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NBPA votes Roberts as first female exec director

Michele Roberts has watched basketball for as long as she can remember. It was an easy choice growing up in a home with one TV and two older brothers.

When she saw an interview last year with an NBA player and noticed how passionately he talked about trying to improve his embattled union, she wanted to be more than a fan. She wanted to be involved.

That got her started toward becoming the first woman to lead a North American pro sports union.

Roberts was elected early Tuesday morning as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and the Washington trial lawyer is eager to provide the leadership it needs after a few difficult years.

"They were looking for, not a man, not a woman, they were looking for a personality," Roberts said in a phone interview. "I think I'm that personality and I intend to be what I have been in my entire practice, singularly devoted to this union. And that's what they were looking for.

"Someone, whether it be a boy or a girl, who understood that this was their union, and they intended to run it, and they were looking for someone who appreciated that and was not going to deviate from that."

Roberts received 32 of 36 votes at a meeting of players in Las Vegas, defeating tech industry CEO Dean Garfield and Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery in the final vote.

It capped a long and arduous process to replace Billy Hunter, who was ousted in February 2013. Roberts was one of the finalists initially offered to the rank-and-file during All-Star weekend in February, but the process was re-opened under another search committee at the urging of some players and agents.

More than 100 players reconvened in Las Vegas this week, and after some tense moments leading up to the vote, Roberts emerged as the winner.

"Obviously I would've preferred that it happen sooner rather than later, but I completely understood when there were questions raised about the process," Roberts said. "Frankly, I would not have wanted them to ignore those questions and not affirmatively address those concerns. I wanted the job in February, but I wanted the job where there would be no questions about the fairness or the process, so I completely endorsed the executive committee to address these questions, and they did and now best I can tell they're very pleased."

The players considered more than 300 candidates during their 17-month search before picking Roberts, who has been called the finest trial lawyer in Washington by "Washingtonian Magazine." She said her new job will feature straight, honest talk, just like she delivers to a jury, and strategizing, things that have made her such a successful lawyer.

The search to replace Hunter, who led the NBPA from 1996 until a review of the union was critical of his business practices, leaves players with less than two years to prepare for the next potential collective bargaining talks. Either the union or the league can opt out of the current agreement in 2017.

The union has struggled for years with in-fighting and a lack of organization, and the players took a significant cut in their guarantee of basketball-related income - 57 percent to about 50 percent, a drop of hundreds of millions annually in salary costs - in the contentious lockout in 2011. League revenues are on the rise, a new TV contract is set to be negotiated in 2016 and franchise valuations are skyrocketing.

"As far as I'm concerned, preparations for CBA negotiations started yesterday," Roberts said. "It's at the top of my list of things that I've been instructed to begin the process of preparing for, and sure it's a lot to do, but I've never been shy about hard work and long hours, so we'll get it done. We'll be ready."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver congratulated Roberts in a statement, saying he looked forward to working with her "to ensure the continued health and growth of our game."

"The partnership between our players and teams is the backbone of the league, and we are eager to continue working with the Players Association to build this relationship," Silver said.

The fallout from the lockout and the Hunter ouster left the union reeling. But it also made Roberts want to get involved, which will bring the New York native back home.

"The more I thought about it," she said, "the more I thought that would be a great opportunity to do something really important."

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 01:34:00 +0000
Police: Abraham asleep at wheel during DUI arrest

ATLANTA (AP) Authorities say Arizona Cardinals linebacker John Abraham was arrested on a drunken driving charge a month ago in the Atlanta area.

Abraham has been absent from the team's training camp since Friday.

DeKalb County Jail records show that the 36-year-old was taken into custody June 29 and released the same day.

Abraham was driving a black, 2013 Dodge Challenger that had stopped in the center southbound lane of a suburban Atlanta road the afternoon of June 29, Brookhaven, Georgia police said in an incident report. Abraham smelled of alcohol and failed voluntary sobriety tests - including reciting a portion of the alphabet. Police said Abraham remained asleep for several minutes after police arrived, despite an officer shouting and pounding on his doors and windows.

After Abraham woke up, he told investigators he was coming from the Pink Pony - a local strip club - and the person who was supposed to pick him up hadn't arrived, police said in the report.

