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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Daisuke Matsuzaka ‘shocked’ at demotion to Triple-A by Mets 03.31.14 at 8:08 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’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.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 3:05 p.m. (NESN, ESPN2; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Cubs at Pirates, 1 p.m. (ESPN, WGN)
MLB: Cardinals at Reds, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Rockies at Marlins, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
MLB: Mariners at Angels, 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
NBA: Celtics at Bulls, 8 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Spurs at Pacers, 7 p.m. (NBATV)
College basketball: CBI, Siena at Fresno State, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
NHL: Panthers at Devils, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: Wild at Kings, 10 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Sunderland vs. West Ham, 2:55 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled for the third straight time since joining the Mets. (AP)

Daisuke Matsuzaka will start the 2014 season in Triple-A despite a solid spring training. (AP)

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched well at Mets spring training, including five scoreless innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, and the former Red Sox hurler was surprised to be sent to Triple-A to start the season.

“I always knew there was a possibility I would be going to the minors, but with what I have been doing in the past few games, I have had confidence in what I am doing,” Matsuzaka said through his interpreter (via the New York Daily News). “But I am definitely shocked at this.”

Matsuzaka, who was in camp on a minor league contract, had a 1-1 record with a 3.04 ERA and 1.27 WHIP at spring training, allowing nine runs (eight earned) and 26 hits in 23 2/3 innings. He struck out 25 and walked only four — three coming in his previous start against the Cardinals. He had no walks and eight K’s in Saturday’s game.

He pitched in seven games for the Mets last season, going 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Jenrry Mejia, a 24-year-old right-hander who was limited to 50 innings between the majors and minors last season last season due to surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, grabbed the No. 5 spot in New York’s rotation and is slated to start Friday against the Reds.

‘€œThe situation with Dice-K was very difficult. He pitched very well,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Jenrry Mejia also pitched very well.”

– The Los Angeles reunion between former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis doesn’t appear to be going so well.

Rivers had Davis removed from the bench during the Clippers’ victory over the Rockets on Saturday in Houston after the two exchanged words.

Davis, who joined the Clippers last month after being cut by the Magic, was taken out of the game in the second quarter when he yelled something at Rivers. According to the Los Angeles Times, Rivers responded by saying, “Sit your big [expletive] down.”

Associate head coach Alvin Gentry talked to Davis before Rivers had team security escort Davis to the locker room. Davis did not return in the second half.

“I thought Baby was just too emotional, and for me, if you’re too emotional I always send you back to the locker room and keep you back there until the next game,” Rivers said (via ESPNLA.com). “I love Baby. I just didn’t think emotionally he was ready to play tonight, so we told him to go to the locker room.”

Davis was known to be emotional during his time with Rivers in Boston, but the coach never sent him off as he did Saturday.

“No, I haven’t, but I’ve talked about emotional hijacks,” Rivers said. “If you have one, I’ll send you back. We’ve talked about that as a group. I didn’t make a big deal, didn’t address it halftime and it’s not a big deal. We needed him tonight, but he wasn’t here emotionally, so you tell him to go and sit.”

– Boys basketball player Pat Welch, a guard at Pembroke Academy in Concord, N.H., was stripped of his NHIAA Division 2 Player of the Year award after he sent out a tweet following his team’s state title win over Portsmouth in which he sent an obnoxious tweet capped by an obscenity.

Wrote Welch on March 15: Shout out to Portsmouth, you may have won in the regular season’€¦’€¦ But we won the ship you suck #[expletive]yourself

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, Welch deleted the post shortly after writing it, and he apologized in person to the Portsmouth administration. But the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization still stripped Welch of his honor (giving it instead to Bishop Brady’s Jourdain Bell) and rescinded his invitation to two all-star games.

NHBCO president Gary Noyes said in a statement that the organization could not tolerate the “flagrant unsportsmanlike behavior.”

“It is with great sadness that this committee has to act on this situation, but we strive to uphold the tenet that this award is not based solely on a basketball player’s ability but also on that player’s character and demonstrated sportsmanship,” Noyes said.

