Hornets hand Wizards their 25th road loss
Jason Smith scored a career-high 20 points in a rare starting role, and the Hornets defeated Washington 97-89 on Tuesday night, dropping the Wizards to 0-25 on the road. Chris Paul had 15 points and nine assists, and Trevor Ariza had 16 points for New Orleans, which snapped a two-game skid. Smith was starting for center Emeka Okafor, whose left oblique muscle strain kept him out for the first time in 306 games. Nick Young scored 30 points for Washington, which trailed by double digits most of the second half in losing its sixth straight overall.
Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe on rookie squad
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Three players from last year's Kentucky starting lineup were named Tuesday to the first-year squad for the NBA's Rookie Challenge, part of the upcoming All-Star weekend (Feb. 18-20). Wizards guard John Wall, Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins will play for the rookie team, which will take on second-year players Friday of that weekend (9 p.m., TNT).
■ Wall was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Tuesday for January. He played in every game last month after being sidelined by injuries for 12 of the first 27 contests, and he averaged 13.9 points and 10.5 assists, The Washington Post reported.
Pacers sticking with Bird, owner says
The Pacers have replaced their coach, but they'll keep team president Larry Bird at least through the season. Owner Herb Simon said Tuesday he believes Bird has performed well under difficult circumstances, and he could be back next year. On Sunday, the Pacers fired Coach Jim O'Brien and replaced him with assistant coach Frank Vogel. Some fans have grown restless because the Pacers have missed the playoffs for four straight seasons. Many have been critical of Bird, an Indiana native and former Celtics star.
Bird took full control of basketball decisions after the 2007-08 season, when former CEO Donnie Walsh left to become the New York Knicks' president.
■ Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday the team was exploring options to get back to Boston but would likely stay in Sacramento for an extra night because of a winter storm cutting a frigid path through much of the nation. The Celtics were finishing up a four-game road trip against the Kings on Tuesday night.
■ Starting center Andrew Bynum was out of the Lakers' lineup against the Rockets Tuesday with a bone bruise in his left knee. Coach Phil Jackson said he might be out longer.
Ex-Series star, convict Aikens rejoins K.C.
Willie Mays Aikens, who went from World Series star to federal prison inmate, has returned to baseball. Aikens, 56, was hired Tuesday as a minor-league coach by the Royals and will work out of their complex in Surprise, Ariz. Aikens hit four home runs for the Royals in their 1980 Series loss to Philadelphia. He later served almost 14 years on gun, bribery and cocaine charges, and his case was often cited as an argument against the mandatory sentencing guidelines then in place. Aikens was released from federal custody in June 2008 and had said he hoped to get back into the sport that made him famous.
"Royals fans are well aware of Willie's background and what troubles he has overcome in his life," said Scott Sharp, Kansas City's director of minor-league operations. "We feel confident that his story and experiences will serve as a positive influence to all the young players in our organization that he will coach and mentor."
Born during the 1954 Indians-Giants World Series and named for Giants star Willie Mays, Aikens played for the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays in an eight-year career. He had his greatest success with Kansas City 1980-83, batting .282 with 77 home runs and 297 RBI in 511 games.
Chipper Jones rips cover off a ball
Chipper Jones showed Tuesday he can still knock the cover off the ball. Now for the next step in his recovery from knee surgery. Jones, the Braves' switch-hitting third baseman, took a big left-handed swing and ripped the cover from a ball in batting practice on Tuesday morning. As Braves President John Schuerholz held the empty cover in the Turner Field batting cage, the 38-year-old Jones told him "that's what you've got to look forward to." Jones has been hitting since December, but the six-time All-Star has not taken ground balls or run the bases. He plans to begin agility drills this week to pave the way for his return to the field in spring training.
■ Free-agent outfielders Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon officially became the newest additions to the Rays on Tuesday, signing one-year contracts to fill a couple of holes on a roster depleted by the departure of several key players, including All-Star Carl Crawford and slugger Carlos Pena. Damon agreed to a $5.25 million deal that includes a chance to earn $750,000 in bonuses based on attendance. Ramirez gets $2 million from the cost-conscious Rays — well below the $20 million he made last season with the Dodgers and White Sox.
Snow, ice put games on hold
The St. Louis Blues' game against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night was postponed because of a storm cutting a frigid path across much of the nation. A makeup date has not been set for the NHL game. Missouri has been hit by what could be its worst winter storm in decades, a dangerous mix of snow, freezing rain, wind and cold. Whiteouts paralyzed Oklahoma City and the Tulsa, Okla., area, and blowing snow created drifts up to 4 feet high. The men's Baylor-Oklahoma game on Tuesday night was called off and rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon when admission will be free. Also postponed were the men's and women's Tuesday night games featuring Southeast Missouri at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. In the Big Ten, the Indiana men tentatively planned to play their Wednesday night game against Minnesota once the Gophers landed in Indianapolis. Because of expected rain, sleet, and icy conditions, Aqueduct Racetrack in New York canceled Wednesday's card.
Jockey Coa accused of hitting wife
Authorities said Tuesday Venezuelan jockey Eibar Coa is facing a domestic battery charge after an alleged altercation with his wife at their South Florida home. Police records show Coa, 39, was charged with a misdemeanor following an incident early Monday after they returned from a club. Coa's wife, Rebeca, told police her husband punched her after breaking into a bathroom, according to the records. Last year, Coa posted his 4,000th victory as a jockey. On Jan. 15, Coa won the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes aboard Big Drama at Florida's Gulfstream Park.
■ The Buffalo Sabres said owner Tom Golisano has agreed to sell the NHL franchise and its related companies to Pennsylvania businessman Terry Pegula. The team said the agreement was completed Tuesday afternoon and is subject to NHL approval. Golisano isn't willing to say anything more about the impending sale until Thursday, when he'll hold a news conference with managing partner Larry Quinn.
■ The NHL All-Star game's television ratings were up one-third from the last game two years ago. The game Sunday on Versus drew a 1.2 rating, a 33 percent increase from 2009. The league didn't hold an All-Star game last year because of the Olympics.
■ Michigan State promoted offensive line coach Dan Roushar to offensive coordinator Tuesday night. Roushar will fill the spot left by Don Treadwell, who left to become head coach at Miami (Ohio).
■ Clemson starting linebacker Brandon Maye has received his release from the school and is expected to transfer. Maye had started 33 of 35 games in his three seasons with the Tigers, although he missed three games this fall because of injury.
The last word
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a moment to take in the massive Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday and had a prediction about the team's rookie punter out of Kentucky:
"That's a pretty big (video) screen up there; I'm sure Tim Masthay will try to hit that in practice."