Payton goes to Milwaukee
SEATTLE, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Gary Payton, Seattle's all-time leader in virtually every category, was traded Thursday to the Milwaukee Bucks in a five-player deal.
The SuperSonics dealt Payton and swingman Desmond Mason to the Bucks for star guard Ray Allen, point guard Kevin Ollie and rookie guard Ron Murray. The deal is contingent upon the players passing physical examinations.
"Seldom do you have the opportunity to add a Hall of Fame player to your lineup," Bucks General Manager Ernie Grunfeld said. "Gary is one of the league's best players at both ends of the floor and he has a competitive nature matched by very few players in this league."
A perennial All-Star and one of the best point guards in the NBA, Payton is in the final year of a seven-year, $85 million contract. The 34-year-old superstar will be a free agent July 1 and will have plenty of suitors, despite the NBA's economic climate.
Payton skipped media day in October to express his displeasure with the Sonics, who were unwilling to offer him a contract extension. The relationship between Payton and owner Howard Schultz has been tenuous since last summer.
The trade reunites Payton with Milwaukee coach George Karl, who coached him for six-plus years in Seattle. It also expedites a rebuilding project for the Sonics, who have been retooling around Payton for two years.
In return, the Sonics get the 6-5 Allen, a durable shooting guard who last week became one of the first four players chosen for the United States Olympic basketball team. He had not missed a game in his career until last season.
A three-time All-Star and a member of the 2000 Olympic team that won a gold medal in Sydney, Allen had spent his first six-plus seasons with the Bucks. He is averaging 21.3 points on 44 percent shooting this season. For his career, he has 19.6 points on 45 percent shooting in 494 games.
Mavericks fight off Spurs
DALLAS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- San Antonio nearly erased a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit without star Tim Duncan Thursday night before suffering a 95-87 loss to Dallas.
The Spurs saw their season-high winning streak end at nine games.
Led by Duncan, the Spurs won the last eight games of a nine-game road trip, then returned home to trounce Denver on Tuesday night.
Duncan had been stifled through the first three-plus quarters Thursday night, collecting 11 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes before taking a finger to the eye with 8:13 remaining and the Spurs trailing, 82-66. The 7-footer left the game and did not return.
Facing the NBA's best team on its home floor, the Spurs rallied behind Rose, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. Rose's two free throws cut the deficit to 84-82 with 3:08 to play.
Nash, who had 29 points and 10 assists, added a basket and two free throws in the final 35 seconds as Dallas (42-12) opened a five-game lead over San Antonio (37-17) atop the Midwest Division.
Although the Mavericks have the best record in the NBA, their record against Western Conference powers Sacramento, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers is just 2-4. One of those wins came against the Lakers while center Shaquille O'Neal was out of action.
In addition Thursday night, New Jersey downed Indiana, 98-91.
Vancouver sets franchise unbeaten record
ST. LOUIS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Defenseman Nolan Baumgartner scored his first goal of the season and set up another Thursday to push Vancouver past St. Louis, 4-2.
The Canucks stretched their unbeaten streak to a franchise-record 11 games.
Vancouver had a 10-game winning streak earlier this season to go with a 5
5 stretch from March 5-25, 1977.
Recalled from the minors before the game, Baumgartner made his first appearance with the Canucks since Oct. 26. He put them ahead for good with a power-play goal 5:41 into the opening period, then picked up the primary assist on Artem Chubarov's tally with the extra man that made it 2-0 just under eight minutes later.
The Blues appeared to make it 4-3 with 2:15 to play when Keith Tkachuk snapped a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot past goaltender Peter Skudra. But referee Paul Stewart disallowed the goal, ruling that St. Louis interfered with Skudra.
Vancouver remained six points ahead of second-place Colorado in the Northwest Division.
Other NHL results: Florida 4, Ottawa 3; Toronto 6, Washington 2; Detroit 6, Edmonton 2; Philadelphia 5, Los Angeles 0; Colorado 5, Pittsburgh 2; Nashville 4, Calgary 1; Phoenix 2, Chicago 1.
Funk leads, Tiger trails by seven
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Fred Funk needed only 23 putts Thursday and his 6-under 65 put him three shots in front after one round of the Nissan Open.
Tiger Woods, trying to go two for two in 2003, had trouble in blustery afternoon conditions at the famed Riviera Country Club course and had to settle for a 1-over 72 that left him in a tie for 24th place.
Funk, 46, was one of a number of veterans who played well Thursday with most of the good scores being turned in during the morning.
David Duval, seeking a return to the form that made him one of the best players in the world and brought him the 2001 British Open title, was tied for sixth at 2-under 69 along with defending champion Len Mattiace, Charles Howell III, Glen Hnatiuk, Bob Estes and Aaron Baddeley.
Just as the morning starters were completing their rounds, the winds began to pick up and made life difficult for those who played in the afternoon. Duval, however, managed a good score despite playing in a late group and despite being paired with Woods.
Woods bogeyed two of the last four holes to shoot his 73. He is coming off a triumph last week at the Buick Invitational, the first tournament he had entered since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in December.
Funk, who challenged for a win at last year's PGA Championship before Rich Beem claimed the title, is known as one of the straightest drivers in the game. But it was his putter that did most of the damage Thursday.
Deacons hand Jackets first home loss
ATLANTA, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Josh Howard made his first eight shots and finished with 24 points Thursday night as 11th-ranked Wake Forest downed Georgia Tech, 75-67.
It was the first home loss of the season for the Yellow Jackets.
