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ESPN suspends Dan Le Batard for LeBron James billboard

08.08.14 at 9:42 am ET
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ESPN suspended Dan Le Batard for two days after the television and radio host paid for billboards in Akron, Ohio, that read, “You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami” and featured the two championship rings LeBron James won with the Heat.

The billboards appeared to be mocking James’ first-person essay in Sports Illustrated announcing his return to the Cavaliers. James’ letter thanked many people, but not Miami fans, which inspired a response from Le Batard.

ESPN released a statement about the suspension Thursday.

“Dan LeBatard will be off the air for two days, returning Monday,” the statement read. “His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’€™s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”

Read More: Dan Le Batard, LeBron James,

Brad Faxon on D&C: Problems with Tiger Woods’ swing leading to back issues

08.08.14 at 9:22 am ET
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Golfer Brad Faxon joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to discuss Tiger Woods and the PGA Championship. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Woods shot a 3-over par 74 in the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday less than a week after pulling out of the World Golf Championship with a back injury.

“There was a fascinating interview on the Golf Channel last night with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo really disputing whether Tiger is playing poorly because he’s hurt or whether he’s hurt because he’s swinging poorly,” Faxon said. “It’s a great debate. There’s probably going to be people on both sides of the fence. There’s no question in my mind whatever he’s doing with his swing is hurting his back. He didn’t hurt his back and then start playing poorly.”

Faxon said Woods’ motivation to play despite injury problems stems not only his pursuit of victories in major tournaments, but also in hopes of making an impression for the Ryder Cup team.

“If the listeners know, I thought he’d get to 18 [majors] in 10 years. It’s amazing to me,” Faxon said. “Tiger went down pretty hard last week at the World Golf Championship where he’s dominated and won eight times. This week he shows up on Wednesday, doesn’t tell anybody he’s coming and plays his practice round like he’s never been hurt before and shoots 74.

“There’s a case for shutting this down altogether. The other thing is, this is the last tournament before the Ryder Cup team is selected and Tiger probably wants to play on the team. He wants to show Tom Watson he’s there and able to play.”

Added Faxon: “This is a big day for him. He’s 3 over par, the cut is going to be around even par, maybe he has to shoot well into the 60s just to make the cut. He’s struggled hitting the ball, his sharpness around the greens is not there, nothing like it used to be.”

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Read More: Tiger Woods,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Ravens fans welcome embattled RB Ray Rice with ovation

08.08.14 at 8:07 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Angels, 10:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Rays at Cubs, 4 p.m. (WGN)
MLB: Cardinals at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (MLB)
Little League Baseball: Mid-Atlantic semifinal, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball: Midwest final, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball: Mid-Atlantic semifinal, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball: West semifinal, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Little League Baseball: Southeast final, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Little League Baseball: West semifinal, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
NFL preseason: Saints at Cardinals, 8 p.m. (NFL Network)
MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Women’s U-20, United States vs. Brazil, 9:45 p.m. (ESPNU)
Golf: PGA Championship, 1 p.m. (TNT)

AROUND THE WEB:

– Ravens running back Ray Rice made his preseason debut Thursday night against the 49ers, his first game action since being suspended for the first two games of the regular season because of his domestic violence incident, and he was warmly received by the fans in Baltimore.

Rice received a standing ovation during pregame introductions and was applauded again loudly after his first run. There were no audible boos. He only played one series in the game, carrying the ball three times and picking up 17 yards.

“Our fans are the best fans in the world,” Rice said. “I can’t thank them enough, No. 1, for sticking by me and supporting me throughout my trials and tribulations. I owe my best to these fans for giving me that kind of ovation. I’m looking forward to giving them the best effort that I can every week throughout the season.

“That means the world to me. Everything I went through, I don’t take anything for granted anymore, especially going out there and playing in front of our fans. It’s a lot of respect that I have to go out there and earn because of the position that I put myself in.”

