National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Petkovic reaches French Open semifinals

PARIS - Andrea Petkovic advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal, beating Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-2 at the French Open on Wednesday.

Petkovic had some trouble holding serve, but her groundstrokes consistently landed near the lines, many of them for winners.

The 28th-seeded German had been 0-3 in major quarterfinals, losing at that stage at the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open in 2011. Her ranking dropped after that, as low as 177th last year, because of a right knee injury.

Errani was the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2012, losing to Maria Sharapova. Last year, the 10th-seeded Italian reached the semifinals and lost to eventual champion Serena Williams.

Halep advances to French Open semifinals

PARIS - Fourth-seeded Simona Halep advanced to the French Open semifinals by beating 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2 Wednesday.

Halep, the highest-seeded player in the draw, lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, her best previous performance at a Grand Slam tournament.

Halep has moved quickly up the rankings over the last year. In the last 13 months, Halep has won seven titles, second only to Serena Williams. But Halep is the only player to have won titles on clay, grass and hard courts during that stretch.

In the semifinals, Halep will face 28th-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

Browns WR Gordon pleads not guilty to speeding

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon has pleaded not guilty to a speeding ticket.

Gordon, who is awaiting a possible NFL suspension for failing a drug test, did not appear as scheduled in Berea Municipal Court on Wednesday. According to the court's website, his attorney entered a not guilty plea Tuesday. There is no new court date.

Gordon was stopped for going 74 mph in a 60 mph zone on May 25. He was fined $187. His passenger was cited for possession of less than 200 grams of marijuana.

Gordon could be facing a one-season suspension for another failed drug test. He was suspended two games last season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He led the league in yards receiving.

Gordon has continued to practice with the team.

California Chrome draws post No. 2 for Triple Crown try at Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK (AP) California Chrome became the 3-5 early favorite on Wednesday to win the Belmont Stakes and become American horse racing's 12th Triple Crown champion.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner will break from the No. 2 post under Victor Espinoza on Saturday at Belmont Park. Eleven Belmont winners have come out of that post, the last being Tabasco Cat in 1994.

California Chrome will be listed No. 2 in the betting program, the same number as 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths while setting a track record for the 1 1/2-mile (2,400-meter) race that still stands.

Wicked Strong was the 6-1 second choice and drew post No. 9. The colt finished fourth after an unlucky trip in the Derby, sat out the Preakness, and comes into the Belmont off a five-week rest.

Tonalist was made the third betting choice at 8-1 odds and will break from the No. 11 post. The colt has experience on the track, having won the Peter Pan Stakes, although he is new to the Triple Crown trail.

Ride On Curlin, the 12-1 fourth choice, and 20-1 shot General a Rod are the only other horses besides California Chrome who will have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

Eleven horses were entered to take on California Chrome in his bid to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.

Commanding Curve, second in the Derby, was listed at 15-1. Four horses were at 20-1: Commissioner, General a Rod, Medal Count (eighth in the Derby) and Samraat (fifth in the Derby).

Matterhorn and Matuszak, both new to the Triple Crown series, were listed at 30-1.

Here's a look at the full draw results:

The field for the 146th #BelmontStakes is drawn! pic.twitter.com/a0ueWDDv9C

— Belmont Stakes (@BelmontStakes) June 4, 2014

Spurs disagree with James, say they respect Heat

SAN ANTONIO (AP) LeBron James has it all wrong. Gregg Popovich is a people person.

"I like everybody," the San Antonio Spurs coach said.

Sideline reporters might disagree, but that's what Popovich said in response to James' comments that the Spurs don't like the Miami Heat.

Immediately after San Antonio beat Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to set up the NBA Finals rematch with the Heat that begins Thursday, Tim Duncan said, "We've got four more to win. We'll do it this time."

The Spurs nearly did it last year, but coughed up a five-point lead in the final half-minute of regulation of Game 6 before losing Game 7. The agony of that loss, San Antonio's first in five trips to the finals, led James to surmise that the Spurs aren't very fond of the Heat.

"They don't like us. They don't," James said Monday in Miami. "I can sense it from Timmy's comments over the last couple of days. . They want us, so they got us."

The Spurs, whose demeanor and remarks are normally as plain as sandwich bread, were a bit taken aback by James' reaction.

"Knowing Timmy, that's not trash talking," San Antonio's Tony Parker said. "I don't think he meant it like that. But obviously, we are very motivated and we want to get it done. At the same time, we realize we are playing a very good team that went to the final four times in a row and won the last two."

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said the comment was taken completely out of context and "not a big deal at all." He and Parker both said the Spurs have great respect for what the Heat have accomplished, having never made it to back-to-back NBA Finals until this season.

San Antonio did so after a rugged postseason run in the Western Conference, escaping a seven-game series with Dallas before closing out Portland in five games and Oklahoma City in six.

"Every time you play a team in the playoffs, you don't like them," Ginobili said. "That grows on you. It's such a challenge, you want to beat them so bad that you start to grow that challenge of you don't want the opponent to score on me, you don't want them to do good. You want to do everything you can to limit them. In some ways it's sort of dislike, but the same happened to me against Dallas and against Portland and against Oklahoma City. It's part of what the playoffs are about."

