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Blazers deal volatile guard

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By Staff and Wire Reports,

Published: Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Volatile forward Bonzi Wells was traded by the Portland Trail Blazers to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday for guard Wesley Person and a conditional 2004 first-round draft pick.

Wells, averaging 12.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists, was stripped of his co-captaincy and suspended two games earlier this season for cursing at coach Maurice Cheeks.

Wells also was fined last month for making an obscene gesture at a fan after a loss to Philadelphia. Last March, Wells was suspended one game for conduct considered detrimental to the team.

"We are very hopeful that this opportunity provides a fresh start for Bonzi in Memphis, and that he enjoys joining a rising young team in the Grizzlies," Memphis president Jerry West said. "We're very optimistic Bonzi will provide a significant presence in our lineup."

Portland gets Person, who has averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his 10-year career. With his role limited this season, Wells was averaging only 5.2 points.

If the Grizzlies' first-round pick next June is among the top three selections, they will keep it and give the Trail Blazers their top pick in 2005 -- provided it is not the overall No. 1 pick. If the selection rolls over to 2006, Portland will get it unconditionally.

Portland entered Wednesday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers with an 8-7 record, tied for fourth place in the Pacific Division.

Memphis, 8-8 going into its game against the New Jersey Nets, is last in the Midwest Division.

The trade comes as the Blazers try to repair an image tarnished by several player arrests and team infighting. the latest instance coming Tuesday when forward Zach Randolph was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana.

It is hoped Person will provide some of the veteran leadership the team lost when Scottie Pippen left for the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in the offseason.

Wells was in his sixth season with the Blazers and has a year left on his contract, plus a team option for another year. Person is in the final season of his contract.

He has at times showed flashes of brilliance, including a 45-point performance in Game 2 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks last season. But Wells also developed a troubled reputation.

He was suspended early last season by the league for spitting on San Antonio forward Danny Ferry, then was suspended for two games for his role in a postgame scuffle with the Golden State Warriors.

"We are happy to be getting a quality player and individual in Wesley Person, a veteran who can help provide leadership on the court and in the locker room, as well as a draft pick which will help the organization in the future," Blazers general manager John Nash said.

BASKETBALL

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has been replaced by Cleveland rookie LeBron James as the player with the best-selling jersey in the NBA.

    Bryant, who was No. 1 during the 2002-2003 season, slipped to fifth for the first two months of this season behind James, Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony, Orlando's Tracy McGrady and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson. Although detailed records aren't available for all years, the NBA said it's probably the first time that two rookies have topped the list.

    Bryant is charged with raping a 19-year-old woman at a Colorado hotel on June 30. The five-time All-Star is free on bond and playing for the Lakers while awaiting trial.

    The jersey list is based on sales at the NBA Store in New York and the league's Web site since the start of the season. The league didn't disclose specific sales figures in its press release.

    Reebok International Ltd., second behind Nike Inc. in U.S. athletic-shoe sales, makes jerseys for James's Cavaliers, Anthony's Nuggets and 17 other NBA teams. Nike makes jerseys for the other 10 NBA teams.

    Starting next season, Reebok will manufacturer all NBA uniforms, warmup suits and practice clothing under a 10-year agreement with the league.

    The Lakers top the list of team merchandise sales, followed by Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York and Denver.

    James, the top pick in the draft, is averaging 17.6 points for the Cavaliers, who are last in the Central division with a 4- 14 record. Anthony, the No. 3 overall selection, is averaging 17.9 points for the Nuggets, who are second in the Midwest division with an 11-6 record.

    James has a seven-year, $90 million endorsement contract with Nike, while Anthony's deal with the company is worth about $21 million over six years.

    Rounding out the best-selling jersey list are New Jersey's Jason Kidd, the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, Boston's Paul Pierce and San Antonio's Tim Duncan, the NBA's two-time Most Valuable Player.

  • Arizona forward Isaiah Fox had surgery on his knee and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

    The 6-foot-9 junior, injured Friday against Florida, is expected to seek a medical redshirt designation that would give him two more seasons of eligibility.

    "He's only played one game and six minutes," coach Lute Olson said. "If it's a long-term thing, that's a possibility."

    Fox had been impressive in workouts, Olson said, and had his first career-double double -- 15 points and 11 rebounds -- in the season-opening victory over Northern Arizona.

  • In yet another setback to the Philadelphia 76ers' frontcourt, center Marc Jackson will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured left ring finger.

