Indians ink two

March 3, 2003 at 3:33 PM   |   Comments

Gentry fired by Clippers

LOS ANGELES, March 3 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Clippers, unable to improve with their youth movement, Monday fired Coach Alvin Gentry.

His firing was first reported by ESPN.

Team officials have scheduled a news conference for later in the afternoon Monday.

"These decisions are never easy, and this one is especially tough because Alvin and I had a very good working relationship," said Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Elgin Baylor. "But I reached the conclusion Sunday night that the players simply were not responding and I believe a change is necessary at this time."

In two-plus seasons with the Clippers, Gentry was 89-133. Thus far this season, the Clippers are 19-39 and have dropped 12 of their last 15 games.

They have dropped five straight, and 14 of 17, and at 19-39, are last in the NBA's Pacific Division.

Gentry has faced criticism nearly the entire season, failing to motivate a team that is facing a number of offseason questions.

After acquiring point guard Andre Miller prior to the start of this season, expectations were raised, possibly higher than they should have been. The team has struggled from the start and has been unable to compete in the highly competitive Western Conference.

Assistant Coach Dennis Johnson will replace Gentry. His first game will be Monday night against New Orleans.

Johnson is in his fourth season with the Clippers' coaching staff. He joined the team as an assistant coach midway through the 1999-2000 season after beginning his professional head-coaching career earlier that season with the CBA's La Crosse Bobcats.


Redskins on signing binge

ASHBURN, Va., March 3 (UPI) -- The Washington Redskins continued their furious free agent signing pace Sunday by coming to terms with placekicker John Hall and quarterback Rob Johnson.

Johnson was a backup behind Brad Johnson with the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. Hall is late of the New York Jets, and gets high praise for his resiliency.

The signings rapped up a huge weekend in the team's offseason plans. They inked Hall, guards Randy Thomas, Dave Fiore, and Lennie Friedman, defensive end Regan Upshaw, and defensive tackle Brandon Noble, re-signed veteran guard Tre Johnson, and acquired running back Trung Canidate in a trade with the St. Louis Rams.

The Washington Post reported that the signings of Upshaw and Noble likely means they will lose tackle Darryl Gardner, their most consistent defensive lineman in 2002, who visited Denver over the weekend. The paper also said team officials have resigned themselves to losing free agent kick returner Jermaine Lewis, and according to ESPN, Washington also is interested in signing veteran wide receiver Raghib "Rocket" Ismail after learning that Ike Hilliard re-signed with the New York Giants.

Coming to terms with Johnson, 30, was important because Coach Steve Spurrier wants an experienced signal-caller behind projected starter Patrick Ramsey, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2002.

"He enjoyed his time with (Tampa Bay Coach) Jon Gruden quite a bit," Johnson's agent, David Dunn, told the Post. "(But) He saw the chance to work with another offensive genius to be something he did not want to pass up."

It also means Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews, who went back-and-forth as starters last season, will not be back. Both had their moments, but team officials, and particularly Spurrier, realized that neither could be any more than a backup on a consistent basis.

Hall, 28, has scored more than 100 points in five of his six seasons (93 points in 2000). He has connected on 149-of-203 field goals, has career-long kicks of 55 yards in the regular season and 60 yards in the preseason, and 205-of-210 extra points as a pro.

ESPN reported that Hall will receive $7.13 million, including a $1.6 million signing bonus, over five years.

His 652 career points rank him third all-time among Jets players, he reached the 300-point total faster than any other player in franchise history, and did so despite having to kick at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., which has nightmarish weather conditions, especially in the cold.

He made 24-of-31 field goals in the regular season in 2002, played a key role in leading the Jets into the playoffs, and was 2-for-2 in postseason play.

"The thing that set him apart is that he's good on kickoffs and good on field goals," said Redskins Player Personnel Director Vinny Cerrato. "He's kicked in poor conditions, and he's made a lot of big field goals in his career."

The Redskins' kicking situation was a mess last season. They used three different placekickers -- James Tuthill, Brett Conway, and Jose Cortez -- and have already parted with last season's regular punter, Bryan Barker, who was not effective.

He suffered a broken nose in a loss at Dallas on Nov. 28.


Mitchell latches on with Giants

NEW YORK, March 3 (UPI) -- The New York Giants Monday addressed one of the weakest facets of the team by signing running back-kick returner Brian Mitchell to a multi-year contract.

Financial terms were not revealed, but Mitchell made $750,000 with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Second all time with 22,001 combined net yards, Mitchell, 34, last season was one of just two players to rank in the top seven in the NFL in kickoff and punt returns.

He averaged 12.3 yards on 46 punt returns.

The Giants were 26th in the NFL, averaging just 7.6 yards on punt returns. Mitchell set an NFL record on Nov. 25 with his 13th career punt return for a touchdown.

He has played in 193 consecutive games, third among active players, and was third in the NFL with a career-high 27.0-yard average on kickoff returns.

"Brian Mitchell adds a dimension to our team that we really need," said Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi. "He is one of the great return men in the history of the National Football League, and is a threat to contend playing out of the backfield. After playing against him all these years, it's nice having him on our side."

The 5-10, 221-pounder spent his first 10 seasons with the Washington Redskins before signing with the Eagles prior to the 2000 campaign. He owns NFL records with 12,897 kickoff return yards and 4,845 punt return yards.


Barber signs with Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 3 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Chiefs Monday signed veteran outside linebacker Shawn Barber, who played for Philadelphia last season.

