Friday, December 16, 2011
Barry Bonds case moves toward end - 2011 College Football AP All-American Teams - Paul Greatful to be with the Clippers
Paul Greatful to be with the Clippers
did you ever think you would hear that statement out of anyones mouth?
LOS ANGELES - Chris Paul endured two weeks of sleepless nights, stressful days and at least one imploded trade before he found a new home with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Pacific Ocean looked awfully peaceful to the superstar point guard on Thursday when he finally left the New Orleans Hornets for life on the West Coast, and now CP3 can't wait to start turning Staples Center's longtime second-class citizens into the greatest show in Hollywood.
The Clippers' bold new acquisition spent the day at their Playa Vista training complex, trying on his new No. 3 jersey after meeting with Blake Griffin and the rest of the players who can't wait to catch the four-time All-Star's passes.
"This is not my day, by the way. This is the Clippers' day," Paul told an overflowing media crowd. "This is a humbling experience, and I'm so grateful and thankful to be here."
A day earlier, the Clippers acquired Paul in a four-player trade with the Hornets, outmaneuvering the Lakers and several other suitors for the player widely considered the NBA's best point guard. Paul, who averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season, realizes his move is a stunning endorsement of the long-struggling Clippers, who have been overshadowed by the 16-time champions for three decades in Southern California.
"I believe in this organization," Paul said. "I believe in the players here, and I want to win. I want to win now. I'm so tired of doing everything else. I want to play."
What Paul doesn't know about the Clippers doesn't appear to hurt him. He repeatedly referred to the Clippers' history as a selling point as he joined a 41-year-old franchise with no championships, no division titles, one winning season in the past 19 years and just one playoff series victory since 1976.
Yet Paul represents the Clippers' shining future, not that dingy past. Even better for their long-suffering fans, Paul already realizes what side he's taking in this painfully one-sided crosstown rivalry, and he's ready to mix it up with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and whoever is left on the Lakers' roster when they finally resolve a profoundly messy offseason.
Paul repeatedly refused to talk about the Lakers' squashed trade for him — even refusing to say the Lakers' name.
"The other team has won championships, and it's about winning, but I think Blake has done an unbelievable job changing that (perception)," said Paul, who almost singlehandedly put a first-round playoff scare into the Lakers last spring with the Hornets. "You can't take anything away from him about how he has changed the culture here in L.A. I'm coming here to join and be a part of it, and hopefully we can grow together as basketball players and continue to change everything. That's what we play for."
Griffin is sad to lose teammates Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu in the deal, but the Rookie of the Year is looking forward to lining up with Paul and fellow newcomers Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, called "my big brother" by Paul.
Griffin's first words about Paul's arrival — "Lob city!" he said gleefully to fellow high-flying teammate DeAndre Jordan on Wednesday — have already become a Twitter trending topic and a T-shirt in Los Angeles.
"We've got a lot or work to do," Griffin said. "The target has shifted a little bit, but the only thing I'm going to promise is that you're going to get our best every night. And when you hear 'The Clippers,' it's not going to be a joke anymore. I can guarantee you that."
Paul has been intrigued by Griffin since they teamed up for the Western Conference last year at the All-Star game at Staples. He knows fans are already salivating at the prospect of Paul's passes finding the acrobatic Griffin for all varieties of vicious dunks.
"That's something that's not going to happen overnight either," Paul said. "I've got to find the right height. It's like Blake plays on a goal that's lower than 10 foot or something. I'm excited for the opportunity to not only help him grow, but for him to help me to get to the next level."
The Clippers clearly were proud of their own audacity, which surprised many who have only known this franchise for pinching pennies and providing minimal support to a long history of talented players. Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey credited owner Donald Sterling and Paul's agent, Leon Rose, for pushing through a trade that stalled at numerous points thanks to the Hornets' ownership by the NBA.
The Clippers have been determined to change their culture ever since Olshey and coach Vinny Del Negro took over last year, and Paul's arrival is a massive step in that direction.
"The perception here is not the reality, as you guys can see," Olshey said, noting the Clippers' recent improvements, including their gorgeous training complex and their enviable mix of talent and cap room. "Going forward, all that ends, and it's just about the future from now on."
Paul has told the Clippers he'll exercise his player option for next season, keeping him alongside Griffin, Jordan and their supporting cast for at least two years. The Clippers' brain trust is confident they'll win enough in that stretch to persuade the club's core players to stick together — but they'll get to work in earnest on that job Friday in Paul's first full practice with his new team.
"He's not just coming here to jump on a lily pad," Olshey said. "He's coming here to be a long-term face of this franchise. He wanted to know there were going to be pieces here around him. ... His commitment to wanting to be here is what inspired me to not give up. When it got to the point where both our goals met late (Wednesday) afternoon, we just got in a room and got on with Mr. Sterling and said, 'If we're going to take this quantum leap as a franchise, it's going to have to be with a superstar, and that's Chris.'"