    Jackson broke the finger in the first two minutes of Tuesday's game against Toronto but played through the pain until the 4:14 mark of the second quarter. After an X-ray revealed the fracture, Jackson tried to convince team doctors he could still play.

    "Marc was very animated and very determined," team president Billy King said. "When he was informed that he would need surgery he said, 'I'll play the last 24 minutes and operate after that."'

    Jackson will undergo surgery at the Philadelphia Hand Center on Thursday. Team officials said that they would not have a timetable for Jackson's return until after the surgery.

    Samuel Dalembert will likely start in place of Jackson, whose injury leaves the 76ers very thin in the frontcourt.

    On Wednesday, forward Glenn Robinson saw an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania and learned that he will be sidelined for another one to two weeks with a high ankle sprain.

    Center Derrick Coleman, who has missed nine games with a strained right knee, will be a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Chicago Bulls.

    Because of the injuries, King said that the 76ers would likely apply to the NBA for an injury exemption to open an additional spot on the active roster. If an exemption is granted, King expects to sign a free agent soon.

    BOXING

  • Former IBF featherweight champion Jorge Paez said he will retire after his next fight unless Top Rank makes good on promises to set him up for another title shot.

    Paez, 38, a huge draw in the Southwest and his native Mexico, is featured against Scott McCracken (14-5) of Aliquippa in a Top Rank-promoted fight card Friday night.

    "I think this is it," Paez said Wednesday through a translator. "I'm tired of making the weight and leaving my family. Top Rank has been telling me I would fight for a world championship since two years ago, and they haven't given me the opportunity."

    Paez (78-14-5, 51 knockouts) is ranked ninth in the IBF's 130-pound super featherweight division, but he will fight McCracken as a lightweight (135 pounds) and has had difficulty making weight even in a higher division.

    The former circus acrobat, nicknamed "Maromero" for his trademark victory somersault, has a 17-fight winning streak since early 2000.

    Paez said he tried to discourage 16-year-old Jorge Luis, his only child from his first marriage, from starting a ring career and has taught two younger sons fighting techniques only for self-defense.

    "I didn't want my kids to fight," he said. "I wanted my kids to go to school."

    FIGURE SKATING

  • Michelle Kwan has switched figure skating coaches again, leaving Scott Williams for Rafael Arutunian.

    Kwan, a seven-time national champion, including every title since 1998, and five-time world champ, joined with Arutunian last month. She previously worked with him part-time before the 2002 Olympics, where she finished third.

    For Kwan, Arutunian is her third coach since 2001. She was developed by Frank Carroll, but they split in October 2001 and Kwan skated in the Salt Lake City Olympics without a coach.

    She began working with Williams before the 2002-03 season, in which she won the national and world titles.

    Arutunian also coached Alexander Abt, a Russian who trained at Lake Arrowhead, Calif., when Kwan also practiced there.

    Kwan's next event is Friday night at the International Figure Skating Challenge in Auburn Hills, Mich. She is expected to compete at the U.S. championships in January in Atlanta, even though she skipped the Grand Prix series this year. She has not made an official announcement, however, about her competitive plans for nationals or worlds, which are in March.

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL

  • Mercyhurst athletic director Pete Russo said the school has extended coach Marty Schaetzle's contract for one year through the 2005 season. Mercyhurst posted a 5-6 record in Schaetzle's second season with the NCAA Division II school. Mercyhurst was picked in a preseason poll to finish last in the 12-team Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference but wound eighth, one game out of fourth place and two away from the third spot. Before accepting the Mercyhurst job, Schaetzle was an assistant for five seasons at NCAA Division I-AA Bucknell.

    GOLF

  • In Winter Garden, Fla., Danny Briggs and Swedes Mathias Gronberg and Daniel Chopra shot 5-under -par 67s in windy conditions to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

    "It was a very nice start and I hope to keep it going," said Gronberg, the Italian Open champion. "But we've got another five rounds to go and it is a long way there."

    The top 30 players after the sixth round Monday will receive 2004 PGA Tour cards, and the remaining players will get exempt or conditional status on the Nationwide Tour.

    Gronberg opened on Orange County National's Crooked Cat course, while Chopra and Briggs played the Panther Lake layout.

    Chopra, who had the lone bogey-free round, barely missed earning his PGA Tour card last month, finishing 21st on the final Nationwide Tour money list.

