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Leafs fire coach Ron Wilson, hire Randy Carlyle 03.03.12 at 10:23 am ET
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Maple Leafs president and GM Brian Burke fired coach Ron Wilson after a 1-9-1 run hindered the team’s chances of making it to the playoffs. Former Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was named as Wilson’s replacement.

“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” Burke said Friday night in a statement.

Wilson had a 130-135-45 record with the Leafs. Toronto is 29-28-7 this season.

The 55-year-old Carlyle coached Anaheim for seven seasons and led the team to five playoff appearances before being fired 24 games into this season. He arrived at the Leafs’ team hotel Friday night but blew past reporters.

“Although it’s always tough to see a coaching change, we are certainly happy for Randy,” Anaheim general manager Bob Murray said in a statement. “It was simply a matter of time before he had another opportunity to be a head coach in this league. He’s a great coach, and we wish him the best in Toronto.”

Wilson, 56, signed a contract extension in December and will be paid through the end of next season. He’s coached 1,401 career games with Anaheim, Washington, San Jose and Toronto, recording a 648-561-91 record with 101 ties.

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Jeremy Lin’s starting spot with Knicks no guarantee as Baron Davis improves 03.02.12 at 9:23 pm ET
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A point guard controversy is a possibility come April if Knicks backup Baron Davis continues to rise and Jeremy Lin slides, according to speculation by The New York Post.

Coach Mike D’Antoni is open to the possibility, and after a great second half played by the second unit during Wednesday night’s game over the Cavaliers resulted in a 120-103 win, the starting lineup at the beginning of March may look different by the end of it.

“It could [change],’’ D’Antoni told reporters. “I’m trying to find the right combos. But it’s got to be determined over time. It’s not going to be over one game. Not going to just throw people under the bus for one or two games. Over a length of time, if they prove they need to be out there, they’ll be out there.”

Neither Davis nor Lin are oblivious to the possibilities of a different starting five either. Davis has confirmed that there is definitely a friendly rivalry between the first unit and second unit, the super subs and the star-studded starting unit.

“That’s our job is to come out and practice and play with that energy and intensity,’’ said Davis, who had eight assists and zero turnovers in 14-plus minutes during Wednesday night’s game. “It helps us. We’re not going to play against a better second unit than our first team. Every day in practice we are challenging them and we are kicking their butts.’’

D’Antoni said that the second unit dominated over the first unit during scrimmages earlier this week. However, he understands that everybody has an off night on the court, and he’s not ready to make any decisions just yet.

“We have to understand that Jeremy’s an unbelievable story. He’s gone from nothing to a real good player in the league. But he is a rookie, this is the first time he’s seeing things, and now we’re talking about him getting to the level of a Steve Nash or Baron Davis or Russell Westbrook or [Rajon] Rondo,” D’Antoni said.

Lin continues to dominate headlines, but he does not think that the spotlight should solely be focused on him.

“I mean, we’re unbelievably talented and you look on the headlines, you look on ESPN, you see ‘Lin this’ and ‘Lin that,’ ” he said Tuesday. “But we may be the deepest team in the NBA, so I think we should start talking about that as well.”

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Laser pointer leads to ejection, controversy in local girls hockey game 03.02.12 at 12:10 pm ET
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Police might consider charges against a man who shined a laser pointer in the eyes of girls hockey players from Medway-Ashland during the team’s loss at Winthrop Wednesday night, according to a Winthrop school official.

Medway-Ashland parents said the man shined the green laser throughout the game, most prominently in the third period as Winthrop tied the game before going on to a 3-1 victory.

The man, said to be an estranged relative of a Winthrop player, was removed from the game and will be barred from future school events.

While the losing team’s parents claimed the laser affected the game — the Medway-Ashland goalie reportedly was suffering headaches afterward — Winthrop athletic director Peter Gobiel denied it had that big of an impact.

“It was unfortunate. None of us want anything to happen,” Gobiel said. “But did it sway the outcome of the game? No.”

Superintendent John Macero said that the man could face criminal charges if it was determined he entered the rink with the sole purpose of distracting the players.

“I don’t know what the person was thinking, but what is aggravating is that — why would you do that to these teams? Both teams?” Macero told reporters. “They’ve earned the right, both teams — the Medway girls and the Winthrop girls — to have this opportunity to perform in a game, and for someone to come in and do that inappropriate action was uncalled for.”

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Indians consider alternatives after latest Grady Sizemore setback 03.02.12 at 11:08 am ET
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Grady Sizemore

Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore underwent lower back surgery on Thursday in Miami and is expected to need 8-12 weeks to recover.

The Indians announced on Feb. 24 that Sizemore probably would not be starting the regular-season opener after straining his back fielding ground balls.

Sizemore’s back injury postponed the rehabilitation on his right knee, an injury he underwent surgery for back in October. Before Sizemore strained his lower back, Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said the center fielder was on the right track to possibly begin the season on time.

“I feel awful for the guy,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said Friday.

