Sharapova suffers shock defeat
British teenager Heather Watson’s impressive run at the Auckland Classic comes to an end with defeat by Shuai Peng in the last eight.
Beavers WR Rodgers gets medical hardship (AP)
Oregon State flanker James Rodgers has been granted a medical hardship for this past season, meaning he can return for 2011. Rodgers, a senior, played in four of the team’s first five games before he suffered a left knee injury that required surgery. A team captain, Rodgers was averaging 176.8 all-purpose yards per game when he was injured, ranking him sixth in the nation.
Houllier position safe at Villa
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier will be given time to turn around the fortunes of the struggling Premier League club, BBC Sport understands.
Bryan brothers win Olympic gold at Wimbledon (Yahoo! Sports)
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan won Olympic gold in men’s doubles on Saturday, beating Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-4, 7-6 (2). The American twin brothers, who have won 11 Grand Slam doubles titles, won a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008. First-time Olympians Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau of France won the bronze medal by beating David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Bolelli beats 2nd-seeded Mayer in Kitzbuehel (Yahoo! Sports)
KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) — Simone Bolelli of Italy defeated second-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (4) to reach the quarterfinals of the Bet-at-Home Cup on Wednesday. Mayer was looking for his third straight quarterfinal after reaching the last eight at Wimbledon and Hamburg. Bolelli will play Martin Klizan, the fifth-seeded Slovak who defeated countryman Pavol Cervenak 6-4, 6-4. Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic beat Antonio Veic of Croatia 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against either top-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany or Attila Balazs of Hungary.
Top seed Isner rolls into QF at Newport (Yahoo! Sports)
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Top seed and defending champion John Isner advanced to the quarterfinals at the Hall of Fame Tennis championships on Wednesday, beating France’s Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 7-6 (2). The win by Isner featured the two players that played the longest match in tennis history. Two years ago, the pair played 11 hours, 5 minutes at Wimbledon, with Isner finally getting a 70-68 fifth-set victory. This one didn’t have nearly the drama with the 6-foot-9 Isner using his overpowering serve to take charge. It ended when Mahut double faulted, ending the match in 1 hour, 18 minutes. Last year, the pair met again at Wimbledon, with Isner winning in three sets in a match that lasted about two hours.
Joe Dumars on drafting Darko Milicic: ‘I look back on it now and realize you didn’t know half of the stuff you needed to know’
Joe Dumars on drafting Darko Milicic: ‘I look back on it now and realize you didn’t know half of the stuff you needed to know’
Joe Dumars and a 2003 Detroit Pistons draft class that would make Lou Dobbs very upset (Getty Images) Working out of the top ten of Thursday’s NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected a promising teenaged center with a wingspan far greater than his 6-10 height, someone with some definite fundamental and possibly motivational issues, but a talent good enough to make All-Star teams and anchor his franchise defensively for years to come. So, Andre Drummond? Andre Drummond, 2012 Pistons pick? Please don’t be Darko Milicic. Detroit, their Pistons, Pistons players, Pistons coaches and Pistons front office personnel? They’re hoping for just as much. Actually, the coaches and front office types, led by GM Joe Dumars, did more than hope. They worked, taking in five times the information (by their calculations) than the Dumars-led Pistons front office did back in 2003, when they rang the bell for Darko with the second overall pick. Just one back of LeBron James, and ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. Ahead of Kirk Hinrich and Kyle Korver and Kendrick Perkins, even. Never again, Dumars told said in his post-draft interviews, as thankfully picked up by MLive.com’s Brendan Savage. Never again: “I could give a dissertation on that,” Dumars said shortly after selecting Drummond. “After I drafted Darko, from that point on, the amount of background we do on every single player that you see us draft is ridiculous. We