Yao Ming struggles in debut
INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Jermaine O'Neal scored 24 points Wednesday night and gave Yao Ming a harsh introduction to the NBA in his much-anticipated debut as the Indiana Pacers posted a season-opening, 91-82 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Houston wasted a 39-point effort from Steve Francis.
Yao, the top overall pick in the June draft, entered the game at the start of the second quarter and Jonathan Bender went right at him for an easy basket. The 7-5 Chinese rookie pulled down his first rebound with 8:45 left in the half and later had an assist to fellow first-rounder Bostjan Nachbar.
Otherwise, Yao was a non-factor on offense, showing little willingness to aggressively post up.
The Pacers opted to isolate O'Neal on Yao and the All-Star used his quickness to exploit him. O'Neal drew a foul on one possession and easily scored on another for a 36-31 lead with 4:41 left in the first half.
Yao, who looked as if he had trouble with the speed of the game, did not score and grabbed a pair of rebounds in 11 minutes. It was a far cry from his performance on this same floor during the summer's World Championships, when he was named to the all-tournament team.
Other NBA results: Chicago 99, Boston 96; Toronto 74, Washington 68; Philadelphia 95, Milwaukee 93; New Jersey 105, Atlanta 94; Orlando 100, Miami 86; Detroit 86, New York 77; Dallas 119, Memphis 108; Minnesota 83, Denver 77; New Orleans 100, Utah 75; Portland 102, Los Angeles Lakers 90.
Blues win sixth straight
ST. LOUIS, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The St. Louis Blues got goals from seven different players and a solid effort from goaltender Fred Brathwaite Wednesday night in a 7-0 rout of the Nashville Predators.
It was the most decisive victory in more than three years for the Blues, who extended their winning streak to six games and unbeaten run to seven (6
St. Louis had not won a game by seven goals since pounding Vancouver, 8-1, on Feb. 15, 1999.
In their last six games, the Blues have outscored opponents, 27-9. They dominated every facet against Nashville, going three for eight on the power play, adding a shorthanded goal and holding a 38-19 advantage in shots.
Other NHL results: Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1; Carolina 4, New York Islanders 2; Boston 7, Washington 2; Tampa Bay 3, New York Rangers 0; Florida 3, Dallas 2 in overtime.
Tour Championship begins Thursday
ATLANTA, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The PGA Tour's top 30 money winners will begin play Thursday at the Tour Championship, where a near quagmire awaits them at the East Lake Golf Club.
Heavy rains have hit the area in recent days, leaving the East Lake course soft and vulnerable to low scores.
Phil Mickelson won the event when it was last held at East Lake, overtaking Tiger Woods en route to the 2000 title. The win was a historical one for "Lefty," who is one of only two players in 28 tries to erase a 54-hole lead owned by Tiger Woods.
The only other player to overtake the world's best player after three rounds has been Ed Fiori, who performed the trick at the Quad Cities Open in 1996, Woods' rookie season.
Woods, 26-2 in PGA Tour events when holding a 54-hole advantage, shared the lead with Vijay Singh before Mickelson caught them early in the final round. Trying to keep pace, Woods missed a birdie chance at the 15th hole, bogeyed the 17th and finished two shots back.
There have been a record 17 first-time winners on the tour this season and seven of them are here this week.
Pitch made for New York Super Bowl
NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Presentations for a Super Bowl in New York and Washington and a discussion of the "Fair Competition Resolution" highlighted Wednesday's session of the NFL's fall meetings.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue first proposed the possibility of staging a Super Bowl in New York last season after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I really don't know if the majority of owners are in favor of it," Tagliabue said. "They heard the presentations today from both the Giants and Jets as well as one from Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder."
For more than three decades, the NFL's premier event has been held in warm-weather cities or domed stadiums. But the league may be ready to expand its horizons and venture into a cold-weather city. If that's the sentiment, New York may be first on the list.
The Giants made their pitch for the 2008 Super Bowl, based on a proposed $200 million renovation of Giants Stadium, which would include enclosing the outside of the stadium to help shield against the wind and cold.
The Jets presented a plan for a Super Bowl at or after 2010, based on a $1 billion retractable roof stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. But the chances of the building even being constructed probably hinges on whether New York is awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Snyder made his proposal for FedEx Field to host the event in 2008.
The other major topic Wednesday regarded the small number of black coaches in the league and the "Fair Competition Resolution" made by attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri. Their proposal would reward and penalize NFL teams for their hiring practices regarding racially diverse groups.
Cochran and Mehri, who were not at Wednesday's meetings, proposed a plan that would give NFL teams extra draft picks for interviewing minorities for coaching and front-office positions and take away draft choices from teams that did not interview minority candidates.
However, NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw, who is black, scoffed at the plan proposed by the attorneys.
"It's ridiculous," Upshaw said. "That will just make some teams go out and interview African Americans for the sake of getting the extra draft picks, even if they have no intention of hiring an African American."
