Rodman tells North Korea’s Kim he has ‘friend for life’
SEOUL, South Korea — Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.
“You have a friend for life,” Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the U.S. play, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press.
Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.
The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a “hostile” policy toward the North.
Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Chicago Bulls star he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith said.
Cowboys redo five contracts, save cap space
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have reworked the contracts of five starters, including DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Miles Austin, to save salary cap space.
Dallas, which was penalized $5 million off its cap in both 2012 and 2013, needed to scramble to free up space. By restructuring the deals of star linebacker Ware, tight end Witten, wide receiver Austin, cornerback Brandon Carr and center Ryan Cook, the Cowboys wiped out the $20 million they were projected to be over the cap this year.
The biggest savings will come in the Carr deal. Dallas signed Carr as a free agent last year, and Thursday’s moves turn nearly all of the $14.3 million he was due in salary into a signing bonus. Carr will count $3.5 million against this year’s cap.
Ware’s salary is going down to $1 million for this season, and a $5 million bonus is being spread over the rest of the contract, saving $4 million. Austin’s deal also will save $4 million, and Witten’s will take another $3.6 million off the cap.
The Cowboys could get further under the cap with a new contract for Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his deal and counts $16.8 million against the cap this season. Right tackle Doug Free, who struggled most of last season, could save $7 million on the cap if he is cut by June 1.
Gambling tax money for Vikings stadium lags badly
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gambling money critical to paying off a new Minnesota Vikings stadium has fallen way short of projections, and more has been spent on the project than has been collected to pay for it, state officials revealed Thursday.
State budget officials released the latest stadium revenue numbers Thursday as part of a larger budget forecast. They said as of Feb. 1, only 130 Minnesota bars and restaurants were offering the electronic pulltab games that are the primary source of tax revenue for the stadium — a far cry from the 900 sites that were initially projected to be up and running by then.
Officials also downgraded the expected daily tax revenue each site will bring in from $206 to $100, and a reserve fund that was supposed to contain nearly $39 million by 2015 is now projected to be empty by then.
“It’s not an insurmountable problem, but it is a problem,” said Gov. Mark Dayton, who had been the chief booster of a $348 million state subsidy for a $1 billion, downtown Minneapolis stadium scheduled to open in 2016. “We’ll be working with legislative leaders to solve it, and we will solve it.”
Yankees’ Rivera throws first simulated game
TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was all smiles after throwing 18 pitches Thursday in his first simulated game since knee surgery last spring.
“I feel good,” Rivera said. “I feel real good. Getting stronger and stronger.”
The 43-year old pitched one inning against Yankees’ minor leaguers. He also fielded and covered first base.
“That’s what I wanted to do — field some bunts, go after some balls in between first and the mound,” Rivera said.
Rivera pitched in nine games last year, his season ending when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while tracking down a fly ball during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3. He had surgery on June 12.
Rivera is a 12-time All-Star with 608 saves in the regular season and 42 in the postseason.
“He’s throwing the ball right where he wants to, and to be able to that in February is amazing,” Yankees ace CC Sabathia said.
Djokovic, Federer reach Dubai semifinals
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic remained unbeaten this year by routing Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-0, 6-3 as the top four seeds powered into the semifinals of the Dubai Championships on Thursday.
Defending champion Roger Federer defeated Nikolay Davydenko 6-2, 6-2.
Djokovic will play fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who returned to the semifinals by beating German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2. Federer will face third-seeded Tomas Berdych, who defeated Russian wild card Dmitry Tursunov for the second time in five days, 6-3, 6-2.
The top-ranked Djokovic won his 11th straight match to start the year. He broke Seppi three times in the first set and once in the second, which was a little more competitive. But a strong first serve — he won 89 percent of points on it — and a powerful forehand helped him improve to 10-0 against Seppi.
Taiwan’s Hsieh wins twice in same day in Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Defending champion Hsieh Su-wei won two matches Thursday to reach the Malaysian Open quarterfinals.
Hsieh beat Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in a match lasting 2 hours, 42 minutes. She had only a few hours of rest before defeating China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-2. The Taiwanese player completed her first- and second-round matches on the same day after thunderstorms disrupted play earlier this week.
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria won 6-3, 6-2 against Wang Qiang of China, who ousted top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the first round.
Others moving into Friday’s quarterfinals are fourth-seeded Ayumi Morita of Japan, wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the U.S., Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand, Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.
United States’ Querrey ousted at Delray Beach
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Third-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S. double-faulted on the last two points of a third-set tiebreaker to lose to qualifier Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4) at the Delray Beach International Championships on Thursday.
Querrey double-faulted eight times in the match. Querrey, who led 4-0 in the third set, double-faulted at 30-40 when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set.
“I played a sloppy game at 4-1, and then at 5-4, I played some tentative shots, and the double-fault killed me, and then it’s a 50-50 match after that.” Querrey said. “It was just one of those days, one of those matches.”
Williams reaches semifinals of Brazil Tennis Cup
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil — Venus Williams beat fifth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday to reach the semifinals of the Brazil Tennis Cup.
The top-seeded American broke Rybarikova’s serve at 5-4 to win the first set and quickly took control of the second to clinch the victory in 1 hour, 25 minutes at the hard court tournament in southern Brazil.
Williams faced nine break points against the 52nd-ranked Rybarikova but was broken only twice.
The 20th-ranked Williams is playing in her first tournament since losing to Maria Sharapova in the third round of the Australian Open in January. She will next face Olga Puchkova of Russia, who cruised past Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 despite eight double faults. The 109th-ranked Puchkova, who upset third-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in the first round, will try to reach her first final since 2006.
Chicago Marathon to have registration lottery
CHICAGO — More than a week after registration was suspended because of technical issues, the Chicago Marathon announced registration will re-open with a lottery next week.
Lottery information was posted Thursday on the marathon’s website. Marathon officials said a lottery would be the fairest way to offer the remaining 15,000 entries for the Oct. 13 race. About 30,000 runners were able to sign up before registration was suspended on Feb. 19. Those entries will be honored. The race has a total 45,000 entries available.
Runners can sign up for the lottery from Tuesday through Thursday next week. Lottery officials will randomly select 15,000 names from those entries. Those individuals will be notified March 12 and have until March 14 to complete their registrations.
From wire sources