So any talk of dislike for a particular player or team was met with a glare.

"Are you really going to ask that?" Popovich said. "So somebody will say, `I don't like him' and the other guy, `So and so said they don't like you.' `Well, I don't like him either.' Come on, this is silly."

Singleton's HR in debut helps Astros down Angels

HOUSTON (AP) Jon Singleton homered and had two RBIs in his major league debut, Chris Carter also homered and the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-2 Tuesday night.

Jason Castro and Robbie Grossman drove in two runs apiece as Houston took the lead with a five-run third inning.

The Angels were done in by C.J. Wilson's lack of control. Wilson (6-5) walked a season-high five batters, including four in the third, in just 2 2-3 innings.

Josh Hamilton had a solo homer in the eighth inning in his return from the disabled list after breaking his left thumb on April 8. Fellow outfielder Mike Trout was back after missing two games with a stiff back, but left in the second inning with more back trouble.

Collin Cowgill replaced Trout and homered in the eighth.

Singleton walked and had two strikeouts and two errors at first base before he launched a towering shot off Matt Shoemaker into the bullpen in right-center in the eighth inning for his first major league hit to make it 6-2. Carter followed with his opposite field shot to the seats in right field to give Houston back-to-back homers for the first time this season.

Wilson walked three of the first four batters in the third inning to load the bases. Castro followed with his single to right field to put Houston up 2-0. Matt Dominguez singled to load the bases again and Wilson walked Singleton on four pitches to give the rookie his first career RBI.

He struck out Carter for the second out before Grossman's full-count single drove in two more to stretch the lead to 5-0 and chase Wilson.

Houston starter Collin McHugh (4-3) allowed two hits over five scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.52.

Singleton, a highly touted prospect expected to help Houston back to respectability, made his major league debut a day after agreeing to a five-year, $10 million contract. Fellow young talent George Springer, who was called up in April, stood up in the dugout cheering and yelling as the 22-year-old Singleton rounded the bases on his homer.

The players danced and laughed together when Singleton returned to the dugout, a rare scene in recent years as the Astros plummeted to Major League Baseball's basement.

Singleton served a 50-game suspension last season for a second violation of a drug of abuse. He told The Associated Press in spring training that he has an addiction to marijuana and had spent a month in a rehabilitation center last year. He moved past his problems this season and got the call to the majors after hitting .267 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

He said before the game that Tuesday meant even more because of his past struggles.

"It's definitely been a work in progress every single day that's been leading up to today," he said "Today is one of the happiest days of my life."

Los Angeles loaded the bases in the fourth after Albert Pujols singled, Hamilton walked and a hit batter with two outs. McHugh escaped the jam when Chris Iannetta lined out to third.

McHugh made a nifty spinning behind the back play on a chopper hit by Pujols and threw to Singleton at first to end the fifth inning.

NOTES: All three of Hamilton's home runs this season have been in Houston. ... The Angels optioned right-hander Jarrett Grube to Salt Lake on Sunday to make room on the roster for Hamilton. ... They also selected the contract of right-hander Cam Bedrosian from Double-A Arkansas and optioned right-hander Michael Kohn to Salt Lake. Bedrosian, a 22-year-old reliever, has a 1.47 ERA in 17 games this season for Arkansas. He struck out one in a scoreless sixth. ... Houston optioned 1B Marc Krauss to Oklahoma City to make room on the roster for Singleton.

Cruz homers in return to Texas, Orioles win 8-3

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Nelson Cruz hit a towering three-run homer in his return to Texas and the Baltimore Orioles won their third straight game, 8-3 over the Rangers on Tuesday night.

Cruz hit the first pitch thrown by Shawn Tolleson, the fourth Rangers reliever, an estimated 404 feet deep into the left field seats to cap a six-run Orioles outburst in the eighth. The slugger, who spent the previous eight seasons in Texas, is hitting .313 and leads the majors with 21 homers and 55 RBIs.

Adam Jones matched a career high with four hits, including a homer off the right-field pole leading off the Baltimore fourth. Rookie catcher Caleb Johnson had a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth.

Brian Matusz (2-1) went 1 2-3 innings in relief of Ubaldo Jimenez, who held Texas to one run and four hits while striking out five over 5 2-3 innings.

Cruz was the 2011 AL championship series MVP on the way to the Rangers' second consecutive World Series. When introduced before drawing a walk in the first, Texas fans responded with an extended ovation. While there were some boos, those seemed to be outnumbered by fans who called "Cruuuuuzz!" like they used to do when the left fielder was on their side.

Heading into free agency last year, Cruz missed the final 50 regular-season games for the Rangers for violating baseball's drug agreement.

Cruz turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer in November from the Rangers, who likely would have used him primarily as a designated hitter if he had accepted. He went through the entire offseason before signing an $8 million, one-year deal with the Orioles early in spring training.

Alexi Ogando (2-3), the second Texas reliever, got a popup to start the eighth before allowing three straight Orioles to reach. He was gone after the double by Joseph, whose two hits matched his total in his first 11 games.

The Rangers, coming off a 7-4 record in their longest road trip this season, got two inning-starting homers.

