Saturday, March 31, 2012

Former Charger Ryan Leaf arrested

Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested Friday in his Montana hometown of Great Falls on burglary and drug possession charges, police said.
The circumstances surrounding Leaf's arrest were not immediately clear. Great Falls Police Sgt. Dean Bennett, who confirmed Leaf's arrest, said Friday night that he had not seen a report detailing the allegations against the ex-football player.

"I've made some mistakes, and have no excuses," Leaf said Friday night in a statement. "I am using the tools I've learned to move forward rather than backwards, and will be open to talking about the details in the days to come. I am confident that there will be further understanding when the facts are revealed, and feel very blessed for all of the support, especially from my friends and family."
Leaf was booked on felony charges of burglary of a residence and criminal possession of dangerous drugs, plus a first-time charge of misdemeanor theft, Cascade County Detention Center Officer Robert Rivera said.
Leaf was freed on $76,000 bond and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Monday.
Leaf, a former standout quarterback for Washington State, was the No. 2 pick in the 1998 draft behind Peyton Manning. But Leaf flamed out as quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, gaining a reputation as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
There is no phone listing for Leaf in Great Falls. A message left at his parents' house was not immediately returned Friday night. It was not clear whether he had hired an attorney.
Last year, Leaf had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his brain stem and later underwent additional radiation treatments.
On March 21, Leaf told an Associated Press reporter in an email exchange that he had struggled through treatments and had an MRI scheduled for the end of the month, but "I'm doing/feeling much better and am excited for the rest of 2012."
Friday's arrest also raises the question of whether his arrest means the 10-year probation plea agreement he negotiated with Texas prosecutors stemming from drug and burglary charges in 2009 will be revoked.
James Farren, the Randall County district attorney who negotiated the 2010 plea agreement, did not immediately return a text message seeking comment on Leaf's arrest in Montana.
In 2008, when Leaf was a quarterbacks coach for Division II West Texas A&M, he was accused of burglarizing a player's home. An investigation turned up that Leaf had obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills from area pharmacies in an eight-month span.
He resigned that year, was indicted in 2009 and the next year pleaded guilty to eight felony drug charges. Besides the 10 years probation, Leaf was fined $20,000.
Last year, he authored a book titled "596 Switch" -- the name of a passing play in the Washington State playbook -- that focused on the 1997 season when he led the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in six decades.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jim Buss: I won't ever trade Kobe

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has a no-trade clause in his contract, and he won't have to worry about exercising it -- his team has no interest in trading him.
"I think about a lot of things to improve this team, to figure out how to manage the finances of it," said Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, as a guest on the "Mason & Ireland Show" on 710 ESPN on Friday. "One thing I haven't thought of is Kobe being somewhere else. I don't know why that question has ever come up and I'd like to squish that one."
Bryant, 33, has played all 16 seasons of his career with the Lakers. He is under contract for the next two seasons and is set to make $58.3 million.

Buss, the son of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, hinted that Bryant will not be retiring when his contract is through. When a caller suggested Bryant only had a short window remaining to try to capture his sixth NBA championship, Buss suggested Bryant could be around for a while longer.
"I might disagree with you that Kobe only has three or four years left, but we'll see," Buss said. "As you see, we make trades and our whole focus isn't to win a sixth (championship). I'm not sure I would stop there for Kobe; I would go to seven or eight if we can. ... I think Kobe is going to be a Laker for life and I'm pretty sure he's not going to hang them up after two years."
While Bryant's security within the franchise couldn't be stronger, Buss wanted to dispel the widespread belief that his personal attachment to center Andrew Bynum would prevent the Lakers from ever trading their 24-year-old All-Star.

"It's just not true," said Buss, who had influence in the Lakers selecting Bynum with the No. 10 pick in the 2005 NBA draft. "It's not like I'm going out shopping Andrew Bynum, just nothing has ever come our way and I don't anticipate anything coming our way where I would want to trade Andrew Bynum. ... There just hasn't been anything for Andrew Bynum. Thank goodness we didn't. The same people that attach me to Andrew Bynum would have traded him six times already, probably for players we wouldn't even have (at this point). It's OK to attach my name to Andrew Bynum because I think he's a perennial All-Star, that's OK with me, but to say that I wouldn't trade him? That's just unfounded."