Barber, a fourth-round pick by the Washington Redskins in 1998 out of the University of Richmond, has played in 65 games as a pro. The 6-3, 227-pounder was on the Chiefs' radar the entire offseason.

"Shawn Barber was our top priority at the 'Will' linebacker position," said President Carl Peterson. "He possesses the skills, abilities and experience that should improve our defense immediately. He has played with one of the top defenses in the NFL in Philadelphia. We look for him to bring that experience with him to our defense."

Barber is known for his speed and his pass-covering skills. He has a pair of 100-tackle seasons, and finished the 2002 campaign as Philadelphia's second-leading tackler with 119 stops, including 69 solos, and also added two interceptions, one for a touchdown.

Additionally, he had one sack, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five quarterback pressures, and four special teams stops. He registered his second NFL touchdown on an 80-yard scoring return at Dallas on Dec. 21. Barber also started both of Philadelphia's postseason games in 2002, totaling eight tackles.

In his career, he has 400 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 29 special teams tackles, five fumble recoveries, and five forced fumbles.

He enjoyed his best season with the Redskins in 1999, when he racked up a career-high 148 tackles to rank second on the squad.

The Chiefs went 8-8 last season. Statistically, they had worst defense in the AFC, while having an explosive offense led by the No. 3 rusher in the conference in Priest Holmes.


Titans sign Godfrey

NASHVILLE, March 3 (UPI) -- The Tennessee Titans, making the same roster moves of their NFL brethren, have come to terms with veteran linebacker Randall Godfrey.

In salary cap moves, the Titans have released center Gennaro DiNapoli and defensive tackle Henry Ford. They also have removed the transition tag from punter Craig Hentrich, which allows him to become an unrestricted free agent, and are continuing contract talks with guard Zach Pillar.

"The Titans are still very much a consideration," his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told The Tennesseean. "But once free agency starts, all bets are off. Anything can happen at this point. We will stay in touch with the Titans, but obviously now we will have an opportunity to talk with other clubs. I think Zach will draw a lot of attention.''

Godfrey told the paper that he strongly considered turning down the Titans. The paper said he signed a contract that will pay him a total of $2.5 million in combined base salary and bonus, and through various incentives, he has a chance to earn up to $3.4 million.

His new deal saved the Titans $2.5 million against the salary cap.

"With me being hurt last year, it was a fair deal, and I am excited about coming back," Godfrey said. "We got pretty far last year, and as I sat back and looked at it, I realized everybody is coming back. I thought about going out and testing the market and getting a three- or four-year deal, and then again I thought about what we have here. We went to the AFC Championship Game last year, and I think there is a good chance of getting me a Super Bowl ring. That is what I want most. I am going to help this team in whatever way I can."

Meanwhile, with Ford's release, Tennessee now has just three defensive tackles with NFL experience -- Albert Haynesworth, Robaire Smith, and Kris Kocurek.


Guerin might miss postseason

VALLEY RANCH, Texas, March 3 (UPI) -- There is a possibility that superstar forward Bill Guerin is done for the season after undergoing emergency thigh surgery Saturday night.

Guerin suffered a severe thigh contusion Thursday when he collided with Chris Phillips of Ottawa in the third period of a 3-2 overtime loss. He missed the rest of the game, and sat out Friday's 5-3 loss in Buffalo.

At the moment, the best the Stars can hope for is having Guerin back for the first round of the NHL postseason. A team spokesman told the Dallas Morning News that the Stars are assessing their options before the March 11 trade deadline.

"We're going to assess the situation and do whatever we can do to improve our team if that's possible," General Manager Doug Armstrong told the paper, "but we were going to do that regardless of Bill's situation. That's a long-term contract that Bill has, and a lot more goes into whatever decision we make than just the last four or five days."

Guerin is suffering from "compartment syndrome," a rare condition where the bleeding becomes so severe that it cuts off circulation to the thigh muscle, according to Stars team doctor Dan Cooper.

"Then his condition deteriorated with just really massive swelling in the thigh, which created enough tension that it cuts off blood supply to the muscle," Dr. Cooper said. "Occasionally, an athlete can develop bone formation in the thigh from how the body heals itself."

He will have more surgery this week.

"Maybe I'm just being an optimist," Cooper said. "I think Bill will be back for the start of the playoffs and will be a contributing factor for the success we hope to have."

In the offseason, Guerin signed a five-year contract worth $45 million. He has 25 goals and 25 assists in 64 games. He scored a career-high 41 goals for Boston last season, and led the NHL with 355 shots on goal.

The Stars have a league-high 89 points, and lead Vancouver in the Northwest Division by three points after a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh Sunday night.


Federov, Kournikova now split

TORONTO, March 3 (UPI) -- Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov has admitted he was married for a short time to tennis darling Anna Kournikova.

Federov says the two now are divorced. He made the admission in the latest edition of the Hockey News, and it was a cover story.

He made the admission in an article which deals with a number of hockey-related issues.

"We were married, albeit brief, and are now divorced," Federov said.

The magazine said the nature of his relationship with the Russian tennis star, how his teammates felt about it, and Kournikova's rumored relationship with NHL star Pavel Bure are among the topics Fedorov addressed in a wide-ranging interview.

Fedorov, 33, also says he no longer keeps in touch with the 21-year-old Kournikova, who has made her name as a model while on the tennis tour. She has never won a tournament, and has found herself outclassed in a number of matches.


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