Adrian Beltre led off the fourth with a homer off Jimenez to make it 1-1. Robinson Chirinos went deep off Matusz to start the seventh.

Joe Saunders, the winning pitcher for Baltimore in the 2012 AL wild card game at Texas, allowed two runs and 10 hits over six-plus innings in his first home start for the Rangers. The left-hander was signed during spring training and he made the season-opening rotation before missing more than seven weeks with a stress fracture in his left ankle after being struck by a liner in his first start.

Notes: Three-time AL All-Star first baseman Jim Gentile, who played in the majors from 1957-66, attended the game on his 80th birthday. With Baltimore in 1961, he finished third in the AL MVP voting behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. ... Orioles closer Tommy Hunter, on the DL since May 22 with a left groin strain, was encouraged with how he felt after a bullpen session before the game. He will do some fielding drills Wednesday, and could go out on a rehab assignment as early as Thursday.

Fan taken off on stretcher after fall into bullpen

MILWAUKEE (AP) A man has been carried off on a stretcher during the Minnesota Twins' game at the Milwaukee Brewers after falling into the home bullpen.

Medical personnel attended to the fan, delaying the start of the eighth inning Tuesday night. The man had a brace around his neck as he was wheeled off.

The Brewers say the fan was conscious and alert, and was being taken to Froedtert Hospital.

Fans can watch the game from a dining area above the Milwaukee bullpen beyond the wall in left-center. The concourse, which is at least 15 feet above the bullpen, is lined with a metal railing roughly four feet high.

Quick OK, Regehr still healing for LA Kings

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick says he's fine after taking a shot off his collarbone before the Stanley Cup finals opener.

Quick says he only wrapped his workout early at Staples Center on Tuesday as a precaution.

Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP while leading Los Angeles to its first NHL title. The U.S. Olympic team goalie's statistics have been less impressive this spring, but Quick still has won a Game 7 in three straight playoff rounds.

Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr is also hoping he's healthy enough to be available when the Kings host the New York Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Regehr has been out since May 3, missing 13 games after injuring his knee in the second-round series opener in Anaheim.

Espinoza standing tall in face of Triple Crown pressure

NEW YORK -- Never has jockey Victor Espinoza stood this tall. He squinted beneath the midday sun atop a seven-story-high rooftop garden in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday.

Peer below, and he could see Fifth Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A few steps away, he could lock eyes with one of his horse’s owners, unmistakable with a cowboy hat, beer bottle and flip phone.

Espinoza was fresh off throwing the first pitch at the Yankees game Monday night. He appeared on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday morning and was recognized during a two-hour workout at Equinox gym thereafter.

On the rooftop, he had just been handed and put on a blue New York Rangers jersey -- Mats Zuccarello’s No. 36 -- a size small that weighed him down.

Espinoza, who barely breaches 5 feet tall, is the towering human figure going into Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

He is the man charged with breaking horse racing’s 36-year Triple Crown drought (hence the No. 36 hockey shirt). He will ride Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome for the seventh time Saturday, looking for his seventh straight win aboard the 3-year-old colt.

[MORE: How and where to watch the 2014 Belmont Stakes]

Is this the right jockey-horse combination for history? Does he feel the pressure yet?

“Not right now,” Espinoza said, “but I’m sure I will get there later.”

He would know. This is Espinoza’s second attempt to become the 11th jockey to win a Triple Crown (Eddie Arcaro did so twice). He failed – perhaps that’s not the right verb, since it was through no fault of his own – with War Emblem at the 2002 Belmont Stakes.

Espinoza experienced the hoopla and media tours accompanying a Triple Crown bid 12 years ago. He said that whirlwind will benefit him in the 1 1/2-mile spectacle Saturday evening, the longest of the three jewels of horse racing.

He regrets how he handled the pre-race requests for his time in 2002.

“Before I went to some shows and was forcing myself to do it,” Espinoza said. “Wherever they tell me to go, I’ll go. After I’m done, it’s like, oh, I shouldn’t have done that.”

He seems plenty busy this week. Next up is David Letterman on Wednesday, an appointment he had to confirm with two men standing at his side at the rooftop garden. But his demeanor is different.

“Now, I will go because I love those shows, and I want to see them,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza, 42, is one of 12 children raised on a farm outside Mexico City. He grew up scared of horses, yet fearless enough to drive buses to get by at age 15.

“Like everybody else, before 21, get a fake ID,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza entered jockey school in his teens and has won more than 3,100 times since 1993 (but with a dubious record at Belmont Park, 2 for 67, according to the New York Daily News).

After California Chrome won two of his first six races on a different jockey, venerable trainer Art Sherman sought a change and called Espinoza, a man he had met nearly two decades before. California Chrome is six-for-six with Espinoza in the irons.

“Victor rode a lot of winners for me when he was just starting,” said Sherman, 77, who became the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby on May 3. “I have a lot of confidence in him. Very good rider. Strong, finishes good. Got a head on his shoulders. Believe me, he’ll ride this horse to perfection.”

Sherman said he doesn’t remember Espinoza’s 2002 Belmont Stakes, when perfection disappeared two steps out of the gate for Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem.

The front-running colt immediately stumbled, so badly that Espinoza thought War Emblem would fall down, and collided with Magic Weisner before bouncing up.

