Manning Speaks about Superbowl Loss

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DENVER — Broncos fans may want to move on from Denver’s Super Bowl debacle. Not Peyton Manning. He’s holding on to the heartache to stoke his competitive fire.

In his first public comments since the highest-scoring team in NFL history was destroyed by Seattle from the opening snap two months ago, Manning said the Broncos’ 43-8 loss will serve as motivation in 2014.

“I don’t really have a word for it. Obviously it was disappointing and we’ll use that to fuel us this offseason and hopefully it’ll make us better,” Manning said Wednesday prior to giving the keynote address at the Boy Scouts of America Sports Breakfast in Denver.

“I know the front office has addressed some offseason needs in free agency and of course the draft’s coming up and now it’s up to the players to put in the hard work in the weight room, the film room and on the practice field to try to be a better team this year and that all starts Monday.”

The Broncos gather next week for the official start of offseason workouts with a roster that looks a lot different from the one that lost by five TDs to the Seahawks.

Gone are Champ Bailey, Eric Decker, Wesley Woodyard, Zane Beadles, Knowshon Moreno and Chris Kuper, whose departures cleared cap space for the additions of DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders.

“Eli told me he was excited about DeMarcus leaving his division; he can no longer hit him. And I’m glad he’s on my team,” Manning said of the former Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher who headlined John Elway’s offseason makeover.

Manning gave his blessing to the promotion of second-year running back Montee Ball to primary ball carrier.

“There’s no question with the loss of Knowshon, who was just nothing short of awesome this past year, and was a great teammate … Montee’s going to have more responsibilities and I think he’s going to answer that challenge,” Manning said.

Although Sanders joined Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Bubba Caldwell and Wes Welker at Manning’s annual passing camp at Duke last week, which the five-time MVP QB called a “good kick-start to the offseason,” the official start of offseason workouts is Monday.

Although Manning and the Broncos will view their loss to Seattle as a scar, much like they did their defeat to Baltimore in the playoffs a year earlier, Manning agreed the gathering will allow the Broncos to begin looking ahead.

Clippers Reach 57th Win

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LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin won’t be playing in Portland, regardless of whether his 16th technical of the season is rescinded.

Griffin will stay home to rest, along with J.J. Redick, while the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers close out the regular season against the Trail Blazers.

They recorded their franchise-record 57th victory with a 117-105 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, when Griffin scored 24 points.

“I’m very happy that we’re doing this stuff, but it’s not what we want,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and Redick added 18 points in the Clippers’ finale at home, where they went 34-7 for another franchise mark. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

“It’s all good and well,” Paul said about the franchise records, “but it’s all about the postseason.”

The win kept the Clippers in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They would need to win at Portland and Oklahoma City would need to lose to Detroit on Wednesday night for the Clippers to claim the second spot. Otherwise, they will remain the third seed.

 

Knicks to Sign Odom?

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Wondering how Phil Jackson would put his stamp on the New York Knicks? Looks like you may get your first answer.

The new team president of the Knicks is close a deal with free agent Lamar Odom, who won a pair of championships with Jackson with the Lakers, ESPN reported Tuesday, citing “sources briefed on the situation.”

According to the report, the two sides are close to a deal which would have Odom on the roster before the regular season ends Wednesday. Such a move would put Odom on the roster immediately and give the Knicks control over Odom for a second, unguaranteed year next season, the report said.

The timing, according to the report, is to allow the Knicks more than two months before the free agency period begins to see if they can get the 34-year-old who has yet to play a game this season physically and mentally in shape to play next season.

The report said Odom is not expected to play in the Knicks’ season finale in Toronto on Wednesday.

The 14-year veteran has not played at all last season after spending last season on the Clippers. In recent years, he has made far more headlines off the court than on it, most notable his marriage to and reality TV show with Khloe Kardashian (who has filed for divorce), as well as legal troubles that include a no-contest plea to a charge of DUI and a lawsuit filed by a member of the paparazzi, who claims Odom attacked him on video.

The Knicks have very little cap flexibility and Jackson admitted upon his taking the job that he would have to be creative with changes to the roster until the team gets under the cap in 2015.

Odom has career averages of 13.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game

Miami Settles for #2 Seed

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The Miami Heat opted for rest for LeBron James and Chris Bosh over the pursuit of the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and the Washington Wizards capitalized in a 114-93 breeze of a game Monday night that clinched the No. 1 seed for the Indiana Pacers.

