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Free agent pitcher Carl Pavano narrows signing decision down to two teams

12.30.10 at 10:41 am ET
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While most big-name free agents this winter already signed to new contracts, several of the second-tier free agents remain unsigned, like third baseman Adrian Beltre and pitcher Carl Pavano. While it has been reported the Rangers are showing interest in Beltre, Pavano has reportedly narrowed his choice down to two teams: the Twins and the Nationals, the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune reports. Pavano, 34, is seeking a three-year deal, which seems to be the holdup.

Read More: adrian beltre, Carl Pavano, Minnesota Twins, Rumor Mill

Former UFC champion Chuck Liddell announces his retirement

12.30.10 at 10:36 am ET
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Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell officially called it quits after a long, illustrious career Wednesday, when he announced his retirement from the sport, ESPN reports. The 41-year-old Liddell lost five of his last six fights, and failed to make it out of the second round in four of those losses. The legendary UFC fighter went 21-8-0 in his 12-year career that began in 1998.

Liddell announced his retirement at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas after UFC president Dana White first told reporters and fans of his decision. While his career fighting may be over, White offered Liddell a job as UFC’€™s promotion’€™s vice president of business development.

Liddell was knocked out in three of his last fights, including on June 12 in a bout with Rich Franklin. After that knockout, White vowed that he would not promote another Liddell fight. But the MMA star refused to officially call it quits after months of indecisiveness. “If I can’€™t compete with the best or if I’€™m not fighting for a title, then I have nothing to prove,” Liddell said.

Read More: Chuck Liddell, Rumor Mill, UFC,

Charlie Villanueva ‘thinks he got the message across’ after 104-92 win over Celtics

12.30.10 at 8:51 am ET
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Last night’€™s Celtics-Pistons matchup at the Palace at Auburn Hills marked a rematch between mainly Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons big man Charlie Villanueva. In the first bout between the two teams, Garnett reportedly called Villanueva a ‘€œcancer patient,’€ while Garnett claims he called Villanueva, who has alopecia universalis, a cancer to his team. After the game, in which Garnett was out by the first quarter and Villanueva was forced to sit the bench because of early foul trouble, the Pistons forward said that he, ‘€œThinks he got the message across,’€ the Detroit Free Press reports.

A mere 10 seconds into the game, Villanueva was hit with a foul on Garnett, and spent only two minutes and 57 seconds on the floor before getting in foul trouble. Ultimately, Villanueva had much more of an impact, netting 14 points in 28 minutes of play.

‘€œIt was very frustrating [picking up my second foul],’€ Villanueva said. ‘€œBut sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me and whatnot. But the second half I refocused and the game started coming my way.’€

In their first meeting, the Celtics dominated the Pistons in every aspect of the game, eventually winning in a landslide 109-86 thrashing. Garnett had gotten the best of Villanueva that day.

But after last night’€™s game in Detroit and an early exit for Garnett, who scored two point in nine minutes, the playing field has been leveled.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, kevin garnett, Rumor Mill

Top stories of 2010, No. 2: Celtics’ playoff run

12.30.10 at 8:10 am ET
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For the final 10 days of 2010, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year. In what was a memorable 12 months for all four of Boston’s major professional teams, there was a plethora of compelling storylines. The countdown continues with No. 2: The Celtics‘ playoff run.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: Kevin Garnett’s return to form
No. 9: Patriots’ playoff meltdown vs. Ravens
No. 8: Marc Savard-Matt Cooke incident and aftermath
No. 7: Red Sox derailed by injuries
No. 6: Bruins’ playoff collapse vs. Flyers
No. 5: Patriots’ Randy Moss saga
No. 4: Red Sox’ signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford
No. 3: Patriots’ resurgence

Also, make sure to cast your vote in WEEI.com’s poll for the 2010 Boston Athlete of the Year.

On June 17, 2010, the Celtics suffered one of the worst losses in their franchise’s history in Game 7 of the NBA finals against the Lakers. It was only the fourth time the Celtics had lost an NBA finals series and it was the first time they had ever lost a deciding Game 7. That it came against the Lakers in a game that was there for the taking only adds to the agony.

And yet this historic defeat also represented one of the great triumphs in team history, because exactly two months earlier when the Celtics took the court against the Heat to open the playoffs, not even Tommy Heinsohn himself would have predicted that they would have been four points away from an 18th championship.

Their improbable run to the finals defied all wisdom, both conventional and analytic, and breathed life into a franchise that spent the winter months of 2010 on a respirator. The Celtics went 27-27 over the final four months of the regular season and won only two of their last 10 games heading into the playoffs. The nadir came in a home loss to the lowly Wizards when afterward Doc Rivers uttered the quote that seemed to serve as their epitaph.

“If we make a run in the playoffs, will you forget [the regular season]? That’s my question,” Rivers said. “If we don’t, then it’s probably who we were all year ‘€” an inconsistent team ‘€” at least in the second half of the year. We’ll find that out.”

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Read More: doc rivers, Glen Davis, kendrick perkins, kevin garnett

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Jenn Sterger’s attorney disappointed with NFL’s conclusion regarding Brett Favre

12.30.10 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.

WHAT’S HAPPENING LOCALLY THURSDAY:
NHL: Bruins at Thrashers, 7 p.m. (NESN)

AROUND THE WEB:

‘™¦ Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was fined $50,000 for failing to cooperate with a league investigation into his alleged inappropriate text messages to Jets hostess Jenn Sterger. Jason Cole at Yahoo! Sports writes that it’s clever solution for commissioner Roger Goodell. However, Sterger’s attorney is not pleased with the ruling. Joseph Conway‘s biggest gripe was with the NFL’s determination that there was no conclusive evidence that Favre sent the texts in question.

