– Heat’ F LeBron James says he wouldn’t rule out a return to the Cavaliers. James played seven seasons in Cleveland before signing with the Heat in 2010, where he made his infamous “Decision” program on ESPN. LeBron has two more years on his contract, plus two option years after that.
“I don’t know. I think it would be great. It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my seven years here. You can’t predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I’m here as a Miami Heat player, and I’m happy where I am now, but I don’t rule that out in no sense. And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.”
“I don’t have any hard feelings. He said what he said and I’ve moved on. But there’s been no attempt to patch things up.”
“I don’t hold grudges. I hold them a little bit, but I don’t hold them that long. He said what he said out of anger and he would probably want to take that back. But I made a mistake, too, and there are some things I would want to take back as well. You make mistakes and move on.”
– Free agent G J.R. Smith confirmed that he’s nearing a deal with the Knicks one a 1-year/$2.5M contract, according to Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy. Smith will add a great sixth-man option off the bench. He averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 3-pointers and 1.2 steals in 24.9 minutes last season for the Nuggets.
– Cavaliers’ F Anderson Varejao (right wrist) won’t need surgery on his fractured wrist, but will be out 4-6 weeks. Varejao suffered the injury last Friday. If he reaches the early part of the timetable, he could play in the final 25 games of the season, though the 11-16 Cavs don’t really have a need to rush him back. Varejao was averaging career-highs in points (10.8), rebounds (11.5) and steals (1.4) before going down.
– Knicks’ G Jeremy Lin has been added to the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Lin will also assist G Iman Shumpert during the Dunk Contest. Finally, Lin has graced the new cover of Sports Illustrated. Check it out:
– Sixers’ president Rod Thorn said F Spencer Hawes (Achilles) will be in a walking boot “for a while.” Hawes is almost definitely out until the All-Star break, meaning he’ll miss at least four more games. He’s expected to meet with a specialist in LA. Hawes has appeared in just 14 of the team’s 30 games this season.
– The NBA is leaving it up to the fans to determine the winner of the All-Star slam dunk contest. Defending champion Blake Griffin passed on returning, leaving a lacklustre field of New York’s Iman Shumpert, Paul George of Indiana, rookie Derrick Williams of Minnesota and Houston’s Chase Budinger. The league announced Thursday that there no longer will be judges in the event, which also will be reduced to one round. Each contestant will execute three dunks. Fans will determine the champion by voting on NBA.com, Twitter or through text messaging. The format in recent years was two rounds, with a panel of judges voting on the first round before fan voting in the second.
– Mavericks’ G Delonte West (finger) is targeting a mid-March return.
– Christopher Hansen, a hedge-fund manager based in San Francisco and a Seattle native, submitted a proposal to the city on Thursday that calls for $290 million in private investment toward the construction of a new arena that would cost between $450-500M. Hansen and his investment group would also be responsible for the purchase of an NBA franchise and finding a partner interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Seattle as well. The proposal represents the first significant step toward solving the arena problem that was at the root of the SuperSonics’ move from Seattle to Oklahoma City following the 2008 NBA season leaving behind 41 years of history. The proposal will now go before a review board — a group of community leaders that includes one-time SuperSonics player and coach Lenny Wilkens — with King County executive Dow Constantine hoping their review can be completed within a month.
According to a letter submitted by the Hansen, the remaining construction and development costs would be financed by the city and King County using taxes and revenues generated by the new facility and rent charged to the teams playing in the arena — money that will not exist if the arena isn’t built. City officials are adamant that there will be no new public taxes needed for the building and the city’s portion of the investment will be capped at $200 million with any additional cost overruns paid by the private investors. From there, Hansen’s proposal would need city and county approval, but even with ultimate approval no shovels will be going into the land just south of Safeco Field until an anchor tenant is in hand with a 30-year lease agreement that includes a no-relocation clause. City officials say their projections for how the financing plan would work are based off having both an NHL and NBA team.
– Former MLB C Gary Carter, the first player enshrined in the Hall of Fame wearing an Expos cap, died Thursday. He was 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour last May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach, Florida, area. Carter’s daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family website:
“I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m.. This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know.”
He started with the Expos as a late-season call-up in 1974 and became the face of the franchise in his 12 seasons with the team. He led Montreal to its only playoff berth — in 1981. In all, Carter played nearly two decades with the Expos, Mets, San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Carter was an 11-time all-star and three-time Gold Glove winner whose bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 Series helped the Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them.
