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Riley 2-0, Magic a Winner in Hill's Debut (AP)
New York Knicks' Eddy Curry, left, is hounded by Orlando Magic's Mario Kasun, center, and Grant Hill during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hill was playing in his first game of the season. The Magic won 105-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)AP - Two nights, two wins for Pat Riley. Grant Hill is also back on the court, and he helped Orlando to a victory in his season debut.


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Vazquez Dealt to ChiSox; Mueller to L.A. (AP)
Arizona Diamonbacks' Javier Vazquez throws during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, in this April 25, 2005 photo. Hoping to bolster their starting rotation, the World Series champion White Sox agreed to acquire right-hander Javier Vazquez from Arizona for right-hander Orlando Hernandez, reliever Luis Vizcaino and minor league outfielder Chris Young, a baseball official said Wednesday. The deal is contingent on the players passing physicals and must be approved by commissioner Bud Selig because Arizona is sending the White Sox cash to help pay part of Vazquez's salary. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)AP - Javier Vazquez is joining the World Series champions and their stellar pitching staff.


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IAAF to Go After Montgomery's Prize Money (AP)
U.S. sprinter Tim Montgomery competes in the in the men's 100-meter semi-final race at the athletics meeting in Milan, Italy, in this June 3,  2003 photo. He's lost his world record, his medals and his reputation. Now, sprinter Tim Montgomery is set to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings.  The sport's governing body said Wednesday it will ask the American _ banned for two years in the BALCO doping scandal _ to return all of his prize money and appearances fees from the past 4 1/2 years.(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)AP - Tim Montgomery stands to lose a lot more than his world record and medals. The sprinter's ban for doping could also cost him as much as $1 million.


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U.S. Shuts Cuba Out of Baseball Classic (AP)
In this photo made available by the Cuban Government's National Information Agency (AIN), Cuban President Fidel Castro meets with Timorese medicine students in the school of Cojimar, to the east of Havana, Cuba, in this Dec. 13, 2005 file photo.  (AP Photo/Omara Garcia/AIN)AP - The U.S. government is keeping Cuba out of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, citing the standing embargo against the communist island nation.


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Brown's Nick Hartigan Leads AP I-AA Team (AP)
Nick Hartigan, Brown running back and Rhodes Scholar finalist, photographed on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005 on the campus of Brown University in Providence, R.I., must decide between attending his final college football game  or interviewing for Rhodes Scholar. Nick Hartigan bulled through defenses on his way to a record-setting championship season for Brown and earned a spot on The Associated Press Division I-AA All-America team.  (AP Photo/Stew Milne)AP - Nick Hartigan bulled through defenses on his way to a record-setting championship season for Brown and earned a spot on The Associated Press Division I-AA All-America team.


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Tatupu Making an Impact in Rookie Season (AP)
AP - After getting credit for a half sack against San Francisco last month, Lofa Tatupu's conscience started bothering him.

NBA Today (AP)
AP - Houston at Seattle (10:30 p.m. EST). The Rockets seek their sixth win in seven games when they visit the SuperSonics.

Column: Free Agent Pitchers Cashing In (AP)
AP - Baseball players who met last week to discuss union matters at a pricey resort outside of Las Vegas had good reason to be happy. The weather was good, there was a golf course just outside the front door, and there wasn't an autograph seeker in sight.

CSKA Moscow Eliminated From UEFA Cup (AP)
Roma's Francesco Totti, center, is celebrated by his teammates after he scored during the UEFA Cup group E soccer match between Roma and Basel, in Rome's Olympic stadium, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)AP - Roma, Bolton, Basel and Heerenveen advanced to the next phase of the UEFA Cup on Wednesday, while defending champion CSKA Moscow was eliminated without even playing.


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Hockey Today (AP)
AP - Vancouver at Philadelphia (7 p.m. EST). The Canucks are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

The coaching hot list
NFL teams are starting to determine the next wave of head-coaching hopefuls for 2006.

