lead.

The offensive outburst puts Chisenhall in rare company. He is only the fourth major league player since RBIs became a statistic in 1920 to have at least five hits, nine RBIs and three homers in a game, and he is the first since Boston's Fred Lynn did it in 1975, according to the Indians.

The Indians won three straight in the four-game set after coming to the Lone Star State with the worst road record in the majors.

Quick pushes Kings to brink of Stanley Cup

NEW YORK (AP) Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are finishing off the New York Rangers in a big hurry.

The Connecticut native, who grew up a fan of the Rangers and 1994 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Mike Richter, had his best game of the finals by far. He made 32 saves and put the Kings on the cusp of another coronation with a 3-0 victory over New York in Game 3 on Monday night.

Los Angeles escaped with two overtime wins at home and then took complete command inside Madison Square Garden to take a 3-0 series edge.

The Kings took their first lead of the series on Jeff Carter's goal in the final second of the first period and then stretched the edge to three goals in the second - something the Rangers failed to do in California.

New York is facing elimination Wednesday night in Game 4.

While there has been only one comeback from a 3-0 hole in the finals, the Kings erased such a deficit in the first round against San Jose.

Defenseman Jake Muzzin scored a power-play goal in the second period, and Mike Richards pushed the lead to three with a goal off a 2-on-1 in the middle frame.

Henrik Lundqvist was hardly at fault on the goals, and finished with 12 saves.

But Quick was perfect.

He made a brilliant save with his stick blade to deny Derick Brassard with 8:40 left in the second shortly after a Rangers power play. That stop came on the heels of Brassard having two chances during the advantage off a rebound of Brad Richards' shot. Brassard's first attempt was blocked, and the second was stopped by Quick.

The Kings goalie was also on his toes just 8 seconds into the third period when Chris Kreider came in alone but was stopped in tight.

That eliminated the little hope the sold-out, towel-waving crowd had of a big comeback.

Los Angeles took its first in-game lead in the series when Carter scored with 10th of the playoffs on Los Angeles' fifth shot. Carter came in and snapped a hard drive that clipped the skate of diving defenseman Dan Girardi in front of Lundqvist and caromed inside the right post with 0.7 seconds on the clock.

The red and green lights behind Lundqvist both flashed at the same time while the Kings celebrated. At no point did Los Angeles hold the lead at home in the first two games until they ended each contest with an overtime goal.

Donald Sterling says no deal; suit is on

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has pulled his support from a deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and will pursue his $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA, his attorney said Monday.

"We have been instructed to prosecute the lawsuit," said attorney Maxwell Blecher. He said co-owner Donald Sterling would not be signing off on the deal to sell.

Donald Sterling issued a one-page statement dated Monday titled "The Team is not for Sale" and said that "from the onset, I did not want to sell the Los Angeles Clippers."

The $2 billion sale was negotiated by his wife Shelly Sterling after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were publicized and the NBA moved to oust him as owner.

The lawsuit alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.

"I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights," Donald Sterling said. "While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled. I love the team and have dedicated 33 years of my life to the organization. I intend to fight to keep the team."

Donald Sterling had agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming "all their differences had been resolved," his attorneys said. But individuals close to the negotiations who weren't authorized to speak publicly said he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won't revoke its lifetime ban and fine.

"There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling's penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.

Shelly Sterling and her attorney Pierce O'Donnell declined to comment through representatives.

Shelly Sterling utilized her authority as sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers, to take bids for the team and ultimately negotiate a deal with Ballmer. The deal would be record-breaking if approved by the NBA's owners.

An individual familiar with the negotiations who wasn't authorized to speak publicly said Monday that there were two options for Donald Sterling - to either sign or go to court. But even if he wins in court, he's ultimately winning a judgment against himself because his wife Shelly Sterling has agreed to indemnify the NBA against all lawsuits, including by her husband, the individual said.

Donald Sterling's comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in a storm of outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling's "incredibly offensive racist statements."

Donald Sterling said in his statement that he was "extremely sorry for the hurtful statements" he made privately but said them out of anger and jealousy and didn't intend for them to be public.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ultimately decided to ban Donald Sterling for life, fine him millions, and began efforts to force Sterling to sell the team. Those efforts ended with Shelly Sterling's deal with Ballmer.

If this deal ultimately goes through, its terms allow Shelly Sterling to remain close to the organization by allowing for up to 10 percent of the team - or $200 million - to be spun off into a charitable foundation that she would essentially run.

Shelly Sterling and Ballmer would be co-chairs of the foundation, which would target underprivileged families, battered women, minorities and inner city youths.

Under the deal Shelly Sterling would also get the title of "owner emeritus" and be entitled to continuing perks such as floor seats, additional seats at games and parking.

One of the individuals said the deal also includes conditions that allow Ballmer to buy back the 10 percent portion of the team for a pre-designated price upon Shelly Sterling's death.

Report: Derek Fisher agrees to coach the Knicks

Derek Fisher has agreed to become the next coach of the New York Knicks and will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday morning, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

The Knicks did not confirm the hiring, other than saying they were planning a "major announcement."

