NFL playoffs resume Saturday
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Donovan McNabb and Tommy Maddox will both try to extend their comebacks Saturday.
McNabb returns to the lineup and Maddox returns to the place of his scariest moment in the NFL's divisional playoffs.
After missing six games with a fractured right ankle, McNabb makes his anticipated return as the Philadelphia Eagles (12-4) host Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons (10-6-1) in the NFC.
Maddox's season looked to be over the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the Tennessee Titans.
But knowing something about comebacks, Maddox leads the Steelers (11-5-1) into an AFC divisional matchup against the Titans (11-5), who are the NFL's hottest team entering the postseason.
McNabb, the NFL's highest-paid player, suffered the injury in a Nov. 17 game against Arizona. But the Eagles surprisingly did not miss their star quarterback, going 5-1 in his absence to secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
"I'll be ready. It's going to be exciting and I'm going to have a lot of fun with it," McNabb said.
While the Eagles have their main weapon back, the Falcons have a big threat as well with the electrifying Vick, who is taking the quarterback position to a new stratosphere with his running ability.
Like Vick, McNabb is a major threat with his feet, but it remains to be seen if he will be reduced to a pocket passer due to his injury.
While the Falcons will have to account for McNabb, the Eagles will have to worry about the NFL's fastest signal-caller in Vick, who already has made an impact in his first postseason.
In the wild card round, Vick -- the NFL's youngest quarterback at 22 -- made history by leading the Falcons to a surprising 27-7 rout at Green Bay.
Led by Vick, the Falcons became the first team to hand the Packers a home playoff loss. Vick provided headaches for the Packers, playing a mistake-free game and completing 13 of 25 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. He also provided problems with his feet, rushing for 64 yards on 10 attempts.
Vick's second playoff endeavor also should provide quite a challenge since he is going up against the NFL's second-ranked defense.
Philadelphia or Atlanta will meet either Tampa Bay (12-4) or San Francisco (11-6) in next weekend's championship game. The Bucs host the 49ers on Sunday.
Like McNabb, Maddox also suffered an injury on Nov. 17, although his appeared to be much more serious.
The Hollywood script for Maddox took a horrific turn in the third quarter when he was taken off the field by ambulance and hospitalized after being hit by Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck. Maddox, who lay paralayzed on the field for at least 20 minutes, was diagnosed with a cerebral concussion and spinal injury.
Maddox remarkably returned to the lineup after missing just two games.
Mavericks demolish Celtics
DALLAS, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Dallas Mavericks' big three took over Friday night in sending the NBA's leading team storming past Boston, 103-78.
It was the Mavericks' fifth straight win.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points, Michael Finley added 22 and Steve Nash 13 -- all in the first three quarters. The Mavericks have won six straight meetings with the Celtics. The last three have been total blowouts, with Dallas holding leads of 42, 16 and 32 points.
The Mavericks used bursts of 13-0 in the second quarter and 12-0 in the third period to turn this one into a rout. They led 92-60 entering the fourth quarter, and Nash joined Nowitzki and Finley on the bench shortly thereafter.
Dallas has put together its longest winning streak since opening the season with 14 wins. At 30-5, the Mavericks are on pace to win 70 games, which would be the second-best mark in NBA history.
Paul Pierce scored 20 points for the Celtics, who began the "Texas Triangle" portion of their four-game road trip with their sixth loss in eight games.
Other NBA results: Indiana 101, Orlando 97 in overtime; New York 114, Philadelphia 112; New Jersey 94, Toronto 79; Golden State 104, Washington 99; Atlanta 84, Houston 75; Minnesota 115, Sacramento 109 in overtime; Detroit 101, New Orleans 99; Milwaukee 93, Chicago 85 in overtime; Denver 82, Portland 81; Phoenix 96, Memphis 90; Utah 92, Miami 76.
Rookie has second straight big night
BUFFALO, N.Y., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Rookie Ales Kotalik posted his third consecutive two-goal game Friday night to give Buffalo a 4-2 win over Boston.
Kotalik provided the winning goal with 73 seconds remaining in the third period.
After the NHL announced prospective owner Mark Hamister had been granted a second one-week extension to finalize the purchase of the team, the Sabres found themselves in a 2-0 hole 31 seconds into the third period.
But Tim Connolly netted his first goal in 25 games to halve the deficit before Kotalik continued his sizzling pace to hand the Bruins their fifth consecutive loss.
