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In Sports from United Press International

Feb. 20, 2003 at 3:00 PM   |   Comments

Another incident for the Orioles

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Pitcher Jason Johnson of Baltimore was helped off the field Wednesday, apparently after having a hypoglycemic reaction that resulted from low blood sugar.

Johnson, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was 11 years old, had been taking part in drills on an auxiliary practice field behind the main diamond. He was driven off the field by assistant trainer Brian Ebel and clubhouse manager Freddy Tyler.

Tyler drove while Ebel sat next to Johnson, who laid with his legs dangling over the edge of the cart. Five minutes later, as Johnson lay on the cart in a breezeway between the team's clubhouse and the batting cages, a team of emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene.

After sitting up, Johnson, 29, was seen swallowing something out of a white container, likely an item containing sugar. Ten minutes later, he got up off the cart under his own power and walked into the clubhouse. Johnson did not go to the hospital and later he left on his own.

The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that Johnson has Type I diabetes, and has similar reactions to low blood sugar about once or twice a year.

Orioles team physician Dr. William Goldiner, one of two doctors who tended to Johnson at the scene, said paramedics were called in case glucose had to be administered intravenously.

Initially, the situation appeared similar to the one that took place at Fort Lauderdale Stadium on Sunday, when fellow pitcher Steve Bechler was carted off the field and rushed to the hospital. Bechler spent all Sunday night in intensive care, and he died of multisystem organ failure Monday morning.

Because of the Bechler tragedy, Johnson's incident unfolded in a much more tense atmosphere than it otherwise would have.

"Everybody's obviously a little hypersensitive right now," said Orioles Manager Mike Hargrove. "You have those things with Jason, but it still scared the hell out of everybody."

A private memorial service to honor Bechler was held late Wednesday.

After the service, team owner Peter Angelos called for a ban on ephedrine. He said last year, when he was a member of the owners' labor negotiating team, the union did not want the ban.

"The union rejected our position and would not agree to include those on the basis that if they are legal, there should be no prohibition imposed by the clubs," Angelos told the Washington Post. "And as a consequence, without that being included in the agreement, we simply cannot prohibit them. Hopefully, with this terrible tragedy, a reassessment of the union position will come."

Already at the complex for the memorial, members of Bechler's family stood in the breezeway and watched as the emergency medical personnel administered to Johnson. Bechler's brother, Mike, walked up and stood right near Johnson as the incident unfolded. The family left only minutes later without commenting.

Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said he didn't think Johnson had eaten and that Johnson's schedule had been thrown off because the team started workouts late.

Johnson, who has been wearing an insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar since the 2001 season, has had similar on-field incidents before. No serious problems have resulted from them.

The 6-6 Johnson went 5-14 last season.


Luxury tax hindering most trade possibilities

NEW YORK, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Potential NBA trades before the Thursday deadline have been almost non-existent, and money is the problem.

The major impediment is the luxury tax, a highly prohibitive tariff that has owners and general managers reluctant to take on more big contracts and trying to get rid of their own.

With salaries rising and revenue dropping, the tax is expected to kick in after this season. Any team with a payroll over a projected figure of roughly $53 million will have to pay a 100 percent tax on its overage.

For example, the New York Knicks have a team payroll of $93 million. Unless they are able to pare some salaries, they will have to pay an estimated luxury tax of $40 million during the offseason.

That is why they reportedly have been trying to move talented swingman Latrell Sprewell. Several reports confirmed the Knicks have tried to trade their best player, with no team willing to bite.

The Knicks would much rather trade guard Allan Houston, despite his 53-point explosion Sunday. He is in the second year of a six-year, $100 million deal, and with the fear of a continued fall in revenues, most teams remain unwilling to take on his escalating deal.

Sprewell's contract is a bit smaller and more manageable, which makes him more attractive to other teams and somewhat easier to trade.

One report cited a three-way deal, with Sprewell going to Miami, Heat forward Brian Grant going to Philadelphia, and 76ers forward Keith Van Horn going to New York. All three players are in the early stages of multi-year escalating deals.

"If it will improve our club and it's not a financial burden, then you know we'd consider it," said 76ers Coach Larry Brown, who has final say on personnel moves. "But I don't want to do it just for the sake of doing it."