    "It seems some of my best rounds come in the toughest conditions and today they were really tough," he said. "It was a good solid start for me."

    Briggs made six birdies and one bogey.

    "I got off to a great start with birdies on the first two holes," Briggs said. "Then the wind started howling and the course got extremely difficult. But in this tournament you just have to stay patient and take it one day at a time."

    Kris Cox, Brian Bateman and Bradley Hughes opened with 68s, and Charles Warren, Olin Browne, Todd Hamilton, Jon Mills, Jim Rutledge, Jeff Freeman, David Branshaw and Gavin Coles shot 69s.

    MOTOR SPORTS

  • Former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott will race a part-time schedule in 2004, an auto racing source said.

    The announcement will be made today, the source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

    Rookie Kasey Kahne will move up from the Busch Series to race full time in the No. 9 Dodge that Elliott has driven the past three years, according to the source.

    Elliott could drive between five and 10 races, and his arrangement is not necessarily for just one year, the source said.

    A representative for Evernham Motorsports said Kahne and team owner Ray Evernham were not available for comment.

    Kahne has been under a multiyear contract with Ford. The top prospect ended the season with a victory in the Busch Series race at Homestead, his first win in 54 career starts.

    There has been speculation since early in the 2003 season that the 48-year-old Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion, was going to retire. A strong surge in the second half of the season carried Elliott to ninth place in the standings.

    Elliott's victory at Rockingham in the next-to-last race of the season was the 44th of his career but his first in 50 races, dating to the Brickyard 400 in August 2002. He then dominated the season finale at Homestead before a blown tire on the last lap cost him a second straight win.

    "I'm eventually going to retire," Elliott said after the Rockingham race. "Right now, we've fought through some things but we haven't made a decision.

    "On the other hand, as good as we're running right now, and you get those stars lined up, and as good as everything is coming together, it makes it hard."

  • Autozone Inc., the largest U.S. retailer of car parts, will become the title sponsor of Nascar's four regional stock-car racing series.

    Nascar said the series, which develops drivers for the higher-level Winston Cup and Busch circuits, will be called the Nascar Autozone Elite Division.

    The Winston Cup Series will be renamed the Nextel Cup Series in 2004, when Nextel Communications Inc. replaces Winston cigarettes as the circuit's title sponsor.

    The regional development series has circuits in the Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and Northwest.

    Shares of Autozone fell $1.90 to $94.25 at 4:15 p.m. in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

  • A buyout offer to keep CART going has apparently been put on hold and officials of the troubled racing series are considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

    Indianapolis-based CART had scheduled a Dec. 19 stockholders meeting for a vote on the buyout, which was to have put the series under private ownership. Open Wheel Racing LLC, formed by three CART team owners, has offered $7.4 million -- about 56 cents a share -- in August for all of CART's outstanding stock.

    CART officials, however, said in a statement dated Tuesday that the likelihood that the series would have fewer teams for the 2004 season would not allow it to meet Open Wheel Racing's purchase conditions.

    CART also said it was considering a proposal by Open Wheel Racing that the series seek bankruptcy protection, after which Open Wheel Racing would buy certain CART assets.

    In October, CART warned that it would have to halt operations if the takeover was not completed and no alternative financing emerged. That announcement came as the series announced losses of $77.9 million for the first nine months of the year.

    CART last month announced a 19-race schedule for 2004, but on Monday postponed the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    The group that wants to buy CART -- including car owners Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkoven -- owns nearly 23 percent of its shares.

    CART became a publicly traded company in 1998, when its shares traded as high as $33. It has been on a downward spiral in recent years following the creation of the rival Indy Racing League in 1996.

    OLYMPICS

  • Greece signaled a possible wider role for NATO in guarding the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

    The top government official for the games said Wednesday that police and military would retain overall control of operations, but NATO could be called on to help prepare the country for possible terror attacks.

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos spoke at the conclusion of a security meeting, held in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks last month in neighboring Turkey.

    Premier Costas Simitis said Athens is studying new methods used by suicide bombers in Turkey.

    "We have tried to foresee every possibility ... The recent events, however, have shown us some new avenues," Simitis said.

    Athens had budgeted more than $750 million on protecting the games and will deploy nearly 42,000 soldiers, police and other personnel.

    Greek officers are being trained to deal with a wide variety of threats, including biochemical attacks and suicide bombers. One top police official called the Olympics "the greatest concentration of Western targets."

