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James leads Cavaliers past Bulls, 114-108 in OT

CHICAGO (AP) LeBron James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 114-108 in overtime on Friday night.

James was at his best after struggling the previous night, scoring eight points in the extra period, and the Cavaliers picked up the win the after opening with a loss at home to New York.

Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Chicago, but his first meaningful home game in about a year was spoiled by a sprained left ankle and a dominant performance by the Cavaliers' megastar. Rose, sidelined for most of the past two seasons by knee injuries, came up hobbling in the first half and headed to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland rallied from five down in the closing minute of regulation after blowing a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter.

James took over in OT, flipping in a wild reverse layup and scoring Cleveland's first eight points in the extra period.

The Cavaliers were still clinging to a 106-104 lead after Kirk Hinrich hit two free throws with 46.8 seconds left. But Tristan Thompson iced it moments later with a hard dunk after rebounding James' jumper to make it a four-point game with 24 seconds left. Thompson tied franchise record with 12 offensive rebounds.

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 03:10:00 +0000
Warriors, Thompson agree to maximum extension

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Golden State Warriors saw no reason to wait on securing Klay Thompson's future with the franchise.

The Warriors signed Thompson to a four-year maximum contract extension worth about $70 million on Friday, a person with knowledge of the deal said.

The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not disclose terms, also said there is no opt-out clause for either side. The contract will keep Thompson with the team through the 2018-19 season.

The Warriors confirmed a multiyear deal with Thompson. It was the final day for Thompson and the team to get a deal done or the shooting guard could become a restricted free agent next summer, when the Warriors would have had an opportunity to match any offer sheet he signed.

Golden State decided not to risk the relationship turning sour in restricted free agency or another team putting a clause in an offer sheet that might've made it difficult to match. And Thompson and his agent, Bill Duffy, got what they wanted all along: a maximum deal and financial security now.

"It's hard for me to express how excited and happy I am to know that I will be playing in front of the best fans in the NBA for a long time," Thompson said in a statement. "This team, under this ownership group and with this collection of players, has an incredibly bright future. I could not ask for a better situation and am extremely thankful."

Warriors general manager Bob Myers and Thompson will hold a news conference to formally announce the deal before Saturday night's home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. In a statement, Myers also praised ownership's commitment to winning and said the team is "excited to have one of the top young players in the NBA under contract for the next several years."

Golden State drafted Thompson out of Washington State with the 11th overall pick in 2011. He has become one of the NBA's top two-way guards and teamed with fellow "Splash Brothers" star Stephen Curry to form one of the league's best backcourts.

Thompson averaged 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season, helping the Warriors reach the playoffs for the second straight year. He shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

Curry congratulated Thompson for the extension on Twitter, writing: "Splash bros continue."

The Warriors decided to build around the tandem when they refused to include Thompson in any trade talks with Minnesota for Kevin Love this offseason, believing all along that he and Curry could carry them to a title on their streaky shooting strokes. Thompson began to validate the decision over the summer, dazzling during the FIBA World Cup in Spain to help the U.S. win gold.

The payday will put more expectations on Thompson, especially with fans still split about losing Love to Cleveland, but he appears ready for the challenge.

Thompson led the Warriors with 21.7 points per game in the preseason, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. He also scored 19 points in Golden State's season-opening 95-77 win at Sacramento on Wednesday night.

First-year coach Steve Kerr, a former NBA player and general manager with the Phoenix Suns, said before the extension was announced that Thompson never looked affected by the negotiations.

"It can definitely affect a player to think about all that stuff, worry about injury, whatever. I'm pretty confident in Klay that he's just going to play," Kerr said.

Thompson's contributions go beyond shooting and scoring.

At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, the lengthy Thompson often defends the other team's best guard. That includes covering everybody from the Clippers' Chris Paul to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, taking pressure off teammates on the perimeter, most notably the undersized Curry.

Myers made extending Thompson's contract one of his top offseason priorities, and he predicted from the get-go that it could go right up to the deadline.

The Warriors were also trying to balance Thompson's needs with their own payroll concerns. After all, the team will be facing similar scenarios with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli next year and has increasingly less room to wiggle under the salary cap with its current roster.

Thompson's deal eclipses the contract Curry signed prior to the 2012-13 season when he was due for an extension.

