Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

No. 10 Louisville beats No. 12 Syracuse 58-53

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Luke Hancock hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break a tie with 99 seconds left, and No. 10 Louisville beat No. 12 Syracuse 58-53 on Saturday, exacting a measure of revenge for a loss to the Orange earlier this season.

It was the third straight loss for Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 Big East), which was humbled 57-46 in a loss to No. 7 Georgetown a week ago before a record Carrier Dome crowd of 35,012. That snapped the Orange's 38-game home winning streak, and they were beaten again, 74-71, at No. 22 Marquette on Monday night to drop into a tie with Notre Dame behind the league-leading Hoyas, Louisville and Marquette.

The Irish were at Marquette later Saturday as the race to get a double-bye into the Big East tournament heated up.

Louisville (24-5, 12-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, and the Cardinals did it before a stunned crowd of 31,173.

Russ Smith led Louisville with 18 points, Hancock had 12, all on 3s, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

C.J. Fair had 19 points to lead the Orange, James Southerland added 13 and Michael Carter-Williams 11. Syracuse outrebounded Louisville 41-36 but was victimized by eight 3-pointers and shot poorly again (20 of 56 for 35.7 percent). Louisville held a 16-9 edge on points off turnovers and a 14-8 edge at the free throw line.

After Hancock swished a straight-on 3 for Louisville, Fair hit a spinning layup as Dieng fouled him but missed the free throw and Syracuse trailed 41-40 with 7:34 to go.

Louisville began to press and the strategy paid off with two straight turnovers. Southerland lost the ball off the dribble and Triche mishandled an inbounds pass. The Cardinals took advantage as Dieng sank two free throws and Hancock hit a 3 from the wing for a 47-40 lead at 5:35.

Carter-Williams scored six straight points in a span of just over a minute to rally the Orange, hitting four free throws and a shot off the glass as Syracuse trailed 47-46 with 4:27 left. Fair's baseline jumper gave Syracuse the lead and Smith's free throw tied it at 48-all with 1:39 to go.

After Triche missed a baseline layup against Dieng, Hancock stole Triche's ensuing inbounds pass and Hancock drained his fourth 3 to break the tie. Smith then hit two free throws and Triche's turnover sealed the Orange's fate as the Cardinals hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute.

Syracuse beat Louisville 70-68 in mid-January in the final seconds when Carter-Williams stole a pass at the top of the key and raced the length of the court, slamming home a two-hander that Dieng couldn't contest and landing hard on his back underneath the backboard. A record crowd of 22,814 at the KFC Yum! Center saw Syracuse beat a No. 1 team for fourth time, and the Cardinals are still the only top-ranked team to lose at home this season.

Syracuse, which trailed 23-19 after a poor first half, found a way to foil Dieng, Louisville's shot-blocking defensive ace, early in the second half. Carter-Williams fed Rakeem Christmas for a slam dunk and less than a minute later Southerland slammed another home to complete a three-way passing play in the lane with Christmas and Triche to move Syracuse within 28-27.

With Dieng on the bench, Southerland, who had just one basket in the first half, then drained a 3 from the top of the arc to give Syracuse just its second lead of the game. It was short-lived as Kevin Ware hit a 3 from the top of the key 24 seconds later.

Carter-Williams tried to electrify the crowd, but his driving two-handed dunk try caromed off the back of the rim. Carter-Williams then stole the ball and fed Southerland for a deep 3 and a 35-33 Orange lead nearing the midpoint of the second half.

It was Southerland's third straight make after an awful first half and he wasn't finished. Triche fed him for another 3 as he curled off a screen in the corner.

Fair's follow with 88 seconds left were the final points of the first half as the Orange trailed 23-19, their fewest points in a first half this season.

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Pistorius bought, collected guns in Olympic year

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In his Olympic year, Oscar Pistorius steadily became an avid firearms collector, joining a gun-collecting club and purchasing a collection of firearms that included a .500 Magnum pistol dubbed by its manufacturer as "the most powerful production revolver in the world" and a civilian version of a military assault rifle.

At the end of 2012, in the first blush of his romance with Reeva Steenkamp, the model he later shot and killed, Pistorius got deeper into his hobby. It was known that Pistorius liked guns but only now, from Associated Press interviews with other collectors, is it becoming clear the extent to which he became a dedicated firearms aficionado in the 12 months before he shot Steenkamp.

