In Sports from United Press International

May 13, 2003 at 2:49 PM
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Texas-based teams hope for homecourt wins

SAN ANTONIO, May 13 (UPI) -- San Antonio and Dallas hope momentum that was lost Sunday suddenly reappears Tuesday night in the Lone Star State.

Both NBA Western Conference semifinal series resume Tuesday, with the Spurs hosting the Los Angeles Lakers and the Mavericks entertaining the Sacramento Kings.

Superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal came up big down the stretch Sunday as the Lakers escaped with a 99-95 win over the Spurs to even their best-of-seven series at two games each.

The Lakers, trailing by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter and by 10 midway through the third, were in serious danger of falling behind, 3-1, to the top-seeded Spurs, but behind Bryant and O'Neal, Los Angeles powered its way back into the game, and outplayed San Antonio in the waning moments.

The Lakers will have Coach Phil Jackson back on the bench Tuesday. He underwent angioplasty on Saturday to clear a 90 percent blockage to a main artery. He was released from Centinela Hospital Medical Center Sunday morning, but was advised by doctors to go home and rest.

Because of that, he missed Game Four, and long-time assistant Jim Cleamons served as coach.

Jackson, who had kidney stones earlier this season, was experiencing tightness and pain in his chest for several days, and underwent tests Friday before the Lakers beat San Antonio, 110-95, in Game Three.

The aura of invincibility the Spurs built in winning the first two games of the series at home were lost over the weekend at the Staples Center.

"It's even, 2-2, and now we go back home," said San Antonio guard Tony Parker. "Now Game Five is a must-win."

The Spurs will need a bigger effort from David Robinson, who fouled out in just 14 minutes on Sunday and did not score.

The Lakers are trying to become just the second team in NBA history to win four titles in a row. To do that, they will have to become the eighth team in playoff history to win a series after losing the first two games.

"We had to come from behind (against Portland in the 2000 conference finals) our first championship year," Bryant said. "Our experience means a lot and it keeps us focused. We know what it takes to win. We've been there before."

Just 24 hours after winning a double-overtime classic in Game Three on Saturday night, the Mavericks were lethargic in a 99-83 loss in Game Four that evened the series at two wins each.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 17 points to lead six players in double figures for the Kings, who will be without injured star Chris Webber for the rest of the playoffs.

"We just didn't seem to have much (Sunday), didn't have our legs, wasn't a lot of fuel left in the tank," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson.

Vlade Divac added 16 points and nine rebounds, Peja Stojakovic 15 and 12, and Doug Christie, 13, 11, and seven assists for Sacramento, which allowed as many points in 48 minutes as it did in the playoff record-setting first half of a 132-110 loss in Game Two on Thursday.

Divac has averaged 18.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games without Webber.

Nick Van Exel of Dallas, who scored a playoff career-high 40 points on Saturday and had been averaging 32 in the series, was held to five points, all in the fourth quarter, while All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was limited to 11.

With a day to rest, the Mavericks likely are to employ the fast-paced approach that worked so effectively in Game Two.

Ray Allen wins Sportsmanship Award

NEW YORK, May 13 (UPI) -- Veteran guard Ray Allen of Seattle Tuesday was named winner of the Joe Dumars NBA Sportsmanship Award.

The award honors the player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.

Allen, acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 20, is the second Sonic to win the award, joining Hersey Hawkins, who earned the honor following the 1998-99 season.

Allen received 519 points, including 38 of a possible 116 first-place votes, from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada.

The three-time NBA All-Star was one of four divisional finalists that included New York guard Allan Houston from the Atlantic, New Orleans forward P.J. Brown from the Central, and Dallas guard Michael Finley from the Midwest.

Houston finished second with 485 points, followed by Brown (480) and Finley (372.)

The award is named for former Detroit Pistons guard Joe Dumars, the original recipient following the 1995-96 campaign.

The NBA will donate $25,000 on Allen's behalf to his Ray of Hope Foundation.