The records show Abraham was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as stopping, standing or parking in a prohibited place.

Records from the jail do not indicate whether the case had been resolved as of Tuesday, nor do they list an attorney for Abraham.

The Cardinals have said only that Abraham has been absent from camp for personal reasons.

This is not the first brush with the law for Abraham, who has also played for the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets.

In 2012, he was arrested on an obstruction charge in Atlanta after he repeatedly refused to leave an area taped off by firefighters and police. A police report said he appeared intoxicated, smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech. It was not immediately clear whether that case had been resolved.

And in 2003, Abraham pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in New York after he drove his SUV into a fire hydrant and light pole. Police had said his blood alcohol content measured more than three times the legal limit.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:06:00 +0000
Vin Scully to return for 66th season in LA in 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) Vin Scully is staying in the booth for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 86-year-old Hall of Fame announcer will return for his record 66th season with the team in 2015. The announcement was made by in Korean, Spanish and English by players Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner on the Dodger Stadium video board in the second inning of Tuesday night's game against Atlanta.

The news was greeted with loud cheers and a prolonged standing ovation for Scully, who stood and waved to fans from his booth, where he hugged his wife, Sandi.

A decision about Scully's future has become an annual rite of passage in recent years as he evaluates his health and his family's wishes in considering whether he wants to continue.

"God willing, I will be back next year," he said in a statement released by the team. "Naturally there will come a time when I have to say goodbye, but I've soul-searched and this is not the time."

Scully's consecutive years of service make him the longest-tenured broadcaster with one team in sports history. He calls all nine innings of the team's home games and road games in California and Arizona for the Dodgers' new television home on SportsNet LA, while the first three innings of his games are simulcast on the radio.

Scully and the Dodgers have been invisible to 70 percent of Los Angeles television viewers so far this season. Only customers of Time Warner Cable Inc. and a couple of its partners have been able to watch the team's games. Subscribers of major providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon and AT&T have been shut out.

"I'm obviously not alone in saying that I'm overjoyed Vin will be coming back to the booth in 2015," team president and CEO Stan Kasten said. "Our fans deserve the very best and Vin's voice, knowledge, experience and passion for broadcasting Dodger baseball are second to none."

Scully began his professional broadcasting career in 1950 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He has called three perfect games, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star games. He was behind the microphone for Kirk Gibson's Game 1 homer in the 1988 World Series, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run and Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters, including a perfect game.

At 25, he became the youngest person to ever broadcast a World Series game. In 1955, he called the Dodgers' first and only World Series championship in Brooklyn, and later called their five other World Series victories.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 03:49:00 +0000
Judge OKs record-setting $2B sale of Clippers

LOS ANGELES (AP) Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling lost his attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In allowing the deal to go forward, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas sided Monday with Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, who negotiated the record sale after the NBA banned the 80-year-old billionaire for making offensive remarks about blacks.

Shelly Sterling sought the probate judge's approval to ink the deal after taking over the family trust that owns the team because doctors found Donald Sterling had signs of Alzheimer's disease and couldn't manage his affairs.

The judge said Shelly Sterling had negotiated a good deal and the removal of her husband as a co-trustee was in good faith and not part of a secret plan to seize the team.

Shelly Sterling hugged her lawyer and wept after the judge explained his ruling from the bench.

"I can't believe it's over," she said. "This is the best thing."

An unusual provision of the ruling bars Donald Sterling from seeking a court-ordered delay of the sale as he appeals. His lawyers plan to seek permission from an appellate court to file an appeal.

Sterling was not in court for the ruling. Bobby Samini, one of his lawyers, said Sterling reacted calmly to the news and told his lawyers they had to keep battling on other fronts. Sterling testified during the case that he would fight the NBA until his death.

With lawsuits pending in state and federal courts, the ruling in Los Angeles County Superior Court is unlikely to put an end to the bizarre saga that began in April when a recording surfaced of Sterling scolding his young girlfriend for bringing black men to Clippers games.

The NBA moved quickly to ban Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.

Sterling was apologetic after the audio recording went viral, but his mea culpa backfired when he criticized Lakers great Magic Johnson, who had been photographed with Sterling's girlfriend, as a bad role model for kids because he had HIV. Sterling was roundly condemned from locker rooms to the Oval Office, where President Barack Obama called Sterling's remarks "incredibly offensive racist statements."