Wake Forest (18-4, 8-3 ACC) took over first place in the conference, moving a half game ahead of Duke and Maryland. Howard missed practice on Wednesday due to the flu but showed no effects as he made all five shots and scored 14 points in the first half.
Georgia Tech (12-11, 5-7) pulled within 42-41 early in the second half on a jumper by freshman Jarrett Jack. But Howard put his personal stamp on an 8-0 tear with the first six points.
Howard scored on a smooth spin move and put home a follow shot to make it 46-41. After he had a shot blocked for his first miss, he came up with a one-handed follow slam and Taron Downey added an uncontested layup to cap the run.
B.J. Elder stemmed the tide with a three-pointer for the Yellow Jackets before the Demon Deacons scored another eight straight. Freshman Chris Ellis' follow shot made it 58-44 just before the midway point of the second half.
Jack scored 19 points to lead Georgia Tech, which looks like it will need to win the ACC tournament to go to the NCAA Tournament. The Yellow Jackets had a 13-game home winning streak stopped.
Also in the top 25, No. 12 Marquette recorded a 75-67 decision over Charlotte.
NFL teams name designated players
BALTIMORE, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Chris McAlister of Baltimore, Donovin Darius of Jacksonville and Tebucky Jones of New England were given franchise designations Thursday.
Thursday was the final day NFL teams could use its franchise designation. If a team wanted to keep one of its players from entering free agency this year, it had to label that player with either a franchise or transition designation by 3 p.m. EST.
Although the Ravens used a franchise tag on McAlister, they are hoping to reach a long-term deal with the four-year veteran.
The franchise tag means the Ravens must offer McAlister a one-year contract equal to the average of the five highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL last season, which would be $5.96 million.
Jacksonville pay Darius at least $3.043 million next season. Darius, like McAlister, is a "non-exclusive" franchise player, which allows him to solicit offers from other teams.
Should Darius or McAlister sign with another team, their current teams could match the offer or accept two first-round draft choices. Darius also could opt for a long-term contract with the Jaguars.
Jones has said he would skip offseason workouts if the Patriots used a franchise tag on him. Like Darius, Jones will earn at least $3.043 million. Teammate and fellow safety Lawyer Milloy will earn $4.4 million in 2003, giving New England one of the highest-paid secondaries in the game.
The St. Louis Rams had already named four-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace as a franchise player. The Rams must offer Pace a one-year contract for at least $5.73 million.
The Buffalo Bills Wednesday designated wide receiver Peerless Price, who is coming off the best season of his four-year career with 94 catches for 1,252 yards and nine touchdowns, as a franchise player.
Price is guaranteed a one-year deal worth $5.01 million.
Titans release Neil O'Donnell
NAHSVILLE, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Approximately $10 million over the salary cap, the Tennessee Titans Thursday released veteran quarterback Neil O'Donnell.
The Titans will have to make some more moves to get under the cap, but started by waiving O'Donnell, who has been primarily a backup with Tennessee for the last four years.
"He (O'Donnell) is a player we are going to work towards getting back on our roster," Titans General Manager Floyd Reese said.
O'Donnell, 36, started 92 games in his first nine NFL seasons before signing with the Titans as a free agent in 1999. He is best known for leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl XXX in January 1996, but threw two interceptions in a 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
O'Donnell signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the New York Jets the following season, but lasted just two years in New York before he was released.
A 13-year veteran, O'Donnell has passed for 21,438 yards and 118 touchdowns with 67 interceptions.
The Houston Texans also announced they had released returner-receiver Jermaine Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals cut offensive lineman Richmond Webb.
Tyson weighs in for Saturday fight
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Mike Tyson weighed in at 225 3/4 pounds Thursday, looking as sculpted as ever for Saturday's heavyweight fight against Clifford Etienne.
An almost docile Tyson declared himself "ready to fight." Etienne tipped the scales at 222 3/4 pounds.
Tyson's conditioning caught some by surprise as the former undisputed champion spent little time training over the last week. He reportedly has been battling flu-like symptoms and his health was cited as the reason when the fight was postponed Monday.
But Tyson felt better Tuesday and declared the fight back on. That was when Etienne said he was not going to participate in the bout. Etienne changed his mind Wednesday and the fight was back on.
At a news conference Thursday, Tyson and Etienne both claimed they were ready to fight, although neither wanted to discuss the reasons for the change in plans.
"I'm happy to be here, I'm happy Cliff came," said Tyson, who declined to answer questions about his health. "You're not going to hear bad words, you're going to see me do my thing in the ring."
To make up for his departure from training camp, Tyson sparred four rounds Wednesday and was expected to go another six Thursday. He also recently received a tattoo on his face, a procedure he said was incomplete.
Millar signs with Red Sox
FORT MYERS, Fla., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- After he almost spent 2003 in the Far East, Kevin Millar will be joining one of the favorites in the American League East.
Millar agreed to a two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox Thursday, a deal that includes a club-vesting option for the 2005 season. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Millar earned $900,000 with the Florida Marlins in 2002.
Earlier this offseason, the Marlins worked out a deal to sell Millar to the Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Central League and the Florida outfielder agreed to a two-year contract. But when Florida put Miller on waivers, the Red Sox claimed him.
Miller then decided he wanted to remain in the United States and Florida had to work out a deal with the Japanese team. After protracted negotiations, the deal got done last week and the Marlins sold Millar to the Red Sox on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Millar hit .306 with 16 homers and 57 RBI in 126 games for Florida in 2002. But he batted .378 over his final 50 games -- a stretch that included a 25-game hitting streak. After Aug. 10, he posted a .430 on-base and .609 slugging percentages.