do as much or more background than any other team in the NBA because of that. “The background on (Milicic) was about 20 percent of what we do now. I look back on it now and realize you didn’t know half of the stuff you needed to know.” Some background has to be put in place, because the blame for Darko bowing out can be shared by many. Detroit did jump the gun, with Milicic. Joe Dumars wasn’t even in New Jersey when the Pistons were awarded the second pick. No, Memphis Grizzlies GM Jerry West represented his team, a team that was allowed to keep its 2003 pick if it landed in the top overall spot. The Vancouver Grizzlies had traded away the conditional rights to that selection all the way back in the summer of 1997 — when NBA executive Stu Jackson was running the team — to Detroit for Otis Thorpe in a terribly misguided attempt to add an angry veteran past his prime to a young and rebuilding team years away from needing to field someone in their 30s. In a moment West had to deal the dual indignities of both losing out on LeBron James, by one grab of a lottery ball, but also losing out on his lottery pick altogether. And that Grizzlies team, even before hiring coach Hubie Brown a few months into the 2002-03 season, earned that pick. The problem here is that Dumars told anyone that would listen — and this was in May, mind you — that the Pistons would be using the top overall pick on Darko. Didn’t look seriously into trading down, didn’t run another month’s worth of background checks. Didn’t exactly go in unfamiliar about the guy, but could have done more. The problem here is that so, so many other teams would have done the same. Even if Wade and Anthony were just a few months removed from shining in their trips to the Final Four. Milicic was that highly-regarded, so to pass it off as the Pistons acting alone or that “Tayshaun Prince played well out of nowhere for Detroit in the 2003 playoffs, so they took stupid Darko” is wrong. Yes, Prince played well for Rick Carlisle in the postseason, watching as his minutes jumped up from 10 to 25 per game, but Dumars was taking Darko anyway. And he was dumping Carlisle, and going with Larry Brown. Another person to blame, along with all the other factors mentioned above on top of the media hype machine that turned Darko into The Next Big Thing even after The Next Dirk Nowitzki (Denver forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili) bombed miserably the year before. Brown destroyed Darko’s confidence in his rookie year. It’s one thing not to play a guy that should be a freshman in college (if that, because Darko had just turned 18 a week before the draft), it’s another thing to go completely to the other side with a kid learning to be a pro on the fly. Brown treated him like a non-entity, which only Larry Brown can do because not only were the Pistons on their way to an NBA title, but Larry Brown doesn’t give a rat’s tail about you or your developing potential star or your franchise because he’s only thinking about his next job. Even in his first year on the job. Then, while playing garbage time in the final game of the 2004 NBA Finals, Darko Milicic broke his left (shooting) hand. Took away his summer, his summer league, and his chance at growing. He should be able to grow and develop on a team with Ben and Rasheed Wallace, everyone said, but those guys were a million miles away from Milicic while he sat and wondered when the cast would come off. Which makes it come back to Darko. He was petulant. He never refined his play on either side of the ball. He gave up on games, clearly, be they in garbage time or in the first minute of the rare first half appearance. You’d watch him on League Pass, in his Next Big Chance at Making it Great (if only per-minute), and he sulk around the court. Hardly the sort of thing you want to see from someone given an opportunity to work with the good silverware at the adult table. So, sure, Dumars could have talked to more people. Could have found the Serbian version of the sixth grade teacher of Drummond’s he says he talked to. Could have waited until June to give the esteemed David Aldridge the chance to say, “trust me, he’s taking Darko” on national TV. Could have stuck with Rick Carlisle, who probably could have done some amazing stuff once the Pistons added Rasheed Wallace. He’s not alone, though, in the blame. And let’s all hope that Darko is alone and off to the side, in this instance, should we attempt to compare him to Andre Drummond in nine years’ time. Because we’re all rooting for Detroit, and especially Andre Drummond, here.
Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer to call second half of ESPN’s Monday Night Football opening doubleheader
Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer to call second half of ESPN’s Monday Night Football opening doubleheader
Yep — Chris Berman is indeed ‘next.’ (Getty Images)ESPN has reduced its main Monday Night Football crew from three to two, asking Ron Jaworski to step out of the booth and leave Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden to it. A few days ago, speculation got out that Chris Berman would call the second half of the network’s opening MNF doubleheader, and that was confirmed by ESPN’s PR department on Wednesday morning. Six-time National Sportscaster of the Year Chris Berman has been the face of ESPN’s NFL coverage for nearly three decades. The 2012 season will be Berman’s 28th as host of Sunday NFL Countdown. He’s also hosted ESPN’s NFL Draft and Super Bowl week coverage, and he continues to emcee the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. In fact, Berman himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the Pete Rozelle Radio-TV Award recipient in 2010. But this coming NFL season, Berman will try something he’s never done before … call an NFL game. He and analyst Trent Dilfer have been assigned to the booth for the San Diego Chargers-Oakland Raiders game as part of ESPN’s season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader on September 10. Berman will host the three-hour Countdown in Bristol on the opening NFL Sunday. After the show, he’ll fly cross country for this AFC West rivalry game the next night (10:15 p.m. ET). The west coast game will follow the Cincinnati Bengals-Baltimore Ravens opener, which will be called by the regular MNF team of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (7 p.m.). In preparation for the assignment, Berman and Dilfer will also call the Arizona Cardinals-Tennessee Titans MNF preseason game on Aug. 23 (8 p.m.). “I have worked with Boom for four years now and I’ve never been around someone who loves the NFL more than him,” Dilfer said. “I firmly believe that his passion and mine for the game of football will translate to the audience.” Reaction in the Twitterverse was less than positive, to say the least, . “Berman-Dilfer pairing for Chargers’ opener is interesting,” Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune quipped. “One guy has fun/doesn’t take himself seriously, one thinks he invented football.” Trent Dilfer will have many opinions — and all of them loud. (Getty Images)”I was a little surprised,” Berman said in the press release. “Our president, John Skipper, and our VP of programming were together. And in the middle of an interesting evening, they turned to me and said, ‘We’d like you to call the second Monday Night Football game.’ I said, ‘Wow — there’s something I never really thought about.’ Of course, I’ve thought about calling NFL games my whole life, but given what I do, and the Sunday duties — it’s week one of the season, and you get your hands full. I didn’t see it coming, and I said, “I’ve gotta give you guys credit.’ They understand that I haven’t called a football game in a while, though I’ve called many baseball games, and U.S. Open golf, etc, etc. I was really surprised, and excited about hearing it, to be honest with you. It’s a nice surprise after 32 years [with the network]; it really is.” “It’s two friends doing a game, and I intend to get out of his way,” Berman said about working with Dilfer. “He can tell us a lot about what’s going on — certainly offensively. he’s done it, he’s been there, and he articulates it beautifully. We have Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer, two veteran [quarterbacks], and who could talk better about what they’re seeing and what they’re trying to do play-by-play and quarter-by-quarter than Trent Dilfer? I’m thrilled that I’m working with a really good friend, doing this game.” I get the outrage over Berman calling a game of this importance given his limited experience in an NFL football booth, but this won’t be anywhere hear the trainwreck the NFL Network had on its hands when it decided to think “outside the box” with the horrific Bryant Gumbel experiment a few years back. Nor is there any way it could be as bad as any of the multiple games Matt Millen is inexplicably asked to call for multiple networks on a weekly basis. Berman at least understands the game at a more than basic level, and his style is far more in tune with a visceral sport like football than it is with golf. That ESPN can’t tell the difference really isn’t Berman’s fault. As for Dilfer, while he is absolutely a knowledgeable playbook guy, he’s also known to have some very definite opinions in favor of quarterbacks with limited athleticism — in fact, the more a quarterback resembles Dilfer, the better he is in Dilfer’s eyes. His over-the-top slurpage of former TCU and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton turned him into a cartoon character during the 2011 NFL draft. When the Seattle Seahawks, a team Dilfer used to play for, passed on Dalton in the first round, Dilfer said that Seattle had basically blown its entire draft — a notion that several players, including Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright, might disagree with. And his insistence that Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen would be better NFL quarterbacks than Sam Bradford remains one of the most humorous predictions in NFL history. Dilfer’s also on board with ESPN’s flawed Total QBR metric to a ridiculous degree, throwing aside any disagreements with the system in his usual all-caps hyperbolic style. So, you can expect to hear a LOT of QBR stuff during the game.