“I was just lucky to stay on,” Espinoza said Tuesday. “At that point, I lost my chance. I know that it was out of my hands, and that’s it. The Triple Crown is gone.”

Espinoza took War Emblem to the lead after one mile, but he disappeared down the stretch. War Emblem was eighth, 19 1/2 lengths behind 70-1 Sarava, which became the biggest longshot to win the Belmont.

Espinoza said he doesn’t think about that defeat anymore. He focuses on other races at Belmont Park this week, to study how other horses are winning from the front and from behind. He believes California Chrome could do it either way, unlike the inflexible War Emblem.

“I hope I make the right decisions,” Espinoza said. “Because one wrong mistake, one wrong decision in the race, that’s going to cost you.”

[MORE: California Chrome's unlikely story impossible to repeat]

It all went right at the Kentucky Derby, when Espinoza and Chrome won by 1 3/4 lengths in the slowest winning time since 2010 with little to no tactical roadblocks. The Preakness victory came by 1 1/2 lengths, the fastest winning time since 2008, but without the second-through-sixth-place finishers from the Derby in the field.

That made Chrome the 13th horse to win the first two legs since the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978, but without the challenge of a rival like Alydar.

How much of the success in May was due to Espinoza?

“I rode a lot of good horses and won a lot of big races. Many of them, you could have ridden,” said NBC analyst Jerry Bailey, a two-time Belmont winner. “You don’t mess it up [as a jockey]. I think, in this particular case, Victor gets along well with this horse. Not only because he’s undefeated on him, but the horse has a few peculiarities that Victor seems to be able to blend with him in that regard [such as Chrome rocking his head side to side in the starting gate, which could cause a slow start]. … You can’t argue with success, and he’s certainly been successful on this horse.”

Espinoza jokes that he and Chrome are in sync. They share a calm, curious attitude. One of Chrome’s owners has already predicted victory and famed trainer Bob Baffert dubbed the horse “a stud.” Espinoza held a plate with a stuffed tortilla and talked confidently in his own right Tuesday, standing tall five days before the Belmont Stakes.

“When that gate opens, everything’s going to change,” Espinoza said. “And I’m ready for it.”

Police: Arrest in Stiviano attack outside NY hotel

NEW YORK (AP) New York City police have arrested a man for allegedly assaulting the woman who recorded Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments.

Police say 40-year-old Dominick Diorio, of Old Bethpage, was arrested Tuesday on charges of third-degree assault as a hate crime, assault, harassment and aggravated harassment. It wasn't clear if he had a lawyer.

Police say V. Stiviano told detectives on Monday that she was assaulted the night before by two men who may have made racial slurs outside the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. Stiviano is of black and Mexican descent.

Stiviano's audio recording of the Clippers owner led to his being banned from the NBA. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to buy the Clippers for $2 billion.

Top priority for Blackhawks: Lock in Toews, Kane

CHICAGO (AP) Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane want to stay in Chicago, and the Blackhawks think the high-scoring forwards are a central part of their promising future.

Get ready for a pair of big contract extensions this summer.

With the Blackhawks still coming to grips with their dramatic loss in the Western Conference finals, general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday that megadeals for Toews and Kane are his biggest priority this offseason.

"There's no doubt that's what we're gonna do," Bowman said. "We've made it clear. We've never wavered from that. There's no doubting the importance of those two players."

The Blackhawks selected Toews with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, and grabbed Kane with the No. 1 overall selection the following year. They combined to lead Chicago out of a dark period to Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013.

Toews and Kane each have one more year left on their contracts, and Bowman can officially start negotiating with two of the NHL's biggest stars on July 1.

"I know we both love it here in Chicago and we love playing here and having a chance to win every year," said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as playoff MVP.

Toews expressed a similar sentiment.

"Who could ever think of a better situation to be in?" the captain said. "I think back to the day I was drafted, I had absolutely no idea that all this would be in store for me in my short career so far. I've been so fortunate to be a part an unbelievable group of guys, the majority of our team that has been together since I've been here. And just to see the growth of this franchise in the city of Chicago and the amazing fans we have here, there's no doubt in my mind that there's no better way to have it."

The Blackhawks had a chance for a second straight NHL title before they lost 5-4 to the Los Angeles Kings in overtime in Game 7 on Sunday night. Alec Martinez got the winning goal when his shot deflected off Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy and fluttered over goalie Corey Crawford.

If Chicago is able to retain Toews and Kane, it looks as if it could contend for the Stanley Cup for years to come. It is in a much better spot than it was following the 2010 title run, when the Blackhawks kept their core intact but parted with much of their supporting cast because of salary cap concerns.

Bowman thinks the roster will look largely the same when next season begins.

An overhaul "certainly is not warranted at this point," he said. "Our team performed very well in most areas of the game."

Patrick Sharp had a team-high 78 points during the regular season, but struggled for much of the playoffs. He had two goals in Game 7 against Los Angeles after scoring three in the first 18 playoff games, but if he was injured he wasn't saying.

"At this point in the year, everybody's got something going on," he said. "I'm not gonna make any excuses for the way I played at stretches of the playoffs."