Bynum is averaging career highs in points (17.8), rebounds (12.6) and minutes (35.9) per game this season and is shooting a league-leading 58.1 percent from the field.
The Lakers plan to pick up the $16.4 million option on Bynum's contract next season. However, Buss warned that under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement that was put into place in December, thus ending the NBA's 161-day lockout, the Lakers are unable to be as free-spending as they were in the past.
"With the new CBA, they put a lot of restrictions on teams that spend a lot of money. They want to make the playing field level and one way of doing it is penalize the teams that are spending a lot of money," Buss said. "We have historically spent a lot of money. That has to change."

The Lakers will try to parse down their hefty payroll of approximately $85 million for this season, which is well above the $70.1 million luxury tax level. While they will owe a dollar-for-dollar penalty to the league office at the end of this season of approximately $15 million, it will be much harsher in two seasons when all the terms of the new CBA kick in. For teams $0-$5 million more than the luxury tax, there will be a $1.50 per dollar penalty; $5 million-$10 million over is $1.75; $10 million-$15 million is $2.50; and $15 million-$20 million is $3.25. If a team finds itself above the luxury tax four years out of any five-year period, it will owe a repeater tax which would apply an extra dollar to every increment (i.e. if a team was $0-$5 million over, it would have to pay $2.50 instead of $1.50 per every dollar above the line).

Apart from the stricter financial penalties, teams operating above the luxury tax will not be privy to the full use of salary cap exceptions, meaning they will only be able to offer a "mini" mid-level exception, rather than a full mid-level exception to attract free agents.
The Lakers also will be affected by the new revenue-sharing model the NBA has adopted. Buss estimated the Lakers, who used to dole out approximately $4 million-$6 million a season in revenue sharing, now will owe anywhere from $50 million-$80 million in revenue sharing each season.
While all of the changes seemed targeted at the Lakers, Buss believes that the league made healthy changes.

"The lockout had to do with what is fair is fair," Buss said. "The percentages weren't correct and teams were losing money. I think what happened with the lockout and the new CBA and the revenue sharing all at one time, it looks like it was pointed towards the Lakers, but nobody actually pointed their finger at the Lakers. We're a very successful organization. We make a good amount of money and the other teams lose money and we're an easy target to try to get that money.
"We fought tooth and nail to keep the flexibility to keep this going. Obviously, we lost to a certain degree because we have lost our flexibility to spend money. The revenue sharing was, in our mind, excessive but to other people it wasn't."
Buss said there are no hard feelings toward commissioner David Stern because of the changes that were made.

"The commissioner is very fair," Buss said. "It doesn't seem like it, but he's doing the job that he's supposed to do. We have a great relationship with David. Personally, I love the guy. I was in those meetings during the CBA negotiations. He was fighting for us, he was fighting for the Lakers and I think it all turned out pretty good."

"Basically, we had a deal and the commissioner didn't think that it was a good deal and he has every right to veto it," Buss said. "It shocked us. I was in (Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak's) office when that happened and I was ducking from things that he was throwing against the wall."

Ohio takes UNC to overtime before Tar Heels prevail

The last of the little guys gave North Carolina a massive scare.
Harrison Barnes scored five of his 12 points in overtime and the top-seeded Tar Heels escaped a huge upset with a 73-65 victory over No. 13 seed Ohio on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

Ohio, trying to become the first team seeded 13th or worse to make the regional finals since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, had a chance to convert a three-point play that would have given the Bobcats the lead with 25 seconds left in regulation. Walter Offutt missed from the line, however, and Ohio went 0 for 6 from the field in the first overtime of this year's tournament.
"One free throw away," Offutt said. "As a leader on this team, I take responsibility that I've got to hit that free throw. ... It just feels terrible to kind of let my team down in that sort of way."

