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Sepp Blatter pledges $100M to Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded Friday to criticism of the cost of staging the World Cup in Brazil by pledging to give at least $100 million from profits back to the country.

Soccer’s governing body gave South Africa $100 million to invest in development projects following the 2010 World Cup, but had not previously said it would establish a similar ”social fund” after the 2014 tournament to Brazil.

The Confederations Cup, a World Cup warmup event, has been marred by protesters denouncing billions of dollars spent to host the World Cup – money some say should be going toward improving public services.

”We have left a legacy (in South Africa), a special fund of $100 million, this fund is controlled by the Football (Association) of (South) Africa, the government of South Africa and FIFA,” Blatter said during a news conference. ”I am sure an amount like that, or even higher, will be possible to have here… The aim from FIFA is not to take profit out of the country, but to put into the country.”

Blatter said he can ”understand this social unrest” in Brazil while the tournament has been taking place.

The demonstrations took off earlier this month over a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fare in Sao Paulo and morphed into a mass, nationwide movement voicing public dissatisfaction with a range of issues such as government corruption, poor education, health care and spending on the World Cup.

The government is projecting that $13.3 billion will be spent on stadiums, airport renovations and other projects for the World Cup, with an estimated $3.5 billion on the 12 venues.

As violence escalated in the streets near to Confederations Cup matches, with protesters clashing with police, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said her government would start to invest in projects the public had been demanding.

”They have promised to change – this is not our problem, this is a political problem, but something will be changed,” Blatter said. ”Then the World Cup will have this platform when finally this can be delivered. It’s all a question of patience and a question of trust and confidence.”

Blatter also expressed ”trust and confidence” in how the authorities coped with ”some uncomfortable situations we have witnessed” during the Confederations Cup, declining to comment on the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at some protesters.

Blatter, though, expects soccer to help unite the nation, and Brazil will lift the Confederations Cup on Sunday if it can beat reigning world and European champion Spain.

”Hope is one of the elements of football.. we play football nowadays in all perturbed countries in all the world,” Blatter said. ”And not only in the perturbed countries where there are many (security) situations, like in Syria or in Afghanistan where we play football, but also (where) there is some social unrest.

”Look at European countries, there is social unrest – there are demonstrations in Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece.”

The extent of the public anger was clear to Blatter at the opening match of the Confederations Cup between Brazil and Japan, with fans loudly jeered him and Rousseff.

Blatter said he did not know if the president would attend Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian government told The Associated Press: ”We do not have that information.”

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A dream season missing only a win for Spieth

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — At this time a year ago, Jordan Spieth was playing a couple of PGA Tour events for nothing more than experience and gearing up for a summer of amateur golf before returning to Texas for the start of his sophomore season.

Golf is a job now, and it’s even more fun.

The 19-year-old Texan describes this summer as ”free swinging,” and it’s not a bad place to be. He started the season in January with no guaranteed place to play, and he already is assured of a PGA Tour card when the new season starts in October.

Now he wants more – a PGA Tour win that would create bountiful opportunities – and the AT&T National would be a good place to start.

Spieth hit all 18 greens in regulation Friday, extended his streak without a bogey to 29 holes at tough Congressional and wound up with a 5-under 66 to share the 36-hole lead with Roberto Castro going into the weekend.

Not everyone has completed 36 holes just yet. Thunderstorms late in the afternoon halted the second round, and the other half of the field was to return Saturday morning to complete the round. Spieth and Castro (69) were at 7-under 135. Andres Romero of Argentina was at 5-under with five holes remaining. No one else was within four shots of the leaders when play was stopped.

Asked what it would mean to win, Spieth said it would be ”huge,” until showing some maturity.

”I can’t really think about that at this point,” he said. ”It’s only halfway through the tournament. So there’s a long way to go.”

It already feels like a long journey this year.

For a teenager who started the season with no tour to call his own, this is his 14th tournament on the PGA Tour – five more than Tiger Woods – and he already has earned more than $900,000, which is the equivalent of being No. 39 on the tour money list.

But he won’t be eligible for the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs unless he’s a PGA Tour member, and he can’t be a member this year unless he wins.

”Honestly, I think it’s a great position to be in,” Spieth said. ”I’m just free swinging. I can’t be in the playoffs unless I win, and that makes winning the No. 1 goal. You’d like to get in the playoffs and play against the top players, the best players from this year. It’s everyone’s goal out here to win the FedEx Cup. My goal is to move up the world rankings as much as I can, and that’s the way to do it, is to get into those playoffs.”

D.H. Lee had a 66 and was two shots behind at 5-under 139. Cameron Tringale (67) and James Driscoll (69) were another shot behind, while the group at 3-under 139 included former British Open champion Stewart Cink (69), Gary Woodland (69) and David Lingmerth, who went from around the cut line to contention with a 65.

Spieth has lived up to the hype he first generated when he played late on Sunday in the Byron Nelson Championship at age 16 and tied for 16th. In one year at Texas, the Longhorns won the NCAA title. And in six months as a pro, he has shown quickly that he belongs.

He already has four top 10s and has special temporary membership, meaning he gets unlimited exemptions. His goal was to somehow get a PGA Tour card for 2013-14 season, and a win would be over the top.

Even so, the teenager who was born just three years before Woods turned pro is savvy to realize the tournament is not even halfway over.

”Now all there’s left to do is try and get a win to make the playoffs,” he said. ”So I’m just going out there trying to win and being aggressive, and hopefully, it will work out for me.”

Scoring was slightly better at Congressional, a course that has hosted the U.S. Open three times. Warmer weather in the morning made the ball fly a little farther and shortened the longest PGA Tour course on the mainland.