– Yankees’ RHP A.J. Burnett has vetoed a trade to the Angels for OF Bobby Abreu. The Halos are one of 10 teams Burnett can veto a trade to. Burnett was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in 33 games last season.
– Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels confirmed Thursday that OF Josh Hamilton will face no discipline from the team or MLB. Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol earlier this month at a Dallas-Fort Worth bar. He’s been going to counselling individually and with his wife since the incident, and is claiming to have a clear and focused head as the opening of spring training approaches. “We will take additional steps to support him. We will have more ability to help him during the season. There will be no formal discipline.”
– Asked Thursday whether he’s comfortable moving to third base to accommodate new SS Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez responded: “I have nothing to say.” Manager Ozzie Guillen confirmed earlier this week that Ramirez is still unhappy about the position change. The thought (or, rather, hope) is that Hanley will come around to it by the start of the regular season. “I expect him to be 100% on board with this move when we play St. Louis (on Opening Night). Right now, just let it be, man.”
– Cardinals’ RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery) threw 40 pitches to live hitters Thursday morning in Cardinals camp. Waino broke the workout into 20-pitch sessions to simulate two innings of work. He reported no issues at all with his surgically-repaired right elbow and continues to progress toward normalcy. “I really don’t feel like I’ve missed a year. It feels like I’m stepping back into something that is comfortable. It feels natural.”
– Pirates’ OF Garrett Jones lost his arbitration case against the Bucs and will make $2.25M in 2012. Jones hit .243 with 30 doubles, 16 homers and 58 RBIs last year.
– DH Jonny Damon told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that he’s unsure why the Yankees haven’t made him an offer. ”I think it’s a perfect fit. But for some reason you have the year I had, especially with a team that has trouble scoring, and you can’t even get a call to continue playing.” The 38-year-old batted .261/.326/.418 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI last year for Tampa Bay but could remain unsigned when spring training gets underway next week. The Yankees are thought to be deciding between Damon, Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui.
– Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed Thursday that his team has interest in outfielder Jorge Soler. ”Our scouts have seen him and we like him. It may come down to where he wants to play and, of course, the money.” Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that the Phillies and Yankees are “in hardest” on the 19-year-old Cuban defector. The Blue Jays and Indians have also worked him out recently.
– LHP Scott Kazmir’s throwing session was pushed to Friday. Kazmir was originally scheduled to throw for interested teams on Wednesday afternoon in Houston, but he backed things up for an unknown reason. The 28-year-old left-hander told ESPN’s Buster Olney that he “feels well as he prepares.” The Mets are known to have some level of interest.
– Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said Thursday that 3B Brandon Inge will get a chance to compete for the starting second base job during spring training. Detroit’s infield defence just keeps getting worse. Inge is a solid defensive third baseman, but has never played an inning at second base during his entire professional career. The 34-year-old will be thrown into the mix with Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth.
– One of this week’s top stories is that Randy Orton is injured once again, suffering what is believed to be another concussion at Monday’s RAW. During Orton’s match with the Big Show, Orton delivered an RKO Big Show and was seen getting up very slowly and grabbing his head. Orton was visibly on “spaghetti legs” and appeared disoriented. WWE ran a storyline on the company website and at Tuesday’s SmackDown tapings where Orton’s concussion actually occurred after his match with Big Show, when Daniel Bryan hit him in the head with the World Heavyweight title belt. According to backstage sources who were at RAW, there was not any talk about Orton being injured. Orton will not wrestle at Sunday’s Elimination Chamber PPV as a precautionary measure, but is not expected to miss much ring time beyond that.
According to the Wrestling Observer, Mark Henry was brought to the show with the original plans calling for Henry to replace Orton. It was decided late Tuesday afternoon that Henry could still use more time off to rest his body, so the decision was made to have Santino replace Orton.
– According to the Wrestling Observer, there is a strong feeling among WWE officials that today’s roster is lacking the main event star power of previous generations. While there are a handful of who carry themselves like stars and have major drawing power, overall – the locker room atmosphere is very different than what it was a decade ago. During the tail end of the Attudie Era, WWE had guys like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar as big draws. The next tier of talent included names like The Hardy Boyz, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and more who were hungry to climb the ranks and had the to make skills it happen. Today’s locker room and WWE’s developmental system are chock full of promising talent, but WWE has gone many years without effectively building mid-card talent and they are now paying the price.
