Rockets select Yao Ming
NEW YORK, June 27 (UPI) -- The Houston Rockets, having successfully completed a series of delictate international negotiations, selected 7-5 Yoa Ming of China with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night -- highlighting an evening of talent collecting that involved players from around the globe.
Six players from outside the United States were drafted in the first round and 15 were selected overall. Three were picked from the national championship Maryland squad, two of the top three chosen came from Duke and another jumped from high school into the top 10 on the draft board.
Both Houston and Denver wound up with two international players from the first round, but the biggest one of all -- both figuratively and literally -- was the huge post player from China.
Yao became the first international player taken No. 1 in the draft and the choice by the Rockets was made only after they convinced the team for which he plays in China that Yao should be allowed to come to the NBA.
Houston officials spent the last three days in China negotiating with the Shanghai Sharks, Yao's homeland team, to secure his release from the Chinese Basketball Association. That release was finally granted early Wednesday.
Selecting Yao came at the end of a difficult process, and now there could be another difficult task in trying to turn him into the kind of NBA player deserving of being made the No. 1 pick.
After Yao was selected, the top three players in American college basketball last season were chosen in short order -- Jay Williams of Duke by Chicago, Mike Dunleavy of Duke by Golden State and Drew Gooden of Kansas by Golden State.
But veteran players from Europe and South America found themselves in the mix along with the top American collegians.
Denver wound up with two of the top seven players chosen, both of them coming from outside the United States. The Nuggets chose Nicoloz Tskitshivili of the Republic of Georgia with the fifth pick and then obtained the No. 7 choice, Brazil's Nene Hilario, from the Knicks as part of the deal that involved McDyess and Camby.
And after claiming Yao with the No. 1 choice, Houston also took Slovenian Bostjan Nachbar with the 15th pick.
The lone high school player taken in the first round Wednesday night was Amare Stoudermire of Orlando, Fla. He was the ninth player picked and went to the Phoenix Suns.
Sampras, Agassi fall at Wimbledon
LONDON, June 27 (UPI) -- Just three days into the tournament, legendary Americans Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are out of the Wimbledon Championships.
Second-seeded Marat Safin of Russia also was eliminated Wednesday in a day of enormous upsets at the world's biggest tennis tournament.
A seven-time champion, No. 6 Sampras crashed out in the second round, falling to George Bastl of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4. The third-seeded Agassi, the 1992 champion and runner-up to Sampras in 1999, suffered a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 defeat in the second round at the hands of Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand.
It marks the first Wimbledon in 12 years that will feature neither Sampras nor Agassi in the quarterfinals. In 1990, Sampras lost in the first round and Agassi did not enter the tournament.
Considered by many the greatest grasscourt player in history, Sampras won his record seventh Wimbledon singles championship in 2000 but has not claimed a title anywhere since -- a drought of 30 events.
He had won 56 of his previous 57 Wimbledon matches before losing to another Swiss player, Roger Federer, in the fourth round last year.
"This is more of a shock to me. As predictable as I've been over the years here, you're going to have a match like this once every 10 years and it happened today," Sampras said. "It's going to be a tough flight home, a tough next couple of weeks, just knowing that this is going on and I'm not here."
The 30-year-old Sampras was especially downcast, considering Bastl has the lowly world ranking of 145 and got into the tournament only because another player withdrew. Bastl, 27, had not won at Wimbledon before his first-round victory Monday over Russia's Denis Golovanov.
Agassi lost to a player who had never advanced past the second round at the All-England Club. But Srichaphan, the No. 1 playr in Thailand, reached his first career ATP final in January at the hardcourt event in Chennai, India.
Agassi, 32, in 1999 became the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam titles in his career by capturing the French Open.
Marat Safin fell to Olivier Rochus of Belgium, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1).
Brazil reaches World Cup final
SAITAMA, Japan, June 27 (UPI) -- Ronaldo, the most famous athlete in the world's most popular sport, scored four minutes into the second half Wednesday night to give Brazil a 1-0 victory over Turkey and a berth in the World Cup championship game against Germany.
In a tournament filled with upsets and controversy, the title game will feature the most successful World Cup teams ever.
For the 13th time in the last 14 World Cups, the championship will include either Germany or Brazil. But for the first time in the event's 72-year history, they have both survived the month-long tournament to meet with soccer's biggest prize on the line.
The final will kick off in Yokohama, Japan next Sunday at 8 p.m. (7 a.m. EDT). Both teams will be making their seventh appearance in the championship contest. Brazil is 4-2 in title games and Germany is 3-3.
Ronaldo, bothered by a thigh strain and a lack of fitness after an injury-plagued season in Europe, was able to score thanks to a complete collapse of the interior Turkish defense.
He received the ball from Roberto Carlos, who had counterattacked down the left side. Ronaldo moved into the penalty box and was surrounded by four defenders, none of whom closed to at least block his shooting lane.
With a wide open view of the goal, Ronaldo simply punched the ball toward the right corner. Although the shot was not a powerful one, it caught Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber by surprise. The 'keeper sprawled to his left and got a hand on the ball. But it trickled past him and into the corner of the net.
It was Ronaldo's sixth goal of the World Cup and ended Turkey's shutout streak at 327 minutes -- a stretch of soccer played against Costa Rica, China, Japan, Senegal and the first half against Brazil.
The game was also the fifth straight in the World Cup's knockout phase which produced no more than one goal.
Martinez struggles, but wins
BOSTON, June 27 (UPI) -- Pedro Martinez got through seven innings despite allowing three home runs Wednesday night as the Boston Red Sox rallied from an early four-run deficit to post a 7-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Martinez (9-2), who surrendered five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts, gave up a two-run homer to former Red Sox Ellis Burks in the top of the first.