Spieth began his day with a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole, avoided a long three-putt from above the hole on No. 4 by making a 12-foot par putt and then picked up four birdies over the final five holes on the front nine for a 31. He made nine pars on the back nine, never coming close to a bogey.

It was a clean round, executed well by a teenager who plays like he knows where he is going.

”I’m excited for what the weekend is going to bring,” he said.

Castro tied the course record on the TPC Sawgrass in May with a 63 to lead the opening round of The Players Championship, and then he followed with a 78 and never seriously challenged the rest of the week. After opening with a 66 at Congressional, he dropped a shot early from a fairway bunker on No. 3 and was plodding along until finishing the back nine with a pair of birdies, and then adding a birdie on the par-5 16th.

”I felt good,” he said. ”I probably learned a lot there (at Sawgrass) and realized that one round doesn’t mean anything – just got to keep going. And I was able to do that.”

Woods, the defending champion, is not playing because of an elbow injury, and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose withdrew earlier in the week because of fatigue. Some of the other big names most likely won’t be around for the weekend, such as Hunter Mahan, who had a 72 and was at 5-over 147. Masters champion Adam Scott traded birdies and bogeys in his round of 71 that left him nine shots behind.

Brandt Snedeker had to salvage a scrappy round with two late birdies for a 71, leaving him five shots behind.

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Oregon lands high-scoring transfer Joseph Young and hopes to get him eligible immediately

Joseph Young (USATSI Oregon received a late boost last summer when it landed one-year transfer Arsalan Kazemi to plug a hole in its frontcourt.

It’s possible Houston transfer Joseph Young could do the same for next season’s backcourt if he’s able to get eligible immediately.

Young, Houston’s leading scorer last season, canceled all his visits to other schools and committed to Oregon on Friday, according to multiple reports. He’ll have a chance to seek a waiver to play right away based on the precedent the NCAA set last year when it granted Trey Zeigler that right after he left Central Michigan when the school fired his dad as head coach.

It’s always dangerous to rely on the NCAA to follow precedents, but there are similarities between Young’s departure at Houston and Zeigler’s at Central Michigan. Young left Houston earlier this month when his father refused reassignment, opting to quit his job rather than accept a demotion from director of basketball operations to a community service role.

Whenever Young becomes eligible in Eugene, whether that’s as a redshirt junior for the 2013-14 season or as a redshirt senior the following year, his scoring ability will help the Ducks. The former top 100 recruit averaged a team-high 18.0 points per game and shot 42.5 percent from behind the arc last season as a sophomore, leading Houston to a solid 20-13 season.

If Young were to beat the odds and play next season, the possibilities are tantalizing for the Ducks.

They could start a backcourt of Dominic Artis, Young and Damyean Dotson with UNLV transfer Mike Moser and returning forward Ben Carter in the frontcourt. They’ll still miss the toughness and rebounding Kazemi and Tony Woods provided, but that’s a talented enough unit to challenge Arizona for the Pac-12 crown and make another run in the NCAA tournament.

If Young cannot play until the following year, then outside shooting is not such a strength for next season’s team. Regardless, Oregon coach Dana Altman continues to find transfers capable of helping his program sustain its success.

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Our five favourite things from the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade

Back on Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. You might recall.

On Friday, the club was honoured by the city of Chicago with a Cup parade and rally, as is tradition, and as you might expect, it was a lot of fun.

These are a few of my favourite things.

5 | Look at that flippin’ crowd

I can’t get enough of this photo, courtesy Nina Falcone:

You know what we call a crowd that big here in Vancouver? An emergency.

Another great shot, courtesy Getty Images:

What a turnout.

4 | Patrick Kane had a lot to drink, but he kept it classy

Last time around, Kane was pretty wasted. He was pretty wasted this time too, but he managed to keep things above board.

This year’s speech from the Conn Smythe trophy winner, which you can watch here, was semicoherent.

Contrast it with the video from 2010 that chronicled his hard-partying ways in 2010. He’s a changed man.

3 | Duncan Keith quotes Benito Mussolini

Because that’s just what you do.

“It is better to live one day as a lion than a thousand days as a lamb.”

Considering the voice appeared to be a William Wallace impression, one assumes Keith thought he was quoting Braveheart. But this quote is usually attributed to Benito Mussolini.

Lucky for Keith, it’s actually from a Roman proverb.

2 | Pat Quinn gets booed

That’s Illinois governor Pat Quinn, not the hockey guy, who might have received a warmer reception from the crowd. Corey Crawford’s speech was well-received. This guy’s? Not so much.

Quinn: “We’re all Hawk fans today.”

Crowd: “Booooooooooooooo!”

The only cheer he gets is when he steps away from the podium.

Man. If you can’t get a crowd pop at a Cup rally, you can’t get one anywhere. I like that when he gets louder, the booing does too.

1 | Corey Crawford, profane champion

Corey Crawford’s speech was much more well-received than Quinn’s. It helped that he just backstopped the Blackhawks to the Cup, and that he was charmingly, profoundly, profanely drunk.

In a short speech, Crawford established that his boys were the champions, that they worked their nuts off, and he dropped two quality F-bombs. Watch the whole thing right here.

More NHL coverage from Yahoo! Sports
• Report: Dan Bylsma to be U.S. Olympic head coach
• Daniel Alfredsson will return for 18th NHL season
• Flames, Avalanche complete four-player swap
• Mark Messier leaves the New York Rangers

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Yankees will get back almost $19 million on Mark Teixeira’s salary from insurance policies

(Getty Images)

For the New York Yankees, a team that’s been getting bad news upon bad news this year, here’s something good: EPSN New York is reporting that insurance will cover close to $19 million of Mark Teixeira’s $22.5 million salary this season. The Yankees announced earlier this week that their injured slugger would need season-ending wrist surgery.