Fox has foot surgery

NEW YORK, May 13 (UPI) -- Veteran forward Rick Fox of the Los Angeles Lakers has undergone successful surgery on the torn tendon in his left ankle.

He is expected to make a complete recovery.

"The surgery came out as positive as anybody could have hoped for," Jill Smoller, Fox's agent, who accompanied him to New York, told the Los Angeles Daily News. "There were no surprises."

Fox's injury occurred in a 102-97 playoff victory against Minnesota on April 27. He was sixth on the team in playoff scoring at 6.0 points per game on 44 percent shooting.

He started every playoff game in the past two championship runs, was a key reserve when the Lakers won the title in 2000, and has been the most reliable member of the Lakers' supporting cast.

No timetable has been given for his return to the court, but he has said he will be conservative on his rehabilitation.

"I think a lot will be determined once he gets to the daily rehab," Smoller told the paper.

The Daily News reported that an MRI exam showed he damaged two tendons, the peroneus longus tendon and, to a lesser degree, the peroneus brevis tendon. Doctors attached the two tendons during Monday's surgery, and realigned his heel to avoid further strain in the foot.

His foot will be immobilized for at least six weeks before he begins a full-scale rehab program.

Jameer Nelson to enter NBA Draft

PHILADELPHIA, May 13 (UPI) -- Star guard Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's has declared for the NBA draft, although he will leave open his option of returning to college.

Nelson made the announcement at a Tuesday morning news conference. The junior filed with the NBA office on Monday, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.

While he plans on attending the NBA's invitation-only pre-draft camp in Chicago, Nelson will not sign with an agent, allowing him to return for his final year of eligibility if he chooses to withdraw his name from the draft by June 19.

The NBA draft will be held June 26 in New York.

Nelson guided the Hawks to their second at-large NCAA Tournament berth in the last three seasons in March. He nearly single-handedly won a first-round game against Auburn, totaling 32 points and nine rebounds in a 65-63 overtime loss.

The 6-0, 190-pounder averaged 19.7 points and 4.7 assists per game as a junior. The two-time first-team All-Conference selection in the Atlantic 10 is second in school history with 543 assists and 17th with 1,435 points.

Devils try to bounce back against Ottawa

OTTAWA, May 13 (UPI) -- The New Jersey Devils try to continue another playoff comeback Tuesday night when they play Ottawa in Game Two of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Devils have flown home and back since losing the series opener, 3-2 in overtime, on Saturday. Coach Lou Lamoriello chose to send his team home for two days, rather than wait around in Ottawa.

The decision may end up costing New Jersey at least a fine for breaking a league rule that prohibits teams from leaving during a conference final series, but it likely will not bother the Devils.

They've won two of the last eight Stanley Cups, returning from a lockout to claim the 1995 title, and overcoming two straight first-round outings and the loss of Bill Guerin to win a second in 2000.

The Devils also reached the Finals in 2001, and continue to be the most consistent team in the conference, despite playing to non-sellout crowds at Continental Airlines Arena and being the "third team" in the New York area behind the Rangers and Islanders.

New Jersey also fought back from an early 2-0 deficit before losing in overtime Saturday.

The Senators have won nine of their last 11 games since dropping the conference quarterfinal series opener to the Islanders. They have allowed only 16 goals in that span and have been able to turn on their offense when necessary.

Ottawa won Game One when Shaun Van Allen scored 3:08 into overtime. It was Van Allen's first postseason goal in 55 games.

The Senators also turned it on when they needed to against Philadelphia in the conference semifinals. After being blanked twice in the first four games, they outscored the Flyers, 10-3, in the last two.

In the first round, Ottawa dropped a 3-0 decision at home to the Islanders in Game One, then won the next four games by a combined score of 13-4.

With Patrick Lalime in the nets and Marian Hossa leading the offense, they've overcome bankruptcy to win the Presidents' Cup and reach the conference finals for the first time in their 10-year history.

The Western Conference finals take the night off following another superb effort by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who posted his second straight shutout Monday night in leading the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to a two games to none series lead against the Minnesota Wild.