With six points in his previous three games, including two straight two-goal efforts, the 24-year-old Kotalik knotted the contest at 8:07 before scoring his 12th of the season at 18:47 to give Buffalo its first win when trailing after two periods in 20 attempts.
Miroslav Satan capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with two seconds remaining.
Making his fifth consecutive start since being recalled from the minors on Dec. 30, Ryan Miller stopped 21 shots to improve to 4-3-0.
Other NHL results: Washington 4, Carolina 1; New Jersey 2, Florida 1; Minnesota 2, Phoenix 1.
Els takes over Mercedes lead
KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Ernie Els fired an 8-under-par 65 Friday and opened a three-shot lead over Bob Estes at the Mercedes Championship.
On Thursday, the 36-player field took advantage of a day with virtually no wind and averaged 69.361, the lowest for any round in the five years the tournament has been held at the Plantation Course. Els and Jim Furyk led the way with 64s.
Els was at 17-under 129 and was within striking distance of David Duval's 1999 event record of 26-under 266.
Estes shot his second straight 66 and was two strokes in front than K.J. Choi, who produced his second 67. Goosen climbed into a tie for fourth at 135 with Chris Riley and Jerry Kelly, both of whom shot 70.
Furyk, who won here in 2001, managed a 1-under 72 and was tied at 136 with Ian Leggatt. The $5 million tournament is limited to winners of 2002 PGA Tour events and is missing superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Boston columnist Will McDonough dies
BOSTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Will McDonough, 67, an award-winning Boston Globe sports columnist and NFL commentator, died Thursday night at his home.
While no official cause of death was announced, McDonough was known to have a history of heart problems.
"He was an original, a regular newsman, get it first, get it right, fearless," said Globe sports colleague Dan Shaughnessy.
McDonough had previously suffered several heart attacks, including one recently while on air on a radio sports talk show. But he drove himself to the hospital.
McDonough retired from the Globe in 2001, but continued to write a regular weekly column.
He was a commentator and analyst on NFL Live and had covered every Super Bowl during his more than 40-year career.
The youngest of nine children of immigrant Irish parents, McDonough was the father of five. One son, Sean McDonough, 36, is a prominent television sports play-by-play announcer.
NBA approves Charlotte franchise
NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The NBA Board of Governors Friday approved an expansion franchise for Charlotte, to be owned by billionaire Robert Johnson.
The unanimous vote officially made Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, the first black majority owner of a major league team.
Johnson was introduced as owner of the franchise last month and Friday's vote, which included one representative from each of the 29 teams, was considered a mere formality. The team will begin play in the 2004-05 season.
Johnson was chosen over Boston businessman Steve Belkin, the managing partner of a group including Larry Bird, after both sides made presentations last month to the NBA's expansion committee.
The 56-year-old Johnson is reportedly worth $1.3 billion, making him No. 149 on the Forbes list of richest Americans. There were reports Johnson will pay $300 million for the team.
Earlier this week, Johnson tabbed former New York Knicks executive Ed Tapscott as president of franchise operations.
Hardaway out at least six weeks
PHOENIX, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Phoenix guard Penny Hardaway, a key to the team's resurgence this season, has torn ligaments in his right thumb and will miss up to eight weeks.
The Suns made the announcement Friday before their home game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The injury-prone Hardaway had not missed a game this season.
The 6-7 Hardaway is averaging 10.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 36 games this season, his fourth with the Suns and 10th in the NBA. He has been an ideal complement to scorers Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion as the surprising Suns have posted a 22-14 record, good for third in the Pacific Division.
Hardaway received a seven-year, $86 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando following the 1998-99 season. This will be the fifth time he has missed at least 20 games in a season, although most of his previous injury problems have been with his knee.
In 549 career games, Hardaway has averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He made the All-Star team each year from 1995-98.
Colorado running back declares for draft
BOULDER, Colo., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Colorado tailback Chris Brown announced Friday he would bypass his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Brown, who has rushed for more than 100 yards 14 times during the last two seasons, was a runner-up for the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the country.
The 6-3, 220-pound Brown received favorable feedback from the NFL when he inquired as to his status in the upcoming draft and received the indication he would be taken in the first two rounds.
Brown said that the severe knee injury suffered by Miami's Willis McGahee in last week's Fiesta Bowl "really had no bearing" on his decision to turn pro.
He averaged 153.4 rushing yards per game this season, good for third in the nation, and ran for 18 touchdowns. He concluded his Colorado career ranked fourth as the school's all-time rusher (3,690 yards) and scorer (204 points).