 Tyler Zeller finished with 20 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for North Carolina, which sorely missed injured point guard Kendall Marshall. The Tar Heels had three players with double-doubles for the first time in an NCAA tournament game: Reggie Bullock had 17 points and 10 boards, and John Henson had 14 points and 10 rebounds.Freshman guard Stilman White was an impressive fill-in for Marshall, dishing out six assists without a single turnover and playing 32 minutes -- almost three times his previous high."We feel like we got away with one," Zeller said. "Ohio played the better game, they hit a lot of shots. I think we just were able to make a lot of plays at the end that made us capable of pulling it out."Offutt led the Bobcats (29-8) with 26 points, including 18 from 3-point range, and Nick Kellogg added 14. But D.J. Cooper, who averaged 20 points in Ohio's first two tournament games, finished with just 10 on 3-of-20 shooting."I've been getting those same shots all tournament,"

 Cooper said. "I've been making them, and tonight I just didn't get the job done."North Carolina (32-5), which has won 11 straight in the regional semifinals, plays Kansas on Sunday afternoon."It means a heck of a lot," coach Roy Williams said moments after his team escaped, "but we've got to play better than we did today."That's for sure -- especially since the Tar Heels are playing without Marshall, perhaps their most irreplaceable player and the steadying hand behind their fast-paced attack. The left-handed guard broke his right wrist Sunday when he was fouled on a drive against Creighton. He had surgery Monday to put a screw in the wrist and got his cast off Wednesday.Though Marshall said the wrist is improving, he didn't even dress Friday night, sitting on the bench in a suit."He still hasn't done anything," Williams said when asked about the prospects of Marshall returning Sunday. "But North Carolina's going to play on Sunday. We're happy about that."Barnes was dismal, flirting with a season low in scoring as he went 3 for 16 while missing from inside, outside and everywhere in between.

 But his teammates weren't much better, turning the ball over a season-high 24 times and shooting just 40 percent, six percentage points below their average.Worse, they could never get a handle on the smaller, quicker Bobcats."They don't play like a 13-seed," Henson said. "It was a great game."After trailing by as much as 15 in the first half, Ohio got hot from long range and gave the Tar Heels almost more than they could handle. Ohio, a 10½-point underdog, was 8 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half, with Offutt doing most of the damage. He made a 3-pointer to start a 14-5 run and hit two more during the stretch, which pulled the Bobcats to 42-41 with 10:23 to play.After Zeller's layup and a dunk by James Michael McAdoo, Cooper hit his only 3 of the game. Kellogg came right back with another to give Ohio its first lead, 47-46, with 8:28 to play, and the Ohio faithful -- plus all the new fans the Bobcats picked up -- went into a frenzy.The teams traded leads, neither able to put the other away. When Barnes missed badly on a 3 with 1:17 to play, the crowd taunted him with chants of "Air-ball! Air-ball!" Williams could be heard yelling "One stop!" at his team, and the Tar Heels got it when Cooper missed a jumper at the other end.Bullock then drilled a 3 to give North Carolina a 63-61 lead with 39 seconds left, but Offutt -- who else? -- scored on an off-balance drive and drew a foul from White. Offutt's foul shot was way left, the only free throw the Bobcats missed in eight attempts, and Zeller grabbed the rebound."It's just like him to take responsibility for the loss because that's who he is," Bobcats coach John Groce said of his senior, a transfer from Ohio State by way of Wright State. "But the reality of it is, that doesn't fall on him. There's so many plays during the game that make up the game in a 45-minute game, and if anybody deserved to make that free throw, it's him. It just didn't go in."

