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Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury

LOS ANGELES (AP) Steve Nash hoped for one more chance to show off his playmaking skills after fighting injuries and time for two miserable years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, Nash couldn't even make it to opening night in the 19th season of his remarkable career. Nash will miss the entire season because of a back injury, the Lakers announced Thursday, putting the two-time NBA MVP point guard's career in doubt. The Lakers and the 40-year-old Nash announced their joint decision less than a week before the start of the regular season. He played in only 15 games last season with nerve root irritation, but hoped for a comeback season after several months of rehabilitation. The Canadian star played in just three preseason games, feeling more back pain in the second outing. He then strained his back while carrying travel bags several days ago. "Being on the court this season has been my top priority, and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now," Nash said. "I work very hard to stay healthy, and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health." Nash will "focus on rest and rehabilitation," according to the team's news release. He is in the final season of his three-year contract with the Lakers, but the club's announcement made no mention of possible retirement. Nash has played in only 65 games since the Lakers traded four draft picks for him in 2012 in a spectacularly failed attempt to assemble a title contender built around Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Nash. Bryant, who missed all but six games last season with two major injuries, has played in the same backcourt with Nash for just 48 games. "As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we're even more disappointed for Steve," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We know how hard he's worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn't been able to get there up to this point in time. Steve has been a consummate professional, and we greatly appreciate his efforts." Nash, the NBA's oldest active player, is due more than $9 million this season. His salary counts toward the Lakers' cap. If Nash's career ends with his latest injury, it likely won't dull the impact of the greatest player in Canadian history and one of the most complete offensive guards of his generation. He is third on the NBA's career assists list, trailing only John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Nash also is the most accurate free-throw shooter in NBA history, barely edging Mark Price's career mark at 90.4 percent. During training camp, Nash said he realized the upcoming season likely would be his last. Yet he refused to call it a farewell tour, holding out hope of playing beyond this season if his back held up under the pounding of a full NBA schedule. "Sorry to hear the news my man," injured Lakers teammate Nick Young tweeted at Nash. The British Columbia product starred at Santa Clara before starting his NBA career with the Phoenix Suns, who traded him to Dallas in 1998. He established himself as an elite point guard while playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley with the Mavericks, but returned to Phoenix in 2004 for a lucrative free-agent deal. Nash won two unlikely MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 as the catalyst for one of the most prolific offenses in NBA history under coach Mike D'Antoni. His playmaking and scoring abilities earned him worldwide recognition and eight All-Star game selections, including his final season with Phoenix in 2011-12. Nash agreed to join the Lakers for the chance to play for a title living relatively near to his ex-wife and three children. Despite several health struggles late in his career with the Suns, Los Angeles gave him a three-year deal and mortgaged its future by shipping out draft choices. But Nash's tenure in Hollywood has been mostly miserable from his second game, when he broke a bone in his left leg and missed the next 24 games. He also struggled with injuries to his hamstrings and back before last season, when he played in just nine of the Lakers' final 74 games due to recurrent pain in his back and legs. The Lakers had hoped Nash would be their starting point guard this season, but the club also acquired Jeremy Lin and signed veteran free-agent Ronnie Price. Los Angeles, which missed the playoffs last season for just the third time in 38 years, has been projected for a rough season even with a healthy Nash.

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:46:00 +0000
Giants' Hudson to face Royals' Guthrie in Game 3

