Sports briefs: Jan. 7

January 7, 2014 

NBA

Cousins hopeful Kings benefit from players-only meeting

DeMarcus Cousins said he and teammate Isaiah Thomas called a players-only meeting Sunday, a day after the Sacramento Kings gave up 100 or more points for the ninth straight game.

"I think it was something needed because some players were hitting their boiling points," Cousins said. "And we just needed to clear the air and talk amongst each other and not with the coaches. So it was actually a real good meeting and we got a lot out of it. We had a very good practice today and hopefully we can keep moving forward."

The Kings finished 2013 with wins against the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, but have lost two straight against teams with losing records early in 2014.

"To be honest, we're not that good of a team," Cousins said in an interview on Sacramento's News10. "And the reality it is, teams come in and they look at us like that. So we're gonna be underdogs no matter who the team is. So we gotta come out and play at a high level every night."

The former Kentucky star said the team's players have some trust issues.

"We gotta have each other's back at all times," he said. "Even when times get hard, we gotta have one another's back. We gotta learn to trust one another. That's another thing that's hurting our defense. We don't always trust the guy that's next in rotation to do their job, so it stops us from doing our job."

Cousins said the meeting was beneficial.

"I would say we're in the right direction," he said. "We still got a lot of growing to do, so I wouldn't say we're all on the same page yet."

NASCAR NAPA signs on for Elliott in Nationwide

Budding star Chase Elliott landed a full-time NASCAR ride for 2014 with JR Motorsports, with surprise sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts. Elliott, the son of 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, will race for the Nationwide Series title driving the No. 9 Chevrolet in a nod to his father's longtime number.

The ride became possible when NAPA reversed its decision to leave NASCAR following the scandal surrounding Michael Waltrip Racing's attempt to manipulate a September race to get Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

But the Atlanta-based company had a change of heart, deciding to return for a 19th season in NASCAR to back the up-and-coming Elliott. The Elliotts are from Dawsonville, Ga., roughly an hour from NAPA headquarters, and Chase didn't become eligible to compete full-time in NASCAR until he turned 18 at the end of November.

Elliott will make his Nationwide debut at the Feb. 22 season opening race at Daytona. He will report for testing this weekend and be paired with crew chief Greg Ives, who led Regan Smith to a pair of wins and a third-place finish in the standings at JRM last season.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me, a chance to make a career of this," Elliott said. "I couldn't ask for anything more than a chance with JR Motorsports, the backing of Rick Hendrick, and the support of NAPA. I think to have that connection with NAPA is really, really neat. The headquarters is not far from our house, and to me, that goes a lot further than you think. For both of us to come from Georgia, my home state, is special."

High school basketball

Guyn stars in Scott County girls' win

Tereka Guyn scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots in the Scott County girls' 65-35 victory over Bryan Station at Georgetown. Danielle DeFoor added 16 points and Audriana Christopher had 11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Lakeysha Stennis had 21 points for the Lady Defenders.

Boys' highlights:

■ St. Henry's Adam Goetz scored 17 points in his team's 65-60 win at Tates Creek.

Golf

Zach Johnson opens year with victory

Zach Johnson pulled away with three straight birdies on the back nine at Kapalua in Hawaii and closed with a 7-under 66 for a one-shot victory over Jordan Spieth in the Tournament of Champions on Monday.

Johnson didn't need any heroics, like holing out from a drop zone on the last hole when he beat Tiger Woods in the World Challenge last month in California. This was mainly about chipping and putting, and Johnson is among the best.

"I just picked it apart," said Johnson, who finished at 19-under 273. "I didn't deviate from anything I typically do on a golf course."

The last word

Lovie Smith spent the past year watching lots of football, analyzing himself and preparing for his next job in the NFL. And the new coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won 10 games in 2012 but was fired after the Chicago Bears missed the playoffs, said he's confident that he can lead his new team back to the post-season:

"When you get fired on 10-6, that's not saying that you don't know what you're doing. When you get fired, and your last three years are 12 wins and an NFC championship game, eight wins after you lose your quarterback when you're 7-3 and then 10-6, that's not saying let me change everything because you got this whole thing (wrong). So, we're just going to tweak, and then go from there."

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