Rice was arrested Feb. 15 after an altercation in an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel, which left his now-wife Janay Palmer unconscious. Rice pleaded not guilty and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program three months later. The league has come under heavy criticism for only giving Rice a two-game suspension (he was fined an additional game check as well).

MASHUP POLL: How should Ray Rice have been received by Ravens fans Thursday night?

  • They should have booed to send a message that his behavior is unacceptable (54%, 88 Votes)
  • They should have responded with silence (36%, 59 Votes)
  • The applause is fine, he plays for their team and it's reasonable for them to show support despite his troubles (10%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Off-field distractions aside, Rice enters the season with something to prove, as he is coming off the worst season of his six-year career, rushing for 660 yards and averaging 3.1 yards per carry as he battled hip and quadriceps injuries. He shed about 15 pounds in the offseason, getting down to 206, and he appears to have regained some of his quickness.

“I do feel different,” Rice said. “I guess it’s safe to say I feel like back when I was a rookie. That’s the weight I’m continuing to try to play at. Obviously, what I went through when I added a little bit of extra weight, you can’t make the cuts like you want to do.

“Training this offseason and focusing on the stuff that I needed to focus on, diet, exercise, all the stuff I needed to do, finally I got down to the weight I was comfortable at and went out there and executed.”

Metta World Peace, a.k.a. Ron Artest, is changing his name again, coinciding with his decision to play for the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association this season.

After reports surfaced that he had selected Panda Friend, he clarified on Twitter that his Chinese name is The Pandas Friend.

A few days earlier, he hinted where his mind was when he tweeted: First thing I am doing when I get to china will be visiting Pandas with my daughter.

World Peace, 34, will be the highest-paid player in the CBA this season, earning $1.43 million. He last played in the NBA with his hometown Knicks.

– Former Boston College and Patriots offensive lineman Damien Woody, now an ESPN analyst, will be a contestant on the NBC weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser” when the new season begins next month.

The 36-year-old father of seven is up to 388 pounds four years after retiring from the game. H’ll be the fourth-heaviest of the show’s 20 contestants.

Woody played for the Patriots from 1999-2003, winning two Super Bowls. He also played for the Lions (2004-07) and Jets (2007-10).

Woody will be joined on the show by former NFL quarterback Scott Mitchell, former women’s tennis player Zina Garrison and former WNBA player Vanessa Hayden.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Aug. 8, 2004, which Red Sox pitcher allowed a team-record six home runs but still got the win in an 11-9 victory over the Tigers?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “€œLosing like that is never fun, but it is a good experience for the first preseason game and I had fun out there I did all right. There is a lot of stuff to improve on. It is a process. For any rookie quarterback, there is a lot to learn from and we will go watch the tape tomorrow and fix those things.” – Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, after completing 9-of-13 passes for 157 yards in the Patriots’ 23-6 preseason loss to Washington

STAT OF THE DAY: 27 – Consecutive at-bats without a hit for Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-3 in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Cardinals

‘NET RESULTS (mobile users, check the website to see the videos): Bryce Harper homers in the 13th inning to give the Nationals a walkoff win over the Mets.

Cubs rookie Javier Baez has made an immediate impact, hitting two home runs off the Rockies in just his third major league game.

Marlins pitcher Dan Jennings is out on his feet after taking a line drive to the head against the Pirates. Jennings was kept at a hospital overnight for observation.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira‘s latest edition of his humorous talk show “Foul Territory” includes an interview with center fielder Brett Gardner and Teixeira reminiscing about making mixtapes for girls in high school.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Tim Wakefield

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Creed lead singer Scott Stapp was born on this day in 1973.

Read More: Damien Woody, Metta World Peace, Ray Rice, The Pandas Friend

Report: Kevin Love trade to Cavaliers finalized after he agrees to re-sign next offseason

08.07.14 at 10:12 am ET
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According to a Yahoo! Sports report crediting league sources, the speculated trade of Kevin Love from the Timberwolves to the Cavaliers has been completed, with Love agreeing to re-sign with Cleveland next summer when he becomes a free agent.