It’s not the kind of news that’s necessarily going to help the Yankees in the standings — unless the savings push them to make a trade — but it sure will help their bank account.

Teixeira played in only 15 games this season, an on-the-field spurt book-ended by injuries. He initially hurt himself during the lead-up to the World Baseball Classic. Since he was hurt during WBC prep, insurance provided by MLB covers $7 million of his salary. Teixeira re-aggravated the wrist injury a few weeks back and was placed on the disabled list.

A Yankees insurance policy, according to an ESPN source, will now cover another larger chunk of Teixeira’s contract. All told, insurance is expected to eat $18.7 million of what Teixeira will be paid this year.

Now what about A-Rod? Aren’t there some insurance issues in play there? Glad you asked. Let’s kick it over to ESPN New York for that one:

If A-Rod were to miss the entire season because of his hip, the Yankees would not receive the full $28 million he is owed from his temporary insurance. The most they would save is $9 million because of how the policy is set up.

The big score for the Yankees would be if Rodriguez’s hip won’t allow him to play again. If this were to happen, the Yankees would put in a claim on their permanent policy and, possibly, could recoup about 80 percent the approximate $100M Rodriguez is still owed.

Between A-Rod, Teixeira and all the rest of their injuries, anybody else wondering what the Yankees insurance premiums are going to look like next year? Wowzers.

Baseball season’s in full swing. Don’t miss a thing.
Follow @MikeOz and @bigleaguestew, on Twitter, along with the BLS Facebook page.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to start first at Kentucky

Smile, Junior, you got the pole! (Getty)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his first pole of the season Friday and will lead the field to green in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.

Junior’s lap of 183.636 MPH was enough to beat Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, the only two other drivers to break the 183 MPH barrier. And, has become customary this season with NASCAR’s new car, Junior’s pole speed was a track record. (Nine drivers broke the previous track record.)

It’s the 12th career pole for the series’ most popular driver and his first since the fall race at Richmond last season. Last year at Kentucky, he started seventh and finished fourth.

Kyle Busch will start fourth and Marcos Ambrose starts fifth. There were just 43 cars at Kentucky, so no one will miss the race.

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Shuffle Up: Miggy Cabrera and everybody else

The best hitter in the world (USAT)

Here’s the price-only part of the corner shuffle, what your weekend depends on. Please use responsibly.

Sometime late tonight (or perhaps Saturday) I’ll add comments and the courtesy injury ranks. And what’s below, to be honest, is still tentative. I’m still letting the prices settle.

All the corner-eligible Yahooligan bats are here, save for the catchers (who we wouldn’t use at catcher anyway). Injured ranks will come later. See anyone who’s missing? Let me know.

What’s happened to this point is an audition. What you see on this post is what I think they’ll be worth, more or less, the rest of the year. Don’t worry about the prices in a vacuum – what matters is how the players relate to one another.

You should know the rest of the preamble. Assume a 5×5 scoring system, of course. Make the jump, have a look around.

$33 Miguel Cabrera
$30 Paul Goldschmidt
$28 Prince Fielder
$28 Joey Votto
$28 David Wright
$28 Chris Davis
$26 Adrian Beltre
$25 Edwin Encarnacion
$24 Evan Longoria
$22 Albert Pujols
$22 Allen Craig
$20 Ryan Zimmerman
$20 Mark Trumbo
$20 Freddie Freeman
$20 Manny Machado
$19 Adrian Gonzalez
$19 Matt Carpenter
$19 Michael Cuddyer
$18 David Ortiz
$17 Anthony Rizzo
$16 Pablo Sandoval
$16 Hanley Ramirez
$16 Billy Butler
$16 Pedro Alvarez
$15 Chase Headley
$14 Adam Lind
$13 Aramis Ramirez
$13 Martin Prado
$13 Josh Donaldson
$12 Ryan Howard
$12 Kyle Seager
$11 Mark Reynolds
$11 Adam Dunn
$11 Adam LaRoche
$11 Eric Hosmer
$11 Kendrys Morales
$10 Marco Scutaro
$10 Todd Frazier
$10 Nick Swisher
$9 David Freese
$9 Daniel Murphy
$9 Michael Young
$9 Justin Morneau
$8 Mitch Moreland
$7 Brandon Moss
$6 Anthony Rendon
$6 Brandon Belt
$6 Kyle Blanks
$6 Garrett Jones
$6 Chris Carter
$5 DJ LeMahieu
$5 Paul Konerko
$5 Kelly Johnson
$5 Trevor Plouffe
$4 James Loney
$4 Lance Berkman
$4 Chris Johnson
$4 Nolan Arenado
$3 Mike Aviles
$2 Jayson Nix
$2 Logan Morrison
$2 Juan Francisco
$2 Matt Adams
$2 Mike Moustakas
$2 Jose Iglesias
$2 John Mayberry
$2 Dustin Ackley
$2 Matt Dominguez
$2 Luis Valbuena
$1 Daniel Descalso
$1 Maicer Izturis
$1 Pedro Ciriaco
$1 Alberto Callaspo
$1 Nick Punto
$1 Justin Smoak
$1 Lyle Overbay
$1 Mike Carp
$1 Luke Scott

Former MLB pitcher Justin Miller dead at 35

(USA Today) The Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday that Major League Baseball pitcher Justin Miller, 35, was found dead Wednesday night in Palm Harbor, FL.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office confirmed Miller's death on Friday and a sheriff's spokeswoman stated that while authorities are investigating, no cause of death has been determined. The sheriff's office also would not reveal where his body was found.

Miller played baseball professionally for 15 years, most recently pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010. He also logged time in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, Florida (now Miami) Marlins and San Francisco Giants, appearing in 216 games. The majority of his time was spent as a reliever, but he did make 33 big league starts.

