NBA regular season ends Wednesday
PHILADELPHIA, April 16 (UPI) -- The regular season in the NBA concludes Wednesday night, and while several teams have goals to reach, a legendary career comes to an end.
Michael Jordan will play what likely is his final game for the Washington Wizards, but homestanding Philadelphia needs a win to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
If the 76ers win and Indiana loses, the Sixers will gain the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia would fall to fifth with a loss and a win by the New Orleans Hornets over the Atlanta Hawks.
Jordan stands in the way, although Washington has lost the first three meetings with Philadelphia this season. He scored 21 points in his home finale, a 93-79 loss to New York on Monday.
While Jordan received huge ovations, that game was overshadowed by the postgame remarks of Coach Doug Collins, who said he was disrespected by several players this season and Jordan supported him.
The Sixers have lost three straight and three of four at home.
The Los Angeles Lakers learned Tuesday that they will open the playoffs on the road after Portland beat Phoenix. The Lakers will be seeded fifth or sixth, and will open the playoffs either at Portland, Minnesota, or Dallas.
If the Lakers win and Portland loses, Los Angeles will be seeded fifth. Minnesota is in position to claim the fourth seed with a victory at Memphis.
At Denver, the Nuggets, who own the worst record in the Western Conference, can avoid the worst record in the league with a victory over the Houston Rockets. The Nuggets are one game ahead of Cleveland in the overall standings.
The seventh seed in the East is up for grabs when Milwaukee hosts Orlando at the Bradley Center.
Orlando has won two of three against Milwaukee this season, but if the Bucks earn a split of the season series, it would earn the seventh seed by virtue of finishing with a better conference mark.
The team that finishes eighth will meet top-seeded Detroit, while the seventh seed will meet Atlantic Division champion New Jersey.
Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves can secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history with a win at Memphis.
The Indiana Pacers will try to grab the third seed in the East when it hosts New Jersey. The Pacers will clinch third place with a victory or a loss by Philadelphia against the Wizards.
Lenny Wilkens likely will coach the Toronto Raptors for the last time when they play at Cleveland. He has broken the all-time record for most career losses.
The Cavaliers need a win to avoid finishing with the league's worst record. The Cavaliers have lost at least 50 games for the fourth straight season, and endured its worst campaign since going 15-67 in 1981-82.
Miami gets Seau from Chargers
MIAMI, April 16 (UPI) -- The San Diego Chargers Wednesday traded linebacker Junior Seau to the Miami Dolphins for an undisclosed choice in the 2004 NFL Draft.
"We had two objectives from the start," said Coach Marty Schottenheimer. "Most important, we gave Junior a voice in the process, and helped him settle with a team of his choice. We also acquired value for the Chargers in the form of a draft selection for the future. In my mind, we accomplished our goals. We ask ourselves one question regarding every decision that affects this football team: Will this decision help us become a championship football team? That's the motivation as well as the deciding factor behind every decision we make."
On Monday, the Chargers and Seau agreed to restructure his contract, paving the way for the trade to the Dolphins.
Arguably the best defensive player in Chargers history, he is tied for first on San Diego's all-time list with 200 games, including 199 starts. He was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade team for the 1990s and also was named Chargers MVP each season from 1997-01.
He spent 13 seasons with the Chargers. He finished his career in San Diego with 11 Pro Bowl appearances, 1,480 tackles, and 47 sacks. His 200 games played are tied for the franchise's all-time record.
"I'm humble," Seau said at a Miami news conference. "This is a great organization and a great team. It has all the parts for winning a championship. I'm going to tell you the truth, Junior Seau needed the Miami Dolphins more than the Miami Dolphins needed Junior Seau. I'm excited because I have a group a core of leaders on this team. Junior Seau is going to play alongside a group of leaders. This is still Zach Thomas', Jason Taylor's, and Tim Bowens' team, you have (Sam) Madison all the guys."
Seau is joining a defense that was ranked third in the NFL last season, allowing just 291 yards per game.
"We knew there was a possibility this day could come, just as it could come for every player," said San Diego President Dean Spanos, "but that doesn't make it any easier. I have mixed emotions. I'm going to miss him around the office during the season, but I'm happy we were able to help him open this new door in his life. I'm grateful for how he has represented himself and the team, but mostly I'm grateful for his friendship. The day Junior finally decides to hang up his cleats will be the day we honor him as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, defensive player in our history. Though his last game may not be in a Chargers uniform, to me he will always be a San Diego Charger."
The 6-3, 250-pounder, a native of Oceanside, Calif., who played collegiately at Southern California, was the No. 1 pick, and fifth overall, of the Chargers in the 1990 draft.
In his career, he has played in 200 games, and has 1,481 tackles, caused 11 forced fumbles, and made 15 interceptions.
"I think everyone's aware that your chemistry to some degree changes," said Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt. "As a head coach, you're always looking for some way to improve. I don't think there's anybody in the National Football League that does it better or does it in more of a professional way than Junior does."
Cowboys retain Mario Edwards
IRVING, Texas, April 16 (UPI) -- The Dallas Cowboys Wednesday re-signed cornerback Mario Edwards, a restricted fee agent, by offering more than they tendered earlier this year.