The person who confirmed the deal to AP spoke on condition of anonymity because neither side authorized the public disclosure of any information related to the deal.

The 39-year-old Fisher just completed his 18th season, finishing his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played under Knicks President Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers, and helped that franchise win five NBA titles.

Fisher would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer, though it was widely known that this season would be his last as a player. And once the Knicks failed to close a deal with Steve Kerr - who wound up accepting an offer from Golden State - Fisher was believed to be the next target on Jackson's list.

Jackson was fined $25,000 for the league last week for a tampering violation involving Fisher. He was still under contract with the Thunder when Jackson told New York reporters that Fisher was "on my list of guys that could be very good candidates" to replace Mike Woodson on the Knicks' sideline.

Fisher surely could still play. He has just suspected for a while that his time has come to do something else.

"Coaching allows for you to positively impact other people's lives," Fisher told reporters during his exit interview after Oklahoma City's season ended. "To help a group of people find success, whether they have or haven't before, you're all working together for a common goal."

Fisher's hiring means that next season, both teams in New York will have former point guards barely removed from playing days at the helms.

It worked for the Brooklyn Nets, who made the Eastern Conference semifinals this season with first-year coach Jason Kidd, and now the Knicks will hope that Fisher can have the same success.

His hiring is the first significant step in what's expected to be a broad makeover of the team by Jackson, who was hired late in the regular season to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that has won just one playoff series in the past 14 years.

Over that 14-year span, the Knicks have won a mere 10 playoff games. Fisher played in 134 playoff wins during that stretch.

NCAA reaches $20M settlement of video game claims

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Sam Keller and his teammates used to eagerly await the annual release of the NCAA Football video game, the popular EA Sports product featuring lifelike depictions of every major team.

Judging the ability of his on-screen persona in the game was all in good fun, but once Keller's career was finished the former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback felt something wasn't right. The pros collected royalties from EA's Madden NFL game, for example, but the collegians couldn't.

"It's a great game, but it was flawed," Keller said. "It was wrong."

The NCAA announced Monday that it will pay $20 million to former football and basketball players who had their images and likenesses used in video games, hoping the settlement will help keep amateurism rules intact for college sports.

Hours before the O'Bannon trial began in California challenging the NCAA's the authority to restrict or prohibit payments to athletes, the largest governing body in college sports said it had settled another potentially damaging lawsuit scheduled to go to trial next March. Keller's attorneys filed the class-action suit in May 2009 and contended the NCAA unfairly deprived college players of revenue.

"It wasn't until after I was done playing football that the light turned on in my head about what was really going on. When you're a student athlete you kind of become like a robot," Keller said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He added: "Friends would share with me, `Hey bro, I won the Heisman Trophy with you.' ... Meanwhile, we couldn't sell a jersey or do autographs or anything to profit from our likeness. It was all big corporations."

The deal came a little more than a week after Electronic Arts agreed to a $40 million settlement of similar allegations.

The $60 million worth of settlements cover claims made in the Keller and O'Bannon cases against EA, along with two other cases, attorney for the plaintiffs Steve Berman said. The agreement announced Monday covers Division I men's basketball and Bowl Subdivision football players whose images, likenesses or names were included in game footage or in an EA video game after 2005. The $40 million settlement covers athletes to 2003, even if they were not in the video games.

Final details were still being worked out. How much each player gets will be determined by how many athletes file claims. Based on historical trends, Berman said, payments to Division I men's basketball and Bowl Subdivision football players are expected to range from $400 to $2,000 each.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in the Northern District of California must approve the settlement.

Last July, the NCAA said it would no longer allow Electronic Arts Inc. of Redwood City, California, to use its logo once the current contract expired this month. That ended a lucrative business deal with the multibillion-dollar video game industry giant, which is well known for Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer and other games. EA Sports first began making an NCAA Football game in 1998.

Berman estimated that more than 100,000 athletes are now eligible to seek compensation over EA video games they contend relied on close depictions of college football and basketball players.

"With the games no longer in production and the plaintiffs settling their claims with EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA viewed a settlement now as an appropriate opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs," NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said.

The NCAA said current players who receive part of the settlement won't be at risk of punishment under rules that generally bar compensation for their athletic skills.

"In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance," Remy said.

With the NCAA increasingly becoming embroiled in legal cases, the playing field has changed.

CBS and Turner are paying the NCAA an average of more than $770 million per year to televise the men's basketball tournament, some schools are making millions more per year from deals made between television networks and conferences, and the new College Football Playoff will be putting another $7.2 billion over 12 years into the coffers of schools that play big-time college football. So when others profited from the video games, college athletes went to court to get a bigger piece of the pie.

Ed O'Bannon, the former UCLA basketball player, and other plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken for an injunction that would allow athletes to sell the rights to their own images in television broadcasts and rebroadcasts. That trial began Monday in federal court in California.

While the long-term ramifications from the settlement in the Keller case are yet to be determined, the short-term implication is clear.