The most notable part of his career came in 2004 and had nothing to do with his performance on the field. After opposing hitters began complaining about the amount of colorful tattoos Miller had on his arms and how they served as a distraction, MLB ruled that Miller had to begin wearing long sleeves on the mound to keep them covered up. That rule would become known as the "Justin Miller Rule" around baseball and remained a topic of conversation until his retirement.

According to his wife of 15 years, Jessica Miller, Justin Miller had turned to coaching since stepping away from the game and even founded Justin Miller's Legacy Baseball/Softball and Personal Training in Clearwater, FL. in 2012.

"He was gifted at putting things in a language that kids could understand. That was something he was really proud of," she said.

In addition to his wife, Jessica, Miller also leaves behind two sons Joseph, 18, and Johnnie, 7.

"I think he'd want the world to know that he always did his best at work and at being a dad," his wife said. "He always tried."

Looking for more baseball chatter?
Follow @bigleaguestew, @Townie813, @AnswerDave and @MikeOz on Twitter
Also, check out the BLS Facebook Page

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WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is a punch away from stardom (Yahoo! Sports)

A fascinating scene unfolded in the bowels of Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, not long after Gennady Golovkin stopped Gabriel Rosado, that speaks volumes about Golovkin’s star potential.

HBO’s cameras captured a bloodied and beaten Rosado in his dressing room, talking to promoter J. Russell Peltz.

“He has this power, man, that’s like, whoa ,” Rosado said.

Gennady Golovkin, left, and Matthew Macklin hope to put on a show Saturday at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, … In the next clip of the video of HBO’s “2 Days: Gennady Golovkin,” the camera focuses on Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez. Golovkin had fought with a terrible head cold, and Sanchez is relating how it impacted Golovkin’s performance that night.

“He won every round, but he just didn’t have the snap that he’s had in the past,” Sanchez said.

He didn’t have the snap he’s had in the past.

Golovkin, the WBA middleweight champion, battered Rosado, a big, strong and durable boxer, for several rounds before Rosado’s corner had stopped it because they feared Rosado would be seriously injured.

And yet, here was Sanchez saying that Golovkin wasn’t punching as well as normal.

That ability to punch, to change the course of a bout with a single blow, is what has made Golovkin one of the sport’s most promising champions. He’s superbly conditioned, he has good boxing sense, he moves well and he’s a good combination puncher, but that rare power is what separates him from the pack.

It’s what makes his promoter, Tom Loeffler, refer to him as the best middleweight in the world, and it’s what could make him the sport’s next big thing.

But all is not perfect in Golovkin’s world. His HBO-televised bout on Saturday against Matthew Macklin at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., will present him with, by far, his toughest test.

Golovkin is 26-0 with 23 knockouts, giving him the highest knockout percentage among major world champions, but, to borrow a phrase from former welterweight champ Paulie Malignaggi, a lot of those opponents were no more than taxi cab drivers or Laundromat workers.

Macklin, 29-4 with 20 knockouts, represents the kind of quality, experienced opponent that Golovkin has not seen much yet in his career.

Golovkin has come under some criticism for not only fighting lower-rated middleweights, but also super welterweights. Rosado moved up to middleweight to face Golovkin.

Loeffler said he’s been looking to land the big names for Golovkin, but thus far, none has been available or willing.

Sergio Martinez is the obvious choice fans want to see against Golovkin, but Martinez is injured and unavailable, with no return date in sight.

“There has been some criticism as far as [Gennady] only fighting junior middleweights or not the top-level competition,” Loeffler said. “But that’s certainly not from his standpoint. … There is no name we’ve turned down for Gennady.”

Macklin unquestionably is a high-level opponent, and he knocked Martinez down during their March 17, 2012, bout in New York.

He’s aggressive and likely isn’t going to shy away, but the thing that makes Golovkin special is that he won’t, either. Because Macklin hits hard and likes to trade, some suspect that Golovkin will incorporate more lateral movement and boxing into his game.

That will not be the case, Golovkin insisted. He’ll be available and if Macklin wants a fight, he’s going to get it.

Gennady Golovkin lands a punch against Nobuhiro Ishida in his last bout in March. (AP Photo) “I’m not thinking about making many changes,” Golovkin said. “My strategy is my strategy.”

Macklin is no steppingstone under ordinary circumstances. In this case, though, he’s setting up to be Golovkin’s steppingstone to stardom.

If Golovkin can do to Macklin what he did to Rosado and Nobuhiro Ishida, a star will be born.

Golovkin is not only powerful, but he’s engaging, charismatic and well aware of what he needs to do to become a star.

Fans watch boxing for many reasons. There is a segment of the population that appreciates the subtlety of the game, the ability to slip punches and counter well, the gift of being able to walk an opponent into a shot.

But the masses love the power, and Golovkin’s got what Sanchez calls “Mike Tyson power.” If he shows that against a quality middleweight like Macklin, there is going to be plenty of demand for Golovkin against the likes of Martinez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and even Andre Ward.

First, though, Golovkin needs to perform, and Sanchez has no doubt he will.

“I think Matthew’s biggest asset is having Buddy [McGirt], who is such a great trainer, in his corner,” Sanchez said. “We are excited about this fight because we know Matthew is going to be right there in front of us. We are expecting a tough fight, but also a short fight. It is going to be very exciting for as long as it lasts.”

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Jack Johnson was on the run 100 years ago
• Is Mayweather-Alvarez all hype and no substance?
• Adrien Broner hits a grand slam for Showtime
• Juan Manuel Marquez-Tim Bradley PED testing in good hands

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Boston Celtics dealing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to Brooklyn is a shocker on so many levels

Jason Kidd thinks, “dang, we have to trade for this guy” (Getty Images)

For years, we’ve known what the Brooklyn Nets were doing. General manager Billy King has basically attempted to latch on to the biggest names available, no matter the basketball price, the actual payroll figure, or potential fit with his incumbent roster.