Barry Bonds case moves toward end
By Mark Fainaru-Wada
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Barry Bonds goes before a federal judge Friday to be sentenced for obstructing justice -- more than eight years after he testified before a grand jury -- it finally will mark the close of the seemingly endless BALCO steroids saga.
ESPN.com's Mark Fainaru-Wada will tweet live from the courtroom during the Barry Bonds sentencing. Follow along with our up-to-the-minute Twitter coverage.
Bonds, in fact, still can appeal his April 13 felony conviction, regardless of the sentence imposed by Judge Susan Illston when baseball's home run king appears in her courtroom Friday.
As well, the government technically remains able to re-file charges on three deadlocked counts stemming from Bonds' perjury and obstruction of justice trial this past spring. However, that seems unlikely given the amount of time, money, energy and even public disdain it has taken prosecutors to get to this point.
So basically this is the end, and for baseball, it has to have seemed like an eternity. Much has happened in -- and to -- the sport since Bonds spent three hours testifying at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on the afternoon of Dec. 3, 2003. From there, he became the central figure in a case that ultimately ushered performance-enhancing drugs into the consciousness of baseball fans from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium. To recap, in part:
• Twelve MVPs have been implicated in the use of PEDs, the most recent being this year's National League award winner, Ryan Braun. (The Brewers' four-time All-Star outfielder has professed his innocence and is fighting a positive test that could result in a 50-game suspension.)
• Two Congressional hearings played out before national television audiences -- the first exposing Mark McGwire's record-breaking 1998 season as tainted, the second leaving seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens facing charges he lied before Congress.
• The sport has ratcheted up its testing policy three times now, to the point it legitimately can claim the best anti-doping program in professional sports. (Of course, that's a hollow claim to many anti-doping experts, who believe cheaters remain well ahead of testers and who lament that baseball's policy, like the NFL's, has virtually no transparency.)
• The Mitchell report stands as a historical document, naming more than 80 players as possible drug cheats.
The players implicated or accused in the PED swirl over the past decade represent a startling list: McGwire, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Manny Ramirez, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Rick Ankiel, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Eric Gagne, Troy Glaus, David Justice, David Ortiz, Andy Pettitte, Mo Vaughn, and many more.
Bonds, though, remains the be-all, end-all in the narrative, a polarizing figure who transformed himself through chemistry from a clear Hall of Famer into one of the greatest players of all time, beginning around the turn of the century.
He emerged as the all-time home run leader, even as his legacy was crumbling amid the revelations of his steroid use. And it only became more complicated for him in November 2007 when prosecutors filed perjury and obstruction of justice charges, alleging Bonds had lied repeatedly about his steroid use during his 2003 testimony before the BALCO grand jury.
The Bonds perjury case finally went to trial in March, lasted 12 days and ended with a whimper -- the jury deadlocked on three counts that he lied to the grand jury about his use of steroids and human growth hormone and about whether he had ever been injected by anyone other than one of his doctors.
The jury did convict on the obstruction of justice charge, suggesting Bonds' often rambling and off-topic responses were part of an effort to mislead the grand jury investigation. Specifically, they cited a response to a question about whether he had ever received from his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, "anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?"
Bonds offered a 235-word response that described the parameters of his friendship with Anderson, how he grew up as a "celebrity child, not just in baseball but by my own instincts," and the fact that "I have been married to a woman five years, known her 17 years, and I don't even know what's in her purse."
For that, now comes his judgment day. (Another will come one year from now when Bonds' name appears for the first time on a Hall of Fame ballot.) Friday almost certainly will bring one of two outcomes for Bonds: prison or probation with some home confinement.
The sentencing guidelines for his crime call for 15 to 21 months of imprisonment, according to court records. However, those same records suggest that the probation officer who wrote the pre-sentencing report (PSR) recommended no prison time for Bonds. The PSR calls for a "downward departure" from the guidelines because of four factors, including Bonds' philanthropic efforts.
"Most of Mr. Bonds' charitable and civic contributions, financial and otherwise, have taken place away from the public eye," wrote his attorneys. The lawyers also said the PSR suggested the conviction was an "aberration when taken in the context of his entire life."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, maintain Bonds should get 15 months in prison for his "calculated plan to obfuscate and distract the grand jury from its role in getting to the truth in the BALCO inquiry. … Bonds' pervasive efforts to testify falsely, to mislead the grand jury, to dodge questions, and to simply refuse to answer questions in the grand jury makes his conduct worthy of a significant jail sentence."
Judge Illston, though, will have the final word, and if her sentencing history is any indication, Bonds is unlikely to serve any prison time. Stemming from BALCO, Illston has heard four other similar, false-statement cases and has ordered no prison time in any of them. In the case of Marion Jones, the former Olympic queen was sentenced by a New York judge to six months in prison, but that was because she also was found guilty of lying to federal agents investigating a check-kiting scheme.
