Wizards

Thursday's Sports in Brief

Thursday's Sports in Brief

CLEVELAND (AP) Rob Chudzinski's first head coaching job will be with the team he loved as a kid.

Chudzinski, who spent the past two seasons as Carolina's offensive coordinator, has been hired by the Browns as their sixth full-time coach since 1999. It's the third stint in Cleveland for Chudzinski, who worked with the Browns previously as an assistant.

The Browns hope the first-time head coach can end years of despair and constant losing, and maybe resurrect a franchise that has made just one trip to the playoffs in the past 14 years.

The team confirmed Chudzinski's hiring with a release Thursday night and said he will be introduced at an 11 a.m. news conference at the team's facility in Berea on Friday

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When he ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest, Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said the former NFL star's abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.

``We saw changes in his behavior and things that didn't add up with him,'' his ex-wife, Gina, told The Associated Press. ``But (CTE) was not something we considered or even were aware of. But pretty immediately (after the suicide) doctors were trying to get their hands on Junior's brain to examine it.''

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey after just one season, the worst in franchise history.

New general manager David Caldwell made the announcement two days after he was hired.

Mularkey, who went 2-14 this season, became the eighth head coach fired since the end of the regular season.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Tim Tebow won't be playing for his hometown team.

The Jacksonville Jaguars made it clear Thursday that they have no plans to pursue the popular and polarizing New York Jets backup quarterback.

The Jets are likely to release the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and Jacksonville native during the offseason, and many believed Tebow would land with the Jaguars.

But new general manager David Caldwell nixed that idea at his introductory news conference.

CLEVELAND (AP) - Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar says he has finally found a treatment to ease years of pain from concussions he sustained during his NFL career.

Kosar said he had more than a dozen documented concussions as a player. After more than a decade of constant headaches, insomnia and slurred speech, Kosar said he began to feel better following just a few weeks of treatments with Dr. Rick Sponaugle, who has a wellness institute in Florida. Kosar said he was skeptical about Sponaugle but he's now convinced the complex therapy, which involves nutritional supplements, works.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco's starting kicker. For now, anyway.

Coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days ahead of the 49ers' NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Rookie running back Chris Rainey has run out of chances with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers cut the troubled 24-year-old following his arrest on a battery charge in Gainesville, Fla., , the latest in a series of off-the-field incidents that have threatened his career.

Gainesville police officers charged Rainey with a single count of misdemeanor simple battery after an altercation with his girlfriend.

BASEBALL

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) - Major League Baseball will test for human growth hormone throughout the regular season and increase efforts to detect abnormal levels of testosterone, a decision the NFL used to pressure its players.

Baseball players were subject to blood testing for HGH during spring training last year, and the agreement between management and the Major League Baseball Players Association expands that throughout the season. Those are in addition to urine tests for other performance-enhancing drugs.

Under the changes to baseball's drug agreement, the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Laval, Quebec, will keep records of each player, including his baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and will conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) tests of any urine specimens that ``vary materially.''

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton vetoed a trade to the Seattle Mariners, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

The person asked to remain anonymous because Upton's decision had not been made public. Upton's contract gave him the power to turn down a trade to a short list of cities, Seattle included.

The Diamondbacks have a glut of outfielders and Upton, a former All-Star, is by far the most marketable. He is coming off a subpar season in which he was bothered by a thumb injury.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Although Pete Rose wasn't surprised when no players got a call from the Hall of Fame this week, baseball's career hits leader hopes to provide a few lessons in patience to the rest of his sport's tarnished superstars.

The 71-year-old Rose says he's ``a little sad'' nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Although Rose says he's a friend of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and every star of baseball's Steroids Era, he also says anything that artificially alters the game's statistics shouldn't be praised or honored.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - NHL players will have 36 hours from Thursday night until Saturday morning to vote on the new labor deal that would end the four-month lockout.

The players' association announced that electronic voting will begin Thursday at 8 p.m. EST and will last until Saturday at 8 a.m. The union said it will announce the result after voting is finished.

If a majority of the more than 700 players choose to accept the deal that NHL owners unanimously ratified on Wednesday, training camps will open Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin Jan. 19.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams are in the same half of the draw at the Australian Open, setting up the possibility of a semifinal match between the defending champion and the title favorite.