“I don’t believe the punishment fits the crime,” Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said, adding: “They basically took away Pat’s body of work this season because of a tweet that ended up online for 15 minutes.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On March 31, 2003, the Red Sox opened the season with a game in Tampa and unveiled their “closer by committee” to disastrous results. The bullpen gave up five runs in the ninth in a 6-4 loss as Boston wasted a seven-inning, one run effort from which starter?

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Doc Rivers: Relationship with Glen Davis helped deal with Clippers 02.25.14 at 9:05 am ET
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Glen Davis and Doc Rivers have reunited.

After reaching a buyout with the Magic Friday, Davis and the Clippers penned an agreement Monday, according to ESPN.com. The agreement, which has not been disclosed, will require Davis to have a physical Tuesday, giving him the ability to play during Wednesday’€™s game against the Rockets.

“I just really felt the Clippers were heading in the right direction,” Davis said. “They’re young, they got a great coach, a great point guard, a rising star like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and guys that you can build around and I feel like I’m one of those types of guys, a glue guy.”

Davis, who also had yielded interested from the Nets before they signed Jason Collins, played for Rivers and the Celtics from 2007-2011. Rivers said he hoped Davis, who has averaged 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 45 games this season, would sign with Los Angeles.

The 28-year-old was earning $6 million this season, and was set to earn $6.6 million next season.

“We were on the phone with him and just told him what we offered, and I’m sure other guys did that,” Rivers said. “I do think that it helped a little bit that we have a relationship. He knows me and I know him. I think that’s the situation he wanted to be in and that’s good.”

The Clippers had 12 players on their roster after they did not extend Sasha Vujacic‘€™s 10-day contract and traded Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens. Part of the reason for creating that roster flexibility was so that the team could acquire players such as Davis who were bought out.

“The one thing we predicted right was the buyout season would be active this year, and I don’€™t think it’€™s finished,” Rivers said. “I think there will be more guys being bought out. It’€™s every man for themselves right now, I guess.”

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Ejected Clippers star Blake Griffin upset about Warriors’ ‘cowardly basketball’ 12.26.13 at 8:32 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:
NBA: Grizzlies at Rockets, 8 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Clippers at Trail Blazers, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
College football: Little Caesars Bowl, Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Poinsettia Bowl, Utah State vs. Northern Illinois, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN; WEEI-FM)
Soccer: Premier League, Manchester United at Hull City, 7:40 a.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Arsenal at West Ham, 9:55 a.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: Premier League, Liverpool at Manchester City, 12:25 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

– Clippers star Blake Griffin wasn’t around for the finish of Wednesday’s 105-103 loss to the Warriors in Oakland, and he’s not happy about it.

Griffin was ejected for his second technical foul with 10:43 remaining following a confrontation with Golden State center Andrew Bogut, who was given a technical and a flagrant 1 foul.

Earlier in the game, Griffin had a dispute with Draymond Green, who was sent off after being charged with a flagrant 2 foul for elbowing Griffin.

“If you look at it, I didn’t do anything and I got thrown out of the game,” Griffin said. “It all boils down to [the referees] fell for it. To me, it’s cowardly basketball. I don’t know their intentions, but it worked. ‘€¦ Tonight I got two technicals for nothing.”

Added Clippers coach Doc Rivers: “I don’t know if they were [trying to bait Griffin], but it sure looked like it it. I can’t accuse them of that, but it looked like it. ‘€¦ It’s whatever you have to do to win, I guess.”

Shortly after Griffin’s ejection, Clippers center Ryan Hollins elbowed Bogut, and that did not sit well with Rivers, who could be seen yelling at his own player.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson downplayed the situation, even after the teams scuffled at the conclusion of the game.

“We like them. Merry Christmas,” he joked. “It’s just physical basketball, so we don’t get caught up in that. ‘€¦ It’s good, old-fashioned basketball between two teams that are playing for something.”

– NBA teams playing on Christmas Day were suited up in special short-sleeve uniforms, and the jerseys were not received well. Beno Udrih of the Knicks shot just 1-for-6 in his team’s 123-94 loss to the Thunder and put some of the blame on the short.

“Personally, it bothered me and my shot,” he said. “On a normal shot, I’m used to getting my shoulder and elbow up [unhindered]. That was my personal feeling. I don’t know how anyone else was feeling. I know Timmy [Hardaway] was saying he wore it in college before. I never did it before.”