The track star not only applied for licenses to own more guns, but actually bought them, too, according to John Beare, vice chairman of the Lowveld Firearm Collectors Association which accepted Pistorius as a paid-up member last April. He and Pistorius were introduced at a Johannesburg hotel in January 2012, and it was there that Beare first explained to the athlete and some of his friends how to become certified collectors.

Had he not become a collector, Pistorius would under South African law have been limited to a maximum of four firearms for self-defense, of which only two could have been handguns, according to Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood, who specializes in firearms law.

Carvel Webb, chairman of the National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa, an umbrella group for the country's 2,000 approved private collectors including Pistorius, said that in the wake of Steenkamp's killing his group will now verify that Pistorius fulfilled the necessary requirements to be accepted as a collector and a decision in January to let him start collecting semi-automatic rifles.

"We will review all of those just to see if we are happy with it," Webb said.

Pistorius made no secret of his passion for firearms. Reporters who visited him at home in Pretoria, the capital, saw the pistol he kept by his bed and was licensed to own. He practiced at firing ranges both in South Africa and in Europe where he trained for the London Games. But apparently less well-known was his involvement with gun collectors to start building a firearms collection.

Beare said he twice observed Pistorius shoot at firing ranges and also at a clay pigeon shoot, but saw nothing to suggest he could be a menace with a gun.

"His safety was good," Beare told the AP. "He wouldn't do anything irrational with a firearm, because then I would have nailed him immediately."

Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend Steenkamp for a home intruder and shot her while she was in his bathroom toilet, firing through the closed door. Pistorius' license for the 9 mm pistol was issued on Sept. 10, 2010, according to the South African Police Service's National Firearms Center. It was registered for self-defense

Prosecutors have charged Pistorius with premeditated murder for killing Steenkamp with three of four shots fired in the early hours of Feb. 14.

"I had no reason to believe that there was anything wrong, that he could have a dark side, that there could be something wrong," said Beare.

However, Roberto Siriu, president of the Tolmezzo shooting range in northeast Italy, said Pistorius did not seem to him to be well-trained with firearms.

"No, I don't think so. He didn't give me that impression," Siriu told the AP.

Pistorius shot at Tolmezzo during breaks from athletic training in the nearby town of Gemona. In November 2011, Pistorius posted a photo of himself firing a rifle at Tolmezzo, with the words: "Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!"

Last June, seven weeks before he made history by running at the London Games, Pistorius tweeted that he was going back to Tolmezzo to shoot vintage rifles, adding: "Amped to the max! Yeaaah boi!!"

Gun collecting is regulated by South Africa's stringent Firearms Control Act. Pistorius had to explain to his collecting association, both in writing and in interviews, what types of firearms he wanted to collect and why.

Beare said he and two other association members interviewed Pistorius in June or July 2012, shortly before he became the first double-amputee Olympic runner.

"He was still budding (as a collector) at that stage. He had done his research on it and he was interested in American firearms," Beare said.

The association certified Pistorius as a beginner collector, Beare said. Pistorius bought two Smith & Wesson revolvers and three shotguns and sent photos of the firearms and their serial numbers to the association, as required, Beare said.

But Pistorius couldn't take actual physical possession of his firearms because he didn't have police-issued licenses for them. So the weapons were kept for safekeeping by a gun dealer, Beare said. At firing ranges, Pistorius used other people's guns, he added.

Pistorius eventually applied for the licenses in January, according to the National Firearms Center. It listed his weapons as:

—A Smith & Wesson model 500. With a caliber of .500 Magnum, it is called "the most powerful production revolver in the world" by its manufacturer in Springfield, Massachusetts. "A hunting handgun for any game animal walking," the company's website says. Pistorius was "quite fascinated" with that particular weapon, Beare said.

—A Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver.

—Three shotguns: A Mossberg, a Maverick and a Winchester, all American makes.

—A Vektor .223-caliber rifle.

The current status of those applications is unclear. Firearms Center officials said after Pistorius killed Steenkamp that the six license applications were sent back to a Johannesburg police station to be refilled, but the reason for that wasn't given.

For civilian collectors, the Vektor is the closest they can get to the R-series assault rifles used by South Africa's military. For civilian use, the rifle is modified to make it only semi-automatic. Because it is classed as a restricted weapon in South Africa, Pistorius had to upgrade his status from a beginner to a more serious collector.