It was a bitter finish for Sharp and for the Blackhawks. Instead of another Stanley Cup run, the attention turns toward the future.

Chicago needs some of its younger centers to develop quickly, including prospect Teuvo Teravainen. The promising 19-year-old forward from Finland played in three games for the Blackhawks this year and could take on a more prominent role next season.

"We're not going to put any pressure on him," Bowman said. "He's 19 years old still. The one thing we have done very well over the last few years is we've given players time to develop."

Coach Joel Quenneville said Teravainen "has skills to play here," but needs to add strength and develop the ability "to go into hard areas" on offense.

Forward Ben Smith and backup goalie Antti Raanta are restricted free agents. Brandon Saad will be after next season, and Bowman sounded as if he plans to keep all three players.

"That's the goal here is to keep this thing going," Bowman said. "I think the reason we've been able to do that is twofold. No. 1, we've been able to keep the main players together. But No. 2, we've been able to bring in some young players, and they've been able to support the role. We have to be able to continue to do that."

New York vs. LA can be as big as it gets

The last time New York and Los Angeles teams met in a big championship final, the Dodgers found themselves up against a pitcher who had undergone Tommy John surgery.

How long has it been? Well, here's a clue: The lefty on the mound was Tommy John himself.

Thirty three years after the Dodgers won a World Series against John and the Yankees, L.A. and New York finally meet again. This time it's on the ice, with the teams from the country's two biggest cities squaring off in the Stanley Cup final.

It may not bring thoughts back of Willis Reed limping onto the court, willing his team to a win in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Or Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in one game in 1977 as the Yankees beat the Dodgers.

The Big Apple and Hollywood don't have any championship history in hockey, but there's some buzz on both coasts for the first New York-Los Angeles major sports final since 1981.

"The big markets, that adds another level to the excitement of the finals here," said the Rangers' Dominic Moore. "I know New York is excited."

So is Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers to their last win over the Yankees and is friends with Kings executive Luc Robitaille.

"I'll be rooting for them, no doubt," Lasorda said. "I'm so impressed with what the Kings have accomplished through these playoffs. Even if they don't beat the Rangers they've got to go down in history of hockey with one of the greatest teams ever the way they've performed."

Why the New York-L.A. matchup hasn't happened any sooner can only be chalked up to the vagaries of sports. Certainly when the Lakers and Knicks met three times in four years for the NBA title in the early 1970s, there were high expectations the rivals would square off again. And when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the third World Series in five years between the teams, it seemed like they would trade championships for some time.

That World Series thrilled a lot of people in Los Angeles, which hadn't won a championship since 1965 when Sandy Koufax was on the mound. But the Yankees beat the Dodgers back-to-back in 1977-78, including the iconic game where Jackson earned the nickname Mr. October by hitting three home runs at Yankee Stadium.

"We were suffering and the guy was making a fool out of us," Lasorda said. "I was hoping and praying we would get another shot at him."

Longtime broadcaster Vin Scully said the rivalry between the Dodgers and Yankees was more intense than any other sport because the teams had met so often in the World Series when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and there were still bitter feelings about the Dodgers leaving town. The Dodgers biggest World Series win was arguably in 1963, when they swept the Yankees in four games.

"The ultimate was not only beating the Yankees but sweeping them in four," Scully said. "And to New York fans it was still the old Brooklyn Dodgers and there was a lot of bitterness toward them."

The ultimate for Knicks fans was 1970. Without Reed in Game 7 the Knicks figured to have a tough time beating Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. But he suffered a torn thigh muscle in Game 5 and needed an injection just before game time to limp out on the court.

The sight of Reed in uniform sent the 19,500 fans into a frenzy. He scored just four points, but kept Chamberlain in check for a 113-99 win.

The Lakers would go on to beat the Knicks two years later, and lose to them again in 1973. Since then they haven't met in a championship final.

There's never been a Super Bowl between New York and L.A. teams and no possibility of one until Los Angeles gets an NFL team.

While the Rangers and Kings have never met in the Stanley Cup finals, teams from Southern California and the New York area have. New Jersey and the Anaheim Ducks played in 2003, and the Kings beat the Devils two years ago.

Still, New York against Los Angeles somehow seems different.

"I think it's important for the league. This league has done everything for us, I want it to grow," said Brad Richards of the Rangers. "These matchups are great for the game, and we understand that. It's great for hockey."

Despite the matchup of the two biggest cities in the country, executives at NBC had to be rooting for Chicago to advance instead of Los Angeles. Sunday's Western Conference Game 7 was the most watched non-Stanley Cup Final ever, averaging more than 4.1 million viewers, but a lot more of those were Blackhawks fans than Kings fans.

While nearly 23 percent of all homes with televisions watched in the Chicago area, less than 5 percent of the homes in L.A. were tuned in.

"I would have rather played Chicago, because I think it would have been like old school versus old school," said Rangers fan Matthew Geraghty, the head chef at Tir Na Nog, an Irish pub across from Madison Square Garden. "I've never been to L.A. to watch sports, but I wouldn't consider it a hockey town."

Marino says he's withdrawing from concussion suit

MIAMI (AP) Dan Marino says he inadvertently became a plaintiff in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL and is withdrawing immediately.