"Going forward, I think people will be on notice that if they are going to use players likenesses, they will have to pay for them," Berman said.

Pinehurst anything but 'pristine' for this US Open

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) Pinehurst No. 2 is anything but perfect for the U.S. Open, at least in the traditional sense of major championships in America.

USGA executive director Mike Davis could not be any more thrilled.

"It's awesome," Davis said Monday as he gazed out at a golf course that looks like a yard that hasn't been watered in a month.

Sandy areas have replaced thick rough off the fairways. They are partially covered with that Pinehurst Resort officials refer to as "natural vegetation," but what most anyone else would simply call weeds.

The edges of the bunkers are ragged. The turf is uneven just off some of the greens, with patches of no grass.

Instead of verdant fairways from tee-to-green, the fairways are a blend of green, yellow and brown.

That was the plan all along.

Shortly after this Donald Ross gem was awarded its third U.S. Open in 15 years, the fabled No. 2 course went through a gutsy project to restore it to its natural look from yesteryear, before this notion that the condition of a course had to be perfect.

Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was amazed when he walked off the 18th green.

"I wouldn't call this an inland links, but it's got that character," he said. "I was a bit nervous when I heard of the redo. But this looks like it's been here for a long time."

Els has been playing the U.S. Open for two decades. He never imagined the "toughest test in golf" without any rough. Nor does he think that will make it easier.

"You don't need it," he said. "When I played it in `99, I didn't like it. You hit it in the rough, you're just trying to get it out. It was one-dimensional. Now, you're going to have an unbelievable championship.

"If you miss the fairway, you're not just going to wedge it out. You've got a chance to hit a miraculous shot. And then you could really be (in trouble). This is the way it used to be."

Els said the look of Pinehurst No. 2 reminded him of Royal Melbourne, and a guy who actually grew up next to Royal Melbourne agreed.

"These are Melbourne fairways," Geoff Ogilvy said as he walked down the first fairway, where the grass was green for the first 200 yards before turning brown, and then going back to greener grass toward the green.

"This is kind of the way grass is supposed to be. In the summer it browns up, and in the winter it's green. To my eye, this is what golf courses are supposed to look like."

Ogilvy understand architecture better than most players. He was looking at photos as Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw worked on the restoration. He had heard stories. And it still managed to exceed his expectations.

As for the idea of a U.S. Open without rough? He pointed to clumps of grass in the sandy areas, and some of the wiregrass bushes. And yes, the weeds.

"Look, the reality is there is rough there," he said. "It's probably what rough used to be like before we had crazy irrigation."

The past two U.S. Open champions finished over par - Webb Simpson at Olympic Club, Justin Rose at Merion, both at 1-over. A third straight U.S. Open champion over par would be the longest streak in nearly 60 years.

Not many were willing to bet against that.

"I've never played anything like it," Jordan Spieth said. "And it's already - right now, with the pins in the middle of the greens - hard enough for even par to win. It's going to be extremely challenging. But at the same time, it's a great test."

More than a great test, Davis is hopeful it sends a great message.

The USGA has been preaching in recent years to get away from the idea that golf courses have to be perfectly manicured to be great.

Pinehurst No. 2, and perhaps Chambers Bay next year outside Seattle, allows a chance to show the golfing public what it means.

The restoration project involved removing some 35 acres of sod and keeping only 450 of the 1,150 sprinkler heads. Water use is down an estimated 40 percent.

"It's look back in the past, but it's really looking forward to the future," Davis said. "Owners, operators and superintendents won't give you this until the golfers think it's OK.

"At private clubs, unless the greens committee says, `This is what we want,' the superintendent won't do it. It's people thinking, `This looks fine."'

Pinehurst No. 2 effectively presents the opposite perception of Augusta National. For years, superintendents have complained that too many courses wanted to be just like the home of the Masters in the quality - near perfection - of the conditions.

"Hopefully, this sets a precedent," Ogilvy said. "If Augusta has been the model everyone followed, hopefully this shows that it doesn't have to be that way to be great."

Obama celebrates UConn's winning basketball teams

WASHINGTON (AP) It was double the celebration at the White House for the University of Connecticut.

President Barack Obama welcomed the school's men's and women's basketball teams Monday for an event marking their NCAA championships. It's only the second time a school has won both titles in the same year.

The only other time that happened? 2004, when UConn also earned both titles.

Obama joked that while he's trying to cut duplicative programs, UConn might be carrying things too far.

The president said that while he picked the long-dominant women's team to win in his NCAA tournament bracket, he didn't pick the underdog men's team. But he joked that "neither did anybody else."

Miami G Dwyane Wade fined $5,000 for flopping

MIAMI (AP) The flop is having an impact on the playoffs, and it's being caught much more than it was in the regular season.

Miami guard Dwyane Wade became the latest recipient of a postseason flopping fine Monday when the NBA ordered him to give up $5,000 after a review showed he over-exaggerated a foul during Game 2 of the finals that was charged to San Antonio's Manu Ginobili.

And there's an ironic twist - Ginobili is often considered a master flopper, but he wasn't even warned once about it this season.

