Kings, Pistons seek 2-0 leads in playoffs
DETROIT, May 8 (UPI) -- Philadelphia and Detroit each hope one day is enough time to heal an injury to a key player, and Dallas hopes to have remedied its ailing defense.
After having to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the first round, the top-seeded Pistons got their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series off to a good start Tuesday, when Richard Hamilton scored 25 points and Chauncey Billups added 24 in a 98-87 win over the 76ers.
Billups, who made 7-of-13 shots, left the game early in the fourth quarter with a badly-sprained left ankle after he landed on the foot of 76ers guard Eric Snow.
The 6-3 Billups is averaging 22.8 points per game in the playoffs, just ahead of Hamilton (22.3) for the team lead. If he is unable to play, Chucky Atkins will start in the backcourt with Hamilton.
Detroit received a huge contribution from Mehmet Okur in Game One. The 6-11 rookie native of Turkey averaged just 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in the first round against Orlando, but scored six of his 16 points in a key fourth-quarter spurt Tuesday.
Snow, a solid defender and perfect complement to superstar Allen Iverson in the backcourt, has been bothered by inflammation and tendinitis in his right foot. He is questionable for Thursday's contest. Aaron McKie most likely will start if Snow is unable to go.
Iverson, who is averaging 33.7 points in the playoffs to lead the NBA, scored 27 points in Game One, but received little help.
Detroit native Derrick Coleman contributed 21 points and eight rebounds, but Philadelphia's other three starts shot a combined 5-of-17.
The Sixers have not lost the first two games in a best-of-seven series since the 2000 conference semifinals, when they were beaten by Indiana, 4-2.
The Mavericks had never lost in seven all-time Game Ones before Tuesday, when Chris Webber scored 13 of his 24 points in the first quarter as the Kings jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 124-113 victory.
Peja Stojakovic had 26 points and nine rebounds, and Bobby Jackson added 23 points off the bench for Sacramento, which shot a sizzling 55 percent (44-of-80) from the field, and had six players in double figures.
Nowitzki, who had 31 points and 12 rebounds Sunday when Dallas beat the Portland Trail Blazers, was limited to 18 and 11 on Tuesday.
"They scored 130 on us. That's embarrassing," Nowitzki said. "We've just got to guard them a little better."
While Dallas blew a 3-0 lead before beating Portland in the first round, Sacramento cruised past the Utah Jazz in five games. Van Exel admitted the Kings may have been fresher.
"It could have been a lot to it, but at this point in the season you've got to dig deep," Van Exel said. "Because if you go to the finals, that's the end of June. This is early right now. We're still early into the playoffs. Fatigue shouldn't come into factor right now."
While the Mavericks are trying to reach the conference finals for the first time, the Kings are seeking a return trip. Last year in Game Seven, Sacramento blew a late lead and was beaten in overtime at home by the Los Angeles Lakers, who went on to win their third straight NBA championship.
Wallace heads NBA All-Defensive Team
NEW YORK, May 8 (UPI) -- Two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace of Detroit was named the top vote-getter for the league's All-Defensive Team.
The team, which was announced Thursday, featured four returning players on the first unit and a notable omission.
The 6-9 Wallace, who last month became the sixth player to be named Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons, received 27 of 29 first-place votes and a total of 55 points from NBA coaches.
He averaged a league-leading 15.4 rebounds and was second in the NBA with 3.15 blocks to help the Pistons earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Duncan received 18 first-place votes and 44 points, and became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1991-92 to earn MVP, All-NBA First Team, and All-Defensive First Team honors in consecutive seasons.
Duncan averaged 12.9 rebounds and 2.93 blocks, ranking third in each category, and was named to the First Team for the fifth straight season.
Garnett, who was named for the fourth straight year, averaged 13.4 rebounds and 1.57 blocks, and received 47 points, including 22 first-place votes.
Guards Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Doug Christie of Sacramento rounded out the First Team.
Bryant finished third in the NBA with a career-high 181 steals. He received 15 first-place votes and 35 points to make the team for the second straight season.
It was the first selection for Christie, who received 14 first-place votes and 38 points.