Brady questionable with shin injury (AP)
Tom Brady walked to his locker without a limp, stretched with his teammates and said he was feeling better. A few hours later, Wednesday's injury report came out, listing the Patriots quarterback as questionable with shin and shoulder injuries, the first time that's happened this season but hardly a guarantee that his 84-game playing streak will end.

Falcons' Vick says he will face Bears (AP)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick downplayed his bruised ribs after missing most of practice Wednesday, saying he will start Sunday night against the Chicago Bears. "No concerns," Vick said. "I'll be out there. I guarantee it. The game is a must-win situation. I just want to be there to aid my guys and try to make some plays so we can keep ourselves in the hunt." Vick, listed as probable, did...

Saints QB Brooks benched for season (AP)
Struggling New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks has been benched for the rest of the season. "It's not an indictment of Aaron whatsoever," coach Jim Haslett said after practice Wednesday. "It's an indictment on our record." Haslett said he was replacing Brooks with Todd Bouman because of the Saints' 3-10 record.

Colts DT Simon, LB June may sit out (AP)
In a normal week, Corey Simon and Cato June might actually play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. This week, the availability of the nicked-up defenders is being debated by Colts coaches. By clinching a third straight AFC South title, first-round bye and home-field advantage through the playoffs, coach Tony Dungy sees no reason to risk his hurting defensive starters to additional injuries --...

NFL giving Saints Katrina bonus (AP)
New Orleans Saints players will get a $40,000 bonus from the NFL and the NFL Players Association for "performing under unusual and unanticipated conditions arising from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy." The bonus applies to every Saints player who has been on the roster for the entire season, including inactive players, practice squad members and those on injured reserve, the team said Wednesday in...

Wilkinson sorry for calling Cincy racist (AP)
Dan Wilkinson apologized Wednesday for calling Cincinnati a racist city, a comment that led the Bengals to trade their former No. 1 draft pick to the Washington Redskins after the 1997 season. The defensive tackle also criticized former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who went 12-20 in Washington from 2002-03 before quitting.

Saints' Haslett wants to know status (AP)
Jim Haslett said Wednesday he hasn't discussed whether he will return as coach of the New Orleans Saints next season. He added he would like to know his contract status before the end of this season. Haslett was asked about a report by the NFL Network that he's planning to resign at the end of this season and had recently asked owner Tom Benson to fire him.

Raiders QB Collins back in starting role (AP)
Marques Tuiasosopo's chance to prove himself lasted just one week. Tuiasosopo was sent back to the bench Wednesday when the Oakland Raiders made another quarterback change, moving Kerry Collins back into the starting role for Sunday's game against Cleveland. Coach Norv Turner said last week he wanted to give Tuiasosopo an extended look to see if he could revive Oakland's listless offense.

Abraham OK with Jets trading him (AP)
John Abraham feels he has shown the New York Jets he can dominate games and stay healthy for an entire season. Now he wants his reward: a long-term contract, from the Jets or someone else. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end said Wednesday he is willing to be traded instead of being tagged the franchise player for a second year in a row.

Not your father's Clips
These aren't the same Los Angeles Clippers you used to know and mock. Here's why.

Hill makes solid return for Magic (AP)
Hedo Turkoglu gladly went back to the bench so Grant Hill could start his first game of the season. Then Turkoglu and Pat Garrity gladly took advantage of all the room the New York Knicks were giving them to shoot. Turkoglu scored 18 points, Garrity added a season-high 17, and the duo combined for nine of Orlando's 11 3-pointers in a 105-90 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday night.

Wade, Payton carry Riley to 2-0 start (AP)
A four-game, five-night road trip is the perfect way for Miami Heat coach Pat Riley to bond with his new team. Even if that means getting stuck with the occasional lunch bill. Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and Gary Payton added 20 to give Riley his second win in as many nights, a 100-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Nowitzki, Mavericks hold off Suns (AP)
With two guards out temporarily and two key big men out much longer, the Phoenix Suns are relying even more on NBA MVP Steve Nash. Opponents know it, too, especially the newly defensive-oriented Dallas Mavericks. Jason Terry scored 23 points and helped hold Nash, his predecessor as the Dallas point guard, to one basket in the second half, sending the Mavericks past the Suns 102-96 Wednesday night.