The four-year veteran re-signed for a one-year, $1 million contract, with a portion of the deal guaranteed.
According to a team spokesman, Edwards will still become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, with another chance to peddle his wares on the open market, this time with no strings attached.
Edward's agent, Jordan Woy, didn't want to lock his client into a multi-year deal if it was not going to render a huge signing bonus.
"I never like to cut off a player's free-agent year unless he's getting a seven-figure signing bonus," Woy said. "We had talked with several teams about a one, two and three-year deals, and had been talking back and forth with (St. Louis)."
The one-year tender offer of $605,000 the Cowboys had given Edwards in February did assure them the right to match any offer sheet Edwards signed with another club. If they chose not to, the Cowboys would have received a sixth-round draft choice as compensation for the loss.
Edwards has started all but one game in the past two seasons, with 32 career starts in his three years with the club. The former sixth-round pick in 2000 was the third of three cornerbacks drafted that year, but the only one still around since both Dwayne Goodrich (second round) and Kareem Larrimore (fourth round) have been released.
Report: Bengals sign Neil Rackers
CINCINNATI, April 16 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Bengals reportedly made sure their placekicking were in good hands Tuesday by re-signing free agent Neil Rackers to a one-year contract.
Rackers, who had a breakout campaign in 2002, became a restricted free agent Feb. 28.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Wednesday that he agreed to the Bengals' one-year tender offer of $605,000, and that he visited the Seattle Seahawks last week.
"He's looking forward to a big year with the Bengals," his agent, Rob Roche, told the paper.
Last season, Rackers was perfect on 13 field goal attempts of less than 45 yards, and made 15-of-18 field goal attempts (83.3 percent), the seventh-best percentage among all NFL kickers.
Also in 2002, his kickoffs helped the kickoff coverage team finish eighth in the league with a 20.9-yard return-against average.
The sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft out of Illinois will be an unrestricted free agent when this one-year deal expires.
Colts re-sign the "other" Williams
INDIANAPOLIS, April 16 (UPI) -- The Indianapolis Colts have re-signed three players, including running back Ricky Williams.
Williams, entering his second NFL season next season out of Texas Tech, was obtained in a trade with the New Orleans Saints just before the start of the regular season. He played in 10 games, rushing for 35 yards on 11 carries and catching one pass for 20 yards and a touchdown.
He was an exclusive-rights free agent, and signed a one-year, $300,000 contract.
The Colts also re-signed two veterans who are seen as critical for their defense in 2003.
They are cornerback David Macklin, a starter the past two seasons, and defensive tackle Josh Williams, a starter in 2001, who missed much of last season with an injury.
Macklin, a third-round draft choice by the Colts in 2000, has started every game at cornerback the last two seasons. Last season, he was eighth on the team with 64 tackles, and also had an interception and 11 passes defensed.
Josh Williams, a fourth-round draft choice by the Colts in 2000, started seven games that season and 16 the next season, but missed eight of the first nine games last season with a foot injury.
He returned to play seven games, starting the final two regular-season games. Last season, he had a sack and 23 tackles.
Randy Johnson to miss start Wednesday
PHOENIX, April 16 (UPI) -- Randy Johnson, the reigning four-time National League Cy Young Award winner, will miss Wednesday's start against Colorado with swelling under his right kneecap.
The hard-throwing southpaw, who has been hit hard in three starts this season, experienced soreness in his knee following Friday's start against the Milwaukee Brewers, in which he was pounded for 10 runs over 4 2/3 innings.
Johnson, 39, underwent an MRI the following day that showed no damage to the knee. The swelling subsided before flaring up again after he threw in his normal bullpen session prior to Tuesday's game against the Rockies.
"We think that the best course of action is to get rid of that swelling and get rid of that inflammation before we run him back to the mound," said Arizona Manager Bob Brenly. "If he goes out there to pitch (Wednesday), chances are that thing will blow up like a balloon, so we will shut him down for a couple of days. He will probably throw a side session over the weekend to prepare for his start the 22nd in Montreal."
In three starts this season, Johnson is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA.
"The Big Unit" has been ripped for 16 earned runs and 21 hits over 17 innings, and has not looked anything like baseball's most dominant pitcher.
Johnson, who missed one start last season with a sore back, will have his turn in the rotation taken by Miguel Batista.
Like Johnson, the two-time defending National League West champion Diamondbacks have struggled this season. They own the National League's worst record at 3-11.
NHL has a heavy dose of playoffs
WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning, who found new life Tuesday, again will play the Capitals Washington Wednesday night in the NHL quarterfinals.
The Lightning took advantage of a rare 5-on-3 in overtime to escape with a 4-3 victory in Game Three. After losing the first two games of the series at home, the Southeast Division champions got two goals from Vincent Lecavalier, including the game-winner 2:29 into the extra session with Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Ken Klee serving penalties.
Elsewhere, five other series resume Wednesday.
After a double-overtime loss at home on Monday, the New York Islanders look to even their Eastern Conference series with the Ottawa Senators at Nassau Coliseum.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who came out on the winning end of a double-overtime decision against the Philadelphia Flyers, look to take a commanding three games to one lead at the Air Canada Centre.