Gary Payton of Milwaukee, nicknamed "The Glove" for his defensive prowess, received four first-place votes but did not make the First Team for the first time since 1993. The 1996 Defensive Player of the Year received 15 points, one fewer than Eric Snow of Philadelphia.
Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, headed the Second Team. He received nine first-place votes for 27 points.
Bruce Bowen of San Antonio was the other forward, receiving eight first-place votes and 24 points. Center Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers got one first-place vote and 12 points, and was named to the Second Team for the third straight year.
New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd led the Second Team with 10 first-place votes and 31 points. Snow received three first-place votes. His teammate, Allen Iverson, got three first-place votes and 10 points.
Foot surgery for Rick Fox
LOS ANGELES, May 8 (UPI) -- Veteran forward Rick Fox of the Los Angeles Lakers has been scheduled for foot surgery on Monday.
The procedure will be performed by Drs. Jonathan Deland and William Hamilton to repair a ruptured tendon in his left foot, which was injured in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs against Minnesota.
A determination as to the length of his recovery and rehabilitation will be determined at the conclusion of the surgery.
"He's committed to returning next season as an even stronger player for his team, no matter what it takes," said team spokesman Staci Wolfe. "One very positive outcome will be that not only will he be repairing the injury, but he'll also be correcting a congenital alignment problem in his foot that he's had his whole life, which will enable him to play at an even higher lever."
"There's been a lot of speculation since his injury as to how long his recovery will take, but the truth is that we won't know how quickly he can get back on the court until he gets out of surgery next week," said Jill Smoller, Fox's agent and Director of Sports at the William Morris Agency. "Rick is going in to this with a very positive attitude, and looks forward to coming out stronger, healthier, and ready to go."
The Lakers are down 0-2 in their Western Conference semifinal series against San Antonio, and are in poor physical shape.
In addition to Fox, forward Devean George missed Game Two with a sprained left ankle, and his replacement, Brian Shaw, managed just six points in 32 minutes.
"We have battled through adversity all year long," said guard Derek Fisher. "It kinda has been this team's motto. We have to and will make adjustments before Friday' game. We will figure things out, and come out as a different team Friday night."
New Orleans GM takes another job
NEW ORLEANS, May 8 (UPI) -- Several days after firing Coach Paul Silas, the New Orleans Hornets have lost General Manager Jeff Bower, who resigned to accept a post at Penn State.
He will serve as an assistant under new basketball coach Ed DeChellis.
Bower, a native of Hollidaysburg, Pa., and a graduate of St. Francis in Loretto, had expressed a desire to move his family closer to home, and previously served as an assistant at Penn State from 1983-86.
"Jeff will definitely be missed in the Hornets organization, but I know he will be just as successful at Penn State as he was with the Hornets," said New Orleans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Bob Bass.
Bower has spent the last nine seasons with the Hornets, including the last two as general manager. He handled the day-to-day basketball operations since taking over as general manager in June 2001, but Bass continued to make the major personnel decisions.
Bower will remain with the club through the June 26 draft.
New Orleans fired Silas on Sunday, two days after being knocked out of the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Hornets went 47-35 this season, finishing third in the Central Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference despite a pair of injuries to star guard Baron Davis.
They lost to the 76ers in six games, playing without injured forward Jamal Mashburn in the middle two games.
Wild attempts to make playoff history
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 8 (UPI) -- In just their third year of existence, the Minnesota Wild try to make NHL history Thursday night when they visit Vancouver.
It will be a decisive Game Seven of their Western Conference semifinal series.
The Wild can become the first team ever to rally twice from three games to one deficits in one postseason. They did it in the conference quarterfinals against the heavily-favored Colorado Avalanche.
"We can't think about what's happened in the past," said Minnesota left wing Antti Laaksonen said after Wednesday's 5-1 win. "It's 0-0. We've got one game coming up. You can't think about the fact that it's never been done before."
Against the Avalanche, the Wild had to win Game Six at home and Game Seven on the road in consecutive nights. They will try to do the same Thursday.
It's been a stunning playoff performance by the Wild, who finished last in the Northwest Division in each of their first two seasons. They earned the sixth seed in this year's playoffs with a 42-29-10-1 mark.