The Hall of Fame quarterback said he doesn't suffer any effects from head injuries.

"Within the last year I authorized a claim to be filed on my behalf, just in case I needed future medical coverage to protect me and my family in the event I later suffered from the effects of head trauma," Marino said in a statement Tuesday. "I did not realize I would be automatically listed as a plaintiff. ... I have made the decision it is not necessary for me to be part of any claims or this lawsuit, and therefore I am withdrawing as a plaintiff."

Marino's withdrawal costs the litigants a high-profile plaintiff. He was by far the best-known of 15 former players who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia last week.

They joined more than 4,800 others who allege the NFL misled players about the long-term dangers of concussions. The league has denied those allegations.

"I am sympathetic to other players who are seeking relief who may have suffered head injuries," Marino, 52, said in his statement.

The NFL and the original group of players agreed on a $765 million settlement last August, but that deal was rejected by a federal judge in January.

Marino spent his entire 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins and retired as the most prolific passer in NFL history.

He worked as an analyst for CBS from 2002 to 2013 but wasn't retained for this season. He has had recent discussions with the Dolphins about a role in their front office, and a lawsuit might have complicated such a hiring.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling hit with lawsuit

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is being sued by a woman who alleges that while she was employed by him, they had a romantic relationship and that he subjected her to racially and sexually offensive comments.

The complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that Maiko Maya King's resistance to Sterling's "stream of racist and sexist taunts" caused him to retaliate against her and terminate her employment as his personal assistant and caretaker in May.

King, who is represented by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, alleges discrimination, retaliation and "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and demands a jury trial.

Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini, said the suit was "baseless and ridiculous." He added: "She was never employed by Donald Sterling. Her claim was obviously prompted by opportunistic motives."

The lawsuit comes after Sterling was banned for life and fined $2.5 million by the NBA for racist remarks recorded by girlfriend V. Stiviano that were made public. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver worked to oust him as owner of the team until his wife, Shelly Sterling, concluded a deal last week to sell it to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The $2 billion deal still needs to be approved by NBA owners.

King was romantically involved with Donald Sterling from 2005 through 2011 while she worked for him and his foundation, but they often "argued about his racist views," the suit states.

King was previously married to a black man and had two children. According to the lawsuit, Sterling allegedly asked her: "How could you be married to a black man?" and "Why would you bring black people into the world?" He allegedly also told her "I want to take you out of the black world and put you into the white world."

Because of the racist comments, Sterling and King broke up in 2011, the suit states. But when King's father died in 2013 she returned to work for Sterling knowing a woman named "V" was his girlfriend now, according to the complaint.

King said she accompanied him to doctor appointments, made sure he took his medications on time, took walks with him and accompanied him to business meetings.

The suit states that contrary to his agreement to pay her $10,000 a month, "Sterling dangled money only if she would have sex with him" and told her he was "bored with V."

She also alleges that he would humiliate her in public by groping her, and relates multiple other incidents of alleged sexual harassment.

Sterling "created an intimidating oppressive, hostile and offensive work environment based upon sex," the complaint states.

California Chrome on target for Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK (AP) Art Sherman got his first glimpse of California Chrome in action in two weeks, and the trainer liked what he saw.

Sherman arrived in New York on Monday afternoon and watched his Triple Crown contender gallop at Belmont Park on Tuesday morning. It was the first time Sherman had observed the chestnut colt since he captured the Preakness.

"I thought he looked better now than he did after the Preakness," Sherman said. "I couldn't believe how much weight he put on. Going on the Triple Crown trail, it's kind of rough. He's an amazing horse."

California Chrome will try for the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 on Saturday in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The flashy 3-year-old with four white feet will be the heavy favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, known as the "Test of the Champion" for its history of crushing Triple Crown dreams.

Only 11 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year. There have been 11 Triple tries since Affirmed, the most recent being Big Brown in 2008. He won the first two legs, and then was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux in the Belmont.

I'll Have Another won the first two legs in 2012, but was scratched on Belmont eve with a tendon injury that ended his career.

After the Preakness, Sherman, 77, returned to his stable in Southern California. He sent California Chrome to New York in the care of Alan Sherman, his son and assistant trainer. The Belmont will be the colt's third demanding race in a short five-week span.

"He's doing outstanding," Alan Sherman said. "I couldn't ask for anything more right now. I'm just enjoying the ride he's put us on."

The full California Chrome rooting section will be on hand Saturday. Perry Martin, co-owner and breeder of the colt with Steve Coburn, did not attend the Preakness. He was upset with treatment he received by Churchill Downs at the Derby.

Martin is not going to miss this chance to be part of history.

"Perry and his wife will get here late Wednesday night," Coburn said. "He'll probably lay real low until the day of the race. Him and his family are pretty reserved. That's why he gets out of town real quick so I can do all the talking."

Coburn and his wife, Carolyn, from northern Nevada are enjoying their first trip to New York.

"It was my first time in Kentucky, my first time in Maryland and now my first time in New York," Coburn said. "Carolyn would like to come back here and see all this when we got more time. We've kind of been rushed from here to there and back again."

For Art Sherman, it is a homecoming for the Brooklyn native.

