Yao to make retirement official with media event in China
Yao Ming is likely to make it official Wednesday, announcing what is expected to be his retirement from the NBA and a sport that made him a household name in China. The 7-foot-6 center for the Houston Rockets played eight seasons in the NBA but has missed 250 regular-season games during the past six years. His career, including frequent appearances for the Chinese national team at Olympics and world championships, has included leg and foot injuries.
On Wednesday, a large reception hall at a hotel in the Pudong section of Shanghai — Yao's hometown — has been booked for what probably will be the country's media event of the year.
"Yao Ming gave the Chinese people and China a human face in the United States," said James Sasser, who served as U.S. ambassador to China from 1996 to '99 and still travels to the country regularly. "He had a commonality Americans could identify with, particularly those who are interested in sports and sports fans."
Mavericks scheduled to open with Bulls
The NBA champion Dallas Mavericks will open the season — if it begins on time — at home Nov. 1 against MVP Derrick Rose and Chicago, then host Miami in a finals rematch Christmas Day. The NBA released its complete 2011-12 schedule Tuesday despite being in a lockout that could last months and cause it to be scrapped.
Owners and players are still well apart in negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expired June 30, and there is a fear that regular-season games could be lost to a work stoppage for the second time in league history.
Staff members from the NBA and players' association will meet Friday, the first session related to collective bargaining since the lockout began July 1. The meeting won't include Commissioner David Stern, union executive director Billy Hunter or players or owners, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Representatives of the sides have been together this month for an audit of last season's revenue, but this meeting is the first scheduled for negotiating a new deal.
■ Neighbors on Tuesday buried a teenager who died when a motorcycle collided with a vehicle carrying Lakers player Lamar Odom and hurtled onto a New York sidewalk. Odom was visiting his native Queens on Thursday afternoon when a motorcycle tried to turn left in front of the chauffeured Cadillac Escalade sport-utility-vehicle in which he was riding, police said. The motorcycle hit the front bumper of the SUV and went out of control, striking a pedestrian, Awsaf Alvi Islam, 15, New York City police spokesman Paul Browne said Tuesday.
"It hit him from behind, and he went right down headfirst," said Rahat Islam, a friend of the boy.
The driver of the motorcycle, Christian Mora, 32, of Queens, was in stable condition at a Queens hospital, Browne said. No one has been arrested, but the collision is under investigation, he said. Mourners gathered on the sidewalk in front of Jam-e-Masjid mosque Monday and bowed their heads in prayer around a plain wooden casket.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the young boy's family," Odom wrote Monday via Twitter.
Montoya replaces crew chief
Juan Pablo Montoya will have a new crew chief when he returns next week to Indianapolis Motor Speedway after his team replaced Brian Pattie on Tuesday. Jim Pohlman will immediately take over as crew chief on an interim basis, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing announced. Pohlman has been with the organization since 2006 in various jobs. Montoya, who is in a contract year with Ganassi, is 17th in the Sprint Cup standings, and 59 points out of the 10th and final guaranteed spot in the Chase for the championship.
Tour de France
Contador makes his move in the Alps
Alberto Contador has finally put the hammer down at the Tour de France — and now, the race is really on. Minutes behind the race leader, the defending champion surprised key rivals with a brazen attack on a relatively easy climb in the Alpine foothills in Tuesday's Stage 16, won by Thor Hushovd of Norway in a breakaway. Contador, baring his teeth as his tires sizzled on the rain-slick roads, surged out of the pack on the mid-grade Col de Magne climb and held on through a treacherous downhill to the finish of the 101-mile ride from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap.
"I knew I needed to attack," Contador said. "I couldn't care less if someone kept on my wheel — I knew one of them would fail. I'm so happy. It has been a major gap, much bigger than I expected."
The unexpected surge by the Spaniard shook up the leader board at cycling's greatest race, which ends Sunday in Paris after a jaunt Wednesday into Italy, then two days in the Alps, and a time-trial Saturday in Grenoble. Among the contenders, only Cadel Evans kept up. The Australian actually outpaced the Spanish three-time champion by three seconds at the end. But Contador, who lost time with crash trouble earlier in the race — had trimmed 18 seconds off his deficit to overall race leader Thomas Voeckler of France, down to three minutes, 42 seconds.
UFL delays season with NFL deal looming
With the NFL working to end its lockout and save the pre-season, the struggling United Football League announced Tuesday it would push back the start of its games from August to September. The schedule switch is another blow — at a critical time — to the second-tier pro league that has lost more than $100 million in its two years of existence. The UFL had hoped to gain exposure in the vacuum left by a locked-out NFL. It scheduled several early-season games on Sundays and aimed to fill television time slots normally reserved for NFL exhibition games. But Commissioner Michael Huyghue told reporters Tuesday he was resigned to losing a "windfall" from the NFL. The UFL has franchises in Omaha; Hartford, Conn.; Norfolk, Va.; Las Vegas; and Sacramento, Calif.
Pastner doesn't relish playing Tennessee
Memphis Coach Josh Pastner told a Knoxville radio station Monday he has "no desire" to play Tennessee. The teams have played every season since 2005-06. Tennessee visits Memphis this season.
Asked about playing Tennessee, Pastner said: "I have no desire to play Tennessee ... . I don't think it does us any good. I'm just being honest with you. For us, it's a game that, I don't know why we play it, but we play it because the athletic director wants me to play it, and he's my boss and what he says goes."
Officials to investigate Lake Michigan deaths
The organization that sponsors an annual sailing race from Chicago to Mackinac Island plans an inquiry into the capsizing of a boat during a fierce Lake Michigan storm that led to the deaths of two crew members, Greg Freeman, chairman of the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac, said Tuesday. Mark Morley, skipper of the Saginaw-based WingNuts, and crew member Suzanne Bickel died after the 35-foot craft overturned about midnight Sunday. A rival boat rescued the other six crew members, who said in a statement their boat was knocked over by a 75-mph gust. They are the only competitors who have died in an accident during the race's 103-year history. One man suffered a fatal heart attack years ago, officials said.
The last word
Shaquille O'Neal debuted as a full-fledged analyst on NBA TV on Tuesday and raved about Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As for Chris Bosh, the other member of Miami's so-called Big Three? Apparently, Shaq's not a big fan of his work.
"The Miami Heat, they've got a lot of great players, the Big Two. They will be back."