"He took a swipe and he hit me," Wade said Monday, before the fine was announced. "It was a late call by the ref, but he called it."

The league saw it a little differently.

It was the fifth flopping violation of the playoffs, which works out to one in every 17.2 games. The NBA said 35 flops were caught in the regular season, or one in every 35.1 games. Players are not fined in the regular season until their second flop of the year; in the playoffs, every flop is a fine.

"Flopping," Miami guard Shane Battier once said, "is a silent killer."

Well, unless it works.

Wade drew the foul against Ginobili with 4:09 left in the second quarter on Sunday night. Ginobili, who took a big swipe at the ball about 35 feet from the basket, wound up going to the bench with his third foul of the half. Wade went to the line and made the two resulting free throws, since Miami was already in the bonus.

The Heat wound up winning by two points.

"I saw Manu coming out of the corner of my eye to try to steal it so my only thing was to make sure that he didn't steal it," Wade said. "He swiped and he wound up hitting me and the ref called a foul. We move on."

The Heat-Spurs matchup is tied 1-1, with Game 3 in Miami on Tuesday night.

Some of the flops in the playoffs have been almost circuslike acting jobs, including a pair by Indiana guard Lance Stephenson - the official leaguewide leader in flopping this season with two violations in the regular season and two more in the postseason. He's had to pay $20,000 for those flops, or basically about 2 percent of his season's salary.

For Wade, who's made nearly $19 million in salary this season, the $5,000 was mere pocket change. And situations like that were pointed out last year by now-retired NBA Commissioner David Stern, who said the small fine "isn't enough. You're not going to cause somebody to stop it for $5,000 when the average player's salary is $5.5 million."

Stern added then that anyone who thought the fine would stop the flop is allowing "hope to prevail over reason." So it would be no surprise if tougher flopping penalties were at least discussed when the NBA's competition committee when that group meets this summer.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he's not surprised that the rate goes up in the playoffs, saying Monday that it could be as simple a reason as "more people in the league office watching each possession."

Besides Stephenson and Wade, the other postseason flop fines have been assessed to Indiana's Roy Hibbert and the Spurs' Tiago Splitter. All of those flops were cited in the conference-final round or later.

Indiana's season ended with a third straight playoff loss to the Heat. And not surprisingly, it wouldn't seem like the Pacers are rooting for their conference member this time of year - a media relations official from East finalists tweeted shortly after the Wade-Ginobili play Sunday that the Heat guard deserved a flopping fine and even made what seemed like a lighthearted plea to the league:

"C'mon NBA, do it for Lance."

O'Bannon takes stand in landmark NCAA lawsuit

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The battle to give top football and basketball players a cut of the billions of dollars flowing into college athletics began in earnest with former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon taking the stand in federal court to describe how he spent long hours working on his game and as few as possible on his grades.

The lead plaintiff in a landmark antitrust suit against the NCAA said his goal at UCLA wasn't to get a degree, but to get two years of college experience before being drafted into the NBA.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said Monday. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

O'Bannon portrayed himself as a dedicated athlete who would stay after games to work on his shot if he played poorly, but an indifferent student at best. His job at UCLA, he said, was to play basketball and took up so much time that just making it to class a few hours a day was difficult.

O'Bannon, who led UCLA to a national championship in 1995, said he spent 40 to 45 hours a week either preparing for games or playing them, and only about 12 hours a week on his studies. He changed his major from communications to U.S. history after an academic adviser suggested it would be the easiest fit for his basketball schedule.

"There were classes I took that were not easy classes but they fit my basketball schedule so I could make it to basketball practice," O'Bannon said.

The testimony came as a trial that could upend the way college sports are regulated opened, five years after the suit was filed. O'Bannon and 19 other plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken for an injunction that would allow athletes to sell the rights to their own images in television broadcasts and rebroadcasts.

If successful, the plaintiffs in the class-action case - who are not asking for individual damages - could pave the way for a system that uses some of the huge money flowing into television contracts to pay athletes for their play once they are done with their college careers.

Also on the stand Monday was a Stanford economics and antitrust expert, who testified the NCAA acts as a cartel by fixing the price of scholarships for athletes and not allowing them to make any more money by prohibiting them from selling their names, images or likenesses (NILs) either as individuals or groups. Roger Noll said every expert opinion he's seen over the last 30 years agrees the NCAA violates antitrust laws by paying nothing for the rights and imposing rules that would punish athletes for trying to profit from their NILs.

"Every single one of them reaches the same conclusion," Noll said. "The source of its market power is rules and restrictions regarding benefits that can be provided to student-athletes combined with rewards and punishments it can offer for being able to participate in NCAA sports. It's called a cartel."

Noll also said that football and basketball athletes in the class-action suit were harmed by not being able to sell their NILs and that the harm was equal to the amount the NCAA received for them in videogames and television broadcasts and what they actually received - which was nothing.

Even as the trial began, the NCAA announced it had reached a $20 million settlement in a related case involving videogames that used the likeness and images of players without getting their permission. NCAA attorney Donald Remy acknowledged that the settlement in a suit brought by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller will result in some current players getting money but doesn't change the NCAA's strong belief that the collegiate athletic model is lawful.