"I haven't been back to Williamsburg in many years," Sherman said. "It's changed quite a bit. I probably can't afford Williamsburg now."

The Belmont draw takes place Wednesday morning. It's not fraught with as much drama as the Derby, where breaking from an extreme inside or outside post in a 19- or 20-horse field can quickly take a horse out of contention.

The Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races, is contested over a track with wide sweeping turns. It gives jockeys plenty of time to sort out early positions.

The Belmont lost a potential runner on Tuesday when trainer Linda Rice withdrew Kid Cruz from consideration. He ran eighth in the Preakness, 16 lengths behind California Chrome.

Kid Cruz might try an easier spot on the Belmont undercard, the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes at 1 1-16 miles.

The likely challengers for California Chrome include Commanding Curve, Commissioner, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Matuszak, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Social Inclusion, Tonalist and Wicked Strong.

Saban's new deal worth nearly $7 million a year

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban is a mere bonus or two from knocking down another salary barrier and becoming the $7 million man.

A unanimous vote by the Alabama system trustees' compensation committee Tuesday made Saban's new 8-year, $55.2 million deal official nearly six months after the university announced the agreement.

The 62-year-old Saban will make $6.5 million in base pay and what the university describes as a "talent fee" plus a $400,000 completion bonus for each year and other incentives.

It's a seven-figure raise over the eight-year contract worth about $5.6 million annually he received in March 2012. New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will make $2.074 million over three years.

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said that Saban, often rumored for other college and NFL jobs, will "be our head football coach for many years to come."

"He is the best coach in the country and he's brought Alabama back to the pinnacle of college football," Battle said in a statement released by the university. "His success on the field is obviously second to none, but Coach Saban's influence on academics and all the other areas of our athletic programs are equally impressive to me."

Saban won't owe a buyout if he leaves for another head coaching job. His life insurance policy was upped from $5 million to $6 million and a $100,000 contribution will be made to his scholarship fund.

Saban is one of four coaches in The Associated Press poll era to win four national titles, joining Alabama's Bear Bryant, Southern California's John McKay and Notre Dame's Frank Leahy.

"We are honored by the commitment the University of Alabama has made to us with this new contract," Saban said in the prepared news release. "It is certainly a mutual agreement in terms of our commitment to the University of Alabama. We will continue to work hard to keep our football program among the nation's elite. My passion has always been to develop young men to their full potential as student-athletes.

"We've had great success in that area at Alabama and I'm appreciative of all the support and the resources we receive from the administration in order to make that happen."

Saban has led the Crimson Tide to three national championships and an average of 12 wins over the last six seasons. He'll make $400,000 if Alabama wins another national title with other bonuses including $125,000 for winning a Southeastern Conference championship and escalating payouts ranging from $65,000 to $125,000 depending on what bowl game the Tide makes.

He'll get $100,000 if Alabama football players' graduation rate ranks in the top 25 percent among SEC programs. Alabama's 28 graduates going into the Sugar Bowl led the nation.

Trustees also approved details on the contract for Kiffin. The former Tennessee and Southern California coach will make $680,000 salaries each of the next two years and $714,000 in the final year ending Feb. 28, 2017.

Other coaches got raises while defensive coordinator Kirby Smart had his deal extended one year through Feb. 28, 2017. Smart will make $1.385 million each of the next three years.

The non-coordinators all have two-year deals. All the coaches receive memberships to the North River Yacht Club plus performance bonuses that could rise to 18 percent of their salary with a national title.

New linebackers coach Kevin Steele will be the second-highest paid assistant, making $700,000 a year. Also a special assistant to the head coach, he is moving from a support staff role.

New defensive line coach Bo Davis will make a $450,000 salary. Receivers coach Billy Napier received a one-year extension but his $325,000 salary remains unchanged.

Other coaches with old and new salary:

-Burton Burns, associate head coach/running backs, goes from $400,000 to $428,000.

-Mario Cristobal, offensive line, $475,000 to $500,000.

-Lance Thompson, outside linebackers, $400,000 to $428,000.

-Bobby Williams, tight ends/special teams coordinator, $400,000 to $428,000.

-Scott Cochran, director of strength and conditioning, $355,000 to $395.000.

A healthy Dwyane Wade is ready to go in NBA Finals

MIAMI (AP) The last time Dwyane Wade played in an NBA Finals game, he needed fluid drained from his left knee and eight hours of intense game-day therapy just to get into uniform.

The Miami Heat guard later described it in a single word.

"Hell," Wade said.

It was also worth it, after he scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and hoisted his third Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Now, unlike last year, Wade is not dealing with any injuries heading into the Miami's finals rematch against the San Antonio Spurs. At 32 years old and with 866 NBA games already on his playing odometer, Wade still deals with plenty of aches and pains, good days and bad days, and basically has a standing appointment in the Heat training room.

But compared to last season's NBA Finals, his knees are good as new.

"He's a big-time, huge piece to our puzzle," four-time NBA MVP and Heat star LeBron James said. "To have him out there in the groove that he's in right now, it's going to help us."

The Heat are looking to win their third straight title and Wade is on the cusp of joining a list of all-time NBA greats.