No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova, the French Open champion, is on the other half of the draw with No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 5 Angelique Kerber and No. 6 Li Na. She could meet Venus Williams in the third round.

Novak Djokovic's bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title got a boost when No. 2-ranked Roger Federer and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray both landed in the other half when the official draw was made Friday.

SYDNEY (AP) - Agnieszka Radwanska claimed back-to-back WTA titles by dispatching Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-0 in the Sydney International final.

HOBART, Australia (AP) - Unseeded Russian Elena Vesnina defeated American teenager Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-2 to reach the Hobart International final against titleholder Mona Barthel.

GOLF

HONOLULU (AP) - Scott Langley made a rookie debut on the PGA Tour he won't soon forget.

Russell Henley wasn't too shabby, either.

Langley thrived on a penetrating ball flight and a pure putting stroke for an 8-under 62 that gave him a one-shot lead over Henley after the first round of the Sony Open.

SKIING

Lindsey Vonn's divorce from her husband of more than four years has become official.

Thomas Vonn confirmed the information in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday night. The couple announced their separation more than a year ago.

In the email, he said: ``I wish Lindsey all the best in her new life. I hope she finds the happiness that she's looking for - that's all I've ever wanted for her.''

Vonn returned to the World Cup circuit with a downhill training run in St. Anton, Austria, after a three-week absence caused by an intestinal illness.

SOCCER

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - David Villa scored twice to raise his season total to 10 goals and Alexis Sanchez got his second and third goals of the season to lead defending champion Barcelona over Cordoba 5-0 and into the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.

Resting Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona won the total-goals series 7-0 and will play against Malaga in the next round. Barcelona also plays at Malaga in the Spanish league on Sunday.

AUTO RACING

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - Al-Attiyah's buggy led the first Chilean stage all the way from Arica on the coast inland to Calama, beating defending champion Peterhansel in his Mini by more than eight minutes to cut the Frenchman's overall lead to an insignificant 1 minute, 18 seconds.

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

After his team showed resilience in erasing a 24-point lead to beat the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night, head coach Scott Brooks swept aside an opportunity to fire back at critics of himself and his team following a barrage of negative headlines in recent days.

Brooks did, however, take the time to address one particular angle of the whole mess. He issued a passionate defense of his star point guard, John Wall, who has been at the center of the controversies surrounding the organization.

Brooks and Wall had an altercation last week during practice that led to Wall receiving a fine from the team. Brooks spoke at length about the incident itself at shootaround. After Tuesday's win, he honed in on a specific criticism of Wall, that he is out of shape and not giving an honest effort on the floor.

"John, he's been taking hits. Let's face it," Brooks said. "You hear all the reports that he's heavy. The guy has seven percent body fat..."

"He's in great shape. I like the way he plays. He plays hard."

Brooks went on to point out how Wall hasn't been playing at 100 percent for much of this season. Wall has dealt with a deep thigh bruise and it's partly to explain for the Wizards' 6-11 start.

The overall numbers look about how they should for Wall.

He's averaging 21.5 points, 7.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. But his defense has been lacking and he's not getting the assists he usually collects because he hasn't had the same burst in transition.

Playing through injuries is always tricky for professional athletes. When people know they're hurt, that effort is often appreciated. But when the injuries aren't disclosed, fans and members of the media can only draw conclusions based on what they see.

Brooks explained in detail why he thinks Wall should be cut some slack for his start to the season.

"He's a warrior. There's a lot of guys that I've seen in my playing career that they love to sit out. They're just talented and they've got talented contracts. They sit out and you can't do anything about it. You admire and you appreciate and you celebrate the guys that play hard. You don't have to tell the world that he's banged up," Brooks said.

"He didn't say one word and I wasn't gonna say it. It's over. He's feeling great. He's fought. He's not gonna tell the world 'look at me, I'm sore.' He doesn't want your sympathy. He just fights and he plays the right way. He plays hard."

Brooks is clearly trying to stick up for his star player and change the current media narrative.

As long as the Wizards win, that shouldn't be hard to do.

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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around. 

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