The Indians re-signed Sizemore, 29, to a one-year, $5 million contract in December after choosing not to exercise his $9 million club option for 2012. With Sizemore landing back on the disabled list, the Indians have to reevaluate the position.

The step taken by the Indians to scout other clubs now seems to be more than just an option.

Michael Brantley is expected to move over from left and replace Sizemore in center field, and he will be the leadoff hitter, according to manager Manny Acta.

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Josh Hamilton on contract talks: ‘I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers’ 02.24.12 at 1:44 pm ET
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Josh Hamilton apparently doesn't plan to give the Rangers a hometown discount when his contract expires. (AP)

In a press conference on Friday morning, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton talked about his contract, which expires after this season, and his thoughts on returning to the Rangers.

“The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I’ve got a question for y’all: Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I’ve given them everything I’ve had. I don’t think anybody can say I haven’t,” he said. “What it comes down to is, people don’t understand, fans don’t understand, this is a business, this is an entertainment business.

“I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I’m not going to sit here and say I owe the Rangers. I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”

Hamilton said he has been in counseling since he had a relapse with his alcohol addition three weeks ago.

“Don’t get me wrong, this is going to be an ongoing process until the day I die,” Hamilton said. “So it’s never going to stop. The relationships in my house with my kids, my wife, all those things, have gotten 100 times better just in three weeks. I see where I want to be. I hate that it keeps taking relapses or taking my own power back to seeing where I need to be, but it has.”

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Texas Supreme Court denies Mike Leach’s appeal vs. Texas Tech 02.17.12 at 1:38 pm ET
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Mike Leach, now coaching at Washington State, hasn't given up his fight against Texas Tech. (AP)

The Texas Supreme Court denied the appeal of former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach on Friday in his wrongful termination suit against the school. Texas Tech fired Leach after allegations that he mistreated a concussed player. Leach filed a lawsuit shortly after, saying that he was wrongly accused.

The ruling of the state’s civil court rejected Leach’s appeal without comment over two years after he was fired. Leach argued that his termination may have been due in part to an $800,000 bonus he was supposed to receive the day after he was fired. He was recently hired as the coach at Washington State.

Leach is expected to continue his fight and seek a ruling that Texas Tech made an error in firing him.

The player that Leach allegedly mistreated, Adam James, is the son of former Patriots running back and ESPN broadcaster Craig James, who now is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas.

Leach also sued ESPN and a public relations firm in a separate case, accusing the media giant of libel and slander after his termination from Texas Tech.

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Jeremy Lin roundup: Guard added to Rising Stars game 02.17.12 at 10:14 am ET
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Knicks guard Jeremy Lin has caught the attention of not only fans and coaches but also of President Barack Obama over the past couple of weeks, and the hype does not appear to be ending anytime soon. It was revealed Thursday that Lin will play in the NBA All-Star Weekend Rising Stars Challenge after being a late addition to the roster.

After commissioner David Stern initially said Lin would not be added, the NBA reversed course. Lin scored 136 points in his first five starts, the most of an NBA player since the merger with the ABA in 1976. The traditional pairing of rookies and second-year players has been modified in format in order to mix up the game.

Jeremy Lin is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.

♦ During Wednesday night’s Knicks game, MSG Network aired a sign that depicted Lin’s face above a fortune cookie, with the words The Knicks’ good fortune. That sparked some controversy in the social media world, as Lin is the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. In response to reports that indicated the sign was a network graphic, the network tweeted Thursday: What happened briefly last night was not an MSG graphic, it was one of many fan signs in the area.

♦ China and Taiwan want a piece of the pie when it comes to Lin. “Linsanity” has offered a hefty marketing promise, and at 6-foot-3, Lin has become a role model for average-sized basketball players everywhere. Wang Dong, a Shanghai-based sports commentator for Dragon TV, told CNN, “Lin gives hope to regular-sized players. He shows that regardless of size, height and weight he could make his presence felt in the NBA. He shows that we Chinese can boast of more than just giant players like Yao Ming.”

Fernando Valenzuela, the former Dodgers left-hander who burst onto the scene in 1981 as an unheralded rookie from Mexico, has hopped on the Linsanity bandwagon. Valenzuela’s success gave to birth to “Fernandomania,” and the hype around Lin has some similarities.

♦ In the wake of Rockets center Yao Ming‘s retirement, the NBA plans to have Lin visit China this summer. The constant buzz around Lin has piqued the interest of David Shoemaker, NBA China CEO.

“What we’ve seen, the huge enthusiasm and the frenzy around Jeremy is just serving to act as a further catalyst to grow the sport of basketball and to grow the NBA in China in a very short period,” Shoemaker told CNN.

♦ The New York Daily News reports that Manhattan-based Shake Shack is now offering the “Jeremy Lin-Mint,” a chocolate and cookie milkshake to further enhance the Linsanity that appears to have captivated the nation. The shake will be provided at all six New York City Shake Shacks, in all five boroughs, excluding Citi Field, through Feb. 19.