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) In the middle of a champagne-and-beer-soaked clubhouse after the San Francisco Giants won the NL Championship Series, Tim Hudson was given the chance to speak to his team. The message was as simple as Hudson's approach on the mound: "World Series, baby!" After 16 years, 214 regular-season wins and seven failed trips to the postseason, Hudson has finally made it to baseball's biggest stage at age 39. Hudson is set to take the mound Friday night for the Giants when they return home to face Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series after a two-game split in Kansas City. "It's almost a sense of relief that it's finally here, that what I've hoped and dreamed for throughout my career is finally here, and there's not going to be anybody on the field that's more ready than I am tomorrow night," Hudson said Thursday. Hudson's brilliant career began on the other side of San Francisco Bay as he helped Oakland make four straight trips to the postseason that ended with Game 5 losses in the division series. Hudson got back to the playoffs with Atlanta, losing in the division series in 2005 to Houston and 2010 to San Francisco. The Braves made it again last year when Hudson was hurt but lost again in the division series. After signing a $23 million, two-year contract this offseason with San Francisco, Hudson finally got to experience postseason success. "You often wonder, is it ever going to happen? Obviously, last year the way my season ended with my ankle injury, things looked a little bleak there for a few moments," Hudson said. But I'm just really lucky." Hudson got no-decisions in his first two postseason starts, allowing five runs in 13 2-3 innings against Washington and St. Louis. The limited work of late has paid dividends. Hudson looks much fresher than he did in September when he went 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in five starts to end the season while dealing with a bum hip. He finished the season with a 9-13 record for his first losing campaign ever. "It's hard enough to play this game when you're healthy, but when you're pitching and your hip's bothering you a little bit - and he's a warrior," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was never complaining. He was never making excuses, but it was a fact. I think it was affecting him a little bit." Guthrie had a long wait just to get to the playoffs. He made his first postseason appearance at age 35 when he allowed one run in five innings of a no-decision against Baltimore in Game 3 of the ALCS. That start is Guthrie's only outing the past four weeks; he did not pitch in the division series sweep against the Angels. So Guthrie has done his best to stay sharp with side work instead of pitching in games. He has also spent time serving as a translator for some of Kansas City's Spanish-speaking players. Guthrie completed a Mormon mission to Spain when he was in college, not picking up a baseball for two years. But Guthrie revived his career when he returned and transferred to Stanford, becoming a first-round pick in 2002 and eventually a major leaguer. He said he learned at Stanford the importance of going deep into games - something that was most evident when he went 13 innings to beat Cal-State Fullerton in the NCAA tournament his final year there. "Four days before the draft, Scott Boras my agent, or adviser at that time, was there, and I don't think he was anticipating or hoping for 13 innings that close to the draft," Guthrie said. "But it was 147 pitches. Again, it was a reflection of competing to the end, it's yours to win, and watching kind of the pitchers pitch by pitch, and seeing how they're doing versus kind of letting the number dictate when they were going to be taken out." With a stellar bullpen led by Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis behind him in Kansas City, Guthrie knows he won't be asked to go that deep on a team that has had only one starter pitch into the seventh this postseason. "That's been the result, but we're out there trying to get as deep as we can," Guthrie said. "For us to win a game without having to throw all three of our relievers at the back end, Kelvin, and Wade, and Greg, will only give our team a better chance to win throughout the series." --- AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 00:47:00 +0000
AP source: Goodell told to testify in Rice appeal

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been told to testify in Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, the neutral arbiter selected to hear the appeal, informed the parties of her decision Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the appeal have not been made public. It was uncertain whether Goodell will actually testify. He said this month he would leave the decision to Judge Jones. "We will continue to respect Judge Jones' confidentiality order regarding this proceeding," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. NFL lawyers have argued that Goodell shouldn't have to testify, and instead were offering testimony from Jeff Pash, the NFL's general counsel, and Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy. Pash and Birch were with Goodell when he met with Rice's side in June to talk about what happened when the former Pro Bowl running back hit his then-fiancee in an elevator. Rice described details of the incident at that meeting. Goodell has called Rice's description "ambiguous" while Rice's side has maintained he gave exact details. The hearing will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the case told the AP on Tuesday. Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of the former Pro Bowl running back hitting the woman was released publicly. Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games. Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice. The players' union appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice. Jones was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. The union said at the time that Goodell's testimony as a witness would be crucial in the proceedings. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 08:38:00 +0000
Titans: Rookie Zach Mettenberger will start at QB