Boston’s most recent motives were also clear. We knew the Boston Celtics were rebuilding. We just have no clue why they’re going about it this way.

As was first reported and then broken by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics have sent the two remaining players from their 2008 NBA Finals-winning “Big Three” to Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will go to the Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Reggie Evans, and a signed-and-traded Keith Bogans. Jason Terry will also head to the Nets, who will also send Boston about as many first round picks as it legally can – the team’s 2014, 2016, and 2018 first rounders, along with the right for Boston to switch 2017 first rounders if Brooklyn’s pick is higher.

On the surface, this seems like your typical fire sale return, even given the status of KG and Pierce. A deeper look reveals something more troubling for Boston fans.

It’s understandable that Boston wanted to engage a rebuilding process, as the team wasn’t exactly threatening to be an Eastern powerhouse even before Rajon Rondo’s ACL tear in March. Garnett and Pierce had various contract options, though, that allowed for one last go of things next year under a brand new coach, or a chance to buy out and waive Pierce on Friday and Garnett the next summer. Neither would be ideal, because Garnett would be the wolf left amongst the veterans, playing for a team that probably wouldn’t make the playoffs.

Teams don’t rebuild with this sort of payroll, though. The Celtics will still be way over the cap next season, and the team enters the 2014 offseason right at the salary cap level due to Wallace’s massive deal (three years, and $33 million after 2012-13), with restricted free agent Avery Bradley ready to hit a market that will have scads of teams working with cap space, and several roster spots left to fill.

Real cap relief, the hallmark for any rebuilding team, won’t really set in until the 2015 offseason. And that’s when Rajon Rondo, sick of it all, could flee as a free agent. By the way, Gerald Wallace will still be on the books (two full years after the Chicago Bulls basically ignored him on offense during Brooklyn’s first round loss earlier this year) for over $10.1 million.

The reward for all this cash, and all this patience? Most likely four of the Nets’ upcoming five first round picks.

Is that worth it? I understand that Garnett only had a few teams he would propose waiving his no-trade clause for, to say nothing of the massive salaries KG ($11.5) and Pierce ($16.7) are set to make next season, but was this the best Danny Ainge could do? It’s not even a deal that was only NBA-legal on NBA draft night, either, as the deal can’t formerly be announced until July 10. There were no timely stipulations, outside of a mutual insistence on getting it done, that forced the teams to agree to it on June 27.

It’s not all that great for the Nets, either. Or, more specifically, the outlook isn’t all that bright despite all these famous players that you’ve heard a lot about.

Boston’s well-respected millstone: Gerald Wallace (Getty Images) They’re way over the luxury tax line, which means the team isn’t allowed by the NBA to compete with other franchises for players looking to play for salary cap exceptions, and they can’t engineer sign-and-trade deals to add depth while dealing out one of their massively compensated players. Pierce’s contract may run out after next season, but Garnett stipulated that he’d only waive his no-trade clause if the Nets guaranteed to pick up the team option on his contract for 2014-15. All while Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez alone make more than $201 million combined between now and 2017.

This is it, for Brooklyn. A first round team from 2013 (losing to the Nate Robinson-led Chicago Bulls, at home in a Game 7) that is bolstering its attack by adding two of the three best players from another first round team.

It’s also hard to call this a “bad” trade for the Nets, because they’ll definitely improve, they weren’t getting out of their salary cap hell anyway and it’s not our money they’re spending. Still, if guard C.J. Watson opts out of his deal, the Nets will be on the books for nearly $97 million in payroll next year (with $80 million in luxury tax bills on top of that), with only nine players on the roster, and that includes two players (Tornike Shengailia, and Tyshawn Taylor) that you’ve never heard of.

I understand the limitations for both teams. Pierce’s status as an all-timer, Garnett’s no-trade clause, Doc Rivers’ unhappiness and eventual leave, and the relative limitation of last year’s version of Boston’s supporting cast all led to a combustible mix.

And the Nets weren’t going to be able to change things this summer, because while Brooklyn basically signed off on adding any cheap help through the first round of the draft for four of the next five years (while adding more highly-compensated help), they’ve always been attempting to win now. Even with a new coach in Jason Kidd who hasn’t coached a game in his life.

This deal has to wait until July 10, though, which means it could have happened (after Boston picked up Pierce’s contract) at any point in the summer. Couldn’t Boston have gotten more? Couldn’t it have found its way toward a swifter, less drawn-out rebuilding process?

Danny Ainge made his initial hay by finding great players with middling draft picks in the years prior to the debut of the Big Three. He’ll be stuck with the same task for the next few years, while his owners write checks for teams that will be both difficult to watch, and difficult to win with. It’s an unfortunate start to something we’ve known would eventually come someday, since that fateful day (after day) in 2007 that saw the Boston Celtics bring Kevin Garnett to town.

NBA draft coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Yahoo! NBA draft tracker
• Anthony Bennett Speechless after being picked No. 1
• David Stern trolls fans in final NBA draft
• Pelicans trade Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday
• Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira wins best hair at NBA draft
• Hakeem Olajuwon shows up in style to bid David Stern farewell

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Here’s a woman kissing a horse mask at the Spain-Italy match

(Reuters)

If you’re wondering why Leonardo Bonucci was the only player to miss a penalty kick in the shootout that finally brought an end to Spain and Italy’s Confederations Cup semifinal, it might’ve been because he caught sight of this going on the stands. A Spain fan. Wearing a horse mask. And making out with the woman next to him.

That’s enough to make anyone miss. It’s also enough to intrigue Dimitar Berbatov, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Kim leads Park by 1 stroke at US Women’s Open

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — No surprise that a South Korean leads the U.S. Women’s Open after the first round, considering the country has produced the last four major champions.