Game Three is Wednesday night in Anaheim.

Doug Wilson named GM of Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 13 (UPI) -- Doug Wilson has accepted the task of rebuilding the NHL's San Jose Sharks.

On Tuesday, Wilson was named Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Sharks, taking over a team many thought could reach the Stanley Cup Finals this season.

The team's first captain and a seven-time All-Star defenseman becomes a GM for the first time, having spent the last 10 years evaluating talent for either the Sharks or Canada's World Junior Championship team.

Wilson replaces Dean Lombardi, who was fired March 18, with San Jose on its way to missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997. The Sharks will hold a news conference late Tuesday afternoon to introduce Wilson.

He has had a hand in shaping the underachieving Sharks.

His responsibilities over the past five years included evaluating talent at all professional and minor league levels, and continuous assessment of the NHL roster and reserve list.

With the likes of Teemu Selanne, Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse, and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov on the roster, many thought San Jose could compete for its first Western Conference crown.

Despite the praise, the Sharks got off to a slow start, thanks in part to the holdouts of Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart, something for which Lombardi later took blame.

Lombardi fired Coach Darryl Sutter on Dec. 1, but the team never reached the .500 mark after New Year's Eve under Ron Wilson.

With the Sharks out of contention, Lombardi traded captain Owen Nolan and defenseman Bryan Marchment during a three-day span in early March. He was fired less than two weeks later.

Doug Wilson's job is to revive a talented team that finished 14th in the Western Conference, and has never reached the conference finals. The Sharks have won only four playoff series since joining the league in 1991.

Jeter to return to Yankees

NEW YORK, May 13 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees will welcome back star shortstop Derek Jeter Tuesday night after fairing quite well without him.

Jeter, a pivotal cog in the Yankees' run of seven straight postseason appearances, completed an injury rehabilitation assignment at Trenton of Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League on Sunday, and is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Anaheim Angels.

Jeter suffered a dislocated left shoulder on Opening Day against the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been on the disabled list since. The team's unofficial captain collided with Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby at third base in the third inning of an 8-4 victory.

Despite the absence of Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera for a significant portion of the season's first six weeks, the Yankees own the best record in baseball at 26-11.

Rookie Erick Almonte, called up from the minors, served as Jeter's primary replacement. He hit .272 and drove in 11 runs, but was shaky in the field, committing nine errors.

Veteran Enrique Wilson also has been used at shortstop.

Jeter's No. 2 spot in the lineup was filled by Nick Johnson, who took advantage of the opportunity, hitting .319 with five homers and 16 RBI. He also leads the major leagues with a .469 on-base percentage.

Jeter has been a cornerstone of the Yankees' recent success, which includes four World Series championships, five American League pennants, and six AL East titles.

The normally durable Jeter had not missed more than 14 games in any of his first seven seasons. He has had more than 190 hits six consecutive years, and has scored at least 100 runs in seven straight.

Jeter, who is a career .317 hitter, batted .444 in his five-game stint at Trenton.

Devils Rays give Hamilton leave of absence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 13 (UPI) -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays prospect Josh Hamilton has been granted a personal leave for the rest of the season.

Hamilton, who has gone from top pick to top bust, has been playing at Double-A Orlando of the Southern League. He was granted the leave just 10 days after he returned from a mysterious six-week absence.

The Devil Rays did not give a reason for his latest departure, saying only, "The purpose of the leave is to provide Josh an opportunity to address certain private, non-baseball matters."

Linda Hamilton, Josh's mother, told the St. Petersburg Times that her son is "just taking some personal time, like everyone else. He's fine. It's just some personal time."

Hamilton, who turns 22 on May 21, has yet to play this season. He was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, N.C. Injuries have prevented him from playing more than 96 games in a season.

The 2003 season began with an unexplained absence. Then, upon returning to baseball on May 3, Hamilton said his absence was not related to drug, alcohol, or legal issues, and that he received counseling for a form of depression caused by family issues and professional pressures.