Golden State signed Curry to a $44 million, four-year extension on Oct. 31, 2012. Curry, who started his first All-Star Game for the Western Conference last season, was coming off a second surgery on his right ankle in as many years that summer, and questions persisted about his durability.

That risk worked out well for the Warriors. Curry's contract has become one of the league's best bargains, and Golden State is banking on Thompson's talents to evolve in much the same way now, especially with the league's next television deal widely expected to increase player salaries.

---

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 02:44:00 +0000
Wolves give Ricky Rubio 4-year, $56M deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The clock was ticking down toward the deadline for reaching agreement on an extension of his rookie contract, and just like he does on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio took charge.

"I was talking with my agents and I told them I really wanted to stay here," Rubio told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday night. "I told them to make something work. At the end of the day it did happen and I'm happy about it."

About two hours before the midnight Eastern deadline, Rubio signed a four-year contract extension worth $55 million that includes another $1 million in incentives, bringing an end to a long and sometimes tense negotiation between the flashy Spanish point guard and the team that drafted him in 2009.

Rubio averaged 10.1 points, 8.1 assists and 2.3 steals but shot just 37 percent in his first three seasons. The shooting numbers led some to say the Timberwolves would have been better off waiting to see how Rubio performs this season before extending him an offer given that they would have had the ability to match any offer that he received on the open market next summer.

But owner Glen Taylor has long been big on loyalty, and he reached out directly to Rubio earlier this week to make one last push.

"I want to call Minnesota home for a long time," Rubio said. "That's why I signed the contract. My mom's going to get mad at me, but I don't leave home when I'm here. This is my second home. I really feel very welcome here."

As salaries stand right now, Rubio's $13.75 million average annual salary starting next season will be more than high profile point guards like Tony Parker, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson. Rubio's representatives targeted Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe's five-year, $70 million deal to eclipse, and ended up coming very close despite not having the leverage that Bledsoe had as a restricted free agent.

In Rubio, Taylor and Flip Saunders, the team's president of basketball operations, head coach and minority owner, see a dynamic 24-year-old point guard who is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

Rubio made an immediate impact as a rookie on a long-suffering team, helping them climb to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture in early March before he tore two ligaments in his left knee in a game against the Lakers.

He played all 82 games last season and said he feels as healthy this year has he has been since the injury. Rather than wade through the potentially tricky waters of restricted free agency next summer, the Wolves engaged agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana of Relativity Sports to get a deal done.

"Ricky is only in his fourth season and because of his work ethic and determination, we are confident that he will continue to grow as a player and a team leader," Saunders said in a statement. "We look forward to many great years ahead of Ricky in a Timberwolves uniform."

And after trading Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, Rubio also became the player that will lead youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett into the post-Love era.

"He came to us with such high expectations and he immediately proved why we were so high on him," Taylor said. "Unfortunately he got hurt at the end of his rookie season, but he has worked so hard to come back and we believe he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He's a great foundation for our franchise and we're very happy to keep Ricky here long term to work and grow with the young nucleus that we have."

One of the league's best passers, Rubio got quite an assist from the NBA's new television deal. The league signed new agreements with ESPN and Turner totaling $24 billion earlier this month. It remains unclear just how soon the massive extensions will flood the league with cash and send the salary cap soaring, but the inevitability helped the Timberwolves feel more comfortable writing a bigger check to lock Rubio in.

With Kemba Walker signing a four-year, $48 million deal with Charlotte and Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo figuring to cash in next summer, Rubio's deal may not look quite so large when the salary cap starts to rise.

"You're getting paid more, you have to earn it," Rubio said. "You have to show why you're getting paid this money. Of course there's going to be extra pressure. I wanted to be more of a leader and take this team to another level."

---

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 04:26:00 +0000
Kentucky earns No. 1 nod in AP preseason poll

The story seems to be the same every season at Kentucky: Lose star players to the NBA, replace them with another group of one-and-doners, compete for a national championship.

The Wildcats changed the script this season: This year, the fabulous freshmen will be surrounded by other former McDonald's All-Americans who played for the NCAA title just seven months ago - a team so deep and talented that coach John Calipari is considering a platoon system.

Kentucky was the runaway No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 released Friday, becoming the fourth program to earn the honor in consecutive seasons.