Love reportedly will sign a five-year, $120 million-plus contract with the Cavs next offseason.

The Cavs will send Minnesota the last two No. 1 overall draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, along with a protected 2015 first-round draft pick.

Because draft picks cannot be traded for 30 days after they sign, the deal will not be official until Aug. 23.

The report indicates the Cavaliers were motivated in part from a fear that Love would otherwise be traded to the Bulls. Instead, Love, a 25-year-old, three-time All-Star who averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds last season, will join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland to form a team that will be the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love,

Report: Heat C Greg Oden arrested after punching woman

08.07.14 at 8:49 am ET
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According to reports out of Lawrence, Indiana, Heat center Greg Oden was arrested early Thursday morning after allegedly punching a woman. He faces a preliminary charge of battery.

Police arrived at Oden’s mother’s house and found a woman — identified by Oden as a former girlfriend — crying and holding her bloodied face. The victim initially was not cooperative, but her friend told police, “He punched her in the face.”

A “calm, apologetic and cooperative” Oden told police, “I was wrong, and I know what has to happen.”

Oden, who starred at Ohio State, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Trail Blazers in 2007, but his career was derailed by major injuries to his knees. He made a comeback with the Heat last season, playing 23 games in a reserve role.

Read More: Greg Oden,

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: CFL teammate calls out ex-Patriots WR Chad Johnson for lack of effort

08.07.14 at 7:57 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Cardinals, 7:15 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Tigers at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Cubs at Rockies, 3 p.m. (WGN)
MLB: Orioles at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: White Sox at Mariners, 10 p.m. (WGN)
NFL preseason: Patriots at Washington, 7:30 p.m. (WBZ-TV)
NFL preseason: 49ers at Ravens, 7:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
NFL preseason: Cowboys at Chargers, 10:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
WNBA: Chicago Sky at Minnesota Lynx, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

– Onetime Patriots wide receiver Chad Johnson, a.k.a. Chad Ochocinco, is making new enemies north of the border, and for similar reasons why he lasted only season in New England.

Johnson is toiling in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes, and he has just four catches for 78 yards and one touchdown for his 1-4 team. Coach Tom Higgins admitted he treats Johnson differently because of what he accomplished in 11 NFL seasons, indicating that he allows him to start and “gives him the benefit of the doubt” despite his meager production.

That doesn’t sit well with at least one teammate, who claims Johnson does not put enough effort into playing hard and learning the playbook.

“We’re trying to win here,” the anonymous teammate told the Montreal Gazette. “This isn’t some [expletive] vacation league. Put the best players on the field that want to play.

“One position [receiver] has free reign to do whatever they want and aren’t accountable to anything. It doesn’t matter what they do or how they perform.”

Meanwhile, Johnson’s apparently delusional agent, Drew Rosenhaus, seems to think his client has a chance to return to the NFL.

“If they did [call], he would jump for it,” Rosenhaus told ESPN.com. “Of course, he would love it. But right now, he’s operating as a Canadian Football League player. We will see what happens. It’s not like we’re holding our breath that he’s going to play in the NFL. But he’s trying. That’s the goal.”

Added Rosenhaus: “He would tell you that he could still do it better than anybody. He doesn’t lack confidence or enthusiasm.”

MASHUP POLL: What are the chances Chad Johnson returns to the NFL this season?

  • Less than zero (47%, 183 Votes)
  • Zero (42%, 161 Votes)
  • Miniscule (6%, 23 Votes)
  • Small, but it could happen if a team's entire WR corps gets hurt (5%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 387

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Johnson played 11 NFL seasons, 10 with the Bengals, catching 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 82 touchdowns. But he struggled in his lone season in New England, catching just 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown, amid reports that he never mastered the playbook. He was cut from the Dolphins in training camp the following season after a domestic incident with his then-wife, which eventually landed him in jail. Now he’s found a home — at least temporarily — in Montreal as he tries to extend his career.