    The United States and other countries advising Greece on security have pointed to the country's extended borders -- and the westward flow of illegal immigrants -- as a potential security risk.

    Greece's National Intelligence Service has begun screening illegal immigrants detained in Greece, the officials confirmed Monday.

    They said top Greek police officials were in regular contact with European police chiefs and described Olympic security plans as a blueprint for other major sporting events.

  • The United States will be under scrutiny at the IOC's year-end meeting because of several drug-related issues.

    The scandal over the steroid THG, the impasse in Jerome Young's case and questions concerning government dues to the World Anti-Doping Agency will be addressed by the executive board Thursday and Friday.

    On other matters, Olympic organizers will give a security update following last month's bombings in neighboring Turkey.

    The International Olympic Committee's medical commission is expected to submit a proposal to allow transsexuals to compete in the Olympics for the first time.

    Young, the reigning world 400-meter champion, tested positive for steroids in 1999 but was cleared on appeal by U.S. track officials.

    Young won a gold medal with the U.S. 1,600-meter relay team at the Sydney Olympics. The IOC opened proceedings in September to determine if the team should be stripped of the medal.

    IOC president Jacques Rogge said USA Track & Field has failed to supply documents explaining why Young was exonerated. Young has said he never committed a doping offense.

    The IOC also will consider possible sanctions against the United States and other countries for nonpayment or late payment of annual WADA dues.

    WADA chairman Dick Pound has criticized the Bush administration for failing to pay its 2003 share, which was due at the beginning of the year. He also said the government slashed its promised share from $1 million to $800,000; U.S. officials said the figure was always $800,000.

    USOC president Bill Martin sent a letter to Rogge last week assuring him the government would make its payment in the next 60 to 90 days following passage of a bill in Congress. WADA is giving governments an extra six months, until June 30, to pay.

    The IOC board is meeting for the first time since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced the unmasking of THG. Rogge said the IOC most likely will authorize the retesting of hundreds of samples for THG from the Salt Lake City Olympics.

    SKIING

  • A men's World Cup downhill race was moved from the French Alps to Vail, Colo., because of a lack of snow, the International Ski Federation said.

    The race, scheduled for Dec. 13 in Val d'Isere, will now be Friday in Vail, which also has a men's downhill Saturday.

    SOCCER

  • The format for 2006 World Cup qualifying that gives the United States a first-round bye was approved by soccer's governing body.

    The United States will start qualifying on June 12 or 13 against either one of the 10 first-round winners from the Caribbean, or against Belize or Nicaragua -- Central American teams that also have first-round byes. The second game of the home-and-home, total-goal series takes place June 19 or 20.

    The proposal was approved Wednesday by the FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee.

    The World Cup qualifying draw will take place Friday. The 12 CONCACAF second-round winners will be divided into three four-team groups for the semifinals, with the top two teams in each group advancing. The top three teams in the finals qualify for the 32-nation tournament, and the No. 4 team goes to a playoff against the No. 5 team from South America or Asia, or the Oceania champion.

    Also Wednesday, FIFA announced the schedule for the 2006 tournament, which will take place in 12 Germany cities. The tournament opens June 9 in the new stadium under construction in Munich, and the final is July 9 in Berlin's Olympic Stadium, which is being renovated.

    Quarterfinals were scheduled for June 30 in Berlin and Hamburg, and July 1 in Frankfurt and Gelsenkirchen, and the semifinals will be July 4 in Dortmund and July 5 in Munich. Other games will be played in Cologne, Hanover, Kaiserslautern, Leipzig, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

    Germany, a three-time champion, receives an automatic berth, but for the first time the defending champion does not. Brazil, which won its fifth title in 2002, is among 156 nations remaining in qualifying, which began last September with games in South America, which competes in one 10-team group.

    Asia and Africa also started qualifying early, with 21 teams from Africa and six from Asia already eliminated.

    In Europe, FIFA seeded the Czech Republic, England, France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and Turkey. The eight group winners will qualify, along with the top two second-place teams, and the other six second-place teams will advance to a playoff that produces three more qualifiers.

    The 30 remaining African teams will be split into five groups, with the winners advancing. Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia were seeded.

    Eight teams were seeded for Asia's second round: Bahrain, China, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan. The group winners advance to the third round.

    TRACK AND FIELD

  • USA Track & Field's board of directors voted unanimously to ban for life athletes who test positive for steroids.