After putting a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner off the side of the backboard, Udrih could be seen rolling up his sleeves.

“Maybe we should practice wearing them for a few weeks to get used to it,” Udrih said. “It’s what the NBA decided to do, we can’t go against that. They told us we were going to wear the short sleeves, but we’ve never worn them before.”

LeBron James, who led the Heat to a 101-95 victory over the Lakers, said he’ll ask for a larger jersey next time.

“It’s definitely a different feeling,” he said. “I felt a little tug.”

Even players who were off for the day weighed in with their criticism — but more for fashion than fit.

“Call me old school, but these jerseys with sleeves are awful,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki wrote on Twitter.

Tweeted Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez: “Needs to be a mass burning of these sleeved NBA jerseys.”

Wes Welker‘s Christmas included a return to practice with the Broncos, his first practice since suffering a concussion in a game again the Texans on Dec. 8.

Welker participated on a limited basis as he tries to return from his second concussion in a month.

“He’s still in the steps of the concussion protocol, and we’re taking it day to day,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “It was good to see him out there.”

Welker must be cleared of symptoms by the team’s medical staff as well as an independent physician approved by the league and the NFL Players Association before he can return to game action. Assuming he skips Sunday’s regular-season finale, he would have two more weeks of recovery time before the team’s playoff opener.

Two other Broncos also returned to the practice field Wednesday, as defensive end Derek Wolfe and cornerback Kayvon Webster gave it a go. Wolfe had “seizure-like symptoms” on the team bus en route to the airport Nov. 29, while Webster broke his right thumb in two places in a Dec. 12 game against the Chargers and had surgery the following day.

Denver could use a boost on defense after losing All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Dec. 26, 1976, John Bucyk scored in a 6-3 victory over the visiting Cleveland Barons, giving him 545 career goals and moving him past which Canadiens legend for fourth place on the all-time list?

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Top Boston Sports Stories of 2013, No. 11: Rajon Rondo suffers season-ending ACL injury 12.22.13 at 9:04 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No.11: Rajon Rondo suffers season-ending ACL injury. To see the previous entries, click here.

When the Celtics fell to the Hawks, 123-111, in double-overtime on Jan. 25, 2013, it represented a heartbreaking loss for a team desperate for a victory. The loss dropped the C’s three games below .500 for the second time in the 2012-13 season, and it marked their sixth straight defeat, their longest losing streak since they lost 18 in a row during their horrendous 2007 campaign.

Unbeknownst to the C’s, they’€™d also lost arguably their best player, a loss that would set off a massive rebuilding process in Boston, and the eventual removal of their championship-winning coach. Rajon Rondo, a Celtic since 2007 and the starting point guard of the 2008 team that won the Larry O’€™Brien Trophy, suffered a torn ACL during the game, an injury that would force him to miss the rest of the 2012-13 season and at least the first two months of the 2013-14 campaign.

The severity of Rondo’€™s injury was revealed both to Boston’€™s players and a national audience in the middle of the team’€™s second straight double-overtime game, a 100-98 win over the Heat on Jan. 27.

“It was shocking, frustrating,” Rondo said. “I wanted to play against the Heat that day, Sunday, and I thought I was playing. But maybe 30 minutes on the clock I did my ritual, my routine, I got in the shower and something was telling me this just didn’t feel right.”

Before his injury, Rondo averaged career highs in points (13.7), rebounds (5.6) and minutes (37.4) and dished out 11.1 assists per game, which would have placed him second in the NBA in that stat.

“Obviously the Rondo news is tough,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after the Miami game. “I knew before the game, but I didn’t tell anyone. Obviously it was pretty emotional.”

Forward Kevin Garnett, one of Rondo’€™s closest friends on the team, expressed his disappointment as well.

“It was a big blow to everybody in here, me included,” Garnett said. “Man, that hurt. It’s tough. We had a tough game, came in, and he told the whole team in the locker room. It’s tough, tough on everybody.

“[Rondo is] becoming the heart and soul of this team. He’s coming into his own. Had some bumps in the road, but we’re just trying to be supportive for him.”

