Team USA looks to bounce back
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Team USA has no time to be angry about its first international loss with NBA players at its disposal as it faces Yugoslavia Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse in the quarterfinals of the World Basketball Championships.
Since USA Basketball began using NBA players in international competition in 1992, the U.S. had won 58 games before an 87-80 loss to Argentina Wednesday night in the second round.
Team USA still can win the gold medal and could get a rematch with Argentina.
"If we must face them again, it would be a very difficult game," said Argentina forward Fabricio Oberto said through an interpreter.
Team USA never led in the contest, and trailed by as many as 20 points. Boston Celtics swingman Paul Pierce scored 22 points to lead the Americans in scoring for the sixth straight game.
Pierce and Los Angeles Clippers guard Andre Miller combined to make 12-of-29 shots. The rest of the team was even more sub-par, hitting just 35 percent.
"Personally, I'm embarrassed to be on the team that took the first loss," Pierce said. "We can still go win the gold, but we are still that team. I don't know where this ranks."
The Americans won their first five games, including a 104-87 victory last Friday over Germany.
Yugoslavia also went 2-1 in the second round and features Sacramento Kings swingman Peja Stojakovic. Yugoslavia used a balanced attack, led by Stojakovic's 16 points, in a 110-78 trouncing of Turkey on Wednesday.
Argentina will try to stay unbeaten Thursday when it faces Brazil at the RCA Dome. Brazil is coming off consecutive losses, including Wednesday's 84-67 setback against Spain.
Puerto Rico, which has won five of six games, takes on New Zealand in Thursday's second game at the RCA Dome.
Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and Germany face NBA Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol of Memphis at Conseco before Team USA takes the court. Nowitzki had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 103-85 victory over Russia.
Gasol scored 23 points as Spain bounced back from a loss to Puerto Rico with an 84-67 victory over Brazil.
The relegation round is Friday, with the semifinals Saturday and the gold medal game on Sunday.
Patriots LB Johnson goes AWOL
FOXBORO, Mass., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Veteran linebacker Ted Johnson Thursday left the New England Patriots for undisclosed reasons.
On Wednesday, while the reigning Super Bowl champions were preparing for their 2002 season-opening encounter with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnson was not with the team. He did not return Thursday, but the team did not say why.
"Ted and I have talked," said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. "He's made his decision. We're preparing for the game and we're moving forward."
The reasons for Johnson's absence could be related to playing time or money. Linebacking counterpart Tedy Bruschi, who is recovering from a knee injury, could limit Johnson's action, or he might be dissatisfied with having contract restructured six times in four years.
"I'm not really going to get into my feelings on it or any of my conversations on it with Ted," Belichick said. "I'll suffice it to say that I've talked to Ted a couple of times and what we have is between Ted and the football team."
It's not the first time a player has left the Patriots unhappy.
Wide receiver Terry Glenn had a history of doing it, often resulting in team suspensions, before being sent packing to Green Bay.
Belichick said he respects Johnson as a player and person, but notes how consistent he has been in handling such situations.
"Without getting into detail about them, whether they're personal or in some cases things that I'm not really able to publicly discuss, they're consistent," he added.
Johnson, a second-round draft pick in 1995, had a career-high 142 tackles in 1998, but has been plagued in recent years by injuries, including a
pair of torn pectoral muscles. Also, a concussion forced him to miss two games this preseason.
Bengals give LB Curtis contract extension
CINCINNATI, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Bengals have signed linebacker Canute Curtis to a two-year contract extension through 2004.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Curtis made just over $530,000 last year.
Curtis, who's entering his sixth season, will start at left linebacker in place of Steve Foley, who will be sidelined for the entire campaign with a dislocated shoulder.
In 16 games last season, Curtis made 26 tackles. He had seven in four preseason contests this year, and has played in 46 of the last 48 Bengals games.
"Maybe not for the season opener, but as far as going in there and stepping in when somebody goes down it's the same old thing,'' said Curtis, who is scheduled to make $550,000 this season. "I'm excited about it.''
He was Cincinnati's sixth-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 1997. His contract was due to end after this season.
Jags ink backup QB Kent Graham
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed 10-year veteran QB Kent Graham and waived rookie counterpart Quinn Gray.
Graham, 33, joins his seventh NFL team. He has started 38 games over his career, throwing for 7,801 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Jaguars Coach Tom Coughlin gave extended playing time to rookie fourth-round draft pick David Garrard from East Carolina in the preseason in hopes Garrard would make him comfortable enough to forgo signing a veteran backup for starter Mark Brunell.
But Garrard was up-and-down, he completed 57 percent of his passes, and Coughlin pursued Graham.
An eighth-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 1992, he has also played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, and he spent this year's preseason with the Houston Texans.
The 6-6, 248-pound Graham saw the majority of his playing time from 1996-2000, when he started 34 games for the Cardinals, Giants (his second stint with the team), and Steelers. He played two seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Notre Dame.
Seattle OF McLemore has surgery
SEATTLE, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Versatile Seattle Mariners outfielder Mark McLemore Thursday morning underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ailing right elbow.
A team spokesman said late Wednesday the surgery was not expected to be season ending and McLemore conceivably could return to action in about two weeks.
After an MRI, taken in Seattle on Tuesday, discovered the bone chips, McLemore went to Dallas for a second opinion. He was examined by Dr. John Conway, team physician of the Texas Rangers, performed the surgery.
McLemore decided to have surgery now, rather than postpone it until after the season.
"There's really no way to replace him," said outfielder Mike Cameron. "He does a lot for us."
McLemore, chosen by the coaching staff as the team's Unsung Hero last season, has been a valuable member of the Mariners again this season, playing three infield positions and all three positions in the outfield as well.
He has played in 103 games, compiling a .272 batting average with seven home runs, 41 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
"I don't even want to think about being without Mac," said second baseman Bret Boone. "He's a big part of this team. We need him in there."
McLemore has been bothered by the bone chips recently and played through the problem, but after making a diving catch in left field Saturday night against Kansas City, he was unable to straighten his right arm.
Additionally, McLemore has been slowed by back and leg ailments for the past month.
Padres release Jones, Hubbard
SAN DIEGO, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The San Diego Padres, with a stockpile of young talent in its farm system, have released veteran
righthander Bobby J. Jones and outfielder Trenidad Hubbard.
Jones, 32, was 7-8 with a 5.50 ERA in 19 games, including 18 starts, for the Padres in 2001. Signed as a free agent just before the 2001 season, he was 15-27 with a 5.26 ERA in 52 games.
Hubbard, 36, hit .209 in 89 games for the Padres this season.
The Padres have begun filling their roster with some of their minor league talent. Among the names getting calls to the big team include infielder Sean Burroughs and pitcher Clay Condrey.
With room on the 40-man roster, San Diego has also purchased the contract of righthander Jason Shiell, acquired in the deal that brought Ryan Klesko to the Padres from Atlanta.
Shiell, 25, was 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA and six saves in 56 games for Triple-A Portland of the Pacific Coast League.