"Consistent with the terms of a court-approved settlement, the NCAA will allow a blanket eligibility waiver for any currently enrolled student-athletes who receive funds connected with the settlement," Remy said. "In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance."

O'Bannon, who joined the lawsuit that carries his name after seeing his image used in a NCAA-branded videogame, said he signed a letter of intent that he never read as a 17-year-old eager to display his skills at UCLA. He ended up spending five years at the school, but was seven courses short of graduating when he was drafted into the NBA.

He spent two years in the NBA and another seven playing professionally in Europe. He now lives in a Las Vegas suburb, where he makes his living selling cars.

O'Bannon acknowledged getting benefits from his time at UCLA, including a free education and room and board. He ended up staying five years instead of two, met his wife at school, and enjoyed his relationship with coach Jim Harrick.

He's proud that his No. 31 was retired and is hanging in the rafters at Pauley Pavilion and of being the MVP in the national title game in 1995. He also cherished his time around the late John Wooden, the legendary longtime UCLA coach.

"Everyone who came in contact with (Wooden) loved him," O'Bannon said. "I was envious personally that I was born a little bit too late. I wished I could have played for him, he's that kind of man."

But under cross examination, O'Bannon said he believed athletes should share in some of the money that schools are making off their efforts on the court and field.

"If they are generating revenue for their school, I believe they should be compensated at some point," said O'Bannon, who also agreed with the suggestion that Little Leaguers should be paid because their games are sold on national television and they're generating revenue.

Argentina could prove foil for World Cup host Brazil

South America has hosted four World Cups and South American nations have won every time.

The 2014 World Cup kicks off this week with host nation Brazil listed as a 3/1 favorite to win its sixth title.

It has been 12 years since Brazil last captured a World Cup championship, but playing on home turf gives the squad an edge.

Despite their strong position entering the tournament, there is no shortage of national sides capable of spoiling the party for Brazil, which opens Thursday as a huge favorite against Croatia.

Argentina follows Brazil on the list of favorites with World Cup 2014 odds of 4/1. A favorable draw likely means that Argentina will have little difficulty advancing to a round of 16 matchup, possibly with either France or Switzerland.

The Argentines won the World Cup as hosts 1978 and Uruguay did the same in 1930. Brazil won in 1962 when Chile hosted the event and Uruguay won in Brazil in 1950. Colombia and Chile also boast long-shot potential to come through with home-continent advantage.

Argentina will also enjoy the benefit of partisan crowds at their matches, at least in the early going of the tournament.

At 11/2, Germany is the European squad with the best odds to win the 2014 World Cup. Their list of likely opponents in the round of 16 includes Belgium and Russia, squads that Die Mannschaft have dominated historically.

But first, Germany must compete in a tough Group G alongside Portugal, the United States and Ghana. While 5/9 to win their group, some of the toughest competition Germany will face at the 2014 World Cup will be in group stage matches.

They are the top betting choice to be the top European team in the tournament.

The 2010 World Cup champions and reigning two-time European champions are also in the mix of favorites in World Cup futures wagering. Spain, the No. 1 nation in the world according to FIFA’s rankings, sits at an intriguing 6/1 to repeat as World Cup champs.

Their credentials would normally result in shorter odds, but 6/1 Spain faces a difficult road to the World Cup final. They must first get past rival Netherlands, whom they defeated in 2010, as well as Chile, a dangerous squad on South American turf, to advance to the knockout stage.

The United States’ odds have also been impacted by a difficult draw. It will be considered a major upset if the Americans, 100/1 in World Cup futures betting, are able to advance out of Group G, since it would mean an early exit for either Germany or Portugal.

Odds are currently 2/7 that America’s World Cup dream ends in the group stage. But they did enjoy a victory on the weekend over Nigeria, with Jozy Altidore breaking a slump with two goals.

Mexico has also received no benefit from their group stage draw. Joining Brazil in Group A, Mexico will likely battle Croatia for second place and a spot in the round of 16. Mexico currently is 125/1 in World Cup futures betting and a 9/1 longshot to win Group A.

World Cup 2014 Odds (updated June 8 at Odds Shark)

Brazil 3/1

Argentina 4/1

Germany 11/2

Spain 6/1

Belgium 18/1

England 22/1

Italy 22/1

France 25/1

Netherlands 25/1

Portugal 25/1

Uruguay 25/1

Colombia 33/1

Chile 40/1

Russia 100/1

USA 100/1

Ivory Coast 125/1

Mexico 125/1

Switzerland 125/1

Bosnia-Herzegovina 150/1

Croatia 150/1

Ecuador 150/1

Japan 150/1

Ghana 200/1

Greece 200/1

Nigeria 250/1

South Korea 300/1

Australia 500/1

Cameroon 500/1

Algeria 1000/1

Costa Rica 1000/1

Honduras 1500/1

Iran 1500/1


Brazil has best odds to advance from Group A

The 2014 World Cup opens on Thursday with host nation Brazil pegged as 3/1 favorites to win a record sixth World Cup title and heavy 1/5 favorites to finish atop Group A.