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: Nets’ Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce welcome Doc Rivers to Brooklyn, beat Clippers 12.13.13 at 7:58 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:
NBA: Knicks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Lakers at Thunder, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Rockets at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Iowa at Iowa State, 9:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: FCS quarterfinals, Towson at Eastern Illinois
College hockey: Colorado College at Wisconsin, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
College soccer: NCAA semifinals, Notre Dame vs. New Mexico, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
College soccer: NCAA semifinals, Virginia vs. Maryland, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

AROUND THE WEB:

Paul Pierce helped the Nets past the Clippers on Thursday for Brooklyn's third straight win. (AP)

Paul Pierce helped the Nets past the Clippers on Thursday for Brooklyn’s third straight win. (AP)

‘€¢ Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers‘ reunion tour continued Thursday night, and this time it ended in a loss, as the Nets turned away the Clippers in Brooklyn, 102-93.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came when Kevin Garnett deviated from his normally intense pregame routine to hug Rivers and the Clippers assistant coaches who also moved over from Boston.

“I’ll always have a special place for Doc,” Garnett said.

Said Rivers: “I was shocked that Kevin came over before the game because he has a routine. I turned to [assistant Tyronn Lue] and said, ‘Well, Kevin’s going to struggle now. He just broke his routine.’ But no, we talk all the time. It was nice. They were really happy about last night is basically what they both said.”

Garnett scored just two points but helped keep Blake Griffin in check. Paul Pierce, in his second game back from a hand injury, had 10 points.

Garnett and Pierce went 2-0 in this week’s reunion games, after beating the Celtics on Tuesday night. They’re hoping they can carry over the success and get the Nets rolling after a disappointing 8-14 start.

“We hope so,” Pierce said. “I think our experience, our competitiveness, our leadership, hopefully can rub off on everybody. We’re starting to see signs of that, and that’s what we’re here for.”

‘€¢ New Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano met the media in Seattle on Thursday, and he explained why he decided to leave the Yankees.

“I didn’t feel respect,” Cano said of his former team. “I didn’t get respect from them and I didn’t see any effort.”

Cano said the Mariners‘ willingness to go to 10 years while the Yankees offered seven was the deciding factor.

“I was looking for a contract where I would just be able to play and focus on the game and wouldn’t wonder when I’m 37, 38 would I have a job one day. Would I be able to play?” Cano said. “The one thing in Seattle is I get the chance. Am I going to keep working hard? Yes. Even harder? Yes. I’m going to do my best and play the same way I was playing in New York and go out there and do my business and win games.”

Cano’s celebrity representative, Jay-Z, watched the press conference from the side of room and declined interview requests.

“Today isn’t about me,” the music mogul said. “It’s about him.”

‘€¢ At least three people were stabbed in the parking lot outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High following the Broncos‘ loss to the Chargers on Thursday night, according to reports out of Denver.

“It was obviously a very chaotic scene, and investigators have their work cut out for them,” Denver Police spokesman Steve Warneke said.

Three men were transported to area hospitals and were “conscious and talking.” Police said they believe there is a fourth victim who left the scene.

This is the latest in a string of violent incidents outside NFL stadiums this year. Earlier this month, when the Broncos were playing in Kansas City, a man who was found in another fan’s car died after an altercation.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Dec. 13, 1991, during the Celtics’ 117-97 victory over the visiting SuperSonics, center Robert Parish became the fifth player in NBA history to appear in 1,200 games, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes and which two former Celtics?

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Doc Rivers says Paul Pierce needs more minutes to contribute to Nets 12.11.13 at 8:16 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:
NBA: Clippers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Bulls at Knicks, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Mavericks at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: North Dakota State at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
NHL: Flyers at Blackhawks, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: UEFA Champions, Arsenal at Napoli, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

Rivers

Doc Rivers remains supportive of his former players as he heads to Boston for a date with the Celtics. (AP)

Paul Pierce returned from a hand injury to help the Nets beat the Celtics on Tuesday night, a rare positive moment in a trying season for the veteran.

Doc Rivers, who leads his Clippers into Boston for a Wednesday night game before traveling to Brooklyn to meet Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Nets a day later, isn’t convinced this is a sign that Pierce’s career is nearing the end.

Rivers appeared to question how rookie Nets coach Jason Kidd was using Pierce, who came off the bench Tuesday night.