Ha-Neul Kim was an unlikely candidate to be the one to shoot the low score Thursday at Sebonack. Her bogey-free, 6-under 66 put her a stroke ahead of top-ranked Inbee Park.

Park is trying to make history by winning the first three majors of the year. For a day at least, she was upstaged by her much less-heralded friend.

”I was very nervous coming in, and I thought in the practice round that the course was very difficult,” Kim said through a translator. ”Before playing today I thought that even par would be a very good score for me.”

Currently a member of the KLPGA Tour, Kim is a seven-time winner in South Korea. She kept giving herself short birdie putts Thursday and making them.

”I’m enjoying myself,” Kim said. ”I’m just happy to be here and to be playing in this big event. I’m not really thinking about winning or results but enjoying the moment.”

Kim birdied her second-to-last hole with daylight waning to claim the lead after Park held it for most of the day with her 67 in the morning session.

No player has won the first three majors in a season with at least four majors. The 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park has already won five times this year, including her last two tournaments.

American Lizette Salas, Swedes Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist and South Korea’s I.K. Kim shot 68.

Concerned about bad weather, tournament officials moved up the tees, and with the rain holding off, Park was able to play aggressively.

”I never had practiced from those tees, so I was a little bit shocked when I went to the tees,” Park said.

Not that she was complaining.

She repeatedly set up short putts, and the way she has excelled in her short game lately, Park was headed to a low score.

”So instead of hitting like 5-irons, we were hitting 9-irons, and that was making the course much easier,” she said. ”I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. I made a lot of putts and didn’t leave much out there.”

Starting on No. 10, Park birdied her first hole then started racking up pars. She made the turn at 2 under before birdies on three of her next four holes.

At 5 under, Park briefly struggled with her tee shots, needing to save par on Nos. 5 and 7. On No. 6, her 15th hole of the day, she had to lay up out of the tall grass and settled for her lone bogey.

Park got back to 5 under on the par-5 eighth with a chip shot to about 5 feet that set up a birdie putt.

Hedwall and I.K. Kim were each at 5 under with a hole left, but closed with bogeys. Nordqvist birdied her last two holes to pull into the tie for third.

The two Swedes grew up playing together.

”Certainly seeing her shooting 4 under in the morning session gave me a little bit of inspiration for the afternoon,” Nordqvist said.

Salas, a 23-year-old former Southern California star, played with Park in the last group of the final round of this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. Three strokes back starting the day, she opened with a double bogey and tumbled to 25th after shooting a 79.

She bounced back to reach a playoff at the LPGA Lotte Championship in April, losing to Suzann Pettersen for her best finish on tour.

”I’m just getting a lot more used to being in contention and really studying the leaderboard and really managing my patience,” Salas said. ”I think that’s been key for me this week. Yes, I still get nervous on the first tee and my hands keep shaking, but I just know that if I just trust myself and trust my instincts, I can perform out here.”

Chile’s Paz Echeverria, a 28-year-old LPGA Tour rookie also making her U.S. Women’s Open debut, and Canada’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc shot 69.

Among eight players at 70 was Natalie Gulbis, who withdrew from a tournament and missed two others earlier this year because of malaria. Infected by a mosquito during the LPGA Thailand in late February, she returned for the Kraft Nabisco in early April. Gulbis hasn’t finished better than 13th since, missing the cut at the LPGA Championship.

Defending champion Na Yeon Choi, second-ranked Stacy Lewis and amateurs Kyung Kim and Brooke Henderson were among 11 players at 71.

Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old New Zealand amateur who won the Canadian Open last August to become the youngest LPGA Tour winner, had a 72. Juli Inkster, playing in a record-breaking 34th U.S. Women’s Open at age 53, holed a 103-yard wedge shot for eagle on the 18th to also finish at 72.

Michelle Wie opened her round with a quadruple-bogey 8 on No. 10. She was at 11 over through 14 holes before birdies on three of the last four to finish with an 80.

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Aaron Hernandez clears waivers, NFL issues statement on his status

Aaron Hernandez cleared waivers on Thursday (USA Today Sports Images)

As expected, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez cleared waivers on Thursday, with no team opting to claim him, the six years that remained on his contract, or invite a public relations nightmare that would have undoubtedly accompanied adding an individual accused of first-degree murder to their roster.

Under normal circumstances, a player clearing waivers would become a street free agent who could be signed by any team. NFL teams were advised on Thursday that no contract agreement with Hernandez would be approved by the league office until after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell meets with the 2010 fourth-round pick out of Florida.

“NFL clubs were advised today that if Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing,” the league announced in a statement. “The purpose of the hearing would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved.”

Of course, the events that took place in Fall River (Mass.) Superior Court on Thursday afternoon rendered moot the memo that was distributed to NFL teams. Hernandez was denied bail and will remain behind bars until his trial, which might not begin for another year. Though Hernandez is innocent until proven guilty, it’s doubtful that any team would even consider an attempt to retain Hernandez’s rights until after he is exonerated of the murder charge.

In other Hernandez contract news, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that Puma has terminated the two-year deal it had signed Hernandez to in April. The German-based athletic shoe and sportswear company has a large presence in Massachusetts. The company’s North American headquarters are in Westford, Mass., which is located less than an hour north of the Patriots’ headquarters in Foxboro, Mass.

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Upon further review: Derek Holland’s trip to New York turned out pretty well

(Getty Images) Yeah, Derek Holland got kicked out of a Counting Crows concert during the Texas Rangers’ trip to New York for a series with the Yankees. That’s funny and all, but it’s 2013, it’s not like he missed much.

After his Jersey concert-going experience went awry, the Rangers pitcher actually pulled things together quite nicely in New York City.