Billups passes Pistons over Kings (AP)
Chauncey Billups had just one thing on his mind after one of the best games of his career: What was the deal with Ben Wallace's clunky red goggles? "I don't know what that was -- he looked like Blankman," Billups said, referring to Damon Wayan's dorky superhero character in the movie of the same name.

Yao, McGrady lead streaking Rockets (AP)
Luther Head got the confidence to take a tying 3-pointer from the same source fueling the Houston Rockets' best basketball of the season: the return of Tracy McGrady. Head hit a big shot with 2.7 seconds left in regulation, Yao Ming scored four of his 30 points in overtime and the Rockets won for the fifth time in six games, 111-105 over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Pierce leads Celtics past Pacers (AP)
The Celtics took advantage of the short-handed Indiana Pacers. Paul Pierce had 25 points and seven rebounds to lead Boston over the Pacers 85-71 Wednesday night. Indiana's Ron Artest missed his third consecutive game, and second since requesting a trade last weekend. The Pacers were also without guard Jamaal Tinsley and forward Austin Croshere, who were both out with injuries.

Bryant, Lakers complete 5-1 road trip (AP)
The Los Angeles Lakers' traveling show has been getting good reviews recently. Kobe Bryant scored 27 points and the Lakers completed a successful, six-game trek with a 94-79 victory Wednesday night over the Memphis Grizzlies. The victory gave the Lakers a 5-1 record on the trip and snapped a five-game losing streak in Memphis.

Kirilenko stars in Jazz victory (AP)
After a slow comeback from a sprained ankle that kept him out of seven games, Andrei Kirilenko is beginning to play the way he used to -- shooting, blocking and grabbing at every loose ball his lanky arms can reach. Kirilenko had 21 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks to lead the Utah Jazz over the Portland Trail Blazers 82-77 on Wednesday night.

Smith shoots Hornets past Clippers (AP)
When J.R. Smith finds his scoring touch, the New Orleans Hornets are hard to beat. Smith scored 21 points and matched his career high with six 3-pointers Wednesday night as the New Orleans Hornets held off a late charge by the Los Angeles Clippers in a 102-89 win. Smith, who was coming off a season-high 26 points in the Hornets' last game against Phoenix, was 6-of-10 from 3-point range to help New...

Power rankings
Sidney Crosby spoke out and said what the rest of the league already knows – the Penguins need to try harder.

Biron stays hot, leads Sabres past Stars (AP)
Martin Biron has heard cheers and boos in his six years with the Buffalo Sabres. On Wednesday night, he finally heard his name. With the crowd chanting "Marty! Marty!" Biron won his 11th straight start in Buffalo's 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. Biron made 32 saves, including 16 in the final period, in extending his personal and franchise-best winning streak.

Beauchemin's big night paces Ducks (AP)
Francois Beauchemin and his Anaheim teammates had been putting in extra practice on the power play, with good reason. After going 1-for-22 on the power play over four games, the Mighty Ducks scored twice in seven chances Wednesday night to end Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory. Beauchemin assisted on Anaheim's first two goals, then scored the third himself.

Heward powers Caps to rare road win (AP)
Back on the road with the worst overall record in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals had four days off to work on their struggling special-team play. It all came together just in time against the Los Angeles Kings. Brian Sutherby tied the score with a short-handed goal midway through the third period and Jamie Heward added his second power-play goal of the game with 1:03 left, rallying...

Islanders C Blake released from hospital (AP)
New York Islanders forward Jason Blake was released from a hospital early Wednesday, hours after sustaining a moderate concussion from a headfirst crash into the boards. Blake, injured Tuesday night in New York's 4-3 home loss to Minnesota, will miss at least the Islanders' next game, Saturday night on Long Island against Colorado.