The Canucks finished second to Colorado in the Northwest, and entered the playoffs as the fourth seed after leading the West much of the season. They rallied from a three games to one deficit in the first round against the St. Louis Blues.
While their high-powered offense carried them much of the season, the Canucks haven't been able to do anything the last two games, getting outscored 13-3. They allowed two power-play goals Wednesday, two of which opened the scoring in the second period.
"The score doesn't indicate what your confidence is like," said Vancouver left wing Todd Bertuzzi. "We're a confident group, and we've got to be confident. We've played a Game Seven in our home and we've played extremely well at home, so we need to go back, regroup ourselves, and start over."
Dan Cloutier played the entire game Wednesday, despite allowing five goals on just 23 shots. He has stopped only 33 of 44 shots over the past two games, getting pulled in a 7-2 Game Five drubbing.
The Canucks' vaunted offense also has been quiet against the trapping Wild. It has not scored more than three goals in any game this series, getting only one combined from the high-scoring duo of Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund.
Bertuzzi, arguably the best power forward in the game, has just one goal in the playoffs after finishing third in the league during the regular season with 46.
"I need to keep working hard, keep doing the little things, keep finishing my hits, keep standing in front of the net," he said.
A special year has come down to special teams for the Wild, who are 4-for-10 on the power play with a shorthanded goal in each of the last two games. Former Canuck Cliff Ronning and Andrew Brunette have totaled five goals and four assists in that span.
A Wild victory would set up an unlikely conference final against seventh-seeded Anaheim, which knocked off the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars in succession.
A victory by the Canucks would translate into their first conference final series since 1994, when they made their second and last run to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the New York Rangers in seven games.
Report: Mike Shula to Alabama
BRISTOL, Conn., May 8 (UPI) -- The University of Alabama apparently has decided to hire Miami Dolphins assistant Mike Shula as its new football coach.
Citing a prominent Alabama booster as its source, ESPN Radio reported Wednesday night that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle on a contract that will run at least five years.
ESPN.com reported that the university has "laid out parameters" of a contract with Shula's representatives, and that Crimson Tide officials believe he will accept the job within the guidelines they have discussed.
Last Saturday, Alabama made the stunning decision to fire Mike Price, who was unable to defuse the controversy surrounding his off-the-field behavior, which included a visit to a topless bar and unusual charges to a hotel bill.
While Price had no previous ties to Alabama when he was hired last December, Shula quarterbacked the Crimson Tide from 1983-86, and was a starter each of his last three seasons.
NFL assistants Sylvester Croon of the Green Bay Packers and Richard Williamson of the Carolina Panthers also have been mentioned as leading candidates to replace Price. Like Shula, both are former Alabama players.
Shula, the son of former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, would be the third Alabama coach in less than a year. Price replaced Dennis Franchione, who left abruptly to become coach at Texas A&M.
Price coached the team during spring practice and apparently made a favorable impression as many players argued on his behalf.
Shula would inherit a program that is on NCAA probation. The Crimson Tide went 10-3 last season, but were under a bowl ban that stretches to 2003 as part of NCAA sanctions that include scholarship reductions.
Shula, 37, played under Ray Perkins at Alabama, and was an offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-99.
No postseason play again for Wolverines
INDIANAPOLIS, May 8 (UPI) -- The men's basketball program at Michigan has been banned from postseason play for another year.
Under a ruling issued by the NCAA on Thursday, the school also faces a reduction in scholarships.
The ruling comes more than seven years after the NCAA began an investigation into rules violations committed when former booster Ed Martin paid men's basketball players $616,000.
The one-time Detroit autoworker, who died in mid-February, admitted loaning the money to Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor, and Louis Bullock, who played for the Wolverines in the 1990s.
Under the NCAA ruling, the Wolverines will be prohibited from playing in the postseason for the 2003-04 season, lose four scholarships over a four-year period, and get four years of probation that will conclude in November 2006.
It also requires the university to disassociate for 10 years the four players involved, or show cause why such an action should not be taken.
