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Dec. 13, 2006 at 6:00 PM
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Hester among NFC players of the week

NEW YORK, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Chicago Bears rookie Devin Hester, who set an NFL record for returns for touchdowns, was selected NFC special teams player of the week.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was picked for conference offensive player of the week honors and Minnesota cornerback Cedric Griffin took the defensive award.

Hester returned two kickoffs for touchdowns Monday night, giving him a league-record six punt and kickoff returns for scores this season, in helping the Bears to a 42-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams. It was the second consecutive week, and third time overall, the Bears' rookie won the NFC honor.

Brees earned his second player of the week award of the season with a 26-of-38 passing performance. He threw for 384 yards and five touchdowns in the Saints' 42-17 win over Dallas.

Griffin, another rookie, had an interception, forced one fumble and recovered another in the Vikings' 30-20 win over Detroit. Both of his turnovers led to Minnesota touchdowns.


Lamar Odom sidelined by right knee sprain

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers will be without forward Lamar Odom at least a month because of a sprained his right knee.

The injury occurred in the first quarter of Tuesday night's 102-94 win over the Houston Rockets.

He landed awkwardly while following his own missed shot and was taken to a hospital where an MRI revealed the extent of the injury. He is using crutches to walk.

"I don't know exactly when it happened, on my way up or on my way down, but I guess I just twisted it up, sprained my MCL pretty good," Odom told the Los Angeles Times after his return from the hospital to see the end of the contest.

In 21 games this season, Odom, a first round draft pick out by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1999 out of Rhode Island, averaged 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.

He has been called the league's most improved player to date.


Braves dump Marcus Giles

ATLANTA, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Atlanta Braves second baseman Marcus Giles is a free agent after the team refused to offer him a contract for the 2007 season.

In six years with the Braves, the 5-foot-8 inch sparkplug was a 2003 National League All-Star after being a 53rd-round draft pick in 1996. He has a career batting average of .285 with 72 home runs and 294 RBI.

"We have to make some financial decisions every year," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said on the team's Web site. "This was one of those tough ones."

In 2006, Giles, who struggled at the plate, batted .262 with 11 homers and 60 RBI in 550 at-bats. He committed 11 errors in 637 fielding chances.

"It wasn't completely unexpected," Giles' agent, Joe Bick, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I'm confident there's a fair deal out there for Marcus."

One of the teams that might be interested is San Diego, where his brother, Brian, plays left field.


Basketball Hall of Famer Paul Arizin dies

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Paul Arizin, who played at Villanova in college and Philadelphia in the NBA and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, has died; he was 78.

Arizin reportedly died in his sleep Tuesday night in his suburban Philadelphia home.

"Paul Arizin was the most dignified, classy and humble legend I've ever met," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. "He is adored and respected by anyone who has touched Villanova basketball."

Arizin was the top draft choice of the Philadelphia warriors in 1950 and was voted one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996. He scored 16,266 points over his NBA career, which included selection to 10 All-Star teams.

Arizin did not play basketball in high school but, legend has it, was seen playing an intramural game by Villanova Coach Al Severance. The coach offered him a tryout. Arizin made the team and went on to average 20 points a game over 80 games. His 85-point effort Feb. 12, 1949, against Naval Air Material Center remains the school record.

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