Caraviello: Sonoma reminds how good Kurt Busch can be (NASCAR.com)
SONOMA, Calif. — The confetti was shot from cannons in Victory Lane, but it didn’t stay there for very long. Carried by a strong breeze, the small pieces of colored paper fluttered over the grandstand railing and onto pit road — very near where the No. 51 car was parked. The scene was all quite appropriate given that Sunday, on the road course at Sonoma, it felt very much like Kurt Busch had won. Where to begin? A red Chevrolet that was unsponsored and, in the end, wounded; a car that was supposed to have no business being in contention on a road course, somehow doggedly maintaining a position near the front; team members not just from Phoenix Racing, but also from other organizations, sticking their head inside the drivers’ side window to offer congratulations after the vehicle had finished third. And Busch, the most beleaguered driver on the Sprint Cup tour, a competitor who just two weeks ago was on suspension, climbing out and fighting back tears. “Gave it everything I had,” he said, his voice cracking. “Happy with third.” Clint Bowyer may have won at Sonoma to claim his first victory at Michael Waltrip Racing and take another step toward a berth in the Chase, but Sunday afternoon all eyes were glued to a driver who very recently was worried about having a job. A Phoenix car contending on a road course? Although Busch was the defending champion of this event, he won last year with another vehicle and another team — and has battled plenty of demons in the time since. Anything close to a repeat performance seemed about as likely as finding a bad barrel of cabernet over in Napa Valley. And yet there he was, near the front almost all day, giving Bowyer the absolute devil in the closing laps before banging off a tire barrier and breaking a suspension part in the rear of his car. Tony Stewart passed him for second in a green-white-checkered finish, but that didn’t dampen the emotion that poured forth from the members of a Phoenix team who stuck with their driver even after Busch was suspended one race by NASCAR for an incident with a reporter. On a blue-sky day amid the caramel-colored hills of northern California, two things were very evident. Busch’s team loves him because of the way he drives. And, goodness, can the guy drive. “He had me scared to death today,” Bowyer said. It’s easy to forget what he’s capable of, given all the baggage that has accumulated around the 2004 champion of NASCAR’s premier series. Sunday brought it all flooding back: all the inescapable talent that’s so often been overshadowed by other things. James Finch’s race cars are supposed to perform on big speedways, not road courses — his team’s previous best performance on any Sprint Cup road layout had been 12th, with Jan Magnussen here in 2010 — and yet there it was, giving Bowyer everything he could handle until only a few laps remained. They didn’t finish building the thing until Monday night at about midnight. The radio communication was spotty. Busch’s helmet blower stopped working. The water temperature climbed as high as the TransAmerica Pyramid. A part in the rear end was broken. And still it came home third, a complete testament to just how good Kurt Busch can be. “We’ve never really had the guy with the experience Kurt has,” said Lee Dodson, car chief on the No. 51. “We put somebody like that in the seat, man, we’re going to be right there. He knows what he wants every run. … We have someone like that in the seat, we can go to all these other places like Michigan and Kansas and run up front. I think that’s just him being in the seat.” No wonder they stood by him. For all his troubles, the 24-time race winner may very well be the best pure talent to ever sit in one of Finch’s race cars, and that kind of ability carries with it new possibilities. It also brings demands, as everyone saw two months ago at Darlington, when Busch wanted more out of the car than it was prepared to give and things grew a little testy over the radio as a result. But that’s a tradeoff the guys at Phoenix seem more than willing to make. All that furor at Darlington? All that controversy at Dover? Putting someone else in the seat at Pocono? Surely, it made Sunday’s effort feel all the more worth it. “We love him behind the wheel, man,” Dodson said. “We’ve never said a bad thing about Kurt. He’s never done anything bad to us. We’re behind him a hundred-thousand percent, and that’s why. Right here today, that’s why we’re like that.” “He pours his heart and soul into every lap he runs,” crew chief Nick Harrison added. “That’s what we like and that’s what we believe in and that’s what we’ve told reporters all year. We don’t have bad feelings for Kurt Busch. We love him like a brother. He pours his heart and soul into driving this race car like we do working on them and building them. That’s what it takes, and that’s where the emotion comes from. We’re all a little emotional, because that’s a strong run. We pour a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this.” No wonder, then, there were so many hugs and handshakes and grown men trying to choke back tears. “Kurt, we love you man,’ Harrison, his voice cracking with emotion, said over the radio after the race ended. “Thanks for your heart. We love you like family.” Steve Addington, Busch’s crew chief last season at Penske and now signal-caller for race’s runner-up Stewart, was among the first to stick his head in the window after the No. 51 car parked on pit road. Crewmen from other organizations, and even NASCAR officials came by as Phoenix team members traded embraces and high-fives. Who won the race again? “It’s just been great support from people that have hard cards in this garage area,” Busch said “Team members, sponsors, team owners. One day can’t define you.” There’s no way to fake performance at a place like Sonoma, a place that demands so much out of a vehicle. Busch said his team used setup notes from his victory here last year with Penske, and shared that information with Hendrick Motorsports — which supplies his Phoenix team with chassis and engines. “There was a car on the front row with my setup from last year, and there was a 48 car out there with my setup,” he said, referring to Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. To see Busch outrun them both was an eye-opener, if only because of the lack of performance Finch’s cars have historically shown anywhere other than the sport’s biggest and fastest tracks. But not because of the man behind the wheel. Kurt Busch may have two dozen victories and a championship at the sport’s top level, but Sunday’s third-place effort at Sonoma is one of the more impressive things he has ever done inside a race car. When all the controversies fade into the background, there’s no doubting how good the guy can be. Even in an underfunded car with a damaged back end that was so loose over the final laps that it was swinging out two inches in either direction. Similarly, there’s no doubting how much faith his teammates have in him. “It was only a matter of time,” Dodson said. “We knew we were going to have a run like this. We cheered for him every lap. We were pit stall 43, and every lap he came through, we were on the wall cheering for him. We knew it was going to be like this. We didn’t know it was going to be quite this emotional, but we knew it was going to come. It was only a matter of time.”
