In Brief


No-brainer? Sonics rest their defense on move

The SuperSonics rested their case to move to Oklahoma City atop a comical drawing of a brain.

Sonics lawyer Brad Keller enlivened closing arguments Thursday to the trial over whether the Sonics will stay for the final two years of their lease in KeyArena or move. He asked how former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton could have been involved in a plan to inflict financial harm on Sonics owner Clay Bennett and force him to sell the team to local investors without telling Seattle’s top leaders.

City officials hired Gorton to lead their effort to keep Seattle’s oldest professional sports team in town.

Amid chuckles inside an otherwise tense courtroom, Keller then displayed an electronic drawing of a human silhouette with a brain inside the skull. The left side of the brain, in green, was labeled “City’s litigation lawyers” and the blue, right side was labeled “Griffin Group’s lawyers.” The so-called Griffin Group hatched the plan to force Bennett to sell the team.

“Are we to assume the left side wasn’t talking to the right side?” an incredulous Keller asked. “That defies logic. That defies common sense.”

Judge Marsha Pechman smiled under her hands as she viewed the brain drawing on a monitor.

At the close of the six-day trial — and about 90 minutes before the Sonics selected UCLA guard Russell Westbrook fourth in the NBA Draft on this peculiar day — Pechman said she will post a written decision Wednesday.

Also: Three-point specialist James Jones became a free agent after deciding not to exercise his option year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The option would have made Jones a Trail Blazer through the upcoming season and paid him about $3.1 million.

Jones averaged eight points in 58 games last season. He had 91 3-pointers.

Yao Ming will return to light training with China’s national team and expects to play in pre-Olympic warm-up games.

The fitness of the Houston Rockets center for the Beijing Olympics has been a subject of national concern in China since he suffered a stress fracture to his left foot in February, ending his NBA season and threatening his star turn as part of China’s team at the Games.

A day after returning to Beijing, Yao said X-rays and an MRI taken in Houston on Tuesday showed his recovery was on schedule, with the foot about 80 percent healed. The remaining 20 percent usually takes a full year, Yao said.

Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan will resign at the end of December amid new NCAA allegations that the school failed to monitor the men’s basketball team.

A letter from the NCAA, released by the school Thursday, said Indiana failed to meet standards from May 2006 to July 2007, especially in light of “the heightened monitoring required by the prior infractions history” of former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson.

Sampson was under sanction for previous telephone recruiting violations when he was the coach at Oklahoma.


Raiders’ Sims crosses bay to join Niners

Veteran offensive lineman Barry Sims signed with the San Francisco 49ers, crossing the bay after nine years with the Oakland Raiders.

Sims, who joined the league as an undrafted free agent in 1999, started all 16 games at left tackle for the Raiders last season as their longest-tenured player. He played guard and tackle for Oakland, including 68 straight starts at left tackle, but was released Feb. 29 in a cost-cutting move.

Four teams made a bid for Sims’ services in recent weeks, but he chose the 49ers because of the geographical proximity to his Bay Area home and a better chance to be a major contributor.

Also: A federal judge has given a New York Jets season-ticket holder more time to amend a lawsuit that seeks millions from the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for “deceiving customers” by videotaping opponents’ signals.

The lawsuit by Carl J. Mayer, filed in September, was due to be dismissed Monday because of a lack of activity.

Mayer and his co-counsel, Bruce I. Afran, this week asked U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. for more time because Afran has been ill and because of unspecified “revelations” developed by an investigation into the taping launched by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania after the lawsuit was filed.

They asked permission to amend the lawsuit and serve notice on the defendants by Aug. 30.


Ducks’ Niedermayer to return next season

Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer informed Ducks general manager Brian Burke that he will fulfill the final year of his contract and skate with the team during the 2008-2009 season.

The 34-year-old Niedermayer missed the first two months of last season while contemplating retirement after the team won the Stanley Cup — and he was named the playoffs Most Valuable Player — in June 2007.

Although he returned to play in December, Niedermayer initially remained unsure as to his playing status for next season following the Ducks’ elimination in the opening round of the playoffs by the Dallas Stars in April.

He erased any doubts.

“I guess after a shorter year and shorter playoff run I definitely feel physically and mentally ready to go,” Niedermayer said. “I’m happy to have a decision made and to be moving forward.”

Also: Martin Straka has decided to leave the NHL and return to his former Czech club.

Straka, who played for the New York Rangers the last three seasons after joining the NHL in 1992, will be a player and sports director for HC Lasselsberger Plzen, the club said on its Web site.

The 35-year-old forward scored 257 goals and had 460 assists in 954 NHL regular-season games and added 26 goals and 44 assists in the playoffs.

Viktor Kuzkin, a three-time Olympic champion, died after a diving accident this week, the International Ice Hockey Federation said in Zurich, Switerland. He was 67.

Kuzkin won gold medals with the Soviet Union teams at three Winter Olympics from 1964 to 1972 and eight world championships.

Former gold medalists Venus and Serena Williams are expected to play singles and doubles for the Olympic team announced by the U.S. Tennis Association.

The nine-member team includes Lindsay Davenport, who won a gold medal in singles at the 1996 Games. She’ll play singles and has been nominated for doubles with Liezel Huber, ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles.

First-time Olympians James Blake, Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri were named to the men’s team in singles. Bob and Mike Bryan, the No. 1 doubles team, and Blake and Querrey have been nominated as the U.S. men’s doubles teams.

The deadline for South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius to qualify for the Beijing Olympics has been extended.

Pistorius’ manager, Peet van Zyl, said the South African athletics federation moved its deadline from July 11 to July 17, giving the runner time to compete in four European races as he tries to meet the 400-meter qualifying time of 45.55.

Pistorius won a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport in May saying he could compete in able-bodied events after the International Association of Athletics Federations said his carbon fiber prosthetics gave him an unfair advantage.

The Iraqi Football Association has dissolved the national soccer team and dismissed the Iraqi coach after a loss to Qatar four days ago ended the country’s hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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