– The Rock announced at Thursday’s WrestleMania press conference from the MetLife Stadium that he will be appearing at next year’s WrestleMania 29 – making it his third consecutive WrestleMania appearance. The Rock is scheduled for the April 2nd RAW Supershow, the night after WrestleMania 28. There has been talk of The Rock participating in a match at SummerSlam as well, schedule permitting. Even if SummerSlam does not work out, The Rock is expected to work at least one more pay-per-view in 2012.
– “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons takes aim at Triple H in his latest mailbag column for ESPN affiliated website Grantland.com. When asked if the recent surge of New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin is the NBA’s equivalent of CM Punk this past summer, he instead sounded off self-proclaimed “King of Kings.”
“Does this mean Carmelo is going to be Triple H — the egotistical, overrated star who couldn’t handle that something good was happening without him, so he interjected himself into the storyline and ended up throwing a wet blanket on all the momentum? I sure hope not.”
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has updated his blog, which you can read in it entirety at JRsBarBQ.com. Here are some highlights of what JR wrote about:
Orton’s Elimination Chamber Replacement: “Saw on WWE.com where Santino was replacing Orton in the Smackdown elimination chamber bout. That’s a jaw dropper.”
Divas Division Picking Up Steam: “It seems as if the Diva division in WWE is slow beginning to be more significant. Beth Phoenix is evolving into an intriguing character while Tamina has been evolving steadily. Of course, folks are clamoring for a Kharma vs Phoenix match which will likely happen some day. Kharma only gave birth to her son on New Year’s Eve so her coming back full time is likely still a ways away.”
Undertaker Cuting His Hair: “Why did Taker cut his hair? Beats the hell of of me but I’m sure that matter will be addressed when the time comes. Until then, I, like many of you, will stay tuned. I’ve never gotten so many questions on one topic on Twitter as I have regarding Undertaker’s hair. Wow.”
American Badass Returning: “Is Taker coming back as the American BadAss character? I honestly do not know. I enjoy knowing less, enjoyng the TV shows more, and seeing how things organically play out. I don’t have the desire to know every detail of what’s going on in advance of it happening as do some.”
– WWE.com has published a pseudo-shoot interview with Eve regarding her abrupt kissing session with John Cena in front of Zack Ryder on Monday’s Raw SuperShow as well as the backlash on Twitter.
“I never intended for anything bad to happen to Zack. How this turned out is not how I intended. I acted in the moment – we all make mistakes. I can’t really say I’m sorry, but isn’t it better to be honest than to lead Zack on?”
Torres received an avalanche of angry messages on Twitter, many of which are “not suitable for publishing on WWE.com.”
“It’s been a hard adjustment for me, reading my Twitter timeline. But, people need to realize that there’s more than one side to people. I always try to put my best foot forward both inside and outside the ring. But I have emotions, and that goes for anyone – sometimes emotions just take over.”
Torres also stresses that she’s “only human.”
– Former WWE diva turned porn star Chyna just filmed another adult movie – and her latest flick is a parody of WWE’s Royal Rumble. According to TMZ.com, Chyna will “perform” with 9 men that all look like famous wrestlers, including Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, John Cena, Doink The Clown and of course, her ex-boyfriend, Triple H.
– Nickelodeon has announced The Kids’ Choice Awards 2012 nominees and Kelly Kelly is up for “Favorite Butt Kicker.” Nickelodeon says of the “sexy, smart and powerful” WWE Diva, “Beauty and buffness, that’s a tough combo, to say the least. This WWF star Kelly Kelly is so hardcore that she has double the power of other ladies, and double her first name! But can she go up against Hollywood’s elite?” Her competition is Jessica Alba, Tom Cruise and Taylor Lautner. Voting begins February 24.
– WWE headquarters is still in the process of undergoing major changes, with the office space being reorganized to reflect designated space for each department. Joey Styles, who runs the WWE’s website, recently confirmed those reports when a fan asked him on Twitter if he works from home. Styles replied:
“I work in the newly renovated office space for TV Creative, Magazine and .com at WWE HQ.”
– According to the official website of WWE developmental promotion Florida Championship Wrestling, the wrestler known as Chris Hero has been officially named Kassius Ohno. His newly added profile page can be viewed here. The independent wrestling circuit standout recently reached a developmental contract agreement with WWE after passing a field of medical tests. Hero and tag team partner Claudio Castagnoli were offered contracts last summer after participating in a private workout with company officials. Castagnoli signed but Hero did not due to naturally elevated testosterone/epitestosterone levels, according to the Wrestling Observer. WWE won’t sign individuals who test positive for steroids in their drug testing.