“[Pierce] can score anywhere,” Rivers told Bleacher Report columnist Howard Beck. “I think he was more uncomfortable with the short minutes that they were [playing him], like they did with Kevin. And that’s not Paul. Paul doesn’t work under those type of minutes — at least, in my opinion he doesn’t. He’s a guy that needs a rhythm to play. In Kevin’s case, on a 20-minute restriction, of course his numbers are going to be down. So I think at some point, he probably is going to have to play more minutes to improve, so he can get a better rhythm himself.”

While early returns indicate the Celtics made the right decision to cut ties with Garnett and Pierce, Rivers doesn’t expect the Nets to continue to flounder.

“I think that’s just ridiculous,” Rivers said. “How does anybody have the right to know that? They haven’t had their team one single game this year. So I don’t know how you would know that. It’s a long season.”

Rivers said he delivered that message himself to one of the former Celtics.

“One of the things I was telling one of those guys — which, I won’t say — is, ‘So what’s the big deal? You’re not playing well right now. You don’t get a trophy right now. You don’t get to play for the trophy right now. Just keep going.’ ”

• One of the Rutgers basketball players who was subject to abuse at the hands of former coach Mike Rice has filed a lawsuit against Rice, former assistant coach James Martelli and three school officials, including former president Robert Barchi.

Derrick Randall, who played at Rutgers from 2011 until last spring, claims he suffers from learning disabilities and he experienced emotional trauma because of the mistreatment.

“Defendants, directly and/or through their agents, willfully, recklessly, negligently and with deliberate indifference, placed Derrick in a hostile environment in which he was regularly and continuously subjected to physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse of the most outrageous nature,” the suit states.

Two of the school officials named in the suit, board of governors member Mark Hershhorn and CFO for intercollegiate athletics Janine Purcaro, still are employed by the school.

• As part of the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic, there are a number of fundraising auction items. One of them is a New York City lunch with Alex Rodriguez. It initially did not draw any interest — no bids for the first two days — but one individual stepped up to make an offer, and he made it clear that he intended to make it a meal A-Rod wouldn’t soon forget.

Joe Schiff, a Yankees fan from Brooklyn, made the first bid and said he hoped to grill the player about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“I thought it would be pretty cool to sit down with one of the most controversial people in the world,” Schiff told NJ.com. “What I’m thinking about asking A-Rod is: Are you guilty?

“I want to make it as awkward as possible for him. … He’s ripping off the Yankees for $28 million a year. I think it’s wrong.”

Schiff, a 29-year-old software salesman, said he also wanted to ask Rodriguez about his dating life, such as why the player does things like solicit girls phone numbers from the stands during a 2012 playoff game.

“You’re a pretty smart guy, but I don’t know how you make all the wrong choices in life,” Schiff said. “Why can’t you just settle down.”

Alas, Schiff may have hurt his chances with the publicity. A handful of other bidders jumped in since Schiff made his intentions known, and the bidding was up to $3,700 as of Wednesday morning — more than Schiff said he would be willing to spend.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Dec. 11, 1954, which Bruins goalie recorded his 27th and final career shutout with a 3-0 victory over the Canadiens?

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Clippers coach Doc Rivers says surprising loss to Lakers ‘a good lesson for us’ 10.30.13 at 8:10 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:
World Series: Cardinals at Red Sox, 8:07 p.m. (Fox; WEEI-FM)
NBA: Celtics at Raptors, 7 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Nets at Cavaliers, 7 p.m. (NBA TV)
NBA: Lakers at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
NHL: Bruins at Penguins, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
College football: Cincinnati at Memphis, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Doc Rivers was smiling early, but his debut with the Clippers ended in disappointment. (AP)

Doc Rivers was smiling early, but his debut with the Clippers ended in disappointment. (AP)

• There’s been a lot of talk about the Clippers taking over Los Angeles from the Lakers. It will have to wait at least a little while. Despite playing without the recuperating Kobe Bryant, and sitting starters Pau Gasol and Steve Nash in the fourth quarter, the Lakers spoiled the debut of new Clippers coach Doc Rivers with a 116-103 victory Tuesday night at Staples Center.

