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Pro Basketball

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers are close to signing forward LaMarcus Aldridge to a contract extension, a person close to the situation told The Associated Press.

The five-year deal is expected to be completed within the next two days, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract wasn't final.

The Blazers need to strike a deal with Aldridge to prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent next summer.

Aldridge, the second overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Texas, was acquired by the Blazers in a draft-day trade from the Chicago Bulls. Last season, he averaged 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

The Blazers were in Vancouver, British Columbia, for a game against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

College Football

WASHINGTON — Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose undefeated home state school was bypassed for the college football national championship last season, urged President Barack Obama to ask the Justice Department to investigate the Bowl Championship Series, citing Obama's own concerns about the way the top team is crowned in building a case for action.

Shortly after his election last year, Obama said he was going "to throw my weight around a little bit" to nudge college football toward a playoff system.

Obama and Hatch are among the many critics of how the BCS — a complex system of computer rankings and polls that often draws criticism — determines its national champion.

Hatch, who held a hearing on the BCS in July, told Obama that a "strong case" can be made that the BCS violates antitrust laws.

Pro Football

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns have been sacked by the flu. Coach Eric Mangini said 12 players, including Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers and five other starters, were home with flulike symptoms and he planned to adjust his practice as the team prepares to face the Green Bay Packers this weekend.

Mangini is taking precautions to make sure his players get more rest and the team is taking extra measures to make sure others don't get sick.


NEW YORK — The trustee overseeing jailed financier Bernard Madoff's assets has labeled the New York Mets winners in the epic fraud. He says the baseball team made nearly $48 million in the Ponzi scheme.

Court-appointed trustee Irving Picard has labeled investors who withdrew more money from Madoff than they invested as net winners. That depiction has been vigorously contested by many investors. The Mets said the profits have had "no effect" on the team's operations.

Picard said in a bankruptcy filing Tuesday that the Mets Limited Partnership profited from an original investment of about $523 million. A total of about $571 million was withdrawn from the accounts. The court filings did not say how long ago the investments were made by the Mets' owner, Sterling Equities Inc.


NEW YORK — The head of South African organizers for next year's World Cup thinks a successful tournament could lead to the Olympics being hosted on that continent for the first time in 2020.

Speaking after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, organizing committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan said he could envision Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban bidding along with Egypt for the 2020 Games. The IOC's 2011 session will be held in Durban, and Jordaan believes those meetings could serve as a springboard.

The IOC voted Oct. 2 to hold the Olympics in South America for the first time, awarding the 2016 Games to Rio de Janeiro.


BUDAPEST, Hungary — FIFA has opened an investigation into Argentina coach Diego Maradona's profanity-filled tirade on live television following a World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay last week.

After the win, which earned Argentina a spot at next year's World Cup in South Africa, Maradona directed crude expletives at his critics. Maradona called it an outburst and said he had nothing to apologize for.

Maradona led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and the 1990 final. He's been under intense pressure during Argentina's erratic qualifying campaign, which included a 6-1 loss in Bolivia and a 3-1 loss to Brazil at home.


NEW YORK — Fifteen years after Mark Messier and Mike Richter led the New York Rangers to an elusive Stanley Cup title, they are still being feted for their efforts.

The latest festivities came when they were honored with the Lester Patrick Award, recognizing contributions of outstanding service to hockey in the United States. The former Rangers were joined by Jim Devellano, who has spent more than four decades in hockey — largely with the Detroit Red Wings — in this year's class.

The award was created in 1966 and is presented annually by the NHL and USA Hockey to honor the memory of Lester Patrick, a former player and longtime coach of the Rangers. Patrick's life and career were also celebrated along with the newest honorees.


HARTFORD, Conn. — ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips acknowledged having an affair with an assistant at the cable network and has taken a leave of absence during the playoffs.

Phillips said in a statement released by ESPN that he requested the leave "to address this with my family and to avoid any unnecessary distractions through the balance of the baseball playoffs."

ESPN said it took "appropriate disciplinary action" when this happened in August, but would not comment further. Police say 22-year-old ESPN production assistant Brooke Hundley began calling Phillips' wife, Marni, on Aug. 5 after he broke off the affair and sent her a letter graphically describing their relationship and Phillips' birthmarks. She allegedly told Phillips' wife that "we both can't have him," according to a Wilton, Conn., police report.

— The Associated Press

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