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have kicked their youth movement into high gear with rookie Zach Mettenberger starting at quarterback against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Jake Locker has missed three of the past four games with injuries, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday that the decision to go with Mettenberger was made Tuesday. The coach said this is an opportunity to see what the sixth-round draft pick out of LSU can do with the Titans struggling at 2-5. "No question he's a talented, young player, and maybe it'll give us a spark," Whisenhunt said. "Offensively, we haven't exactly been lighting it up, so that's part of it in consideration." Whisenhunt waited to announce the change to make sure Locker - who has been sidelined with an injured thumb - is healthy enough to back up Mettenberger. The coach also was trying to buy a day to slow down the Texans' preparation for the rookie. The shake-up dropped Charlie Whitehurst, who started three of the past four games with the Titans losing two of those, to third on the depth chart. Mounting losses and injuries seemed to make the change inevitable. The Titans had stuck with Locker, the eighth pick overall in 2011, since hiring Whisenhunt in January. But Locker has missed 17 of a possible 39 starts and finished only three games this season because of injuries. Mettenberger will become the fourth rookie quarterback to start in the NFL this season, the third quarterback for Whisenhunt. The Titans already are starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, linebacker Avery Williamson and running back Bishop Sankey with Mettenberger the fourth of six draft picks to start this season. The quarterback dropped to the sixth round after tearing his left ACL on Nov. 29 playing for LSU but led the NFL this preseason with 659 yards passing. The rookie shaved the beard he started growing during training camp after practice just before talking to reporters. "By no means am I a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning," Mettenberger said as he leaned back against his locker. "This is going to be my first game, so really I just got to get the ball out of my hands quick, avoid turnovers and put the ball in the (hands of) guys who can make plays for us. Really that's the biggest thing a young guy's got to do." Whisenhunt had promised he would be more patient with quarterbacks in his second time around as a head coach. He reached the 2009 Super Bowl in Arizona with Kurt Warner, but the coach cycled through quarterbacks after the veteran left. Whisenhunt started Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and finally Brian Hoyer in his final season in 2012. Once in Tennessee, he inherited Locker who was coming off a Lisfranc injury to his right foot that cost him the final seven games of the 2013 season. The Titans did not pick up Locker's option for 2015 in May, even as they stood behind him as their starter. But Locker hurt his right wrist in a loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 21. He missed a loss at Indianapolis and then started Oct. 5 against Cleveland where he threw for a touchdown and ran for another TD before hurting his right thumb on a helmet. "I understood after last year I didn't know kind of how it would go and coming into this year they gave me an opportunity," Locker said. "I haven't been in. I haven't played. That's been kind of one of those things that I've dealt with throughout my career, and I imagine it has something to do with that." Fans have been clamoring to see Mettenberger with the Titans losing five of their last six. This franchise also needs to give people a reason to use their tickets and come to the stadium where they have won only two of their last nine home games. Mettenberger fits the profile of the quarterback Whisenhunt has had the most success with: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. Mettenberger is 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds who can stand in the pocket, and he has a strong arm throwing for 3,082 yards last season at LSU. With Locker's injured thumb, Mettenberger also had taken some practice work with the starters over the past two weeks. He will be the first rookie this franchise has started since 2010. Rusty Smith started at Houston after Vince Young was placed on injured reserve and veteran Kerry Collins was hurt. Smith and the Titans lost 20-0. --- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 20:53:00 +0000
Braves make Hart president of baseball operations

ATLANTA (AP) John Schuerholz completed what he called "the best negotiation of my entire career" by convincing his longtime friend John Hart to accept the role of president of baseball operations. With Hart taking the newly created title on Thursday, the Braves aren't looking for a general manager. The 66-year-old Hart agreed to a three-year contract that will continue through the team's first season at its new stadium in Cobb County. Hart became interim general manager Sept. 22. The team had sought a full-time replacement for Frank Wren, who was fired last month after a 79-83 finish this season. Hart, Schuerholz and former Braves manager Bobby Cox formed the GM search committee. Hart said last month his only interest was in the interim job, but Schuerholz, the team president, wouldn't accept that as a final answer. "We met as transition team quite a number of times and when we were at the meetings invariably I'd pull out my list and I'd say `OK, are we going to talk about the GMs?"' Hart said. "At some point John would get up, he'd take a phone call, he'd go to the bathroom. ... I think all along I did feel and know that John clearly wanted me to take this job." Hart, the former GM for the Rangers and Indians, joined the Braves last year as a senior adviser. Schuerholz described Hart as "a man who has demonstrated great ability in constructing winning baseball organizations, winning baseball teams, creating staffs of very capable people empowered to do great jobs in each of the organizations he has run." Hart said he has turned down similar opportunities with other teams that lacked the "personal component" he has with Schuerholz. Schuerholz, who was the Royals' GM before taking over as the Braves' GM in 1990, returned to Kansas City for Game 1 of the World Series this week. He said he was asked by owners and executives why he hadn't convinced Hart to take the full-time role in Atlanta. Schuerholz said he was told it would be great to have Hart back in baseball. "So I was motivated by that and came back and had my last and final conversation with my dear friend," Schuerholz said. "I was able to persuade him this was the place to be and this was the organization he could have so much of an impact on in a very positive and energetic way and get us to where we want to be, and that's at the very top, the gold standard baseball organization that we have always been regarded as." Schuerholz said assistant GM John Coppolella will be Hart's "right-hand man." "Coppy was a big part of the reason I took this job," Hart said. "I think you will see Coppy is a young man who is going to develop and grow." Schuerholz sat with Kansas City GM Dayton Moore at the World Series. Moore was a former assistant under Schuerholz with the Braves, but Schuerholz said he never approached Moore about the Braves' position. "It would be disrespectful for me to even talk to him about that," Schuerholz said.

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:14:00 +0000

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