– As we reported earlier in the week, WWE corporate made several recent cuts last Friday that are being described as “shocking.” The most notable cut was Jim Connelly, who served as the Senior Vice President of Consumer Products. He was with the company since 1999. Dean Miller, who worked under Connelly as the Senior Manager of Home Entertainment, and Florence DiGiorgio, who was with WWE since the 1990s and most recently served as the Senior Director of Global Licensing, are also gone from the company. The timing of WWE’s decision to gut the Consumer Products division is especially surprising, coming right before the last week’s big New York Toy Fair.
– Regarding rumours that WWE Legends’ House will premiere on Syfy rather than the WWE Network, nothing has been stated internally about that nor is it listed on Syfy’s programming schedule for April.
– According to the latest polling for the upcoming Connecticut Senate race, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon is currently trailing Democratic candidate Chris Murphy by 9 points.
– A league source tells PFT the Ravens and free agent RB Ray Rice have made “no progress” toward a long-term contract. Rice will likely be playing under the franchise tag next season. Beginning next Monday, the Ravens will have a two-week window to place the tag on the linchpin of their offense. They will then have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension. The tag is expected to guarantee running backs roughly $7.7M in 2012.
– Free agent RB Clinton Portis is intent on returning to the NFL after sitting out last season. Portis has been medically cleared by private doctors after battling concussions and various leg injuries that limited him to eight games in 2009 and five in 2010. His agent claims a “handful” of teams have already shown interest. Ate age-31 though, he probably won’t be able to offer much anymore.
– A league source tells the Buffalo News that the Bills and free agent WR Stevie Johnson have “exchanged proposals” regarding a new contract, and will meet face-to-face at next week’s NFL Combine. The Bills reportedly made their first formal proposal over a week ago. A source told beat writer Rodney McKissic that agent C.J. LaBoy submitted a counteroffer on Monday of this week. Johnson, 25, has led Buffalo in receiving each of the past two seasons.
– Free agent OLB/DE Mario Williams insists becoming the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history is “really not that big of a deal” to him. ”I’m not worried about that. I was the first pick, and I’ve already had everything I really wanted, so my biggest thing is to be in a good position, a good scheme, a good system.” Williams’ hope is that the Texans will make him an offer rich enough to stay in Houston. “I love it here. The team is right where it needs to be. The pieces fit, but it’s part of business. Whatever happens, happens.” Williams says he’s been 100% recovered from his torn pectoral for two weeks.
– The Contra Costa Times now considers free agent RB Michael Bush “unlikely” to be franchise tagged by the Raiders. The tag would be worth roughly $7.7M, which is a lot for a backup tailback.
– Cardinals’ GM Rod Graves said Thursday that free agent DE Calais Campbell will be back with the team in 2012, whether it’s by way of the franchise tag or a long-term deal. Graves emphasized, “rest assured he will be with us this year.” The 25-year-old was second only to Justin Smith among 3-4 defensive ends in Pro Football Focus’ 2011 ratings.
– CSN Bay Area reports the 49ers will allow CB Shawntae Spencer to seek a trade. Spencer lost his starting job while nursing a hamstring injury in training camp. He had started 32 consecutive games from 2009-2010. The 30-year-old is due $3.3M in 2012. Beat writer Matt Maiocco lists the Texans, Seahawks, and Rams as possible fits.
– The Sharks have acquired F Dominic Moore and a 2012 7th-round pick from the Lightning for a 2012 2nd-round pick, previously acquired from Minnesota. In 56 games with Tampa Bay, Moore registered four goals and 19 points. Moore will be playing for his ninth team in nine years.
– The Flyers have acquired D Nicklas Grossman from the Stars for a 2012 2nd-round pick and a 2013 3rd-round pick. Grossman has no goals and five assists in 52 games this season, but has 96 hits and 100 blocked shots. He becomes a UFA on July 1.
– Lightning’ D Pavel Kubina has been benched until the February 27 trade deadline. Kubina has been asked for a list of teams that he would be willing to accept a trade to, and will not play until his future has been decided. Kubina also has a limited no-trade clause. He also didn’t take part in the team’s morning skate on Thursday. Kubina, 38, has three goals and 11 points in 52 games this season. Lightning’ GM Steve Yzerman said,
“In the interim, we’ve decided to protect our interest and keep Pavel off the ice until this situation is resolved. We’re making our decisions on a player-by-player and opportunity-by-opportunity basis. We see potential opportunity to improve our club with regards to Pavel.
The broader strategy is we want to be a better team in the future. We want to be a Cup contender at some point, and we’re going to have to do some things to become that.”