With the NBA threatening to seize the team and auction it, Sterling initially gave his wife of 58 years permission to negotiate a sale but then refused to sign the $2 billion Ballmer deal, which would be a record price for an NBA team. He said he would sue the league instead and then revoked the trust, which his lawyers said effectively killed the deal.

The nonjury trial held over several weeks focused mainly on whether Shelly Sterling properly removed her husband as a trustee and whether her actions carried any weight after he revoked the trust.

Donald Sterling claimed his wife had deceived him about the medical exams. His lawyers argued Monday that Shelly Sterling's lawyers were in cahoots with the doctors who examined him and that his wife conspired with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to remove him from the trust.

"There's no evidence, I'll repeat that as loudly as you allow," attorney Maxwell Blecher said during closing argument, his voice rising. "There's no evidence that Mr. Sterling was incapable of carrying out his duties as a co-trustee."

Levanas said there was no credible evidence that Sterling was defrauded.

Blecher said he was deeply disappointed in the judge's legal analysis.

The ruling Monday was tentative until the judge files it in writing.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the league was pleased and looked forward to the transaction closing as soon as possible.

At the conclusion of his lengthy ruling, Levanas envisioned what might happen if Donald Sterling remained the owner.

Citing testimony of Clippers interim CEO Richard Parsons, he said the team would go into a "death spiral." Sponsors would withdraw, players would quit and coach Doc Rivers would leave.

"The Clippers would suffer a massive loss of value if the team survived at all," Levanas said.

The judge was adamant that a team owned by Donald Sterling would not draw a price anywhere near the "stunning" $2 billion pledged by Ballmer. Sterling, a lawyer who made a fortune as a landlord, bought the team in 1981 for $12 million.

"Ballmer paid an amazing price that can't be explained by the market," he said.

On the witness stand, Shelly Sterling was more credible than her husband, who was more evasive, gave inconsistent answers and presented wild fluctuations of damage estimates, Levanas said.

He noted that the couple presented genuine professions of love for each other despite Donald Sterling's outburst calling his wife a "pig" after she testified.

Outside of court, his wife said she thought her husband would be happy with the ruling. She said she thinks he will ultimately drop his antitrust suit in federal court against the NBA and the lawsuit he filed in state court against her, Silver and the league.

Her lawyer wasn't so sure. Asked what might stop the deal, Pierce O'Donnell said: "Donald."

"He never met a lawsuit he didn't like," he quipped.

Bruce Givner, a Los Angeles tax attorney who handles celebrity cases, said he thinks Sterling's lawsuits will fail and an appeals court won't care about the probate case.

"I think the sale is going to go through," Givner said. "I suspect the NBA is ready to move very quickly. They want to get rid of Sterling like a canker sore. Nobody wants him around except the people that are charging legal fees to continue this charade."

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:46:00 +0000
Jeter moves up to 7th on MLB's all-time hits list

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Derek Jeter remembers the playoff games in Texas - the good and the bad. Now the Yankees captain has another milestone to go with them there.

In the opener of his last series in Texas on Monday night, Jeter took over seventh place on the MLB career hits list after three hits of Rangers ace Yu Darvish.

Jeter got a standing ovation in the first inning, then singled on the first pitch Darvish threw him. Jeter added a ground-rule double in the third for his 3,419th career hit to match Carl Yastrzemski for seventh on the MLB career list, then broke that tie with a single in the seventh.

Next on the MLB career list is Honus Wagner with 3,430 hits.

Jeter's rookie season in 1996 ended with the Yankees winning the World Series after clinching their opening playoff series in Texas, just like they did in 1998 and 1999. Then, in 2010, the Rangers got their first AL pennant with a home win over New York in Game 6 of the AL championship series.

"We've had some battles here in the postseason," Jeter said before Monday night's game. "We played some tough Texas teams. On the way to the World Series, we had to go through some Texas teams. There was a team in particular that stopped us in our quest to go."

The Rangers will honor Jeter in a pregame ceremony before the series finale Wednesday night. The Yankees captain has 103 hits in 71 regular-season games at Texas.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 02:44:00 +0000

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