“He just loves playing football — Chad is a guy that will play football until he’s 50 if they let him,” Rosenhaus said. “He loves the game. He’s really very passionate. He’s got to do something with football, it’s just his life. It really is. All his Twitter followers are enjoying him in Canada just like they would in the NFL. It’s nice to see.”

Brian Hoyer will start the Browns’ preseason opener Saturday against the Lions, with first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel expected to get some playing time with the starters after showing improvement in practice this week.

“That was his job,” coach Mike Pettine said of Hoyer, who impressed early last season before getting injured. “He was the one coming into it. We did want to mix the groups up coming into it, as we did, but he’s done nothing to have that taken away from him, so he’ll be out there with the starters.”

Added Pettine: “They’ve both made improvement, and I think they’re both doing a great job of playing to their skill sets. It’s obviously very different, what they bring to the table. I think Brian’s starting to feel very comfortable in the pocket.”

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Read More: Brian Hoyer, Chad Johnson, Chad Ochocinco, Johnny Manziel

Report: Padres hire A.J. Preller as GM

08.06.14 at 9:57 am ET
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The Padres have hired former Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller to be their next GM, according to a report by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal Tuesday night.

Preller, 36, spent the last 10 years with the Rangers, serving as the team’s director of player development and scouting at the time of his hiring. Preller was also Texas’ head of international scouting at one point.

Preller and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler were considered front-runners for the positionRed Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen also was a candidate.

Read More: A.J. Preller,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Michael Vick says Jets QB Geno Smith ‘going to to be great’

08.06.14 at 8:14 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. (NESN, ESPN; WEEI-FM)
Little League Baseball: Midwest Regional semifinal, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Little League Baseball: Southeast Regional semifinal, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
Little League Baseball: Midwest Regional semifinal, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Little League Baseball: Southeast Regional semifinal, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Little League Baseball: Southwest Regional semifinal, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Soccer: MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern Munich, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

– Today in Jets blustering news, Michael Vick predicts big things from fellow quarterback Geno Smith, who is heading into his second NFL season.

“He’s going to be great,” Vick said after Tuesday’s practice in Cortland, New York. “He’s going to be 10 times better than where he was last year, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Coach Rex Ryan sounds like he’s ready to see some of that promise come to fruition, especially after the offense failed to score in last weekend’s intrasquad scrimmage.

“I want to see some production,” said Ryan, whose team opens the preseason Thursday against the Colts. “I think we’ll see it. I know [Smith] will have the command. Let’s have the production, too.”

MASHUP POLL: How many wins will the Jets have this season?

  • 8 (36%, 57 Votes)
  • 7 (29%, 47 Votes)
  • 9 (15%, 24 Votes)
  • 6 (9%, 14 Votes)
  • 5 or less (8%, 12 Votes)
  • 10 (3%, 4 Votes)
  • 12 or more (1%, 1 Votes)
  • 11 (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 160

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For his part, Smith said he’s matured since last season.

“Physically, I’m bigger and stronger,” Smith said. “The mental side of it, I’m not thinking as much, not swimming as much. I have a better grasp of the offense. … Ultimately, it’s about proving it on the field, going out there Thursday night and being sharp and having a good showing.”

Johnny Manziel showed some positive signs during his one day with the Browns starters Monday, and on Tuesday he returned to second string behind former Patriots backup Brian Hoyer on the depth chart.

Both players had good practices Tuesday, and coach Mike Pettine has not announced who will start in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Lions in Detroit.

“I thought there was some good competition out there,” Browns coach Pettine said. “I was glad that the guys responded the way they did.”

Added Pettine: “Where you see where Hoyer’s ahead is his ability to throw a ball before a guy breaks open, but we certainly see Johnny making strides in that direction.”