Trevor Ariza scored 25 points for the Wizards, who shot 59 percent and made 14 3-pointers and remained one game ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the East’s No. 6 seed. Washington is trying to avoid dropping to seventh so that it can avoid the Heat in the first round of the playoffs – when LeBron and Co. will be back.

Michael Beasley scored 18 points for the Heat, and Toney Douglas had 14 for the two-time defending champs, who will be the No. 2 seed when the playoffs begin this weekend.

The Heat began the day still in contention for the top spot, but they would have needed to win their last two games and have Indiana lose to Orlando on Wednesday because the Pacers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Figuring it would be better to be fresh for the postseason, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sat James and Bosh, saying they were dealing with ”the residual of a long season.”

”Just where we are right now, (James is) dealing with some minor ailments,” Spoelstra said. ”Nothing that’s significant enough that will keep him out. Same thing with Chris. We made this decision and everyone else is ready to go. Everything is day by day.”

James has made it part of his annual routine to rest before the playoffs. He missed the final game in 2011 and sat out the last two in both 2012 and 2013

Pac-Man Gobbles up Bradley

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The old Manny Pacquiao returned for thrilling bursts, hounding Timothy Bradley onto the ropes and battering the welterweight champion with whip-quick combinations that recalled the Pacman’s magical prime.

The older Pacquiao couldn’t finish the trick, however.

Although he tried mightily, Pacquiao didn’t stop or even really hurt Bradley during 12 mostly exciting rounds Saturday night, settling for the lucrative revenge of a unanimous-decision victory.

“I didn’t want to get careless,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao (56-5-2) proved he is still one of the world’s most exciting boxers with his second straight win, even if he might never recapture his most destructive form. His hands and footwork are still inimitable, but the eight-division world champion’s power and timing weren’t good enough to stop Bradley — or any of his opponents since late 2009, the date of his last knockout.

Pacquiao apologetically showed up to his post-fight news conference well after midnight at the MGM Grand Garden, a large bandage concealing 32 stitches in a deep gash on his left eyebrow from a head-butt. Trainer Freddie Roach had filled the time by praising his fighter while simultaneously acknowledging Pacquiao’s days of highlight-reel knockouts have faded.

“I think he was doing his best to stop him,” Roach said. “He was throwing combinations. I told him, `All you have to do is outbox this guy. You can outbox him in and out, all night long.’ … I thought he had the killer instinct. When he had (Bradley) on the ropes, he opened up pretty well. It just didn’t seem like he had the power he usually has. It was a little bit slower than he seemed in the past. I don’t know why, because in the dressing room, he was on fire.”

Bradley, still classy after his first career defeat, gave a mixed review of Pacquiao’s physical skills in comparison to their first fight.

“He still has the real sharp snap on his punches,” Bradley said. “(But) I believe in the first fight, his punching power was way harder. I was able to take it. He went for the knockout, he definitely did.”

Pacquiao still beat up one of the world’s best boxers with relative ease, and his next bout in the fall will be among the biggest happenings in sports. His mostly likely opponent is a fifth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez, who fights Mike Alvarado on May 17.

But Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum still hold out hope of a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., even while the distance between the two fighters appears to grow, both inside the ring and out.

“It’s really hard to talk about that,” Pacquiao said. “It’s been how many years we’re talking about that? How many years, days, months we’re talking about that? The line is open 24 hours. If he’s awake and he wants to fight, the fight will be.”

Arum became nearly apoplectic when asked about the possibility of a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout, claiming Pacquiao has already agreed to all of the unbeaten Mayweather’s previously stated conditions.

“The only people that can make Floyd Mayweather fight Manny is the public,” Arum said before urging fans to boycott Mayweather’s bout against Marcos Maidana on May 3.

While Pacquiao reaffirmed his pound-for-pound stardom, Bradley raised his profile again despite his first career defeat.

It’s tough to remember Bradley was considered a boring fighter just four fights ago. Although he’s not an HBO pay-per-view star, he’ll likely have his choice of intriguing opponents for his next bout — maybe Brandon Rios, or a rematch with Provodnikov.

Bradley’s decision to load up and wait for a knockout blow against Pacquiao was roundly debated by fans, but Bradley’s ring charisma and heart should raise his stature.

“That was the only way I was going to win the fight,” Bradley said. “I knew the rounds were going to be close. Pacquiao knows how to land punches. I was shooting for the knockout, too

NBA History is Made

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The Los Angeles Lakers are Elgin Baylor and Jerry West and Showtime and Magic and Kareem and Kobe. The Boston Celtics are Bill Russell and Hondo Havlicek and Larry Legend and D.J. and the Chief and Paul Pierce and K.G. The New York Knicks are Willis Reed and Clyde and Earl the Pearl and Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley.