Brazil are followed in Group A betting by Croatia at 8/1, Mexico at 9/1 and Cameroon at 25/1. Croatia and Mexico are neck-and-neck in props betting on which squads will advance to the round of 16. Croatia are an EVEN money bet to advance, while Mexico are 5/4.

Defending champions Spain are a 2/3 favorite to finish on top in Group B, but must first face a pair of tough opponents including the Netherlands, the squad that Spain defeated to win the 2010 title.

The Netherlands have odds of 3/1 in Group B betting, followed by Chile at 15/4 and longshot Australia at 66/1.

Leading the way in Group C with 20/21 odds is Colombia, who slipped three positions this month to No. 8 in FIFA’s world rankings. They are followed at 3/1 by Ivory Coast, who are also favored to be the top African squad at the World Cup.

Japan has odds of 4/1, while Greece, No. 12 in FIFA’s World Ranking, sit at a disappointing 7/1.

Group D is possibly the toughest group to pick and the odds reflect this parity. Italy are an 8/5 favorite, followed by Uruguay at 9/5.  England, seeking their first World Cup title since 1966, have odds of 9/4, while Costa Rica trails the pack at 50/1.

Top spot is also up for grabs in Group E, where France are a 4/5 favorite. The French are seeking to make up for a terrible performance in 2010, but face a real threat from Switzerland, who sport 5/2 odds. Ecuador is not far off at 4/1, while Honduras are the Group E underdogs at 28/1.

Argentina is a heavy 1/5 favorite to finish first in Group F. The next best bet are World Cup debutantes Bosnia and Herzegovina at 6/1, followed by Nigeria at 10/1 and tournament longshot Iran, who trail at 40/1.

Considered to be this World Cup’s group of death, Group G features three-time champion Germany, 2/3 favorites to finish atop Group G, followed by perennial underachiever Portugal at 5/2. Ghana and the USA both trail at 9/1.

Belgium, whose youth movement has been paying immediate dividends, is a heavy 4/7 favorite to lead Group H. Russia sits at 12/5, followed by South Korea at 7/1. Algeria, who will be hard pressed to record any points in group stage action, sit at 22/1.

Odds to Win 2014 World Cup Groups as of June 8 (aggregated by Odds Shark):

Group A Winner Odds
Brazil -500
Croatia +800
Mexico +900
Cameroon +2500

Group B Winner Odds
Spain -150
Netherlands +300
Chile +375
Australia +6600

Group C Winner Odds
Colombia -105
Ivory Coast +300
Japan +400
Greece +700

Group D Winner Odds
Italy +160
Uruguay +180
England +225
Costa Rica +5000

Group E Winner Odds
France -125
Switzerland +250
Ecuador +400
Honduras +2800

Group F Winner Odds
Argentina -500
Bosnia-Herzegovina +600
Nigeria +1000
Iran +4000

Group G Winner Odds
Germany -150
Portugal +250
Ghana +900
USA +900

Group H Winner Odds
Belgium -175
Russia +240
South Korea +700
Algeria +2200

Slumping Rays turn to Seminole medicine man

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The slumping Tampa Bay Rays have turned to a Seminole medicine man to change their fortunes.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon invited tribal elder Bobby Henry to Tropicana Field on Monday in an attempt to help his team, which has the worst record in the majors.

"We just turned him loose on the Trop," Maddon said.

The Rays had lost 12 of 13 entering Monday's game against Seattle.

Henry walked around the ballpark and said the Rays are ready "to go get it."

Maddon has tried a variety of things over the years to liven up his team. He's brought a python, penguins and a magician into the clubhouse in the past.

California Chrome owner apologizes for rants after Belmont

NEW YORK -- California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn apologized Monday for his bitter remarks after his horse failed to win the Triple Crown.

Coburn said on ABC's "Good Morning America" he was "very ashamed of myself. Very ashamed. I need to apologize to a lot of people, including my wife, Carolyn."

She tried to intervene as Saturday's interview got out of control, explaining that her husband was "very emotional and I was trying to calm him down."

MORE: Triple Crown unfair, impossible -- but that's why we watch

Coburn also apologized to the connections of winning horse Tonalist, saying: "I did not mean to take anything away from them."

On Saturday, he had said that Tonalist took "the coward's way out" by skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Sunday, he doubled down by pointing out that "it wouldn't be fair if I played basketball with a child in a wheelchair because I got an unfair advantage."

By Monday though, he tried to make amends. Coburn's lower lip quivered at times during the interview in which he apologized to co-owner Perry Martin and trainer Art Sherman, among others.

WATCH: Tonalist upsets California Chrome in Belmont

"I need to apologize to the world and America, our fans that have written us, given us so much support. I apologize, I sincerely apologize," Coburn said. "This is America's horse. I wanted this so much, for this horse to win the Triple Crown for the people of America."

