Athletes shaken by Connecticut shooting


Athletes shaken by Connecticut shooting

MIAMI (AP) When the Miami Heat players and coaches showed up for work Saturday morning, basketball was secondary.

Newtown was the focus.

Friday's massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., was the primary topic of discussion among the Heat, even though they were gathered to finish prepping for a Saturday night game against Washington. It's rare for anything to overshadow basketball on the Heat practice court, but clearly, this was not going to be a typical day.

``Basketball, this is nothing,'' Heat forward LeBron James said. ``These games are nothing compared to when you have a tragedy like that. It sucks that sometimes you need a tragedy to put things back in perspective, to appreciate what you have. But it does that to people. It's unfortunate that you have to have something like that to understand what's really important and some things that aren't important at all. Family is the No. 1 important thing in life.''

It's likely that many Heat players and coaches had never heard of Newtown before Friday.

That doesn't mean they weren't affected, like countless others. Moments of silence were observed before many games.

In Memphis before tipoff of a college basketball game against Louisville, a moment of silence was observed for the victims and for 32-year-old Memphis police officer Martoiya Lang, a mother of four children, who was shot and killed on Friday. Public address announcer Chuck Roberts struggled and his voice choked up a bit as he said the Memphis officer's name. And he finished after the moment ended with ``Amen.''

In England, the Queens Park Rangers soccer team wore black armbands at the request of its players during a Premier League match against Fulham. Chelsea captain John Terry on Instagram said ``So So Sad'' beneath a picture of a candle, and he urged prayers for school. Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany tweeted: ``Giving guns to everyone to `protect' their home or fighting to get rid of all the guns? How many more Newtons will it take?''

Moments of silence were everywhere, from a minor-league hockey game in Hershey, Pa.; a U.S. women's soccer exhibition match in Boca Raton, Fla.; and at golf's Father-Son Challenge in Orlando, Fla., where all players and caddies wore black ribbons to honor the victims.

More tributes - many more - are coming from the sports world over the next few days. It's expected that all NFL games this weekend will be preceded by tributes, such as moments of silence and helmet decals. The New York Giants and New York Jets both plan to wear the letters S.H.E.S., for Sandy Hill Elementary School, on their helmets this weekend. And the New England Patriots will light flares for each of the 26 people killed at the school.

``Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people impacted by that tragedy,'' Jets coach Rex Ryan said Saturday. ``It's, wow, it's amazing. ... Just a horrific deal that happened there.''

The Heat also held a moment of silence Saturday night, with many players being accompanied on the court by their children. Chris Bosh held his son, Jackson, tightly against his chest.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has shopped at the Clackamas Town Center, a mall in his native Oregon where a gunman killed two people Tuesday and then himself. One of Dwyane Wade's nephews was shot last March in Chicago, where gun violence is a major topic of discussion. Ray Allen attended the University of Connecticut, still calls it ``my state'' and expressed shock as he tried to collect information about Friday's events.

``It's still on my mind. I'm really emotional about it. My eyes water up a little bit just thinking about it right now. Your kids are what you live for,'' Heat forward Udonis Haslem said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Spoelstra typically comes into the Heat interview room after game-day practices and makes a brief statement about injury situations or what the team worked on that particular day.

He started his remarks Saturday by talking about Newtown, nothing about the Heat or the Wizards.

``We talked about it as a team today and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the community,'' Spoelstra said. ``Horrific tragedy in Connecticut. We took some time to give our thoughts and prayers to them.

``It's despicable,'' he added. ``It's a horrific tragedy. And it doesn't matter whether you have family or not or kids or not, you can't relate to a tragedy like that.''

Spoelstra said he monitored news reports on the Internet until late Friday night. James was getting updated on the day's events even as the Heat were visiting sick children in a pair of Miami hospitals on Friday afternoon, after which he immediately went home and hugged his own sons, neither of whom is likely old enough to comprehend what took place inside that Newtown school.

``Just having two kids of my own, in elementary, I could not imagine sending them off to school and them not returning,'' James said.

Haslem has three sons, and said he tried telling his oldest boy that ``things happen in this world that we have no control over.''

He's all-too-familiar with the grieving process, having lost close friends and relatives over the years. Still, Haslem insisted that he cannot comprehend what the families in Newtown feel, especially with this all happening so close to Christmas.

``You take it one day at a time. You're never going to forget about it. Time heals the wounds, slowly,'' Haslem said. ``I still grieve over my friends. I still grieve over my family members I've lost. Slowly, slowly, it gets a little bit - not a lot - but a little bit easier.

``We love the money, we love the fame, we love the sport, but at the end of the day, we do this for our kids and the legacy to give them things you never had,'' Haslem said. ``If it was about us, a lot of us would have retired after our first contract. You do this for your kids. Your kids are everything. My three kids are my heart. I just imagine someone taking my heart away from me. Might as well kill me.''


AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. in New York contributed to this report.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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