Oregon's Onterrio Smith, who ran for 1,141 yards in an injury-plagued season, also announced for the draft. So did Smith's teammate, tight end George Wrighster.
Dave Campo hired by Browns
CLEVELAND, Jan. 11 (UPI) --Less than two weeks after being fired by the Dallas Cowboys, Dave Campo has hooked up with an old friend.
The Cleveland Browns Friday named Campo as their defensive coordinator, reuniting him with Coach Butch Davis.
The two worked as defensive assistants under Jimmy Johnson in Dallas from 1989-94 and at the University of Miami during the 1987-88 seasons, a span that included two Super Bowl titles and a national championship.
"I am very excited about the opportunity to work with Butch Davis," Campo said. "We had a great working relationship at the University of Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys, and I have a great deal of respect for him."
After serving 11 years as an assistant, Campo was promoted to Cowboys coach in 2000, but was fired after his third straight 5-11 season.
Payton moves from Giants to Cowboys
The Cowboys announced Friday that Payton, the Giants' offensive coordinator the last three years, would be their new assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Payton, 39, was regarded as one of the NFL's hottest young assistants two years ago when the Giants went to Super Bowl XXXV, erupting for 41 points in the NFC championship game.
But Payton's fortunes in New York took a dramatic turn this season when the offense scored just seven touchdowns in the first seven games. That led to New York Coach Jim Fassel assuming play-calling responsibilities and the offense responded with 26 touchdowns in the last nine regular season games, plus five more in a 39-38 playoff loss at San Francisco last Sunday.
After the playoff defeat, Fassel made it clear he would remain the team's primary play-caller and Payton asked management for permission to speak to other teams since he had one year left on his contract.
Parcells, who led the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990, will count on Payton to develop his quarterbacks. He hired Maurice Carthon, a former player of his with the Giants and a former assistant of his with New England and the New York Jets, as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator on Tuesday.
Sabres sale still on hold
NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Mark Hamister and Todd Berman were given another extension by the NHL Friday in their bid to buy the Buffalo Sabres.
Hamister and Berman were introduced as prospective owners of the Sabres in November and faced a Friday deadline to complete the sale. But the NHL, already dealing with a financial mess involving the Ottawa Senators, agreed to a second one-week extension.
The reported price tag of $65 million includes the Sabres, Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League, the relating companies associated with the two teams and the rights to HSBC Arena.
The closing of the deal likely rests with the approval of a $33 million assistance package from New York State that would be used for arena and other capital improvements.
Without the assistance, Hamister has said he will give up his bid, opening the possibility that the team could fold or relocate. The NHL already is dealing with a crisis in Ottawa, where the Senators filed for bankruptcy Thursday.
Clijsters, Davenport reach final
SYDNEY, Australia, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Kim Clijsters won the Belgium battle Friday while Lindsay Davenport also reached the finals at the adidas International.
Clijsters, the women's second seed, posted a 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 3 Justin Henin-Hardenne in the last semifinal Friday. She has won four of her last five encounters with Henin-Hardenne dating to their quarterfinal meeting here last year, and leads the all-time matchup, 6-4.
The 19-year-old has won 18 of her last 19 matches dating to a semifinal loss to Anastasia Myskina in Leipzig. Since that defeat, she won Filderstadt, Luxembourg and the year-ending event in Los Angeles. Her only loss over that stretch was to Davenport in the quarterfinals of Zurich.
Clijsters will have to beat Davenport on Saturday if she wants to win her 11th career title.
Davenport advanced to her sixth Sydney final in her last eight appearances with a 6-4, 7-5 triumph over Russia's Tatiana Panova. She won the title here in 1999 and is one final short of tying Evonne Goolagong-Cawley's record of seven.
Davenport, who is 6-3 lifetime against Clijsters, will go after her 38th career title on Saturday.
On the men's side, Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame Germany's Rainer Schuettler, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. The second-seeded Spaniard has picked up where he left off at the end of 2002, when he lost to World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the final of season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. He also won the hardcourt event at Hong Kong last September.
Ferrero aims to capture his ninth title in 15 finals and will face Korean qualifier Hyung-Taik Lee.
Lee, who knocked off sixth seed Andy Roddick on Wednesday and gained a semifinal berth when No. 1 Marat Safin withdrew, reached his second career ATP final with a 6-3, 6-3 rout of South African Wayne Ferreira.