Out West, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hope to complete an amazing four-game sweep of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings at Arrowhead Pond, while the Vancouver Canucks look to even their series against the Blues at two games apiece in St. Louis.
In the first playoff trip in franchise history, the Minnesota Wild try to avoid a three games to one deficit when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
Dvorak out with hand injury
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, April 16 (UPI) -- Edmonton Oilers right wing Radek Dvorak is expected to miss the remainder of the series against Dallas with a fractured right hand.
Dvorak scored the winning goal in Game Three of the Western Conference quarterfinal series. He suffered the injury in the third period of Tuesday's 3-1 loss that evened the series at two games apiece.
Dvorak is out indefinitely, and did not travel with the team for Thursday's Game Five at Dallas.
On Sunday, he scored with 14:22 remaining in the third period to cap a three-goal comeback and lift the Oilers to a 3-2 win. It was his first playoff goal in seven years.
Acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline for leading scorer Anson Carter, Dvorak had four goals and four assists in 12 games with the Oilers.
Boston demotes Howry
BOSTON, April 16 (UPI) -- The Boston Red Sox have optioned veteran righthander Bobby Howry to Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League.
The Sox squandered a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning before rallying in the ninth to come away with a 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Howry wasn't one of the culprits in this one because he didn't pitch, but with several relievers struggling at once, the Red Sox felt a roster move was necessary to change the momentum.
Howry, 29, pitched in four games and posted a 12.27 ERA in those outings. He surrendered 11 hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
"We have to shake it up here," said Boston Manager Grady Little. "We have to find some formula that will work. Right now, we feel like Bobby has a lot to offer this ballclub, and we feel like he just needs to get it going."
Little informed Howry of the decision after the game.
"He took it just like a veteran type of player would take that type of news after having the (service) time in the major leagues he's had," said Little.
The Red Sox will replace Howry on the roster before Wednesday's game. The leading candidates to replace Howry are Hector Almonte, Dicky Gonzalez, and Jason Shiell. All three righthanders have pitched in the majors, and now are at Pawtucket.
Howry was the second committee member to exit the 25-man roster in the last few days. On Saturday, lefthander Alan Embree was placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder soreness.
With Ramiro Mendoza struggling, and Chad Fox and Mike Timlin not in any sort of groove yet, the Red Sox' bullpen is clearly at an early point of crisis. The best reliever on the team so far has been Brandon Lyon (1.29 ERA).
Mendoza gave up four hits and four runs Tuesday and didn't retire a batter.
Because of Lyon's youth and lack of bullpen experience, the Red Sox might not want to put him into a closing role. Robert Person will likely be an option in a few weeks, but the righthander is taking it slowly in extended spring training after having surgery on his shoulder and elbow late last season.
Boston General Manager Theo Epstein said the move should not be interpreted as a message.
"It's just a move to get one of the other guys going," Epstein said. "That necessitates a move to Triple-A right now. It's really hard with the type of ballgames we are having right now to give a pitcher who is struggling a chance to get back on track."
Cubbage back with Red Sox
BOSTON, April 16 (UPI) -- Boston third base coach Mike Cubbage was back in the box Tuesday night in the Red Sox' 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
He was back three days after being carried out of Fenway Park on a stretcher following a diabetic seizure.
Cubbage has never taken his diabetic condition lightly, but after Saturday's seizure, the first he has had in the 14 years since he was diagnosed, he intends to be more vigilant.
"When you're diabetic, you have to be your own doctor 365 days a year," Cubbage said. "I didn't do a very good job on Saturday. I mismanaged my medicine and my food intake, and the result was what happened."
While the Red Sox were batting in the bottom of the fifth inning, Cubbage quickly realized he needed help.
"It was really sudden," Cubbage said. "At the beginning of the inning, I thought I was fine. I remember (Shea) Hillenbrand flying out to right field. The second hitter, it was kind of foggy. By the time of the last out, I was really foggy. That's what happens. You get disoriented. I remember when (Jason Varitek) swung the bat, it was a swinging strikeout. I ducked. I really didn't know where the ball was. Then when I started to move off the field, I realized it was the third out. I guess I noticed everyone coming off the field. Without any sugar anywhere in my body, everything just shuts down."
His seizure was caused by a hypoglycemic event, which happens when the blood sugar drops below about 50 milligrams.
Cubbage gave himself a shot of insulin roughly two hours before the game.
"You normally don't eat when you're 400 or 500, and that's where I was, but I assumed because my meter said my sugar was going up instead of down, something was wrong with my line," Cubbage said. "It can get loose or clogged with airbubbles and it can disrupt the flow of insulin. I made the assumption that that is what happened, when that probably didn't happen. I gave myself a shot with a syringe thinking that I hadn't gotten the insulin that I took (earlier). I was at (a diabetic clinic in Boston) all (Monday) morning, and I got a refresher course. I learned some things. I've got some different ground rules I'll be operating under now."
Cubbage, 52, is in his second season as Boston's third base coach after spending 2001 as a bench coach for former Houston Manager Larry Dierker.