If the Belmont had only been open to horses than ran in the Derby and Preakness, there would have been just three horses in Saturday's race, making it unlikely the third-largest crowd of 102,199 would have shown up or that a record $19,105,877 would have been wagered on-track.

California Chrome, General a Rod and Ride On Curlin were the only horses to run in all three. General a Rod finished seventh in the Belmont and Ride On Curlin did not finish.

MORE: Espinoza again handed Triple Crown disappointment

California Chrome beat them both, but finished tied for fourth, possibly as a result of a cut foot that he apparently sustained after bumping another horse leaving the starting gate.

"He'll be able to race again," Coburn said.

A 9-second stretch looms large, Spurs lose 98-96

SAN ANTONIO (AP) A couple missed free throws cost the San Antonio Spurs last season's NBA title.

A few more misses - by their two best players - probably cost them a chance for a 2-0 lead in this year's finals as well.

Tony Parker scored 21 points and Tim Duncan added 18, but they went 0 for 4 from the foul line in a critical nine-second stretch of the fourth quarter, and those points loomed very large at night's end.

Final score: Miami 98, San Antonio 96.

"We can't miss four free throws in a row," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lamented when it was over.

The Spurs finished 12 for 20 from the foul line, their third-worst showing from the stripe in 53 home games this season. That, and a whole lot of LeBron James, was simply too much to overcome.

James scored 35 points, Chris Bosh added 18 and the Heat would be flying back to South Florida with what they wanted - a split. Now home-court edge is theirs, meaning if they win three home games, a third straight NBA title will belong to Miami.

"It was a tough one," the Spurs' Manu Ginobili, who scored 19 points, said of the 0-for-4 stretch from the line. "I think we were up two. We've got a stop ... the opportunity to score four points when we get to the line and we missed all four. Yeah, that hurts. We were pretty poor from the line, 12 for 20. And in a game that is so close, that always helps."

Game 3 is Tuesday.

There were many factors why Miami won, like a video-game-level third quarter from James, a pivotal late 3-pointer from Bosh, a 14-point effort from Rashard Lewis and some outstanding interior defense down the stretch by Chris Andersen.

And for the 13th straight time, the Heat immediately followed a postseason loss with a victory.

"You have to play through doubt, which is a powerful thing," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You have to play through when it's going your way and you have to keep an even keel while somehow keeping a ferocity to your play. But the mental toughness starts two days ago of having to go through the film and trying to own what we could do better."

The Spurs seemed like they were threatening to run away from the Heat early. James and Dwyane Wade were both slow to get going offensively, San Antonio had an 11-point first-half lead and the AT&T Center was roaring.

But the Heat clawed back into a 43-all tie by halftime, and the second half was back-and-forth - with the last swing going Miami's way.

The Spurs had some costly foul-line misses by Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard in Game 6 against Miami last season, part of a wild Heat comeback from five points down in the final 28.2 seconds to force overtime and a deciding seventh game.

This stretch wasn't as dramatic, but just as costly.

Even though games are often remembered by one play - Ray Allen's 3-pointer that tied Game 6 of last year's finals with 5.2 seconds left in regulation being a prime example - coaches routinely say that winning or losing hardly ever comes down to a singular moment.

But when the Spurs look back on Game 2, it'll be that nine-second stretch that they regret most.

Miami guard Mario Chalmers was driving with 6:43 left when he elbowed Parker in the midsection, getting called for a Flagrant-1 foul. But Parker missed both free throws, and after Duncan was fouled nine seconds later he missed another pair from the line.

"It definitely affected me," Parker said of the pain from the Chalmers elbow, which left him writhing on the court for a few moments. "But I'm a little bit frustrated. Should have made them."

Nine seconds, four free throws, two Spurs leaders, zero points.

"It was a toughie," Ginobili said.

It wound up getting tougher a few seconds later.

On the ensuing Miami possession, James made a 3-pointer from the left wing, and the Heat had an 88-87 lead. Back and forth the teams went, but in the end, just like last season, the Heat simply found a way.

Just like that, San Antonio's run of eight straight home playoff wins - all by 15 or more points - was over.

And so was the Spurs' chances of boarding a plane on Monday halfway to a fifth NBA title.

"We will try to do better," Parker said.

Silver: NBA's fight with Sterling almost over

SAN ANTONIO -- Donald Sterling hasn't quite given up the fight, but Adam Silver thinks the time is coming.

"While I understand his frustration, I think it's over," Silver said Sunday.

The NBA commissioner said Sterling still hasn't signed off on the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, or agreed to drop his lawsuit against Silver or the NBA. But Silver believes he ultimately will, because Shelly Sterling's agreement with the league covers the NBA's legal responsibilities in case of a suit.

"So in essence, Donald is suing himself and he knows that," Silver said.

Silver also said before Game 2 of the NBA Finals that there is "absolutely no possibility" of rescinding the lifetime ban or $2.5 million fine he handed down to Sterling following his racist remarks.

Silver said he spoke with Sterling shortly after delivering his punishments and found him to be "distraught" but "not remorseful at that time."

