Sports Briefs


ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves took another major step toward solidifying their pitching staff for next season, agreeing Wednesday to a $7 million, one-year contract with closer Billy Wagner.

The six-time All-Star gets $6.75 million in 2010, and his deal includes a $6.5 million club option for 2011 with a $250,000 buyout. The option would become guaranteed if he finishes 50 games next season.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New Jersey Nets were pounded into NBA infamy Wednesday night, falling 117-101 to the Dallas Mavericks for their 18th straight loss to start the season.

The Mavericks made 17 of 19 shots and opened a 27-point lead in a nearly flawless second quarter, burying the Nets early in former New Jersey captain Jason Kidd's second trip back to his old home.

The Nets passed the 1988-89 Miami Heat and 1999 Los Angeles Clippers, who both dropped their first 17 games. New Jersey's next chance to end the streak comes Friday at home against Charlotte.

PHILADELPHIA — Allen Iverson is rejoining the Philadelphia 76ers. Sixers president Ed Stefanski announced the signing Wednesday on the team's Web site. Iverson is expected to make his debut Monday at home against the Denver Nuggets.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest has said that he drank alcohol during games when he was a member of the Chicago Bulls.

"I used to drink Hennessy at halftime," Artest said in an interview with Sporting News. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."

Artest also said that he was a "head case" when he broke into the NBA with the Bulls, for whom he played from 1999-2002.

The 30-year-old Artest said in the interview that the drinking happened in part because the Bulls lost so often.

SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has signed a deal to return next year for his 23rd season as Utah's head coach.

The team announced the deal Wednesday.

The 67-year-old Sloan, inducted into the Hall of Fame in September, is the longest-tenured active coach in major professional sports.

He's also the longest-tenured coach in NBA history and helped the Jazz reach consecutive NBA finals in 1997-98. Last season, he became the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games with one franchise.

College basketball

PORTLAND — Dominic Waters scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and Portland State rallied past Portland in the Pilots' first game as a ranked team in 50 years.

The Vikings (2-4) have won four consecutive games over cross-town rival Portland (5-2), which was ranked for three weeks in the 1958-59 season.

Portland led 74-62 with 9:20 left, but Portland State reeled off 10 straight points, including consecutive 3-pointers by Waters and Paul Guede, to quickly trim the deficit.

Portland State took the lead at 81-80 when Waters hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining. The Vikings pushed the lead to 85-82 on two free throw by Waters with 22 seconds left. Portland had a chance to tie but Nik Raivio's 3-point attempt from the corner was off the mark.


NFL teams now have new, stricter instructions for when players should be allowed to return to games or practices after head injuries, guidelines that go into effect this week.

In the latest step by the league to address a hot-button issue, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 clubs Wednesday saying a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms.

Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness, and persistent headaches.

The old standard, established in 2007, said a player should not be allowed to return to the same game if he lost consciousness.

Wednesday's memo also says players "are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."

Nearly one-fifth of 160 NFL players surveyed by The Associated Press from Nov. 2-15 replied that they have hidden or played down the effects of a concussion.

The league said its concussion committee, team doctors, outside medical experts and the NFL Players Association developed the new standards.

On Wednesday, Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis was put on injured reserve with post-concussion symptoms, ending his NFL career. Lewis had previously said he would retire at the end of the season. His teammate, starting safety Brodney Pool, also went on IR after getting at least his fourth known concussion last weekend. They were among 11 players listed on Wednesday's league-wide injury report with concussions. Another eight were listed with head injuries.

The two starting quarterbacks from last season's Super Bowl — Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Arizona's Kurt Warner — sat out last Sunday after saying during the week they planned to play despite getting head injuries the previous week.

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward extended his apology to Ben Roethlisberger to all of his teammates, saying he didn't mean to create a distraction by questioning why a concussion kept the quarterback from playing against Baltimore.

Ward called Roethlisberger on Monday to say he was sorry for wondering why the quarterback was held out of the Steelers' 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens the night before. Ward wasn't aware a team doctor advised Roethlisberger not to play due to post-concussion headaches that followed each of the team's three practices last week.

Roethlisberger hasn't reported any headaches since Friday and practiced Wednesday for Sunday's game against Oakland (3-8).

Ward is disappointed he spoke out of frustration in an NBC-TV interview taped Saturday night, not long after learning Roethlisberger wouldn't play in an important game for last season's Super Bowl champions.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Disgruntled Oakland Raiders fans are making a high-profile plea for owner Al Davis to step down as the team's general manager.

A billboard was posted on the freeway near the Oakland Coliseum this week, saying "MR. DAVIS, DO THE RIGHT THING, PLEASE HIRE A GM."

The group the put up the billboard says it has gathered 21,000 signatures for a petition asking Davis to step down as general manager. The petition also calls on Davis to hire a new GM, hire a Super Bowl-caliber coach, and "agree to refrain from intervention in personnel or football operational matters."

— The Associated Press

The Raiders (3-8) have won three Super Bowls under Davis' leadership but appear headed to a seventh straight losing season. Oakland's 27-80 record since the start of the 2003 season is the worst in the NFL.

— The Associated Press

College football

ATLANTA — Georgia coach Mark Richt fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and two other defensive assistants on Wednesday, but asked the three to remain for the Bulldogs' bowl game.

Martinez, linebackers coach John Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris will not return in 2010.

The announcement by Richt came four days after the highlight of the season for Georgia (7-5) and its defense — a 30-24 win over then-No. 7 Georgia Tech.

The win over the rival Yellow Jackets could not make up for two years of defensive problems.

Georgia, which is awaiting a bowl bid, gave up more than 40 points in three games for the second straight season.

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