Wednesday's trade was easy to consummate because all four players are young and are in their first NBA contracts. Deals involving veterans are not so simple.

The 76ers reportedly have been shopping Van Horn and forward Derrick Coleman, who is an attractive commodity because he is in the last year of a five-year, $40 million deal. That means his salary comes off his team's cap on July 1.

A deal of Coleman for Grant has been mentioned, as has one that would send him to Golden State with another player or two for combinations of forwards Adonal Foyle and Danny Fortson and guard Bob Sura.

"If you'd asked me two weeks ago, I would have said definitely," Brown said. "Now, I say it's very doubtful. But you know, we're still talking."

The Sixers were idle at last year's deadline, but have been very active in the past. In 2000, they acquired forward Toni Kukoc from Chicago as part of a three-team deal. In 2001, they moved Kukoc in a deal that netted All-Star center Dikembe Mutombo.

Two names prominently mentioned at last year's deadline have come up again.

Seattle All-Star guard Gary Payton is in the final year of his contract and may not re-sign with the Sonics. The team reportedly turned down a deal that would have sent Payton to the Knicks for forward Kurt Thomas and guard Charlie Ward.

Others mentioned are guard Nick Van Exel of Dallas, who admitted recently that if he were management, he would trade himself to acquire the big man the Mavericks need.


Memphis works trade with Orlando

MEMPHIS, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic pulled off a major trade Wednesday night, agreeing on a four-player deal that also involved draft picks.

In the first big trade before Thursday's trade deadline, Memphis sent rookies Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek to Orlando for Mike Miller and Ryan Humphrey. The Grizzlies also got a first-round pick in the 2003 draft and a second-round selection in 2004.

It also is the first major trade for Jerry West since he became the Grizzlies' President of Basketball Operations on April 30.

"We are excited to get Mike Miller for our team," West said. "He was the Rookie of the Year just a couple of seasons ago and has the potential to be a terrific player for us. In addition, Ryan Humphrey is an energetic, young forward with considerable talent and athleticism."

In an effort to improve their woeful interior game, the Magic parted with Miller, who was second on the club in scoring at 16.4 points per game.

With Grant Hill sidelined with an ankle injury, the 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year was the club's second offensive option behind star Tracy McGrady.

"While we are certainly sorry to see Mike move on, we have addressed our needs with the additons of Drew and Gordan," said Magic General Manager John Gabriel. "Drew brings size and athleticism to our frontline, while Gordan is an excellent perimeter shooter.

"This is a tough business and Mike was one of my favorites," said Orlando Coach Doc Rivers. "He, however, was the only way we could improve our basketball team. Obviously, anytime you can get size, you need to do it. I'm looking forward to coaching Drew and Gordan."

Gooden, who West raved about before making him the fourth pick in June's draft, should provide the Magic immediate help up front, and fit into the club's up-tempo style. The 6-10 forward is averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 51 games.

Giricek, a 6-6 shooting guard, is averaging 11.2 points in 49 games.

Making a deal of this proportion is a bold move for the Magic (26-29), who are percentage points ahead of Washington for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

The move is not a surprise for West and the Grizzlies, who were expected to be active before Thursday's deadline.

It has been a disastrous season for Memphis, which lost its first 13 games. West made his first big move when he fired Coach Sidney Lowe and replaced him with Hubie Brown after the club lost its first eight games.

The Grizzlies (16-36) have played better after their horrible start, but still have the second-worst record in the West, and are headed to the draft lottery.

The 6-8 Miller, who was selected fifth overall in 2001 and is in the third year of a $10.86 million contract, would seem to be a natural fit at small forward for the Grizzlies. He has a career average of 14.1 points in 194 career games.

With the deal, the Grizzlies now have the last two NBA Rookies of the Year with Miller and power forward Pau Gasol.

Humphrey, the 19th pick in June's draft who was acquired by Orlando from Utah, has seen limited action in his rookie campaign. The 6-8 forward from Notre Dame is averaging just 1.8 points in 35 games.


Oregon State names Riley football coach

CORVALLIS, Ore., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Milk Riley was officially named football coach at Oregon State late Wednesday, succeeding Mike Erickson.