“There was ample evidence to show that the sexually explicit photographs were part of Favre’s inappropriate behavior,” Conway said in a statement. “Our evidence clearly showed that the photos were sent by Favre.”

Added Conway: “It clearly shows that an NFL star player was given preferential treatment and tells all other players that failure to cooperate may cost you some money but will not result in other punishment. [Wednesday’s] decision is an affront to all females and shows once again that, despite tough talk, the NFL remains the good old boys’ league.”

‘™¦ Oney Guillen, the 24-year-old son of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, added to his legend Wednesday when he ripped new Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks and accused him of having marital and drinking problems. In the Chicago Tribune, David Haugh writes that this latest episode undermines the father’s ability to manage his clubhouse.

‘™¦ Nets guard Devin Harris said he was “offended” that LeBron James mentioned his name ‘€” even though he was praising Harris ‘€” in his suggestion that the league contract a couple of teams.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Dec. 30, 1989, the Bruins held a 6-1 lead with 21 minutes remaining in regulation but surrendered six consecutive goals and fell in overtime to which team? [Answer below]

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Read More: Bobby Jenks, brett favre, jenn sterger, Ozzie Guillen

Rafael Palmeiro denies ever taking steroids, despite testing positive in 2005

12.29.10 at 10:14 pm ET
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Former Rangers and Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro told SI.com on Wednesday that he never used performance-enhancing drugs at any point during his long career, despite testing positive for steroids just weeks after reaching the 3,000 hit mark in his career.

Palmeiro said that he hopes Hall of Fame voters will forgive his mistake of taking a tainted vitamin injection in 2005, given to him by former Baltimore teammate Miguel Tejada. He hopes that Hall voters will overlook the hiccup and elect him to receive Hall induction in his first year of eligibility.

Palmeiro said that Tejada gave him a vial of vitamin B-12 in 2005. The slugger hit 569 home runs and 3,020 hits in his career, and asserted to a congressional hearing in 2005 that he never used performance-enhancing drugs in his life.

Read More: Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Rumor Mill,

NCAA denies playing favorites in recent rules violation cases

12.29.10 at 10:13 pm ET
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In a statement released on Wednesday, the NCAA denied that the organization plays favorites, defending recent rulings in cases involving violations by certain athletes that play for bowl teams. The NCAA defended its ruling in the case involving five Ohio State football players that were suspended for the first five games of 2011, but were allowed to play in the upcoming Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.

Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton were let off by the NCAA without repercussions after it was found that Newton’€™s father had solicited money from Mississippi State while the school was recruiting his son. The NCAA received criticism after both rulings, implying that it played favorites.

In the statement released on Wednesday that was displayed on its website, NCAA representatives said: ‘€œThe notion that the NCAA is selective with its eligibility decisions and rules enforcement is another myth with no basis in fact. Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA.’€

Players from Ohio State, including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, are eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl after selling personal artifacts, including rings and jerseys, and receiving improper benefits for them.

Read More: Cam Newton, ncaa, Rumor Mill, terrelle pryor

Vikings QB Brett Favre fined $50,000 for failure to cooperate with league investigation

12.29.10 at 2:20 pm ET
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According to ESPN, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could not conclude that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre violated the league’€™s personal conduct policy based on the evidence that was presented to him and league officials. Favre, however, will be fined $50,000 for ‘€œfailure to cooperate’€ with the league investigation.

Favre was accused of sending inappropriate photos via text message to Jets hostess Jenn Sterger while Favre was a member of the Jets. According to Goodell, Favre would have been hit with a much stiffer penalty had he violated the NFL’€™s workplace conduct rules.

The allegations originally surfaced when the website Deadspin published the photos Favre had supposedly sent. The pictures were posted in a video by Deadspin on Oct. 7. In a statement released by the NFL, representatives said, ‘€œThe forensic analysis could not establish that Favre sent the objectionable photographs to Sterger. The review found no evidence to contradict the statements of both Favre and Sterger that they never met in person, nor was there anything to suggest that Sterger engaged in any inappropriate conduct.’€

Read More: brett favre, jenn sterger, Roger Goodell, Rumor Mill

President of 49ers contacts Bill Parcells regarding team’s future

12.29.10 at 2:02 pm ET
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Jed York, president of the 49ers, intends to contact Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells about his feelings concerning where the team is headed, a source told ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter. Parcells, according to ESPN, will also be asked about his opinion on current 49ers vice president of player personnel Trent Baalke, who was hired by Parcells while with the Jets.

After firing coach Mike Singletary following the 49ers’ loss on Sunday to the Rams, the team is in search of a new coach for the 2011 season. The 49ers are also seeking a general manager, but have started the interview process with Tony Softli, a former Panthers and Rams personnel man.

This season will mark the eighth straight season in which the 49ers have missed the playoffs. The new GM for San Francisco will choose the successor for Singletary at the coaching position. Notable names mentioned in talks to fill the vacancy at head coach include current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden along with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

Read More: Bill Parcells, Mike Singletary, Rumor Mill, San Francisco 49ers

David Garrard to miss Jaguars’ finale with finger injury

12.29.10 at 12:32 pm ET
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Jaguars quarterback David Garrard will miss the team’s regular-season finale after breaking the middle finger of his right hand. He is scheduled to have surgery Thursday.

Garrard injured his finger when he hit a Colts player’s helmet during a game Dec. 19.

Trent Edwards is expected to start Sunday against the Texans.

Read More: David Garrard, Rumor Mill, Trent Edwards,