    The "zero-tolerance" policy would also ban the athletes' coaches.

    The proposal will go to a USATF subcommittee, and from there to the full federation for a final vote Sunday, the last day of the group's annual meeting.

    "Right now, it's the right way to go," said board member and six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. "People can see we have been serious. ... The last two, three months ... ended up hurting our sport."

    The IOC, U.S. Olympic Committee and the IAAF, the international track and field federation, have been critical of the USATF for its handling of a 1999 positive steroid test by runner Jerome Young, who was cleared to compete at the 2000 Olympics.

    Young was a member of the 1,600-meter relay team that won the gold at Sydney. He has said he never committed a doping offense.

    Young won golds in the 400 meters and 1,600-meter relay at the World Championships in Paris in August.

    USATF has said it is bound by an arbitration ruling that protects anonymity in what it refers to as "the Olympic case" and all others from 1996 to 2000.

    "I think the no-tolerance will say to all who participate in the sport, 'Don't even think about it,"' said U.S. sprinter Jon Drummond, another USATF board member.

    USATF chief executive Craig Masback and others said they expect the policy could ultimately be challenged in court. But Masback said he believes the lifetime ban will stand up.

    "In talking to our athletes and our coaches, they think it will act as a deterrent," he said.

    OFF THE FIELD

  • John Candler resigned as North Carolina State's diving coach after an investigation turned up his 1966 conviction on a sex charge involving a 12-year-old girl.

    The university said Wednesday that Candler will remain with the athletic department in an administrative capacity until he retires on March 31.

    An investigation into Candler's past was triggered by an e-mail message sent Nov. 19 to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox's office by Jane Schneider, 53, of East Lansing, Mich.

    According to circuit court records from Washtenaw County, Mich., Candler pleaded guilty in 1966 to indecent liberties with a 12-year-old girl. He served five years of probation.

    Calls to Schneider, who said she knew the victim in the case, and Candler weren't immediately returned Wednesday night.

    Candler told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that the university knew about the case in Michigan when he was hired.

    In 1985, Candler was charged with taking indecent liberties with a 15-year-old Wake County girl. According to Wake County Superior court records, Candler pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence. He served three years of probation and was ordered to undergo therapy.

    Attorney Jack Nichols hasn't denied that the Candler in the Michigan case is the same person he represents in Raleigh.

    Candler coached 16 All-Americans, 49 Atlantic Coast Conference champions and one Olympian in his 36 years at N.C. State.

    Swimming coach Brooks Teal will oversee the divers through this season. Candler told WRAL that the swim club he runs in Raleigh, Candler Swim Club, will remain open.

  • Cablevision Systems Corp. and the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network chose retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin and retired Time Warner Inc. executive Richard Aurelio as arbitrators in their dispute over New York Yankees telecasts, Sporkin said.

    The cable company, New York's biggest with 3 million customers, and the network have been unable to agree on a long- term contract that would give Cablevision subscribers access to games of the 26-time baseball champions.

    The team's 2002 games weren't shown on Cablevision, and the 2003 games were broadcast only after YES and the company reached an interim agreement less than an hour before the first game of the season. The two sides agreed to go into binding arbitration to settle the matter, with a decision due by March 31, five days before the start of the baseball season.

    "These are private proceedings. Like a court trial, there will be discovery and hearings," Sporkin said in a telephone interview. "It probably will be quick."

    Cablevision spokesman Charles Schueler and YES spokesman Bob Davis declined to comment on the process.

    Third Arbitrator

    The sides still have to determine a third arbitrator to complete the panel. YES and Cablevision each submit a list from which the opposing side selects a name, and the final arbitrator is then determined with a coin flip conducted by American Arbitration Association.

    Sporkin is a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Washington. He specializes in Security and Exchange Commission matters, corporate governance and litigation.

    Aurelio founded NY1 News, Time Warner's 24-hour New York City news channel in 1992, when he was president of Time Warner's cable group. He retired from Time Warner in 1998.

    The Cablevision-YES dispute has focused on how the cable operator would carry the network. YES wanted to be part of basic cable, which means it would be included to all Cablevision customers. The company wanted YES to be a premium channel, where those who wanted it would pay extra to get it.

    YES is owned by YankeeNets LLC. The network also shows the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets. Cablevision owns basketball's New York Knicks and hockey's New York Rangers.

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