He will be introduced at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

He surprised the school by taking a similar post with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers earlier this month.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times said Riley and Oregon State Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis reportedly agreed to a five-year contract, loaded with incentives, with a base salary of $700,000. The paper also said the contract includes a hefty buyout clause to reassure program supporters in case Riley again decides to bolt for another job after several seasons.

He will meet with his new team before the news conference, and will become only the second coach to have two tenures at the school.

"I'm absolutely excited," Bob Foreman of Salem, President of the Old Beaver Club during Riley's earlier stint at OSU, told the paper. "And I would be disappointed if people were disappointed (with Riley) because Mike served us well. An opportunity came up for him to get to another level. We all do this in the workplace, and if you don't accept challenges or never take them, you will never know. I admire his fortitude to come back. Bob (De Carolis) made a good choice, and we're going to be OK with it. I think we have to give Mike credit for recruiting many of the troops who went 11-1 on OSU's 2000 Pacific-10 co-championship team. I hope he stays here for a long time, and I think he will."

For Riley, it is literally a return engagement.

In his first stint at Oregon State, Riley, 49, posted an 8-14 record in 1997-98, but recruited many of the players who went on to enjoy greater success under Erickson.

Following the 1998 season, Riley was lured to the NFL and spent three years as coach of the San Diego Chargers. Last year, he served as the associate coach of the New Orleans Saints.

In 1997, Riley inherited an Oregon State program that had won three games combined the previous two seasons. He posted a 5-6 record in 1998, the Beavers' best mark since 1971.

Riley got his first head-coaching position in 1987 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, and led them to a pair of Grey Cup titles.

He began his coaching career in 1975 at California as a graduate assistant, and spent the '76 season in a similar capacity at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash. He landed a full-time position as defensive coordinator at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., from 1977-82.

Riley moved to the professional level in 1983 as the secondary coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL, where he stayed until 1985. In 1986, he returned to the college ranks as defensive coordinator at Northern Colorado.

Riley played college football at Alabama, where he was a four-year letterman as a defensive back under Paul "Bear" Bryant. During his playing career (1971-74), the Crimson Tide won four SEC titles and the 1973 national championship.

His father, Bud, was an assistant at Oregon State from 1965-72, and again in 1979.


Report: Knight to become free agent

BRISTOL, Conn., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- It appears New Orleans Saints safety Sammy Knight will join the list of unrestricted free agents in the National Football League.

ESPN.com is reporting that Knight, a Pro Bowler in 2001, will exercise the right to void the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

"I've spent six years there (in New Orleans) and, the way it seems, it's time to move on," Knight said. "Wherever I go, I want to help change things for the better."

Knight, 27, signed a five-year, $10 million contract with the Saints in 1999, but had the right to void the final year if he reached performance incentives. His base salary for 2003 is $1.9 million, but Knight believes he can make more as a free agent.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Southern California in 1997, and earned a starting job a month into his rookie campaign. He has been a fixture at strong safety for the Saints ever since.

He has 28 career interceptions, including 16 over the last three years.

Knight reportedly joins a list of unrestricted free agent safeties which includes Kwamie Lassiter, Tebucky Jones, Donovin Darius, and Lee Flowers.

The NFL free agent signing period begins on Feb. 28.


Report: Bears to axe Williams

CHICAGO, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Offensive tackle James "Big Cat" Williams of Chicago likely will be on of the team's next casualties.

Williams, who has played his entire 12-year career with the Bears, has made it clear that he wants to continue in Chicago, but when asked Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Indianapolis Wednesday, General Manager Jerry Angelo avoided a direct answer.

"We've got several players we're making decisions on, and we're going to reconvene next week and talk about that," Angelo told the Chicago Tribune.

The paper said Williams is due a roster bonus believed to be in the $500,000 range in March, as he enters the final year of a four-year, $17 million deal that included a $4 million signing bonus. He has played 166 games for the Bears, including 134 straight, but he battled through injuries last year and will turn 35 in March.

Williams, a 6-7, 332-pounder, played collegiately at Cheyney (Pa.) State. He is a member of the school's Hall of Fame, and was an undrafted NFL free agent.

As a pro, he has either blocked or deflected six kicks.

