Nets fire Johnson
Coach of the month in November, out of a job by New Year's.
The Brooklyn Nets have elevated expectations this season, and a .500 record wasn't good enough. Coach Avery Johnson was fired Thursday, his team having lost 10 of 13 games after a strong start to its first season in Brooklyn.
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"We don't have the same fire now that we did when we were 11-4," General Manager Billy King said at a news conference in East Rutherford, N.J. "I tried to talk to Avery about it and we just can't figure it out. The same pattern kept on happening."
Assistant P.J. Carlesimo will coach the Nets on an interim basis, starting Friday night with a home game against Charlotte. King said the Nets might reach out to other candidates, but for now the job was Carlesimo's. The GM wouldn't comment on a report that the team planned to get in touch with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
King said the decision to dismiss Johnson was made by ownership after a phone discussion Thursday morning. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov had expressed faith in Johnson before the season.
"With the direction we were going we felt we had to make a change," King said.
Johnson was in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract.
"It's a really disappointing day for me and my family. It's my wife's birthday. It's not a great birthday gift," Johnson said. "I didn't see this coming. But this is ownership's decision. It's part of the business. Fair or unfair, it's time for a new voice and hopefully they'll get back on track."
The Nets have fallen well behind the first-place New York Knicks, the team they so badly want to compete with in their new home. But after beating the Knicks in their first meeting Nov. 26, probably the high point of Johnson's tenure, the Nets went 5-10 and frustrations have been mounting.
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard has been fined $35,000 for a flagrant foul against Denver's Kenneth Faried. The incident, in which Howard made excessive contact with the former Morehead Eagle above the shoulders, occurred with 5:02 left in the third quarter of the Lakers' 126-114 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for flailing his leg and making contact with the groin of the Charlotte Bobcats' Ramon Sessions. The incident happened with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter of the Heat's 105-92 victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday night. Sessions was called for a foul on the play. Wade will serve the suspension Friday night when the Heat visit the Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol has plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He was examined on Thursday by a foot specialist and an MRI confirmed the diagnosis. Gasol is listed as probable for Friday night's game against Portland.
New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton won't need surgery on his broken right pinky finger and is expected to be out at least a month. Felton consulted with a hand specialist Thursday after flying home from Phoenix and will be in a splint to stabilize the finger, the team said in a statement. Felton could miss 4 to 6 weeks.
SPORTS IN THE COURTS
Senator wants Penn State's NCAA fine money to stay in Pennsylvania
A high-ranking state senator on Thursday proposed a new law that would keep Penn State's $60 million NCAA fine over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal within Pennsylvania.
Republican Sen. Jake Corman, who represents State College, said much of the money was generated within the state, so he believes the child abuse prevention grants it is earmarked for should be distributed for "the betterment of Pennsylvanians."
Corman said he hoped lawmakers would act quickly on his proposal, as the school has already made its first $12 million payment. He also plans to ask a court to prevent any of that initial payment from being released to organizations outside Pennsylvania.
"I don't think this is going to be a hard sell, to keep the money here locally," he said.
Gov. Tom Corbett said he was supportive and accused the NCAA of overstepping its authority with what he called "harsh, unjustified and unprecedented punishment."
A university spokesman had no reaction to Corman's proposal, while the NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At a Capitol news conference, Corman distributed a two-page draft of the bill, titled the Institution of Higher Education Consent Decree Endowment Act. It would apply to all colleges and universities that receive state support, and enter into consent decrees involving a fine of at least $10 million.
Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted this summer of 45 child sexual abuse counts and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. He maintains he is not guilty and is pursuing appeals.
The NCAA has said at least a quarter of the money will be spent in Pennsylvania, a decision that has also drawn criticism from the state's congressional delegation. An NCAA task force plans to recommend in the coming months how the first $12 million should be spent.
Beckham won't rush career move
Nearly a month after leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy, David Beckham is considering "a number of serious proposals" but is in no rush to find a new team.
He has been linked to clubs in France, Australia and Asia in what would be the final chapter of the illustrious career of the 37-year-old midfielder and former England captain.
A "host of clubs" have made offers, Beckham's management company said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday, but it remains "early days in the process."
"David is in no hurry to make a decision, the key is making the right one as he has always done successfully in his career," the statement said.
Beckham ended his five-year stint in the United States by helping the Galaxy win the MLS Cup on Dec. 1.
Free agent Matsui retires
Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui has retired from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that earned him a World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and three Central League MVPs in Japan.
Matsui announced his retirement Thursday at a news conference in New York that was conducted only in Japanese and broadcast live in his home country.
Nicknamed Godzilla, the 38-year-old Matsui batted .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBI for the Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays. Before joining the Yankees in 2003, Matsui played 10 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
Always cool under pressure, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium and had six RBI in his finale with the Yankees — Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.
Hall of Fame baseball catcher Carlton Fisk pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge, two months after police found him asleep in his pickup truck in a suburban Chicago cornfield. Fisk, 64, was sentenced to one year of court supervision and must pay $1,250 in court costs. He also must undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and counseling.
The last word
In the late 1980s and early '90s, Darrell Green and Michael Irvin epitomized the fierce combativeness between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Though they later became friends, Irvin said of Green:
"He stalked me and scarred me for years."