There are just seven players with four championships and at least one NBA Finals MVP award on their resumes: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Havlicek, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the Spurs' Tim Duncan.

Wade could be the eighth person in that club.

"We just want to continue to add to what we're accomplishing," Wade said.

Almost forgotten amid all the memories of Wade limping about during last year's playoffs - he whacked what was his "good" knee at this time last year, the surgically repaired left one, in a collision with the Spurs' Manu Ginobili during Game 6 of the finals - is he had big games when Miami needed him.

Through his first 14 games of the 2013 playoffs, Wade was averaging 13.6 points.

In the final eight games of that postseason run, starting with Game 7 against Indiana, he averaged 19.8 points.

And in the last four games of the finals, he averaged 23.5 points against the Spurs to close the series. As his knees got worse, Wade seemed to get better.

"He still found a way last year," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He really did. He had some of his biggest games not only in the finals, but Game 7, we didn't think necessarily he was going to even play that game in the Eastern Conference finals."

This year, the Heat tried to leave nothing to chance with Wade's health.

The so-called maintenance plan for Wade - limiting his minutes to save his knees - kicked in on the second night of the regular season. He wound up missing 28 games in all, mostly because of that rest-and-rehab scheme, to ensure that he would be good to go in the playoffs.

The results can't be argued. Wade is averaging 18.7 points on 52 percent shooting, Miami is 12-3 in the playoffs and when getting more than three days rest - like the Heat will have before Game 1 in San Antonio on Thursday night - the perennial All-Star has had games of 23, 14, 27 and 23 points on a combined 60 percent shooting.

"Dwyane is playing great," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday. "He looks a lot more spry and ready to go then he did last year in the finals."

Maybe the biggest payoff of the regular-season maintenance plan has been how Wade has closed games in this postseason.

Wade is shooting 56 percent in fourth quarters during the playoffs, the best clip of his career and the best percentage of any guard with more than 30 shots in the final period of postseason games this season. San Antonio's Danny Green is second on that list, shooting just under 49 percent.

Wade doesn't like talking about his place in history.

But he knows what rarefied air he would be entering with a fourth title run.

"I think we've all put ourselves in great situations, and we're just going to continue to try to enjoy this moment that we're in because it's an amazing moment," Wade said. "It's something that, for a lifetime, is going to fulfill us as athletes. Even when we can't play this game, we're going to always be able to talk about this."

And now, when talking about his health, Wade has another one-word answer: "Better."

Spurs' Parker plans to play in NBA Finals Game 1

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tony Parker plans to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The San Antonio Spurs open their rematch with the Miami Heat on Thursday, and their star point guard is nursing a balky left ankle.

"He's getting better every day, and I expect him to play," coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday.

Parker aggravated the injury Saturday, missing the second half of San Antonio's series-clinching victory over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.

Parker didn't practice Tuesday, but said he expects to be back Wednesday.

Parker is averaging a team-leading 17.2 points and 4.9 assists this postseason but has been bothered by injuries the past two rounds.

"I always try to be honest with Pop," Parker said. "He knows, but if I'm 50 percent I'll try to play. If I'm under 50 percent, we can argue."

Parker conceded the ankle has bothered him since San Antonio's second-round series against Portland, although he did not divulge it at the time.

"I don't like to talk about when I'm hurt," he said. "I played on it for the whole series against Portland. That's why I think my hamstring got hurt because I was playing on a bad ankle."

Parker had tightness in his left hamstring midway through the second quarter of Game 5 against the Trail Blazers, forcing him to miss the rest of the Spurs' series-clinching victory.

He did not miss any of the Western Conference finals because of his hamstring. But he aggravated the ankle injury in Game 4 against Oklahoma City.

"I twisted it again, but didn't say anything," Parker said. "Played on it, and then Game 6 I think my body is like, `That's enough.' It's perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1."

San Antonio was still able to clinch the series without Parker, holding off Oklahoma City for a 112-107 overtime victory to advance to its sixth finals appearance.

Parker said he wanted to return for the second half, but was overruled by Popovich and the team's medical staff.

"I wanted to play. I wanted to play," Parker said. "Pop was like, `No, we never know for Game 7.' So I understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to watch from the locker room. At the same time, I was very proud of my teammates. They stepped up big. It was huge for us because I think those five days (off) are big for us to prepare for the finals."

Asked whether he would possibly hold Parker out if he was less than 50 percent, Popovich smirked and alluded to the calf injury that was supposed to keep the Thunder's Serge Ibaka out of the Western Conference finals - but didn't.

"It's too early - he's either 50 percent or out for the rest of the playoffs," Popovich said. "One of the two . I had to do it. I'll never do it again, I promise. We're done with that joke."

Djokovic returns to semifinals at French Open

PARIS -- Novak Djokovic advanced to the French Open semifinals for the sixth time in his career, and he'll be looking for only his second win at that stage.

The second-seeded Serb beat eighth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 Tuesday on Court Philippe Chatrier, the main stadium at Roland Garros.

Djokovic is a six-time major champion, but he still needs to win the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

He reached the semifinals at Roland Garros the last four years, but only made one final, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2012. He also made semifinal appearances in 2007 and '08.

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