Jim Thome and rookie Ben Broussard hit solo shots in the third and fifth, staking the Indians to a 4-0 lead
But the Red Sox erupted for six runs off Ryan Drese -- highlighted by Johnny Damon's bases-loaded triple -- in the fifth to snap a season-high four-game losing streak.
Boston was held to just one hit over the first four innings but the first six hitters reached safely in the fifth.
Jason Varitek led off with a single, took third on Brian Daubach's double and scored on Trot Nixon's base hit. After Jose Offerman walked, Damon's triple tied the contest, 4-4.
Other American League results: Baltimore 8, New York 7; Tampa Bay 4, Toronto 2; Minnesota 6, Chicago 5; Anaheim 7, Texas 6; Kansas City 6, Detroit 5.
Sheffield's slam carries Braves
NEW YORK, June 27 (UPI) -- Gary Sheffield hit his first grand slam in more than two years to snap an eighth-inning tie Wednesday night as the Atlanta Braves defeated the New York Mets, 6-3, for their seventh win in eight games.
Mo Vaughn smacked a pair of solo shots, including a 505-foot blast high off the scoreboard in right-center field. But the Mets lost on a late-inning home run for the second time in three days and fell 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East.
With the score tied, 2-2, pinch-hitter Keith Lockhart coaxed a leadoff walk in the eighth from reliever David Weathers (2-3). Vaughn mishandled former Met Darren Bragg's bunt up the first base line, putting two on with none out. After Rafael Furcal also sacrificed, Scott Strickland came out of the bullpen and walked Julio Franco.
Sheffield, who had just one home run and three RBI in his previous 11 games, hit Strickland's next pitch into the left-center field bleachers for his eighth career grand slam.
Other National League results: Cincinnati 8, Chicago 6; San Francisco 6, San Diego 5 in 12 innings; Florida 6, Philadelphia 2; Pittsburgh 7, Montreal 4; Arizona 9, Houston 1; St. Louis 5, Milwaukee 2; Los Angeles 5, Colorado 3.
Sharks acquire rights to Fleury
SAN JOSE, Calif., June 27 (UPI) -- The San Jose Sharks Wednesday acquired the rights to volatile right wing Theo Fleury from the New York Rangers, completing a draft day trade in which the teams swapped sixth-round picks.
The Sharks have five days to negotiate with Fleury, who becomes an unrestricted free agent Monday. If they are unable to sign him, they likely would receive a high compensatory draft pick.
"It's a win-win situation," San Jose general manager Dean Lombardi said. "Each team gets something of value in the deal."
Fleury, who turns 34 on Saturday, was paid $6.5 million last season but drew the ire of Rangers coaches with frequent outburst and ill-timed penalties. One of the most vilified opponents ever to play in San Jose, he tussled with the Sharks' mascot following a game last December.
A three-time 40-goal scorer, Fleury also did not figure in New York's plans for next season.
The diminutive but fiery Fleury entered the NHL's substance abuse program and missed the final two months of the 2000-01 campaign. But he returned to the Rangers last season and played all 82 games, totaling 24 goals, 39 assists and a career-high 216 penalty minutes. He also won a gold medal with Canada at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Cynthia Cooper resigns
PHOENIX, June 27 (UPI) -- Phoenix Mercury coach Cynthia Cooper stepped down Wednesday, three days after a run-in with forward Lisa Harrison.
The announcement came before Wednesday night's game against the Seattle Storm. Assistant coach Linda Sharp was named Cooper's successor on an interim basis.
"After talking with the organization, I decided that the best thing for me, my family and the organization as a whole was for me to step down," Cooper said. "I'll miss everyone on this team and wish them the best."
At 6-4, the Mercury are in fourth place in the Western Conference, 3 1/2 games behind first-place Los Angeles. Cooper missed two games earlier this month during the birth of her twins by a surrogate mother.
In Tuesday's victory over Minnesota, Cooper benched Harrison for a 13-minute stretch bridging both halves.
Cooper also had issues with forward Tracy Reid, who was suspended briefly before going on the injured list this week.
Ferrari fined $1 million
PARIS, June 27 (UPI) -- Team Ferrari and drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were fined a total of $1 million by the International Automobile Federation Wednesday for incidents stemming from last month's Austrian Grand Prix Formula One race.
Barrichello was leading the race on the final lap, but just before the finish line he pulled aside to let Schumacher pass. Ferrari officials admitted that the drivers were under orders to let Schumacher win the race to help pad his lead in the championship points standings.
FIA said the fine was levied not because of what took place on the track, but by the conduct of the drivers after the event. Schumacher handed Barrichello the winner's trophy and insisted Barrichello stay on the top podium while he went to the second-place step during the award ceremony.
Although team orders are nothing new in Formula One, the incident was widely criticized in the motorsports industry. FIA, however, was in no position to sanction Ferrari for the race tactics.
Young, Smith to be All-Star captains
NEW YORK, June 27 (UPI) -- Robin Yount and Ozzie Smith were named Wednesday as honorary captains for this year's All-Star game, to be played at Milwaukee's Miller Park on July 9.
Yount, the honorary captain for the American League, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He broke into the major leagues as an 18-year-old and spent his entire 20-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yount won Most Valuable Player awards in 1982 and 1989 and was named to the American League All-Star team three times. In 1982, he set career highs with a .331 average, 29 home runs and 114 RBI, helping lead the Brewers to their only World Series appearance.
Currently serving as first base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Yount finished his career with 3,142 hits. Shoulder surgery forced him to the outfield in 1985 and four years later he joined Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg as the only players to win MVP awards at different positions.
Smith, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres during his 19-year career, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month.
Arguably the game's greatest fielding shortstop, Smith earned the nickname "Wizard of Oz" because of his defensive skills. He also had a flair for the dramatic, doing backflips when he took the field before every game.