NBA union head Hunter placed on indefinite leave
NEW YORK — NBA players put union chief Billy Hunter on an indefinite leave Friday, two weeks after a report they commissioned questioned Hunter’s leadership and criticized him for bad decisions and questionable business practices.
The union is forming an interim executive committee and an advisory committee, the group’s president, Derek Fisher, said in a statement released Friday. An outside attorney is also being hired as players begin moving forward, likely without the man who has guided them since 1996.
Hunter’s attorney responded that the actions weren’t allowable under NBPA rules, setting up the possibility of a Hunter fight to keep to his job.
Fisher pushed for the outside review of Hunter and the union. That examination by a New York law firm found no illegal use of funds but cited Hunter for a number of poor choices and recommended players discuss whether he should remain in charge during their All-Star weekend meetings.
Celtics F Sullinger will miss rest of season
BOSTON — Boston Celtics first-round draft choice Jared Sullinger had back surgery on Friday and will miss the rest of the season.
The team said Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disc surgery. He is expected to be ready in time for next season’s training camp.
Sullinger had been tabbed as a lottery pick before health concerns dropped him to 21st overall in the draft. He appeared in 45 games, averaging six points and 5.9 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game.
The announcement comes five days after All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo was diagnosed with a torn ACL that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Ex-NBA player’s son gets 60-year term for murder
DALLAS — A Texas jury sentenced the son of former NBA player Nick Van Exel to 60 years in prison Friday in the shooting death of a longtime friend.
Nickey Maxwell Van Exel, 22, received the punishment after his father wept on the witness stand and apologized to the family of the victim, Bradley Bassey Eyo. The same jury in Dallas County in North Texas found the younger Van Exel guilty of murder on Thursday.
Prosecutors had sought a capital murder conviction.
Nickey Van Exel fatally shot Eyo in December 2010 and dumped his body at Lake Ray Hubbard on the eastern outskirts of Dallas. His attorney had said the two were playing with a shotgun at Nickey Van Exel’s Garland home and that Van Exel didn’t know the gun was loaded.
Nick Van Excel, who played 13 seasons in the NBA including a stint with the Dallas Mavericks and is now a player development instructor for the Atlanta Hawks, testified about the happy times he and his son spent together, including with Eyo.
He recalled the time that he took his son and Eyo to a 2006 NBA Finals game in Miami between the Heat and the Mavericks.
“And they were about the only guys there cheering for the Dallas Mavericks,” he said. “It’s dangerous when you go to an arena cheering for the other team.”
The elder Van Exel broke down at one point while speaking in court. He then apologized to Eyo’s family.
“I’m really sorry to the Eyo family. Nobody should have to go through something like this. Nobody,” he said, as he looked at Eyo’s family members who were in the courtroom.
Soliman beats Sturm by unanimous decision
DUESSELDORF, Germany — Sam Soliman defeated former WBA champion Felix Sturm by unanimous decision in their IBF middleweight fight on Friday night.
Soliman was knocked down in the second round, but got up and improved as the bout went on.
The judges awarded it 116-111, 114-113, 114-113 to the 39-year-old Australian, who will next fight compatriot Daniel Geale for the IBF title. There was a moment of confusion as Michael Buffer announced the judges had awarded it to Sturm, only to correct himself while the German and the crowd were celebrating.
Soliman improved to 42-11 with 17 KOs, while Sturm dropped to 37-4-2 (16 KOs) on the day after his 34th birthday.
It was the German’s second consecutive defeat after losing his WBA title to Geale in September.
Travis Hafner agrees to $2M deal with Yankees
NEW YORK — Travis Hafner and the New York Yankees have agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract that allows him to earn up to $4 million more in bonuses based on plate appearances.
Limited by injuries the past five seasons, the 35-year-old gives the Yankees a designated hitter with power potential from the left side of the plate. He essentially takes over the role filled last season by Raul Ibanez, who signed a $2.75 million, one-year deal with Seattle in December.
Hafner played in only 66 games for Cleveland last year because of knee and back problems and hit .228 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 263 at-bats. The Indians declined a $13 million option, electing to pay him a $2.75 million buyout.
AP source: Red Sox sign first baseman Overbay
BOSTON — An official with knowledge of the deal says the Boston Red Sox have signed first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor league contract.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
If he makes the Boston roster out of spring training, Overbay would share duties with Mike Napoli.
Overbay is a career .270 hitter with 133 homers and 581 RBIs in a 12-year career with the Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks and Pirates.
Mets give OF Marlon Byrd minor league contract
NEW YORK — The New York Mets have agreed to a minor league contract with outfielder Marlon Byrd, who served a 50-game suspension last season after testing positive in June for a performance enhancing drug while he was a free agent.
An NL All-Star in 2010, Byrd was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Boston Red Sox on April 21. Boston released him on June 12. Two weeks later, MLB announced he tested positive for Tamoxifen, which can reduce side effects of steroid use and increase testosterone.
Byrd hit .210 in 47 games for Boston and Chicago last season, and has hit .278 in 11 big league seasons with 82 homers and 445 RBIs.
LeMond recovering after car crash in Minnesota
PLYMOUTH, Minn. — Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond crashed his car in a Minneapolis suburb this week.
A Plymouth police report says LeMond left the road Wednesday morning, hit a fence and shrubs, and then hit an embankment before ending up in the backyard of a home.
The report says the 51-year-old LeMond went to a hospital with back pain.
According to the report, LeMond may have lost consciousness before the accident.
LeMond became America’s first Tour de France winner in 1986. He also won the Tour in 1989 and 1990.
Nadal arrives in Chile for match, test knee
SANTIAGO, Chile — Rafael Nadal arrived in Chile on Friday and will test his injured left knee in competition for the first time next week after sitting out for seven months — the longest break of his career.
The 26-year-old Nadal will head off to the nearby coastal resort city of Vina del Mar, where he will play in his first event since losing in the second round of Wimbledon in June.
Nadal, who will try to win his eighth French Open title later this year, said the knee still bothers him and he may have to reduce tournament appearances.
Kirilenko reaches Pattaya Open semifinals
PATTAYA, Thailand — Second-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia reached the Pattaya Open semifinals by beating Elena Vesnina 7-6 (6), 6-3 Friday.
Kirilenko, who last year lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final, will take on Sorana Cirstea of Romania on Saturday. Cirstea defeated Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-0.
Another Russian, Nina Bratchikova, ended Ayumi Morita’s run in the tournament with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory. Morita had knocked out defending champion Ivanovic in the first round.
Bratchikova will face fifth-seeded Sabine Lisicki, who dropped the first set against Marina Erakovic of New Zelaand before winning 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Sara Errani reaches Open GDF Suez semifinals
PARIS — Top-seeded Sara Errani needed more than three hours to beat unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in the Open GDF Suez quarterfinals on Friday, while second-seeded Petra Kvitova and No. 3 Marion Bartoli both lost.
Errani will play Kiki Bertens in the semifinals of the indoor tournament.
Bertens followed up her second-round win against fourth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova with another upset, beating No. 6 Lucie Safarova 6-1, 7-5.
There were more surprises in the quarters, as Kristina Mladenovic downed second-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4, and Mona Barthel eliminated the third-seeded Bartoli 7-6 (7), 6-4.
By wire sources