– College of Charleston basketball coach Doug Wojcik is the latest to be punished for allegedly verbally abusing players, as he was fired by school president Glenn McConnell.

Wojcik’s lawyer, however, says the charges against the coach are false and the school is trying to find a way to avoid having to pay him the $1.2 million he is owed for the final three years of his five-year contract he signed after being hired from Tulsa.

“Today’s action by the College of Charleston will not bring closure to the College, the basketball program, or the student-athletes and their families,” attorney Scott Tompsett said in a statement.

The school produced a 50-page report after conducting interviews with Wojcik, assistant coaches, athletic department staffers and current and former players. The investigation found that it was likely many players believe Wojcik’s behavior toward them is “generally insulting and degrading.” He allegedly used name-calling such as “dumb,” “idiot” and “stupid,” made negative comments about players’ parents and upbringing, and directed at least one homophobic slur, and likely more, at a player.

Wojcik, 50, guided the Cougars to a 14-18 record last season, their first in the Colonial Athletic Conference. The team reached the Southern Conference tournament final in his first season there.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Aug. 6, 2001, which Red Sox player lined into a triple play in the fourth inning of a game against the Rangers at Fenway Park, but then atoned with a grand slam in his next at-bat to rally his team to a 10-7 victory?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He is not a doctor. He is a drug dealer.” Mark R. Trouville, chief of the Miami Drug Enforcement Administration office, on former Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, who was arrested Tuesday

STAT OF THE DAY: 41 – Games this season in which the Red Sox have scored two or fewer runs, following Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals

‘NET RESULTS (mobile users, check the website to see the videos): Indians baserunner David Murphy is thrown out at third base when he sees a ball that was thrown out of the Reds bullpen and thinks it’s the game ball.

Yankees second baseman Brendan Ryan deflects a line drive with his glove and then catches it with his bare hand for an out against the Tigers.

The Muppets visit Citi Field to cheer on the Mets, and Kermit and Miss Piggy are caught on the Kiss Cam.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Scott Hatteberg

SOOTHING SOUNDS: Randy DeBarge was born on this day in 1958. Here he is starting off as the lead singer in this performance with his siblings in the group DeBarge.

Read More: Doug Wojcik, Geno Smith, michael vick, Rex Ryan

Spurs hire Becky Hammon as NBA’s first female assistant coach

08.05.14 at 1:47 pm ET
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It has already been a special year for the Spurs after the franchise won its fifth NBA championship in June.

Tuesday’s decision may be even bigger.

The Spurs hired retiring WNBA player Becky Hammon as an assistant coach on Tuesday, making her the first full-time female assistant in NBA history.

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”

Hammon, 37, will retire after her 16th season with the San Antonio Stars. She’s a six-time All-Star and two-time first-team All-WNBA, seventh in points, fourth in assists and sixth in games in WNBA history.

Read More: Becky Hammon,

Suns’ P.J. Tucker sentenced to 3 days in jail for ‘super extreme’ DUI

08.05.14 at 12:43 pm ET
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Suns forward P.J. Tucker was sentenced to three days in jail and 11 days of home detention Monday after pleading guilty to “super extreme” driving under the influence.

Tucker was arrested May 10 after driving with a blood alcohol level of .22, police said. The police report said his speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot and he nearly fell over during the sobriety test.

Tucker agreed to put an interlock device on his car for 18 months, go to substance-abuse counseling and pay $2,750 in fines. He was placed on probation for up to five years.

“I am truly sorry and I take full responsibility for my actions. No excuses,” Tucker said in a statement. “It is now my responsibility to examine my life and make the changes necessary to ensure this never happens again.”

The Suns were aware of Tucker’s arrest when he signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract in early July.

“In considering this matter, we concluded that P.J. was sincere in his remorse and in his resolve to accept the consequences of his actions,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said. “We are convinced that he will take the necessary steps to avoid any such conduct in the future. The Suns do not in any way condone his conduct, but we do support him as he works through this.”

Read More: P.J. Tucker,