His biggest problem has been injuries. He missed more than 230 games over his first four professional seasons, thanks to shoulder, back, rib cage, elbow, and quadriceps problems.

Through 251 minor league games between Rookie ball and Double-A, Hamilton is hitting .295 with 33 home runs, 166 RBI, and 44 stolen bases.

Texans re-sign James Allen

HOUSTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Veteran running back James Allen has been re-signed by the expansion Houston Texans.

The 5-10, 215-pounder, who spent four years with the Chicago Bears, rushed for 519 yards on 155 carries, and set career-highs with 47 receptions for 302 yards last season with the Texans.

He had the highest average per carry (3.3), the second most rushing yards (519), and the most receptions (47) of the running backs on the Texans roster in 2002.

The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Allen, who went to Oklahoma, got a one-year contract worth $730,000, and a $200,000 signing bonus.

"We're happy to have James back again," Houston General Manager Charley Casserly told the paper.

Allen his best season in 2000, when he started 15 games and rushed for a career-high 1,120 yards. The following season, he lost his job to Anthony Thomas, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was Offensive Rookie of the Year.

For his career, he has amassed 2,497 rushing yards on 670 carries and has four touchdowns. He also has 133 receptions for 964 yards and three scores.

Report: Dolphins sign Sammy Knight

MIAMI, May 13 (UPI) -- The Miami Dolphins will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon amid reports that they have signed veteran defensive back Sammy Knight.

The Miami Herald reported that Knight canceled a visit with the Green Bay Packers and was hopeful of completing a deal with the Dolphins in the next two days.

"Miami is a great organization," Knight told the newspaper. "This is a team that shows it wants to win. They have a great coaching staff."

Knight, a Pro Bowler in 2001, played his first six NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He has 29 interceptions, including a team-high five last season, and had 127 tackles in 2002.

The 27-year-old Knight likely would move into the Dolphins' starting lineup ahead of Arturo Freeman, who has one interception in three seasons.

Knight would be the second University of Southern California product signed by the Dolphins this offseason, joining former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau.

Knight opted out of a contract with the Saints that would have paid him $1.5 million next season.

Miami's 21 interceptions last season tied Oakland for fifth behind Tampa Bay (31), Baltimore (25), and Green Bay and Atlanta (24).

Veal goes home to Australia

PHOENIX, May 13 (UPI) -- Kristen Veal, the 13th overall pick in the 2001 WNBA draft, has decided to leave the Phoenix Mercury and return to her native Australia.

The team made the announcement Tuesday.

Veal cited the personal changes a 21-year-old goes through as her reasons for leaving the team after two seasons. She averaged 4.0 points and 4.3 assists in 29 games last year.

"I've been doing a lot of growing up, and realized that it's best for me if I return home," she said. "I feel as though I'm not able to give it 100 percent effort, and that isn't fair to either myself, the fans, or my teammates."

As a rookie, Veal averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 assists per game.

Curtin sidelined by ACL injury

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 13 (UPI) -- Rookie guard Allison Curtin of the Detroit Shock will be sidelined indefinitely with a partially-torn ACL in her right knee.

She suffered the injury in an exhibition game against Minnesota on May 6. The team has not set a timetable for her return.

The Shock traded for the rights to Curtin in a draft-day deal with the Houston Comets, who got guard Dominique Canty.

The 5-11 Curtin, selected by the Comets with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2003 draft, averaged 23.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game during her senior season at Tulsa.

Also Tuesday, the Shock named Korie Hlede the team's third assistant coach. Hlede, Detroit's first draft pick in its inaugural season of 1998, recently announced that she would not play this season.

"Having made one of the toughest decisions in my life, not to play in the WNBA and in a place where I had such a good time, I am very excited to work as an assistant coach," said Hlede, who hasn't closed the door on playing again. "I look forward to my new role with the organization and contributing to a winning season for a young, electric Shock team that has a bright future."

The 5-9 Hlede, the Shock's first-ever college draft pick prior to the team's inaugural season, the fourth overall, averaged 8.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest during her five-year WNBA career with Detroit, Utah, and New York.

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