Mainly, he owned the Yankees on Thursday, pitching a two-hit shutout. He needed only 92 pitches to do it. That’s how many Tim Lincecum threw in 5 1/3 innings Wednesday against the Dodgers. To make things even more impressive: Holland was 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA lifetime against the Yankees going into Thursday’s game.

It was enough ownage of the Yanks to make Joe Girardi throw in the towel. (H/N: Mike Axisa on the GIF) It was also enough of a big-stage performance to get Eye on Baseball talking about Holland’s “breakout season.”

Another cool part of Holland’s New York jaunt was hanging at the MLB Fan Cave, where he and teammate Justin Grimm re-enacted part of “Dumb & Dumber,” with Holland in the Jim Carrey role.

Well done, Derek Holland. Go get yourself a Red Robin milkshake.

Baseball season’s in full swing. Don’t miss a thing.
Follow @MikeOz and @bigleaguestew, on Twitter, along with the BLS Facebook page.

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Alex Tanguay back to Colorado, as Avs deal Jones to Calgary

The Colorado Avalanche had a contract they wanted to move: David Jones, signed through 2016 and with a $4 million a year cap hit.

The Avs weren’t going to use a compliance buyout on him, but instead decided to get rid of the contract the old fashioned way: Through a trade.

Jones and defenseman Shane O’Brien, another contract they wanted rid of, were traded to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Cory Sarich and an old friend: Alex Tanguay, who you may remember from a championship team that featured Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy.

From the Flames:

“This trade adds needed size up front and grit on the back end while also allowing us to get younger.” said Flames General Manager Jay Feaster. “We like the fact that Jones plays a north-south game, drives hard to the net, kills penalties and is a right hand shot. O’Brien is a hard guy to play against, knows how to get under the skin of the opposition and stands up for his teammates. We are pleased to add both of these players to our organization.”

Mile High Hockey breaks down the specifics:

Cory Sarich has 1 year at $2M left before becoming UFA in 2014, versus SOB’s 2 more years at the same price tag. So this will help clear up the blueline logjam a bit more quickly, too. Sarich will be 35 this season and won a Cup with Tampa Bay. Noticing a trend? Sarich has been a durable defenseman in his career, at one point owning the NHL’s ironman title, but has never added much in the way of offensive pop. A few assists here and there. (0.14 career PPG.) Shane O’Brien’s numbers are actually pretty similar to Cory Sarich at Shane O’Brien’s age, so there’s a bit of upside in the deal for Calgary (plus if David Jones were to finally break out–lol).

Here’s Kent Wilson from Flames Nation:

It has been clear since the end of the season that Tanguay wasn’t too interested in being part of an extended rebuild and that the management wasn’t too enmaoured with the player anymore either. Sarich, who was bafflingly re-signed last summer for another two years after spending a bunch of time in the pressbox, was a candidate to be moved as soon as the ink was dry on his new deal.

The return from the Avs is rather underwhelming. Jones is a 28-year old 6’2″ winger who has twice scored 20+ goals in the NHL, including a career high 27 in 2010-11. He’s not a high volume shooter, though, so his production is dependent on a relatively high personal SH%. His career rate is 14.7%, but with less than 500 shots under his belt, it’s entirely possible we don’t really know his true shooting ability and that number will come down a tad.

And they have him until 2016! Woo-hoo!

Leonardo Bonucci ends streak of 12 perfect penalties to put Spain in Confederations Cup final

(Getty)

Spain beat Italy on penalties in a match that seemed like it would never end to reach their first Confederations Cup final. After 120 minutes of blown opportunities from both sides, the rematch of the Euro 2012 final went to a penalty shootout and all of the sudden, no one could miss. The two teams put on a flawless display of penalty kick brilliance that started with a Panenka from Italy's Antonio Candreva which had Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas sitting on his butt and watching as it floated into the net.

Eleven more excellent penalties followed. Xavi and Alberto Aquilani. Andres Iniesta and Daniele De Rossi. Gerard Pique and Sebastian Giovinco. Sergio Ramos and Andrea Pirlo. Juan Mata and Riccardo Montolivo. Sergio Busquets and…then Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci sent his attempt sailing over the crossbar (pictured above). Spain just needed to make one more to win.

[ Match photos: Spain defeats Italy on penalty kicks ]

Jesus Navas then converted Spain's seventh successful spot kick to give them the win and set up a final against host nation Brazil. For Italy, it was a far superior performance to their last meeting with Spain, in which they were dominated 4-0. But neither side could've complained much about losing since both had plenty of golden chances to score during the two hours of play that preceded the shootout. It was an exhausting and largely frustrating game for both teams and one that Brazil probably enjoyed for both of those reasons.

Here's video of the full shootout (it's very much worth watching regardless of knowing the end result)…

Once it was all over, Iker Casillas stopped to trade shirts with Gianluigi Buffon before celebrating the victory, summing up the level of admiration the two worthy adversaries have for each other.

(Getty)

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Vernon Davis says Seattle Seahawks are ‘building a dynasty over there’

(USA Today Sports Images) The team that finishes second in the NFC West this season might be the second-best team in football.

San Francisco and Seattle finished last season each playing as well as any teams in the NFL. In the offseason, each made improvements. San Francisco added Anquan Boldin, Seattle added Percy Harvin. San Francisco added Nnamdi Asomugha, Seattle added Cliff Avril. The arms race went through the offseason, and the expected natural development of quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson make the NFC West foes very strong.

Vernon Davis, the tight end of a 49ers team who fell just short of a Super Bowl title last year, has noticed what San Francisco’s rival up north has been putting together.

“They’re building a dynasty over there,” Davis told NFL.com. “These guys are coming to take us out. I respect them, but we want to win, too. We have to.. play each game like it’s our last game.”