Why the quick run through these teams’€™ history? Because when it comes to the playoffs this season, they are history.

For the first time, the NBA will hold a postseason without any of those three teams.

“It’s horrible for the NBA that those markets may not be in the playoffs,” Lakers radio commentator Mychal Thompson said (via USA Today). “The NBA is a lot healthier business when those franchises are competing for championships.”

These franchises have been around since the 1940s. The Celtics have won 17 NBA championships and the Lakers 16. Though the Knicks have won just two titles, they have gone to the playoffs 42 times.

The Lakers and Celtics have met in the NBA Finals 12 times and staged some of the most intensely fought championship series the league has ever seen.

The Knicks, by virtue of their home in New York, have outsize importance, operating in the nation’€™s media center. The Knicks and Lakers draw any number of celebrities to their games.

But Spike Lee and Jack Nicholson won’€™t be sitting in their customary courtside seats for any playoff games this year.

And this year, instead of playing games next month, the three franchises will be looking forward to May 20 — the day of the NBA’€™s draft lottery.

 

Aldon Smith…Terrorist??…WTH???

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San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport after authorities said he became belligerent during a security screening and threatened that he had a bomb.

The 24-year-old player was randomly selected for a secondary screening at Terminal 1 and became uncooperative with the process, airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz said. She said he told a TSA agent that he had a bomb before walking to the gate. When airport police officers caught up with him, Ortiz said Smith became uncooperative and was taken into custody.

A witness video posted on TMZ.com shows Smith exchanging words with an officer as he was being handcuffed and escorted out of the gate area.

Smith was booked for investigation of making a false bomb threat. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said anyone who makes a bomb threat at an airport is potentially subject to federal charges, although no such charges have been filed against Smith.

According to multiple reports crediting the jail records, Smith has been released after posting bail. No date has been set for a court appearance. 

A message seeking comment from Smith’s agent wasn’t immediately returned.

With the arrest, Smith is involved in three pending criminal cases.

“We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment.”

A fearsome pass-rushing specialist, Smith took a five-game leave of absence from the 49ers last season to undergo treatment for substance abuse. He rejoined the team Nov. 5.

Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

Leading up to the playoffs in early January, Smith said during an interview with The Associated Press he was encouraged by the strides he had made to better himself off the football field that put life — and his work — in perspective. He said at the time he hadn’t had any alcohol since before his Sept. 20 DUI arrest, and that he wasn’t craving it. When he rejoined the team Nov. 5, he insisted he was on the path to lifelong sobriety stuck by that statement.

His teammates rallied around him in support of his rehab and, later, his return to the team.

Smith emerged as one of the NFL’s most-feared pass rushers in 2012. He had a franchise-record 19.5 sacks that year, but failed to record a sack in his final six games including the team’s postseason Super Bowl run.

Smith finished with eight sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games last season, making eight starts

Pacers Get Swag Back?

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 The Pacers were back to being themselves Sunday.

They made shots. They defended hard for 48 minutes. Lance Stephenson regained his swagger and, yes, the reeling Pacers even looked like a playoff-ready team.

David West made three free throws in the final 15 seconds and Stephenson produced his league-leading fifth triple-double to give Indiana a 102-97 win over Oklahoma City 102-97, putting the Pacers on the cusp of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re going to treat it (the season finale) like a playoff game. We have to get that No. 1 spot,” Stephenson said. “That’s what we wanted from the beginning of the season so we have to take it, not get it, we have to take it.”

All they need is a win Wednesday night at Orlando or one more Miami loss. The Heat visit Washington on Monday and host Philadelphia on Wednesday.

It’s been a wild second-half ride for Indiana (55-26), which held the top spot in the East from opening night in October until the last week of March. When the Pacers beat the Heat on March 26, they had a three-game lead and a seemingly firm grasp on home-court advantage.

As the losses mounted, though, Miami charged back and finally took the top spot on March 31. But rather than pulling away, the two-time defending champs gave the lead right back.

Miami retook a one-half game by beating the Pacers at home Friday, then fell into a tie with Indiana after losing Saturday night in Atlanta.

The Pacers went into Sunday’s game with six losses in eight games and the knowledge that all they had to do was win their last two — because they have a better conference record than the Heat.

So just like that, Indiana flipped the switch and got back to looking the a championship contender.