"It's something for our kids to live up to," Calipari said. "At the end of the day, you've got to play the games and figure it out."

Kentucky earned 52 first-place votes from the 65-member panel in landing its fourth preseason No. 1. The Wildcats also were No. 1 in 1995-96, when they won the national championship, and in 1980-81.

Kentucky joins UCLA (1966-69, 1971-74), UNLV (1990-91) and North Carolina (2008-09) to be named No. 1 consecutive seasons since the AP preseason poll started in 1961-62.

Arizona is ranked No. 2 and received five first-place votes after adding a strong recruiting class to a team that came within seconds of reaching the Final Four last season.

Wisconsin, which returns most of last season's Final Four team, has its highest preseason ranking ever at No. 3. The Badgers received eight first-place votes, but are 35 points behind Arizona in the poll.

No. 4 Duke added a strong recruiting class headed by Jahlil Okafor and is ranked for the 137th straight week. Reloaded Kansas is No. 5, with North Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Virginia and Texas rounding out the top 10. Virginia is in the preseason top 10 for the first time since Ralph Sampson's senior season in 1982-83, when it was No. 1.

"I think there are probably seven teams that all could be No. 1 in the country," Calipari said.

Wichita State, a Final Four team two seasons ago, is No. 11, followed by Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth, San Diego State, defending national champion Connecticut, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

Rounding out the Top 25 are Nebraska, SMU, Syracuse, Michigan, Harvard and Utah.

They'll all be chasing Kentucky, at least at the start.

The Wildcats were No. 1 heading into last season after Coach Cal pulled the strings on another best-in-the-nation recruiting class. They lived up to expectations, too, overcoming a midseason slump to reach the national championship game, where they lost 60-54 to UConn.

But a funny thing happened during the offseason: Instead of all those freshman packing up for the NBA after one season, most decided to stick around.

Kentucky lost forward Julius Randle and guard James Young to the NBA. In a bit of a surprise, twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison decided to return after their freshman seasons and junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein decided to stick around, too.

With forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, along with 7-footer Dakari Johnson also coming back, the Wildcats were going to be in good shape regardless of what the recruiting class looked like.

But, of course, this is Kentucky and more star recruits made their way to Lexington: forwards Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles, guards Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis.

The Wildcats are 12 deep, talented and confident.

"We are far ahead of last year," Andrew Harrison said.

But they're far from the only team with a shot at the title.

Arizona was a last-second shot away from reaching the Final Four last season, an impressive run considering versatile forward Brandon Ashley sat out the final 16 games with a foot injury. He's healthy and leads a solid core of returning players that includes point guard T.J. McConnell and 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski.

Coach Sean Miller also brought in another stellar class, headed by athletic forward Stanley Johnson.

"We have the makings of a team that can go on and do some great things," Miller said.

So do the third-ranked Badgers. Actually, they already have. Wisconsin made a somewhat-unexpected run to the Final Four last season and will have one of the most experienced teams in the country.

Leading them will be no-nonsense coach Bo Ryan and Frank Kaminsky, the 6-foot-10 senior who skipped a shot at the NBA for another chance at an NCAA title.

"I don't see our guys talking any differently or acting any differently on the practice floor simply because other people are mentioning that we might be pretty good," Ryan said.

The same thing is being said about the Kentucky Wildcats - just like last season.

---

AP Sports Writers Genaro Armas and Gary Graves contributed to this story.

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 00:32:00 +0000
Untapable and Napravnik win Breeders' Cup Distaff

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Untapable won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff by 1 1/4 lengths, making Rosie Napravnik the first female rider to win the race in its 31-year history.

The 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.68 on Friday at Santa Anita and paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.60 as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 11.

Don't Tell Sophia returned $4.60 and $3.40, while Iotapa was another nose back in third and paid $4 to show.

Napravnik pumped her right hand after crossing the finish line, having secured her second career Breeders' Cup victory. It was the fifth Cup win for trainer Steve Asmussen, and his biggest since winning the $5 million Classic with Curlin in 2007.

Untapable lugged in on Iotapa on the rail in the stretch, but the stewards did not post the inquiry sign.

It was Untapable's fourth Grade 1 win of the year, including the Kentucky Oaks in May.

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 23:57:00 +0000

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