“We were not ready tonight,” said Rivers, who before the game talked about a championship parade route for his new team. “[The Lakers] have heard for probably the last two months how good [the Clippers] were going to be … so you knew that they were going to play like this was the world championship — with that type of energy. And I thought we never matched it. Everything they did was harder than us and more physical than us. They destroyed us on the glass and destroyed us in turnovers. So it was a good lesson for us.”

Xavier Henry scored a career-high 22 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Lakers scored 41 points in the period and used a 28-8 run to pull away.

“We’re a deep team, and people don’t think we’re that good,” Henry said. “That always fuels us. People are saying we’re going to finish 12th or whatever, but we have a great group of guys who go out there and play hard. We’re young. We’re athletic. We get after it.”

Added Jodie Meeks, who scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter: “It’s not a bad thing to be the underdog sometimes. No expectations. We go out there and play hard. What’s the worst that can happen? We lose, and people say we’re no good?”

• Meanwhile, prior to the game, Lakers legend (and former part-owner) Magic Johnson said he isn’t sure how the fans will respond to the team if the season plays out as expected.

“Laker fans are spoiled. I don’t know how they’re going to react now, because this is going to be a tough season,” Johnson said Tuesday in an interview on the “Max and Marcellus Show” on ESPNLA 710 radio. “This is going to be one of the roughest seasons that the Lakers have ever faced. You’re waiting on Kobe to see if he can get healthy. Nobody knows if he can be what he was. Then you’ve got Gasol – who I think is a premier big man — but he plays better when he has talent around him.

“You’ve got guys who are all on one-year contracts, and all were journeymen on other teams. Laker fans are not used to that. I don’t know if they’re going to buy into that. We’re going to see. If you want the Laker fans to really buy in and be involved, you’re going to have to win right away. I don’t see that happening. The West is tough this year.”

Johnson said he thinks Bryant can return to his “dominant” form, but he’s not sure there’s enough support on the roster.

“I’m hoping that they at least make the playoffs,” Johnson said. “But that’s going to be tough, especially without Kobe. We have to see what Kobe we’re going to get. Is he going to be that same Kobe or is he going to be hurt a little bit?”

Added Johnson: “Kobe can get 30 or 40,” Johnson said. “But you have to remember, you need at least three guys who can score. Right now I’m looking at that roster and going, ‘Who else is going to get you 15-20 a night besides Gasol and Kobe?’ ”

• At The Atlantic, Ryan Roderberg conducted a study to determine if there’s any substance to accusations of referee bias in the NBA — specifically related to Heat executive Pat Riley, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Spurs center Tim Duncan.

His result? Whining by Riley and Cuban, and fallout from Duncan’s famous run-in with veteran official Joey Crawford in 2007, have yielded no apparent signs of bias.

Wrote Roderberg: “I found no systematic evidence of a referee’s personal animus negatively impacting the performance of the team in question.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Oct. 30, 1954, the Celtics lost to the Rochester Royals, 98-95, in a game that marked the debut of which two NBA rules that had a big effect on the way the game was played?

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Doc Rivers: Clippers ‘should be better than any team I’ve ever coached’ 10.03.13 at 11:35 am ET
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Doc Rivers has been quick to praise his new team. (AP)

He left the Celtics about three months ago, but Clippers coach Doc Rivers continues to make news in Boston.

His latest head-turning comments came at Clippers practice on Wednesday, when Rivers said that he believes his current squad of players could be the most talented group that he’s ever worked with.

“They should be better than any team I’ve ever coached, I really believe that. They’re more athletic,” Rivers said. “They don’t have the veteran IQ, but they should be good in that area. We have a couple of individual defenders that can be dominating on defense. We have great speed, but we don’t have the size in some ways as some of the teams I’ve coached.”

That’s certainly lofty praise for his new team, as Rivers helped lead some impressive teams during his tenure in Boston, including a 66-win Celtics team that won the NBA title in 2008 and a 62-win squad that won 19 games in a row, the longest streak in franchise history, during the 2008-09 season.

Rivers also found similarities between LA and his prior Celtics teams by stating that he believes the Clippers have a “big three” of their own in Chris PaulBlake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

“I’ve always focused on our big three guys, Blake, DJ and Chris. Their leadership is important to our team. I’m always watching them. I think those are the guys that I have more focus on than anybody else,” Rivers said. “That’s our big three, I like our big three.”