In the three other cases -- former NFL lineman Dana Stubblefield, former Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas and track coach Trevor Graham -- Illston rejected prosecutors' requests for prison time. Stubblefield received two years' probation; Graham got a year of home confinement and five years' probation; and Thomas was given six months' home confinement along with five years' probation.
Thomas had been found guilty both of making false statements and obstructing justice, but Illston sent a message that seemed to portend well for Bonds when she denied prosecutors' attempts to send Thomas to prison for 30 months. In the BALCO case, Illston noted that the so-called mastermind of the operation, Victor Conte, got just four months in prison and four months of home confinement; Anderson, Bonds' trainer, got three months' prison, three of home confinement; and two other men were given straight probation.
"The drug dealers in this case, which are like, like the pushers in my view, who started this, got sentences much different than the sentence that's urged for Ms. Thomas," Illston said at Thomas' sentencing hearing in April 2008. "… I think it would be inconsistent with my obligations in sentencing to impose a sentence, for example, 10 times longer than Mr. Conte's sentence."
But whatever Illston decides, one thing appears clear: The BALCO investigation -- a federal probe that started with a tip to law enforcement in the summer of 2002 and emerged into one of the biggest sports scandals in history -- is finally about to end.
2011 College Football AP All-American Teams
NEW YORK -- LSU's Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne became the first cornerback teammates to lock down spots on the AP All-America team.
Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Claiborne were joined on the All-America team by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and finalists Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama.
ESPN.com's All-America team includes four players from Alabama, three from LSU and two each from Oklahoma State, Stanford and Georgia. Blog
Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck from Stanford was the second-team quarterback.
The team released Wednesday was selected by a panel of 16 AP poll voters.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide had the most first-teamers with four. Richardson was joined by tackle Barrett Jones, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Mark Barron. Tide linebackers Courtney Upshaw and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also made the second team, giving Alabama the most players selected overall.
The LSU duo was joined on the first team by Tigers punter Brad Wing. LSU guard Will Blackwell was a second-team selection and defensive end Sam Montgomery made the third team.
The top-ranked Tigers will play SEC West rival Alabama on Jan. 9 in New Orleans for the BCS title.
Since the AP began selecting both an offensive and defensive team in 1964, no team had put a pair of cornerbacks on the first team. Of course, few teams have had two cornerbacks as talented as Mathieu and Claiborne.
Mathieu, also known as Honey Badger, has been a mayhem-maker for LSU on defense and special teams. He forced five fumbles, intercepted two passes and scored four touchdowns -- two on punt returns, two on fumble returns. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound sophomore also had 71 tackles and was versatile enough to be moved around the defense at times.
Claiborne is a prototypical shutdown corner. The 6-1 junior made six interceptions and averaged 29 yards per return, with a touchdown.
"We have one of the best defenses in the country," Mathieu said. "We've got a lot of NFL talent in our secondary, and our defense as a whole."
The talented tandem was a major reason why LSU (13-0) heads to the BCS national championship game against Alabama with a pass defense ranked third in opponents' efficiency, ninth in yards allowed per game and second in fewest touchdown passes allowed.
No. 3 Oklahoma State also had five selections on the three teams, including wide receiver Justin Blackmon, one of two players to be selected to the first team for the second straight season. Blackmon caught 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the nation's leading tackler at 15.9 per game, is the other two-time All-American on this year's team.
Griffin, who is second in the nation in total offense at 396 yards per game, won the Heisman on Saturday, beating out preseason favorite Luck, who was a second-team All-American for the second straight year.
Richardson was third in the Heisman voting and Ball, who is one touchdown away from tying Barry Sanders' single-season record of 39, was fourth.
Mathieu finished fifth in the Heisman voting and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a third-team All-America, was sixth.
Barkley's favorite target, sophomore receiver Robert Woods, was a first-team AP All-America selection, along with USC tackle Matt Kalil also on the first team.
Clemson also had two players on the first-team, with tight end Dwayne Allen and freshman Sammy Watkins, selected as an all-purpose player.
Watkins and Wing were the only freshman picked to any of the three teams.
The rest of the first-team line had Stanford's David DeCastro and Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler at guard and Michigan's David Molk at center.
Groza Award winner Randy Bullock of Texas A&M was the All-American kicker.
On defense, three Big Ten defensive linemen made the All-America team: 300-pound tackles Devon Still from Penn State and Jerel Worthy from Michigan State, along with Illinois end Whitney Mercilus, who leads the nation with 14½ sacks.
South Carolina's Melvin Ingram was the other defensive end. Georgia had two defensive All-Americans in safety Baccari Rambo and linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Seven of the 11 All-America defensive players were from the Southeastern Conference, befitting its reputation as the best league in the nation.
Posted by just BS at 5:35 AM