The Tribune said the Bears also are set to release wide receiver Marcus Robinson, who is due a $500,000 roster bonus in July and has a salary-cap figure of $3.8 million next year.


Bills make Price franchise player

BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- NFL teams have until 3 p.m. Eastern time Thursday to use their franchise or transition player designations on prospective free agents.

The Buffalo Bills have 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, the average salary of the league's top five receivers, if he does not agree to a long-term deal.

"We will continue to try and find a way to sign Peerless and keep him here in Buffalo," said Buffalo President Tom Donahoe. "We remain optimistic that this will be accomplished."

The Bills have Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds in the midst of a six-year contract worth $40 million, but have plenty of room under the cap to satisfy Price. Moulds led the team with 100 receptions for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

The Buffalo News reported Thursday that Price is not happy about the designation.

"We're scratching our heads because no one has informed us of anything," his agent, Tom McGee of Mason, Ohio, told the paper by phone. "As far as we're concerned, he's not even franchised because we're hearing it from the media. The Bills haven't given us the professional courtesy to call. Where we go from here, I don't know. Obviously with Peerless' discontent with that tag on him, it needs to be known that he's not a big fan right now and he doesn't want to be there."

The Baltimore Ravens will place a franchise tag on cornerback Chris McAlister if they are unable to reach a contract agreement before the deadline.

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 is $5.96 million.

"We want Chris to be a Raven for a long time," said Baltimore General Manager Ozzie Newsome. "By putting the franchise tag on him, we are clearly stating our intentions. We will continue to negotiate with his agent to get a deal done."

The Jacksonville Jaguars have tagged safety Donovin Darius with the franchise designation and will pay him at least$3.043 million next season. Darius is a "non-exclusive" franchise player, which allows him to solicit offers from other teams.

Should Darius sign with another team, the Jaguars could match the offer or accept two first-round draft choices. Darius also could opt for a long-term contract with the Jaguars.

Also tagged with the franchise designation was New England safety Tebucky Jones, who had said he would skip offseason workouts if so tagged. Like Darius, Jones will earn at least $3.043 million and with teammate and fellow safety Lawyer Milloy earning $4.4 million in 2003, would give the Patriots one of the highest-paid secondaries in the game.

The St. Louis Rams already have named four-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace as a franchise player. The Rams must offer Pace a one-year contract equal to the average of the five highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL last season, a number that is $5.73 million.

The Carolina Panthers Wednesday designated punter Todd Sauerbrun as their franchise player, guaranteeing the two-time Pro Bowler $1.47 million in 2003.

"Todd has been a very valuable weapon for us on special teams and we felt we couldn't let him get away," said Panthers Coach John Fox.

The Cincinnati Bengals last week named linebacker Takeo Spikes, the team's leading tackler four of the last five years, as a transition player.

The transition designation obligates the Bengals to pay Spikes the average salary of the top-10 linebackers' salaries for 2002, a number set at $4.85 million for the 2003 season.

Seattle tackle Walter Jones, defensive ends Hugh Douglas of Philadelphia and Vonnie Holliday of Green Bay, quarterback Jake Plummer and wide receiver David Boston of Arizona are among the players who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 28.

The Seahawks designated Jones, a three-time Pro Bowler, as a franchise player last year and may do so again. That would require the same $5.73 million offer that the Rams made to Pace.

Douglas led Philadelphia with 12 1/2 sacks last season, but the Eagles are not expected to place a franchise tag on him for a price of $7.2 million, the price for the average salary of the top five defensive ends. The tag is $5.87 million for a transition designation.

Holliday recently turned down a multi-year contract offer from the Packers worth more than $20 million.

Plummer just completed a four-year, $30 million contract with Arizona. He threw for 2,972 yards and 18 touchdowns with 20 interceptions for a 65.7 rating last season, but the Cardinals are more likely to use a franchise designation on Boston, who led the NFL with 1,598 receiving yards in 2001 but missed half of last season with a knee injury.

Linebackers Chris Claiborne of Detroit, Roosevelt Colvin of Chicago, and Mike Peterson of Indianapolis, and tackle Wayne Gandy of Pittsburgh are other players who may be designated before the deadline.


© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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