Sterling's attorneys had eventually indicated to the league that he would drop his fight and work with his estranged wife to finish off the record $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Sterling may be changing his mind now, but Silver doesn't seem concerned.

"I think it's just a matter of time now, and then we will move on to better topics and back to the finals," Silver said.

The dominant topic at the finals thus far has been the air conditioning failure in Game 1. Temperatures in the arena rose to about 90 degrees in the second half, and Heat star LeBron James left the game with about 4 minutes left after battling cramps.

Silver said he is satisfied the problem has been fixed and that the situation was handled as best as possible after the circuit breaker failed just before the game, leaving no time for repair.

""In hindsight it wasn't handled perfectly, but they'd never been confronted with that issue before," said Silver, who was at the game and communicating with league and arena officials.

"I would say that it's certainly not one of my prouder moments in my short tenure as commissioner so far, but it's the nature of this game. There always are going to be human and mechanical errors and it's unfortunate."

With the Sterling situation, and the rocky first finals game of his tenure, Silver has had some difficult moments during his first four months on the job. He replaced David Stern on Feb. 1, and both men have said they proud of the way the transition was handled.

Silver was designated as Stern's successor in October 2012, when Stern announced his plans to retire as commissioner. But Silver had already been taking on more responsibilities by then, serving as the league's lead negotiator during the lockout in 2011, and Stern repeatedly said he was confident Silver was the man to take the NBA to new heights.

But Silver probably couldn't have imagined some of the things he would face so soon.

"It's the early days. I've done the best I could," Silver said.

He has been widely praised for his response to Sterling's remarks, though said Sunday in hindsight he wishes perhaps the NBA could have done more sooner after previous allegations of racist behavior by Sterling.

However, something is being done now.

"I take very seriously the fact that he has a pending lawsuit against the league. So I want to make sure that's resolved before we say this is behind us, but I have absolute confidence it will be," Silver said.

Twins sign free-agent 1B-DH Kendrys Morales

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After three consecutive years of 90-plus losses, Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan is hoping a rare in-season, free-agent signing will keep his team in contention the rest of the summer.

Minnesota signed first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a one-year, prorated, $12 million contract on Sunday. The Cuban-born slugger, who hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs in 156 games with the Seattle Mariners last season, has been in Miami working out while waiting to sign.

"Why not the Twins?" Ryan asked during a press conference announcing the signing. "I read there were probably a handful of clubs that were chasing Kendrys. We were ahead of many of those clubs in the standings."

The Twins have lost 291 games the last three seasons, but are 29-31 this year, five games back in the AL Central and 2 1/2 back in the wild card standings.

Morales, who turns 31 on June 20, had been unsigned because teams were hesitant to surrender a compensatory first-round pick to sign him. Since the Twins signed him after the MLB draft, they do not have to give up a coveted pick.

The prorated portion of Morales' contract will total slightly more than $7.4 million.

"It just made sense," said Ryan, who is back in the GM chair after stepping away during spring training to battle skin cancer.

For Morales, the deal gives him an opportunity to provide some power to an inconsistent Twins offense in desperate need of a full-time designated hitter.

"It wasn't easy for a baseball player to watch baseball games when he knows he can play," Morales said through an interpreter. "But you have to be mentally tough and be prepared so when this opportunity does come around, you're ready to do what you gotta do."

In 620 career games, Morales has 102 home runs and 345 RBIs. He also missed 1 1/2 years after breaking his leg celebrating a game-ending home run on May 29, 2010, when he was with the Los Angeles Angels.

Since Morales is out of options and not injured, the Twins can't send him to the minors to shake off the rust from missing the season's first 60 games. He'll work out with the team and take the field when he's ready.

"It's a day to day thing, I'll be working out and talking to (manager Ron Gardenhire) and the coaching staff," Morales said. "When I'm ready, I'll be in there. We just want to do it the right way."

Morales greeted his new teammates in the clubhouse before Sunday's game against the Houston Astros and spent some time with Tony Oliva, Minnesota's most famous Cuban-born player.

Since the Twins aren't known for making splashy moves, especially during the season, players viewed the signing as a signal from management that they're serious about contending.

"It's a good signing. A lot of us are real excited right now," Joe Mauer said. "It tells you how close this division is and us adding is definitely a great thing."

To make room on the 25-man roster, Minnesota released Jason Kubel, who appeared in 798 games over parts of eight seasons with the Twins. He was hitting .224 this year, but just .158 since April.

Nadal wins 9th French Open, tops Djokovic in final

PARIS (AP) Rafael Nadal won the French Open title for the ninth time, and the fifth time in a row, by beating Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 Sunday in the final.

Nadal improved his record at Roland Garros to 66-1, and stretched his winning streak at the clay-court major to 35 straight.

But it didn't look too good at the start for the top-seeded Spaniard. Djokovic won the first set and looked to be in control of nearly every point. The combination of Nadal finding his range and the heat, however, started to take its toll on the second-seeded Serb.

Both players used ice-filled towels to cool themselves during changeovers, but Djokovic also looked like he vomited a bit as he was heading for the first changeover in the fourth set.