Allen, Walker nominated for Hall of Fame
CANTON, Ohio, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Newcomers Marcus Allen and Herschel Walker and returnees Bill Parcells and Bob Kuechenberg head the list of 74 nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame released Wednesday.
Allen and Walker are running backs who won the Heisman Trophy before going on to stellar pro careers. In a 16-year career with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, Allen rushed for 12,243 yards and scored 145 touchdowns.
Walker, who began his pro career in the USFL, rushed for 8,205 yards, caught nearly 500 passes for 4,710 yards and amassed 82 touchdowns.
They are joined by six other first-time nominees -- quarterback Boomer Esiason, tight end Brent Jones, tackle Gary Zimmerman, linebacker Sam Mills and special teams standout Steve Tasker.
Parcells is a traditional-style coach who guided a pair of teams to the Super Bowl and Kuechenberg is one of the members of the offensive line of the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins. They will be automatically included on the list of 15 finalists for the Class of 2003 because they finished in the top six in last year's voting.
Also included on the list of finalists is former coach Hank Stram, the recommended candidate of the Hall of Fame's Senior Committee. Stram was an offensive innovator who guided the Kansas City Chiefs to a huge upset of Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.
The remaining 12 berths will be determined by a straight plurality vote from the list of nominees. Phil Simms, Roger Craig and Art Monk are among the players, Super Bowl winners Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores are among the coaches and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is among the contributors.
Additional nominated players include quarterbacks Jim Hart, Jim McMahon and Jim Plunkett; running backs Chuck Foreman and Ottis Anderson; receivers Cliff Branch, Isaac Curtis, James Lofton, Drew Pearson, Sterling Sharpe and Wesley Walker; tight ends Raymond Chester and Todd Christensen; centers Ray Donaldson, Jay Hilgenberg, Rich Saul and Jeff Van Note; guards Joe DeLamielleure and Russ Grimm; and tackles Jim Covert, Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn and Jim Lachey.
Defensive nominees include linemen Elvin Bethea, Dave Butz, Ray Childress, Fred Dean, L.C. Greenwood, Claude Humphrey, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Sean Jones, Joe Klecko and Harvey Martin; linebackers Harry Carson, Randy Gradishar, Wilber Marshall, Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Matt Millen, Jerry Robinson and Al Smith; defensive backs Lester Hayes, Ken Riley, Donnie Shell, Jack Tatum and Roger Wehrli; and punter Ray Guy.
Monk, Lofton, Greenwood, Carson, Hayes, Shell and Guy made last year's list of finalists.
Woodson fined $75,000
NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Dallas Cowboys safety Darren Woodson was fined $75,000 by the NFL Wednesday for a devastating hit on Seattle Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson.
In the fourth quarter of Seattle's 17-14 win Sunday, Woodson delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jackson, who suffered a concussion and later had a seizure in the locker room.
Woodson was called for unnecessary roughness and the 15-yard penalty helped the drive that resulted in Rian Lindell kicking a game-winning 20-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining.
NFL director of football operations Gene Washington issued the fine and noted that another helmet-to-helmet hit by Woodson likely would result in a suspension and/or additional discipline.
Dallas (3-5) visits the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Spain dominates Fed Cup semifinals
MASPALOMAS, Spain, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Veterans Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez gave Spain a 2-0 advantage over Austria Wednesday in the Federation Cup semifinals.
Sanchez-Vicario played in her record-tying 57th Fed Cup tie, equaling the mark held by Britain's Virginia Wade. The all-time leader in Fed Cup wins notched her 72nd in the international competition with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Barbara Schett.
Earlier, Martinez gave Spain the first point with a 6-0, 7-5 triumph over Patricia Wartusch in the opening match at the Palacio de Congresos de Pampalomas.
Sanchez-Vicario and Martinez are trying to lead Spain to its sixth Fed Cup title. They first claimed the crown in 1991 and are trying to move Spain into the final for the 10th time in 14 years.
In the second semifinal, Italy split its singles matches with favored Slovakia.
Italy's Francesca Schiavone shocked world No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, but Janette Husarova picked up her teammate with a 6-4, 6-3 victory in just 69 minutes over world No. 16 Silvia Farina Elia.
Safin earns spot in Tennis Masters Cup
PARIS, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Marat Safin clinched one of the six remaining spots for the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai Wednesday with a second-round victory at the BNP Paribas Masters.
Safin's 6-3, 6-2 rout of Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian secured the third-seeded Russian's second trip to the season-ending event in the last three years. Only eight players qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup, which will be held from Nov. 12-17.
Nalbandian was coming off his second tournament victory at Basel on Sunday.
Fourth seed Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain also could have booked his place for Shanghai but was ousted by Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, 6-2, 6-3, in just over an hour.
Srichaphan won his second title of the year at the Stockholm Open on Sunday. The 23-year-old from Bangkok has won 26 of his last 32 matches and is ranked 20th in the world after beginning the year at No. 120.
Fifth seed Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic saw his chances of qualifying for Shanghai get dimmer with a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Romania's Andrei Pavel.
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