– The Rangers are showing their love for Knicks’ G Jeremy Lin. Check out this New York advertisement:
Rangers’ F Brandon Dubinsky then Tweeted the following:
“Gonna have to pick up a #17 Knicks jersey and get to a game!! DuLINsky???”
– Capitals’ GM George McPhee said he has no intention of trading F Mike Knuble. ”We haven’t had any conversations about it. In fact, we haven’t had any conversations, period. He’s a great pro, a great guy. We have no interest in trading him he hasn’t asked for that. We haven’t talked to him about it.” Knuble has been a healthy scratch for three straight games, but McPhee expects him to return to action this weekend. McPhee said,
“Mike has never asked for anything. We haven’t had any conversations, period. He’s a great pro, a great guy and we have no interest in trading him. He hasn’t asked for that and we haven’t talked to him about it.”
“I don’t expect him to be happy, but sometimes the best thing you can do for a player is to sit him down for a couple games… I think it’s healthy for players to sit down, get a fresh perspective and they’re almost always better when they come back.”
– Capitals’ D Mike Green (groin) will accompany his teammates to Florida where the Capitals will begin a four-game road trip against the Panthers. He has resumed full practices and is looking like a strong possibility to return at some point during the trip. GM George McPhee said, “Could be this weekend, we’ll see. We discussed it a lot and we’ll discuss it again tomorrow and see how he feels after today.” Green hasn’t played since Jan. 7 and he underwent surgery to repair a tear in his stomach lining back on Jan. 17, but he is optimistic about getting back into game action soon.
– Former Capitals’ G Olaf Kolzig gave his thoughts on F Alex Ovechkin and his struggles this season.
“For Alex, it’s a work ethic. He just has to get back to being the way he was in his younger days and maybe not get wrapped up too much in the rock-star status that comes with being Alex Ovechkin.”
“Alex was getting away from playing hard, no-nonsense, honesty type of hockey — exuberant hockey — that he displayed the first three years that he was in the league. I think that’s what endeared him to everybody. Then, all of a sudden, he was still the same Alex; he was celebrating a certain way. And what endeared him to everybody now made him look like a villain.
“Part of it is he’s probably feeling not as loved as he used to be. So he brings that on himself sometimes.”
“Teams have kind of got a handle on him on maybe how to close the gap on him and not allow him those fantastic one-on-one goals that he’s used to scoring.”
– The Red Wings have placed F Dan Cleary (knee) on the IR, retroactive to February 8. In 55 games this season, the 33-year-old has 11 goals and 27 points.
– Former Avalanche’ F Steve Moore, whose lawsuit against then-Canucks’ F Todd Bertuzzi and team ownership still is pending in Ontario nearly eight years after Bertuzzi’s infamous attack in a game in Vancouver, has won a separate court victory. In a ruling handed down Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Master Ronald Dash ordered the release of agreements tied to the recent settling of separate suits tied to the case. Those suits were Bertuzzi against former Canucks coach Marc Crawford; and the Canucks’ ownership (Orca Bay Hockey Ltd.) against Bertuzzi. Bay’s suit against Bertuzzi was a claim that the player had acted on his own in attacking Moore on March 8, 2004. Last month, Danson argued the agreements leading to the end of those other two suits should be released to serve the public interest.
– The Oilers have acquired D Bryan Rodney from the Ducks for F Ryan O’Marra. Rodney has played in 41 games this season with the Syracuse Crunch collecting 20 points. The 27-year-old has played 33 career NHL games with the Hurricanes scoring a goal and adding 12 assists. O’Marra has recorded one assist in seven games for the Oilers this season.
– Kurt Angle, who has not competed in an amateur wrestling contest since winning the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, admits it’s highly unlikely that he will make the United States team for the 2012 event.
“I had to give it a lot of thought, it didn’t just come out of my head and say I’m going to try for Olympics. What are my chances of making the team? Slim to none, I’m not going to lie but, if I can look you in the eye and say I have a chance that’s more than enough. That’s worth training five hours a day to get ready for the trials and for the biggest event of all, the Olympics.”
He added that family members are concerned for his health.
“I’ve had my ex-wife Karen tell me you’re not fit for it. I’ve had family members say they’re concerned about my neck, my mother’s always worried and even some of my brothers aren’t taking me seriously.
“Last time they were with me everywhere I went, now they’re like ‘nah he’s not really doing it’. I’ve been doing it by the grace of God as I don’t have near the support I had back then.”