– The Lakers are reportedly unhappy about G Chris Paul being dealt to the Clippers. Stern nixed a deal that would’ve brought Paul to the Lakers, so this was expected. GM Mitch Kupchak declined to comment, but the team was reportedly “fuming” upon learning the point guard had been dealt to the Clippers.
– The Hornets have signed F Carl Landry to a 1-year/$9M contract. He’ll start out off the bench, but could work his way up if someone is traded. The Hornets will look to fill out the remainder of the roster before the season starts now that the CP3 saga is finally over.
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Nets are “trying to close deal” with F Andrei Kirilenko. The two sides were thought to be in “serious talks” on Wednesday night. He would be an excellent addition to the Nets’ lineup.
– The Magic have re-signed F Earl Clark to a 2-year deal. Clark was known to be getting heavy interest from the Nuggets, but his preference was to remain with the Magic. He’ll return Orlando and should serve in a similar role to last season.
– F Shawne Williams has agreed to sign with the Nets. Williams turned down the Knicks after the team seemed ready to replace him with G Jamal Crwaford.
– According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM, the Rangers, Blue Jays, Cubs and Yankees have submitted bids for Japanese RHP Yu Darvish. The posting process closed at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and the winner would be given an exclusive 30-day negotiating window to agree on a contract. Darvish, 25, posted a 1.44 ERA and 276/36 K/BB ratio in 232 innings this past season. He has a 1.99 ERA over seven seasons in Japan.
– The Twins have officially signed OF Josh Willingham to a 3-year/$21M contract. Willingham can make an additional $1M in 2014 if he surpasses 525 plate appearances in 2013. The Twins won’t need to surrender a draft pick in order to sign him, but they will receive two picks if (or more likely, when) OF Michael Cuddyer signs elsewhere. Willingham, 33 in February, batted .246/.332/.477 with 29 home runs and an .810 OPS over 136 games this past season for the A’s and will presumably start in left field.
– According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers and LHP Derek Holland are discussing a 5-year contract extension. Although not a free agent until 2016, Holland is arbitration-eligible beginning after next season. The 25-year-old finished 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA and shared the AL-lead in shutouts with four. Texas will try and lock him up now before he really becomes big.
– ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Red Sox are still pursuing other relievers, including A’s RHP Andrew Bailey. While a trade for Bailey is still a possibility, it’s not known whether they still have interest in signing RHP Ryan Madson. The Red Sox have also been linked to LHP Darren Oliver recently, though he would pitch in the middle innings.
– Red Sox’ GM Ben Cherington said Thursday that he believes the newly-acquired RHP Mark Melancon is “capable of closing.” Of course he does. “Melancon certainly adds an important piece, a guy who has [closed] recently, and more recently than anyone else on our roster, so we feel pretty good about the way the back of the bullpen is shaping up. There’s certainly time before now and spring training and we’re going to continue to look for ways to make the team better.”
– Following his recent release from WWE last month, it’s come out that John Morrison had been planning to leave the company for several months before his contract expired, going as far back as July. Morrison’s body has been banged up for a long time and still plans to break into acting.
– Florida’s NaplesNews.com has an article up looking at the career of SmackDown superstar Wade Barrett. Barrett, who reveals that his ring name is a nod to rock band Pink Floyd’s founder, Syd Barrett, talked about how becoming a pro wrestler has allowed him to achieve a lifelong dream.
“I realized, statistically, the chances of me getting to the WWE and being very successful were very slim. I always hoped it would happen for me. I was very lucky to get the opportunity and I was going to make sure I was going to make the most of it.
“Wrestling was my first passion and something I wanted to do from a very young age.”
He was studying Marine Biology at the University of Liverpool when he decided to start training to become a professional wrestler. He worked for several independent promotions in the UK and hoped to one day make it to the big stage of WWE. After making a huge splash in the Summer of 2010 as the leader of the Nexus faction, Barrett admits that he very quickly fell from the main events and got lost the the shuffle. Now, with his Barrett Barrage angle, he’s looking to make it back to the top:
“Wrestling is quite cyclical in its nature. If you have the same guys at the top of the card all the time, people get bored of it. They don’t want to see the same guys wrestling over and over again.
“I had a bit of a lull, but it allowed other guys to move up to the spot I had. The feud with Orton propelled me to the top of the card again. Things have been going very well for me. I didn’t take it personally when I moved down the card. People have to move up and down to keep things fresh. That’s the nature of the business.”
He also spoke about the toll professional wrestling can take on your body and life on the road, calling it a “lonely existence.”
– Road Dogg Jesse James has changed his Twitter handle to @WWERoadDogg. As a WWE producer, he’ll be backstage at all television and PPV shows.
– WWE’s developmental system is on the verge of undergoing some major changes in the coming months, and it all has to do with how WWE calls up their talent to the main roster. Recruiting talent is not an issue at this point – as Florida Championship Wrestling currently features on of its best rosters ever. Wrestlers such as Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Husky Harris and Percy Watson all have potential to be breakout stars – but WWE has learned the hard way how absolutely crucial first impressions are and what happens when you introduce talent before they’re ready.
Triple H’s latest inititive is not to bring developmental talent to the main roster until the WWE creative team has a character in mind for them and a long-term idea of how to use them. On many occasions, WWE has called up wrestlers without properly introducing them or having an angle for them. The wrestlers are seen as “filler” and their careers are badly damaged. It’s been acknowledged that several FCW stars have more potential than guys on the main roster, but WWE does not want to bring the FCW guys up until their characters are more polished. Because many of FCW’s most promising stars spent years working the independent scene (Rollins, Ambrose), that path is no longer looked down upon the way it was just a few years ago. Maybe that Punk guy had something to do with that.
– Beth Phoenix and Natalya are seen as the only two Divas who can actually work, so WWE tries to protect them from overexposure and not use them on television too much.
– Former WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio’s stock has fallen in WWE. While he was pushed as WWE champion just a few months ago, he’s now viewed as upper mid-card at best.
– Some people within WWE are predicting the lowest buyrate of the year for Sunday’s WWE Tables, Ladders & Chairs PPV.
– Rey Mysterio was telling people backstage at Monday’s Slammy Awards that he’s in no rush to return. After his latest knee surgery, he wants to make sure he’s 100% before wrestling again. While he was hoping to be back in action in time for WrestleMania on April 1st, he’s now shooting for May.
– Sin Cara (knee) has about four months before he’s ready to return to the ring from surgery. He’ planning to compete at WrestleMania and does not want to miss the big payday.
– Most of Jim Ross and Michael Cole’s interactions on RAW in recent months has been unscripted. JR is from an era where performers had to improvise on the mic, so he and Cole are trusted to work off bullet points instead of a full script.
– As we reported last week, Kaityn’s recent heel turn and attack on AJ Lee was edited off the 12/6 episode of SmackDown. The segment was cut due to time constraints. WWE did not follow up on the angle at this week’s tapings, so the heel turn may have been dropped all together.
– As we reported recently, Kelly Kelly has reportedly been trying to get her real name (Barbara Blank) out there, in the event that she does leave WWE down the road. When she recently launched her official website, she had originally bought the domain BarbaraBlank.com, but was told by WWE to use her WWE name and thus, she opened WWEDiveKellyKelly.com.
– The latest word on WWE’s Legends House program on the new WWE Network is that the show will tape from Tampa.
– Bears’ WR Sam Hurd was arrested Wednesday night in Chicago on federal drug charges. According to authorities, Hurd attempted to purchase drugs from a supplier in North Texas. Hurd spent the first four years of his career with the Cowboys and is from San Antonio. In 12 games this season, he has eight catches for 109 yards.