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Reports: Marlins make offer to Yoenis Cespedes 02.11.12 at 4:47 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, the Marlins have made the first known offer to Cuban free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cafe Fuerte reported that Cespedes was offered a six-year, $40 million deal; Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald subsequently tweeted that the offer was for less than $40 million.

Cespedes, who defected from Cuba and recently established his residency in the Dominican Republic, with subsequent clearance by Major League Baseball to be a free agent, reportedly toured Marlins Park on Wednesday. The Marlins organization hopes that the next time he returns to the stadium, he’ll be wearing a baseball helmet with the team’s new logo.

For his part, Cespedes expressed a desire to play for the Marlins.

“I’ve seen the players the Marlins have signed lately, and I think this club can compete for the World Series,” Cespedes told the Miami Herald in Spanish.

The outfielder returned to his current home in the Dominican Republic after his tour of the park Wednesday. No decisions have been finalized, as the Marlins are not the only team interested in signing the intriguing free agent, who has been described as a player with enormous raw power, a strong arm and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Jim Bowden of ESPN recently reported (via twitter) that the Cubs, White Sox, Orioles and Tigers have also shown interest in Cespedes.

Despite the hype over Cespedes, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is nervous about a $60 million contract that has been talked about regarding the player.

“We went to the Dominican Republic, myself and 10 guys,” Guillen said. ” We went to see this kid. He’s pretty impressive. They compare this kid with a lot of people. They compare this kid with Bo Jackson. Well Bo Jackson wasn’t a baseball player. This kid is a baseball player. They compare him with [Raul] Mondesi. I think Mondesi was better than him. That’s my own opinion. Mondesi has a better arm, faster, but this kid is pretty good,” Guillen told reporters.

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Jeremy Lin: For several teams, emerging star the one who got away 02.11.12 at 2:22 pm ET
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Jeremy Lin is riding an improbable hot streak to social media fame. (AP)For the Lakers, Lin was there for the taking.

Harvard grad Jeremy Lin came off the bench and led the New York Knicks to a 99-92 victory over the Nets at Madison Square Garden last Saturday night. On Wednesday night, he led the Knicks with 28 points and 10 assists over the Washington Wizards in his first start, and he has since inspired the viral spread of Linsanity that is sweeping the nation.

Today, several teams that could have had Lin are regretting their decisions. For the Lakers, against whom Lin scored 38 on Friday to lead the Knicks to a 92-85 win, the point guard was there for the taking.

“I knew who [Lin] was because when he was floating out there, I know Mitch had some interest in him and he brought his name up to me,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown told the Los Angeles Times, referring to General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

When the Lakers passed on Lin, he went to Houston. After a short stay there, he was released and signed over to New York, something that has inspired profound regret in Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Morey now is on the Lin bandwagon, while noting his regret that Houston is among the 29 teams that missed an opportunity to acquire a player who has emerged as a phenomenon.

Morey tweeted: We should have kept [Lin]. Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.

In a separate tweet, he said: Finally, really happy for [Lin.] Very hard working, nice, & humble. He has a great, great future.

Even Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob expressed his regret during a radio interview at KNBR in San Francisco.

“I would be lying if I thought … he’d be this good [and] all of a sudden explode on the scene,” Lacob said, according to the New York Post. “It’s a great, perfect situation where he got an amazing opportunity. None of the other guards in New York were playing well. So I give him all the credit in the world, and obviously we wish we had him.”

Lin’s overnight success has awed fans everywhere while leaving those who passed up on him embarrassed.

Of course, the Knicks nearly lost their shot at the point guard as well. As the New York Times documents: Read the rest of this entry »

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Where the Yankees stand on trading A.J. Burnett 02.11.12 at 12:09 pm ET
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A.J. Burnett

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Yankees and Pirates are “moving forward” in talks about a deal that would send pitcher A.J. Burnett to the Pirates.

Burnett struggled to an 11-11 record and 5.15 ERA in 2011. However, he has made at least 32 starts in each of the last four seasons, and he struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, exactly in line with his career average.

The Yankees reportedly are interested in moving Burnett so that they can clear some payroll and address other needs on the club. Specifically, manager Joe Girardi recently told reporters that he would like to add a left-handed bad to DH and offer some flexibility in the field. Raul Ibanez represents one possible fit.

While the Yankees have shown a willingness to pay much of the remaining $33 million due to Burnett over the next two years (the last seasons of a five-year, $82.5 million deal Burnett signed with New York prior to the 2009 season), there seems to be a remaining financial gap to bridge.

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweeted: “Yankees telling  Pirates absorbing $10M of AJ’s $33M isn’t enough, won’t do deal at that level,” Sherman said, adding, “I’m surprised. Thought Yanks would be happy to defray any of Burnett’s $ to move on from him.”

The Pirates have also told the Yankees that they will not include first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones in a deal, according to the Post-Gazette.

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