The Tar Heels worked the shot clock down to the very last seconds, but Barnes lost the ball and Offutt came up with it. He flipped the ball to Cooper, who raced to midcourt and launched a prayer. It caromed off the rim, sending the game into overtime.Kellogg's father, Clark, calling the games in Atlanta for CBS, smiled as he watched the final plays."Overtime," he said, clapping.But the Bobcats had nothing left. Bullock opened the extra period with a 3 and Barnes came right back with a jumper. After Kellogg made a pair of free throws to cut it to 68-65, Barnes made a pair of his own and Ohio could never get any closer."Awful proud of our guys for the way that they fought," Groce said. "But as I told them in the locker room, there's nothing I can say to them at this point that's going to take away the sting of getting beat in that one. They've got a lot of pride and they believed all year that we could compete and beat anybody that we played. That was no different heading into tonight's game."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tim Tebow traded to Jets

Tim Tebow is coming to New York. Really.
After a big false start, the New York Jets pulled off a Tebow-like comeback Wednesday night, getting the quarterback who turned the Denver Broncos from an also-ran into a playoff team last season and became the NFL's most talked-about player -- for a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick.
Now, Tebowmania is opening on Broadway.
And, there's sure to be plenty of drama -- just as there was from the moment the Jets pulled off the deal. Or thought they did, that is.

"I'm thankful they stuck with me through this whole crazy process," Tebow said during a call late Wednesday night, repeating several times that he was "excited" to be a member of the Jets and to play for coach Rex Ryan.
Tebow won't meet the New York media in person until Friday at the earliest, the team told
Eight hours after initially agreeing to a trade, the teams completed it after it was hung up when the Jets, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, balked at repaying Denver more than $5 million for a salary advance due Tebow. The two sides agreed to split that cost, and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the team was "comfortable with the compensation," which also included Denver's seventh-round pick in April's draft.
He said there was a disagreement about how to handle the salary advance after Denver received the papers.
"We knew what the contract was," Tannenbaum said in a separate conference call Wednesday. "We had read it. ... We felt it was one way; they felt it was another. Based on that, they were well within their rights to assess their different possibilities of what to do and their alternatives. And they did so throughout the day."
The Jets and Broncos originally announced the trade just after 1 p.m. ET Wednesday. But then Denver, according to sources, asked the Jets to pay back a portion of bonuses and salary already paid to Tebow.
Tebow was given a $6.2 million salary advance before the 2011 season, the sources said. Tebow's contract required the Jets to repay the advanced salaries for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons, a total of about $5 million, according to sources.
The Broncos expected the Jets to pay those salary advances as per terms of the contract. The Jets balked at doing so, allowing the Jaguars to re-enter the picture.
Jacksonville offered the Broncos a fourth-round pick and were willing to pay Denver most, if not all of, the $5 million in question on Tebow's contract, league sources told Schefter. But Denver liked the Jets' offer better, and Tebow preferred to be traded to New York because of the support he got from Jets front office and coaches, according to the sources.
Tebow denied that he had final say in where he was going.
"Ultimately, I really didn't have any because the Broncos had all that power," Tebow said, adding that Denver was "gracious" in the way it handled the process. "I was just kind of watching and waiting -- kind of like everybody else. It was an interesting day."
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement Wednesday night that he asked general manager Gene Smith to look into a Tebow deal.
"I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player," Khan said. "I appreciate the high level of due diligence Gene and his staff dedicated to this matter, even as late as this evening, and I am very satisfied with the outcome. Our commitment to developing (2011 first-round pick) Blaine Gabbert was, and still is, central to our goal of returning the Jaguars to elite status in the NFL. We're looking ahead with zero regrets."
Tebow, a former first-round pick, went on the trading block Monday when the Broncos secured free agent Peyton Manning, who signed a five-year, $96 million contract.
Several teams expressed interest in Tebow, but the Jets -- perceived as a sleeper at the outset -- pulled off the splashiest trade of the offseason.
Tebow, who has three years remaining on his contract and a 2012 base salary of $1.1 million, will join a cast of backups behind incumbent Mark Sanchez, but his presence could ignite a quarterback controversy. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie tweeted on Tuesday night that "we don't need Tebow," expressing his confidence in Sanchez and the current roster.
Tannenbaum emphasized that the team is committed to Sanchez.

"Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," he said, also noting that he had spoken to both quarterbacks and explained their roles.
Tebow said he had a "great conversation" on Wednesday with Sanchez, adding that they've been friends for several years.
"My goal is to push him to get better, and to push myself to get better every day," Tebow said. "But I think we'll have a great working relationship. We'll have a great relationship off the field, and we've had that the last few years. He's such a classy guy and handles himself so well, and I'll be very honored to call him my teammate."
Asked on Tuesday what he thought it would be like to play with Tebow, Sanchez told FoxSportsRadio in Los Angeles, "I think Peyton (Manning) will do great; I think Tim will do great no matter what happens. He's either going to get a great chance to learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, or he moves on somewhere else and he uses his skills on another ballclub. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win; he knows how to inspire players."
The timing of the trade is curious for New York.
Two weeks ago, the Jets gave Sanchez a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension, professing their faith in him even though he regressed last season. They signed former Detroit Lions backup Drew Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, handing him a $500,000 signing bonus. They also have former Alabama star Greg McElroy.
But the Jets see Tebow as a change-of-pace player with the ability to run the wildcat offense. They've used the wildcat in recent years, but cut back last season with the departure of Brad Smith. The new offensive coordinator is Tony Sparano, who introduced the wildcat to the NFL as coach of the Miami Dolphins.
"It is very clear: They want me to come in and compete and get better, and get better as a quarterback and to help the team any way possible," Tebow said. "Whatever that role is, I will do my best."
Tannenbaum said Tebow makes the Jets "a diverse, more dynamic offense that's going to make it more difficult for opposing teams to defend."
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was among those unhappy with the trade when it was announced earlier Wednesday.

"I'm just sorry that I can't agree with this situation. I think it's just a publicity stunt. I can't go with it. I think it's wrong," Namath told "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN1050 in New York. "I don't think they know what they're doing over there."
Asked if he hoped the deal would ultimately fall through, Namath said, "Absolutely."
"And I'm a Tim Tebow fan, but I'm a bigger Jet fan than I am a Tim Tebow fan," Namath said.
Ryan, however, wants the Jets to get back to being a power-running team and New York only has one proven back, Shonn Greene. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Tebow rushed for 660 yards last season, including a 20-yard touchdown in the final minute to beat the Jets 17-14 in a November game at Denver.
A few weeks earlier, Tebow beat Sparano and the Dolphins with one of his trademark comebacks, overcoming a 15-0 deficit to win in overtime, 18-15.
There's also some thought that Tebow and his clean-cut image could help polish the negative perception of the Jets' locker room, torn by discord last season. But others close to the team said that was no factor in the decision.
The potential for backlash remains, however. Tebow brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he's been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.
Tebow's enormous popularity could turn into a distraction, especially for Sanchez. If Sanchez struggles, the fan base ostensibly could turn on him and start clamoring for Tebow.
"We obviously know Tim has a magnetic following and he's a dynamic person, but every starting quarterback has a backup quarterback," Tannenbaum said Wednesday. "If you struggle, we understand the popularity of any backup quarterback. This one is a little more unique than others. Mark, in this market, has shown resilience and toughness."
This also will be an adjustment for Tebow as he returns to a backup role. He became one of the most popular athletes in the nation last season, replacing Kyle Orton and leading the Broncos -- seemingly dead after a 1-4 start -- to an 8-8 record and the AFC West title. He did it with a run of miraculous finishes, one more improbable than the next.

Tebow won his first playoff game, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime. The following week, Tebow crashed hard in a 45-10 loss to the New England Patriots.
Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway anointed Tebow as the starting quarterback going into training camp, but that didn't prevent him from entering the Manning sweepstakes.
Clearly, the Broncos were troubled by his flawed mechanics as a passer. Tebow completed only 46.5 percent of his throws last season.
"As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim," Elway said in a statement Wednesday. "He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver."
It should be interesting to see how Tebow is welcomed in the Jets' locker room. During the run-up to last November's game, the Jets' defensive players weren't complimentary when discussing his passing skills. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Tebow's unorthodox style as an option quarterback couldn't sustain long-term success in the NFL.
As it turned out, Tebow made the playoffs and Sanchez didn't. Sanchez struggled down the stretch, fueling speculation about his future. Publicly, team officials backed him, but also promised the quarterback depth chart would have a different look in 2012.
They weren't kidding.