Rivers will make his return to Boston on Dec. 11, as the Clippers and Celtics will face off that night at the TD Garden.

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NBA free agency update: Knicks reportedly acquiring Andrea Bargnani from Raptors; Dwight Howard sweepstakes heating up 07.01.13 at 10:20 am ET
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Andrea Bargnani reportedly is on the verge of being traded to the Knicks. (AP)

Andrea Bargnani reportedly is on the verge of being traded from the Raptors to the Knicks. (AP)

He’s tall, he’s injury-prone, he’s expensive, and soon he’s going to be a Knick — maybe.

The Knicks and Raptors are close to finalizing an agreement that would send 7-foot power forward Andrea Bargnani to New York, ESPN reported, in exchange for center Marcus Camby and small forward Steve Novak.

However, the NBA refused to approve the deal Sunday night, so in order to complete the trade under 2013-14 cap terms, the Knicks are expected to sign-and-trade at least one player they had at the end of the season as part of the deal, according to ESPN’s Jared Zwerling. Earl Barron and Quentin Richardson are two candidates.

Howard Beck of The New York Times reports the Knicks also will include their 2016 first-round draft pick, and USA Today indicates two second-round picks will also go the Raptors’ way.

In his seven seasons since joining Toronto for 2006-07, Bargnani has averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, with those marks down to 12.7 and 3.7 in 2012-13. Tommy Beer of hoopsworld.com points out that Bargnani was the first 7-footer to average both 28 minutes and fewer than four rebounds per game in NBA history this season.

The native of Italy has missed 98 games the last two seasons, including the end of this season after suffering an avulsion sprain of his right elbow. He is also set to make $23 million before his contract expires in two years.

The teams cannot officially complete the trade until July 10.

The Knicks aren’t the only team — or individual — preparing deals to be finalized in a week and a half.

The Rockets are pulling out all the stops as they enter the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Besides Houston brass, a dinner meeting with the free agent also reportedly featured former Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, plus Yao Ming Skyping in from China. The AP reports the team cut guards Carlos Delfino and Aaron Brooks in an effort to open up some cap space.

Howard will visit with the Warriors and Hawks on Monday, then the Mavericks on Tuesday, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met informally with the 6-foot-11 Howard Saturday and Sunday in an effort to get a head start on his competition.

The Lakers are using billboards and newspaper ads to woo Howard, and Dallas is getting some help from the community: Fast-food chain Raising Cane’s is offering Howard free chicken fingers for the rest of his life if he signs with the Mavs.

The Clippers’ acquisition of Doc Rivers, meanwhile, appears to be paying off. ESPN reports that Chris Paul, reportedly one of the driving forces in Los Angeles trading for the coach, is expected to accept a five-year, $107 million extension from the Clippers, and that it is such a sure thing that Paul’s agent told other teams to not bother with offers.

Forward Andrei Kirilenko, who averaged similar numbers to Bargnani with the Timberwolves in 2012-13, is turning down $10 million and opting out of his contract in favor of testing free agency again. His 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game were his best totals since 2005-06.

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Mike Krzyzewski reportedly considering return to Team USA 02.08.13 at 12:52 pm ET
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Mike Krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski said after the London Olympics that he was done as the U.S. national team’s basketball coach. But a new coach has not yet been hired, despite USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo‘s comment after London that he planned to have a new coach in place around the start of 2013.

USA Basketball said there’s no timetable for hiring a new coach, but ESPN.com reported Wednesday that the hiring deadline has been pushed back to after the end of the college season to give Krzyzewski a chance to decide.

Krzyzewski was hired to lead the Americans in 2005, a change from the prior 13 years, when the national team had used exclusively NBA coaches. If Team USA stays with a college coach, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is considered the leading candidate.

If Team USA goes the NBA route, however, Celtics coach Doc Rivers reportedly is among the front-runners for the job, along with Philadelphia coach Doug Collins and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. Colangelo apparently has not spoken to anyone else about the job.

Krzyzewski has been on the staff of 12 U.S. national teams since 1979, and one source told The Associated Press that there had been “rumblings” he was open to staying with the job after London.

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