New union chief speaks to NHL governors (AP)
In a symbol of the new NHL, the head of the players union spoke to the league's 30 owners Wednesday night, expressing support for the united effort to rebuild the game after losing an entire season to labor strife. Ted Saskin, who replaced Bob Goodenow as the union's executive director, said the invitation to speak was "an opportunity to share thoughts and perspectives and that's welcomed.

Thrashers hang on, beat Red Wings 7-6 (AP)
The Atlanta Thrashers have a long way to go on defense, but they know how to score, especially on the power play. "They have a ton of offensive talent," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock after Patrik Stefan scored a late goal to help Thrashers escape with a 7-6 win over the Red Wings Tuesday night. The Thrashers showed their scoring potential with four second-period goals.

Canucks' Cloutier out for regular season (AP)
Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier will miss at least the rest of the regular season because of a knee injury that will require surgery. Cloutier partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when Anaheim forward Rob Niedermayer ran into him in the crease during the first period of a Nov.

Cooke lifts Canucks over Rangers 3-2 (AP)
Todd Bertuzzi had everything going his way at Madison Square Garden. He threw his body around like the old days and showed off his fine finishing skill on a breakaway. All that was missing were the lost minutes he spent in the penalty box. Bertuzzi heard boos all night but that didn't matter at the end because he and the Vancouver Canucks left with a spirited 3-2 victory Tuesday night over the...

Blues' Sanford shuts out Penguins, 3-0 (AP)
Curtis Sanford and Keith Tkachuk downplayed their individual accomplishments for the St. Louis Blues. Sanford made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Tkachuk, Jamal Mayers and Doug Weight scored goals in a 3-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. "It's nice just to get the two points," said Sanford, making his first start since Nov.

Observations
NASCAR's new TV deal made a splash, but Wall Street doesn't necessarily approve.

NASCAR champ to drive midget races under his own name (AP)
Tony Stewart will drive a midget car again, and won't try to fool anybody. The two-time NASCAR champion will drive in a pair of U.S. Auto Club indoor midget car races at Fort Wayne, where he won a 60-lap feature a year ago under an assumed name in an old junker he bought during a poker game the night before.

Audi to send a diesel to Le Mans race (AP)
Audi will be the first carmaker to send a diesel-powered vehicle to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Before the race June 17-18 in Le Mans, France, the R10 will have several tests, Audi motor sports chief Wolfgang Ullrich said Tuesday. A major one will be in March, in the 12-hour race in Sebring, Fla. "The R10 project is the biggest challenge Audi Sport ever faced," Ullrich said.

Iowa Speedway project gets more financing (AP)
NEWTON, Iowa - An Iowa-based construction company said it has obtained the financing to complete construction of...

Price of returning racing to North Wilkesboro is $12 million (AP)
A grass-roots group is lobbying to return racing to North Wilkesboro Speedway, but a $12 million price tag might be too steep for Wilkes County. That's the asking price of Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre, who own the former NASCAR track. A group calling itself Save the Speedway, which wants to bring racing back to the .625-mile oval, retired an online petition last week after gathering 4,582 signatures.

NASCAR's Pacific Northwest expansion plan faces tough road (AP)
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Is the land of lattes ready to join NASCAR Nation? The sport's leaders are betting on it with a...

Motorsports companies down after NASCAR TV deal disappoints (AP)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Shares of motorsports companies fell Thursday after NASCAR's new television rights...

NASCAR agrees to eight-year television package with five networks (AP)
When no one else wanted NASCAR on its networks, ESPN was thrilled to air everything it could as an eager partner in the grass-roots effort to build stock car racing into a major sport.

NASCAR signs deals with ABC, ESPN, FOX, TNT, SPEED (SportsTicker)
BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - NASCAR soon will be all over the dial.

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