Saints, union denied in bounties grievance (Yahoo! Sports)
NEW YORK (AP) A second arbitrator ruled Friday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline Saints players for their roles in a bounty program. The players’ union claimed Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any conduct before the CBA was signed last August. The union also sought to have player appeals heard by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, who are jointly appointed by the league and union to review discipline handed out for on-field conduct. But arbitrator Shyam Das ruled Friday that Goodell is entitled to hand out the punishment and hear any appeals in the matter. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled the same way Monday in a different grievance claim brought by the NFLPA, and the union said it would appeal. Goodell suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season and defensive end Will Smith for four games. Former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended for eight games, while linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, was docked three games. All four players appealed, and the league has set June 18 as the hearing date. Das dismissed the grievance, saying Goodell did not relinquish authority to impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the game that occurred before the CBA was signed last August. Vilma also has sued Goodell for defamation in a U.S. District Court in New Orleans and Goodell has been given until July 5 to respond to the action.
Pa. appeals court denies Sandusky’s delay request (Yahoo! Sports)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) Jerry Sandusky’s child sex-abuse trial remains on track to start next week after a Pennsylvania appeals court turned down his latest request for a delay. A Superior Court panel denied the former Penn State assistant football coach’s petition seeking its review of the matter, granted his application to seal the defense filing and deemed as moot his request for a stay. The 68-year-old Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts for alleged abuse of 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he denies. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in a central Pennsylvania courthouse on Tuesday. Sandusky’s lawyer wants more time to review material from the prosecution and has argued a delay is also warranted so that defense experts and potential witnesses can be available at trial.
Reggie Evans may have received a technical foul for giving Blake Griffin a high-five (VIDEO)
It’s been well established that the Los Angeles Clippers seem to enjoy making the most out of the incidental contact that tends to happen about 97,000 times during an NBA game. The team takes plenty of licks with its banging, athletic style, but it also likes to magnify the impact of said licks by flopping, and losing a bit of credibility with the referees along the way. With that in place, it’s still hard to understand why the ‘Peter and the Wolf’ syndrome would influence referee Marc Davis for whistling a technical foul on Clipper forward Reggie Evans for … high-fiving his teammate? Take a look: Your guess is as good as mine. Davis does not have the best reputation around the league, but we can’t recall seeing a technical foul like this in our lifetime — because even Joey Crawford’s needless ejection of Tim Duncan followed a bit of sarcastic laughter that Duncan was actually sending Joey’s way. Trust us, Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans weren’t sarcastically high-fiving over any of Davis’ calls. Nobody has ever done that. Nobody ever will. The Clippers went on to lose by two points, after a late desperation three-pointer brought Los Angeles within striking limits late in the Memphis Grizzlies’ 90-88 win. And if the game had come down to a thinner margin (the technical foul gave Memphis a point), well, Davis would have a whole heck of a lot of explaining to do. Actually, he still does. Watch the replay 97 times — what in the world was he blowing that whistle for? Reggie Evans, and Blake Griffin? Let’s eschew the high-five in Sunday’s series-deciding Game 7, please. We’re sure that you’ll have plenty to celebrate, but that’s nothing that can’t be expressed when the gift of a laurel and hearty handshake will do.