Lakers, Knicks, T-wolves tabbed for European invasion
The NBA is sending two of its biggest foreign-born stars back home to play pre-season games in Europe, and is also giving fans in London a chance to see "the world's best-known basketball team."
The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves will each play two games in the fifth installment of the NBA's pre-season Europe Live Tour. The 2009 champion Lakers will face the Timberwolves at the O2 Arena in London on Oct. 4 and then play Barcelona in Spain three days later.
The Knicks will take on Armani Jeans Milano in Milan, Italy, on Oct. 3 and then play the T-wolves three days later in Paris.
Lakers center Pau Gasol was born in Barcelona and played for the team before moving to the NBA in 2001. For the Knicks, there are two reasons to play in Milan. Forward Danilo Gallinari is a Milan native and played in the Italian city before signing with New York, and Knicks Coach Mike D'Antoni played and coached there.
Stern has been saying for years that he expects to play a regular-season game in London before the 2012 Olympics, and he reiterated Tuesday that he still plans to make it happen.
NCAA investigators pay W. Virginia visit
NCAA investigators have met with West Virginia officials regarding possible rules violations within the football program. WVU athletics spokesman Michael Fragale said Tuesday the university is cooperating with the NCAA during the investigation. He declined to say what prompted the investigators' visit or when it took place.
"West Virginia University and its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is committed to operating its athletic program in conformance with the legislation and policy of the NCAA and the Big East conference," Fragale said. "No additional comments will be made regarding the matter at this time."
Bill Stewart became the West Virginia head football coach in 2007, taking over for Rich Rodriguez, who left for Michigan after that season. Under Rodriguez, the Wolverines are being investigated by the NCAA for five potentially major rules violations, including limiting the time spent on practice and football-related activities.
A reporter tried to ask Rodriguez for comment Tuesday, and was cut off by director of media relations Dave Ablauf before the question was finished. "We're going to pass on that," Ablauf said.
■ The NCAA legislative council has approved new sickle cell testing rules, addressing a condition that has led to the death of at least 10 college football players. The new rules approved Tuesday require prospective Division I athletes to either be tested for the trait, show proof they have been tested previously or opt out of the test by signing a written release. The measure still needs to be approved by the NCAA board of directors later this month.
Sickle cell trait is a blood disorder that typically has no symptoms, but under extreme stress it can warp blood cells that attack organs and cause the body to shut down.
Jerry Rice to make pro debut
Jerry Rice used to wake up at 4 a.m. so he could get to the driving range and hit golf balls before he was due at work with the San Francisco 49ers for 8:30 a.m. meetings. He'd return to the range after football practice. "I got addicted to the game. I have so much passion for it," Rice said. Now, the Hall of Fame wide receiver is taking a swing at professional golf, and insists he's serious. Rice, 47, will make his pro debut Thursday in a Nationwide Tour event in Hayward, Calif., after receiving a sponsor's exemption into the field. "You know I'm a competitor," Rice said. "I don't want to go out there and have those players who are playing on the Nationwide Tour think this is a publicity stunt for attention. It's not. ... I have the opportunity to go out and prove to everybody I can play golf."
Serena to join field in Italian Open
Top-ranked Serena Williams has asked for and received a wild-card entry for next month's Italian Open, signaling that she's ready to return from a lingering knee injury. Williams has been sidelined since her Australian Open title in January. The tournament in Rome begins May 3 and is a key clay-court warmup for the French Open. Williams won the Italian Open in 2002 en route to her only title at Roland Garros. Nine of the top 10 women have entered the event, with No. 10 Kim Clijsters the exception.
■ No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic shook off a slow start to win her opening match of the Family Circle Cup 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 over unseeded Edina Gallovits in Charleston, S.C. Jankovic, in her first match on clay this season, . put five shots into the net in her first three games. Gallovits came into the match ranked 127th in the world.
Ravens cancel Rolle's contract
The Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday terminated the contract of cornerback Samari Rolle, who missed the entire 2009 season with a neck injury. Rolle, 33, started all 16 games during his first two seasons in Baltimore. But things began to go awry in 2007, when Rolle was diagnosed with epilepsy. That, and a shoulder injury, limited him to six games that season.
He missed six starts in 2008 because of neck problems and had surgery during the off-season. He was released before the 2009 season at his own request, then re-signed a four-year, $10 million contract. Last August, however, Rolle was placed on the physically unable to perform list, where he stayed for the entire season.
■ Brandon Marshall signed his $2.521 million tender from Denver, a move which could help facilitate a trade for the wide receiver.
■ Saints restricted free-agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod is joining tight end David Thomas and defensive tackle Remi Ayodele in returning to defending champion New Orleans.
■ Citing a desire to play but a battered body that won't let him, Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney announced his retirement.
Kahne reportedly to join Hendrick in '12
Kasey Kahne has completed a deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 but still needs to iron out his plans for next season, The Associated Press has learned. HMS is currently at NASCAR's four-car limit, and Kahne is working out a deal to succeed Mark Martin in the No. 5 car in 2012. Martin has one more season left on his contract, and owner Rick Hendrick plans to honor that deal.
■ Kelly Bires was released Tuesday by sponsorship-strapped JR Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr. created the team as an avenue to develop drivers in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series level. But he and his family are running much of this season out of pocket because sponsorship has been difficult to land.
Derby contender Uh Oh Bango sidelined
Uh Oh Bango, the fourth-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby and the 21st horse on the list of graded earnings among prospects for the May 1 Kentucky Derby, emerged from the Arkansas Derby with a fractured left front cannon bone and will be sidelined from four to six months, his trainer, Kory Owens, said Tuesday.
The last word
NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley suspects the Boston Celtics have too much mileage on their legs to mount a real threat for the title:
"When you get older and people say, 'When we get healthy ...' Older people die, they don't get healthier."