Maybe the “dynasty” comment is a little bit of gamesmanship, but the 49ers know what Seattle is capable of. After Oct. 14 last year, San Francisco lost three games, two down-to-the-wire three-point losses to St. Louis and Baltimore, and an absolute 42-13 blowout at Seattle. That game is the worst the 49ers have looked in the last two seasons. And they know they have to play the Seahawks at least twice again this year. The Seahawks have a very tough and physical defense, some playmakers on offense, a fired-up coach who gets a lot out of his roster and a young quarterback who plays well beyond his years.. which could describe the 49ers as well.

So clear the calendar on Sept. 15 and Dec. 8. That’s when Seattle and San Francisco are scheduled to play this season. Those might be the two best games in the NFL this regular season.

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Shaquille O’Neal apparently plans to mentor DeMarcus Cousins

Shaquille O’Neal shoots over DeMarcus Cousins in 2011 (Rocky Widner/ Getty).

Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins is one of the most talented players in the NBA, a center capable of scoring, passing, rebounding, and protecting the rim at a star level in any one game. Unfortunately, Cousins has developed a reputation as one of the most immature players in the NBA, as well, earning suspensions and admonishment from seemingly every corner of the basketball world. Some of those punishments have been related to Cousins’s reputation more than the actions themselves, but there’s no question that he’s not the best behaved kid around. If he’s ever going to fulfill his massive potential, he’ll need to grow up.

To do so, Cousins will also need a support system. A surprising figure has emerged to join that group. From CBS Sacramento (via SLAM):

Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov sat down for dinner with the TNT analyst and former Los Angeles Lakers star at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Melo Park.

Three months after O’Neal said he thought the Kings were sold and gone at the NBA All-Star Game in Houston, the all-star center said he’s going to help tutor DeMarcus Cousins.

O’Neal said, “I’m going to make DeMarcus Cousins the best big man in the game.”

O’Neal also praised the planned new Kings arena, which won a Sacramento City Council vote to approve $6.5 million in funding for the project.

As a member of the Lakers in the early ’00s, O’Neal routinely insulted the rival Kings — most notably calling them the “Queens” — so his praise for the organization is surprising if only for that one reason. However, the odder fact regarding Shaq’s mentorship of Cousins might be that he’s never seemed to be the most mature person or athlete. While Shaq certainly accomplished a great deal, he was perceived to not work as hard as he could have, to court attention maybe a little too much to the detriment of his team.

Or maybe that’s the idea. While everyone wants Cousins to mature, it’s possible that a certain baseline of immaturity is just part of his personality. As an extremely talented player who also found space for irreverence, Shaq could be the right person to teach Cousins how to maintain that balance. He can become an elite player without sacrificing all of the intensity and passion — good qualities, in moderation — that sometimes leads to bad decisions.

We often put a player’s maturity in binary terms, as if becoming more professional required flipping a switch and committing to adulthood. It’s more like a continuum, though, and a player (or any person, for that matter) can’t be expected to change personality entirely just because his profession wants him to. Shaq’s history suggests he might be able to show Cousins how to make it work without letting go of himself.

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Warped Wednesday: NASCAR’s tribute to horse racing

Wouldn’t you like to see this re-enacted by drivers and crew chiefs? (Getty)

Welcome to Warped Wednesday. On this, we’ll put out the rush to judgment mat, go a little too far and have a little fun. Will it be funny? Sometimes. Will it be crazy and largely unbelievable? Probably. Will not everyone get it? Definitely. That means this isn’t real.

To celebrate Kentucky week and provide some pre-race entertainment for the fans who will be undoubtedly still stuck in the parking lot from the night before thanks to the unbearable traffic, NASCAR is planning a horse racing tribute at Kentucky Speedway.

The plan involves both drivers and crew chiefs, but some modifications will need to be made, because, well, do you really expect drivers to carry their crew chiefs on piggyback around a dirt track? (We’ll leave the visuals to you.)

So instead of mimicking the type of thoroughbred racing that you typically see in the Kentucky Derby, the exhibition race will instead recreate the awesomeness that is harness racing.

Each driver will be harnessed to a sulky, where the crew chief will sit and command the race and be able to relay in-race adjustments to his driver. However, those adjustments won’t be able to entail much other than “run faster!” or “pick this lane!” because each driver will obviously be running. No bicycles allowed; NASCAR sees this as a great opportunity to promote its drivers’ athleticism. No word if wheelbarrow races will follow.

While the duo of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus is favored (NASCAR has been instructed to inspect Chad’s state of the art carbon-fiber sulky extra carefully) with Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis a close second, don’t count out Clint Bowyer and Brian Pattie. Sources close to Warped Wednesday say that Pattie has set up traps to try to get Jeff Gordon to trip and fall into Bowyer at some point before the race to properly enrage Bowyer and prepare him to run.

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Neymar blows kiss to Uruguayan player before setting up late winner for Brazil

For the first time in this Confederations Cup, Neymar went a whole match without scoring a goal in Brazil’s 2-1 semifinal win against Uruguay. But he did put his mark on the game by setting up Paulinho’s 86th minute winner and taunting Uruguay’s Alvaro Gonzalez shortly before he did it.

With the score at 1-1, Neymar was preparing to take the corner kick as Gonzalez — who had been receiving pitchside treatment for an injury — offered a few choice words while walking around him towards the benches. Gonzalez had been subbed off and Neymar responded to his jabbering by mockingly blowing him a kiss goodbye. Then, with another corner kick minutes later, Neymar dropped a well-placed corner kick onto Paulinho’s head for the goal that would put Brazil back in the Confederations Cup final.

Something tells me Neymar isn’t going to be a calming force in relations between Barcelona and Real Madrid once he moves to Spain next season.