"This is one of the most egregious violations of NCAA laws in the history of the organization," said Thomas Yeager, Chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Michigan officials conceded guilt regarding Martin on Nov. 7, 2002, when school President Mary Sue Coleman announced self-imposed penalties, including two years of NCAA probation, a $442,000 fine, a one-year ban from postseason play, and the removal of four banners from Crisler Arena, where the Wolverines play home games.
"We have always accepted responsibility for the concerns raised by the NCAA and by the Infractions Committee in its report," said President Mary Sue Coleman at a news conference. "We agree that these were very serious infractions. However, I am disappointed that the committee's action has the effect of punishing our current, uninvolved student-athletes with an additional one-year ban on postseason play. This contradicts one of the core principles of the NCAA."
In determining the appropriate penalties to impose, the NCAA said it considered the institution's self-imposed sanctions and corrective actions. The NCAA agreed with and adopted the actions taken by the university, noting they represented meaningful self-imposed penalties.
The NCAA said the case remains one of the most serious ever to come before the Committee on Infractions. According to the report, the case represents the largest acknowledgement of cash payments in the history of NCAA infractions.
Coleman said the university will appeal the NCAA's ruling that bans the Wolverines from postseason play next season.
Izzo named coach of Pan American team
COLORADO SPRINGS, May 8 (UPI) -- Tom Izzo of Michigan State Thursday was named coach of the men's basketball team for this summer's Pan American Games.
Izzo has established Michigan State as one of the premier programs in the nation.
His squad, comprised of college players for the Aug. 2-6 event in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, will be chosen following the team trials, to be held May 30-June 1 in Colorado Springs.
College coaches Lorenzo Romar of Washington and Quin Snyder of Missouri will assist Izzo, who served as an assistant under Flip Saunders of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves at the 2002 Goodwill Games, where the U.S. won a gold medal.
Izzo has become one of the most respected coaches in the country during his eight-year stint at Michigan State. He is 189-78 with the Spartans, leading them to a national title and three Final Four appearances.
Romar was an assistant under Utah's Rick Majerus for the 1997 United States' 22-and-under World Championship team that went 6-2 in Australia. He just completed his first year at Washington after reviving programs at Pepperdine and St. Louis.
In four seasons at Missouri, Snyder has gone 84-49, leading the Tigers to an NCAA Tournament appearance each year, including the "Elite Eight" in 2002. The Duke product never had a head coaching job before joining Missouri.
The United States has earned a medal, including a record eight golds, in 12 of 13 Pan-Am Games appearances, losing to Brazil in the 1999 title game. They are 79-8 all-time in the tournament, which is held every four years.
Angels activate Appier
ANAHEIM, Calif., May 8 (UPI) -- The Anaheim Angels have activated righthander Kevin Appier from the 15-day disabled list.
The move was made following Wednesday's 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians.
Appier, who has not pitched since April 19 because of a strained flexor muscle in his pitching arm, will start against Cleveland on Thursday.
The 35-year-old completed just the third stint on the DL in his 15-year career. He is 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA in four starts this season, his second with the defending World Series champions. In 18 1/3 innings, Appier has given up 22 hits, including six home runs, with 10 walks and 11 strikeouts.
The Angels, who are now 4-0 against the Tribe this season, will look to sweep Cleveland out of town with a win Thursday night. Appier will start that contest.
To open a roster spot, the Angels designated journeyman lefthander Rich Rodriguez for assignment. The 40-year-old had a 2.45 ERA in three relief appearances.
Rockers re-sign Melvin
CLEVELAND, May 8 (UPI) -- The Cleveland Rockers, who are coming off their second losing season, have re-signed forward-center Chasity Melvin.
Terms of the deal were not released.
Melvin started all 32 games last season, averaging career highs of 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest as Cleveland finished 10-22 after making the playoffs three of the previous four seasons.
The 6-3 Melvin was selected by the Rockers with the 11th overall pick in the 1999 draft, and has averaged 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 123 games. She played in Poland in the offseason, averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds.
The Rockers also announced rookie center Jennifer Butler will be out for the season. Butler, a second-round pick, suffered a torn left ACL in practice last Friday.