As part of that upgrading process, Pistorius was interviewed again by his collectors' club this January, Beare said. It accepted the runner's explanation that he wanted to collect weapons linked to South African military history, Beare said. He said that entitled Pistorius to start collecting not just South African firearms but also Russian-made guns that guerrilla groups have used over the years to fight South African forces.

Pistorius bought the Vektor around December, and sent the serial number and a photo to the association, Beare added.

Collecting firearms can be expensive. Vektors sell for US$1,100 to US$1,500 on South African gun-resale websites. Pistorius' athletic success and sponsorships have made him wealthy. Beare said he understood that Pistorius was planning to build on his collection over time.

"You start small and then you start growing," he said.

Some have questioned why Pistorius felt he needed such a variety of weapons and whether the association should have certified him.

Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, a regulatory body for South African firearms instructors, said he struggles to see how pistols, shotguns and a semi-automatic rifle could be regarded as a coherent collection.

"The makes differ, the models differ and generally a collection needs to have a theme," said Pretorius. "I don't see there's a theme here."

But Webb, of the collectors' confederation, disagreed.

"There was a logic," Webb told the AP. "He's got three approved areas of interest."


AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

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AP Source: 49ers to send Smith to KC

Alex Smith is headed to Kansas City, the first major acquisition by the Chiefs since Andy Reid took over as coach.

A person with knowledge of the trade told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the Chiefs have agreed to deal for the 2005 top overall draft pick who lost his starting quarterback job in San Francisco to Colin Kaepernick last season.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade does not become official until March 12, when the NFL's new business year begins.

Another person familiar with the deal said the 49ers will get a second-round draft pick in April, No. 34 overall, and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft.

Fox Sports first reported the deal.

Smith sustained a concussion Nov. 11 and Kaepernick played well in his place. Coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with him even when Smith got healthy, and Kaepernick led the 49ers to the NFC championship and a close loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl.

The 28-year-old Smith struggled for most of his career in San Francisco, plagued as much by coaching and coordinator changes as by his own indecisiveness. But when Harbaugh became coach, Smith blossomed. He was among the league leaders in passer rating (104.1) with a 70.2 completion percentage when he was injured in a 24-24 tie against St. Louis.

Smith never started again for the 49ers, but now will replace Matt Cassel in Kansas City.

The Chiefs went 2-14 in 2012, earning the top pick in April's draft. But with no standout quarterbacks coming out of college this year, they quickly turned to finding a veteran.

Reid was fired by Philadelphia after 14 highly successful seasons, although the Eagles went 4-12 last year. Kansas City made him the first coach hired to fill a vacancy in January — there were eight of them — and the Chiefs also fired general manager Scott Pioli.

Now Reid has found his quarterback, and Smith has found another starting job.

Kansas City also has Brady Quinn on the roster, and he started eight games last season, going 1-7.

The 49ers, meanwhile, will be searching for a veteran to back up Kaepernick, their second-round draft choice in 2011.

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McIlroy, Woods play own version of match play

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy faced off Sunday in match play, just like so many golf fans wanted to see.

Only hardly anyone saw them. And it didn't even count.

After both were eliminated in the first round of the Match Play Championship, No. 1 and No. 2 in the world played two rounds Sunday morning at The Medalist.

"We thought we'd play our own Match Play final," McIlroy said Tuesday at the Honda Classic.

They were done about the time Matt Kuchar was holding on for a 2-and-1 win over Hunter Mahan at Dove Mountain in Arizona. McIlroy didn't give any details of the match, but it's safe to say they weren't wearing the ski caps that Kuchar and Mahan had on during their match.

The opening round for Woods and McIlroy didn't start until Thursday because of a snowstorm. They were gone the next day after losing, and Woods said he was headed home to Florida to get warm.

The Medalist is the home club of Woods. McIlroy said former NFL receiver Ahmad Rashad joined them.

So who won?

McIlroy said Woods won the first round, and McIlroy beat him the second round. That would leave their head-to-head record tied at 2 wins apiece. A year ago, Woods beat McIlroy in the World Golf Finals exhibition in Turkey, and McIlroy beat him in an 18-hole exhibition in China.

One thing they didn't have to worry about was pace of play.

They teed off at 8 a.m. and McIlroy said he was home by 1:30 p.m.

"He putts with the pin in," McIlroy said. "It's speed golf. It was good. It was really enjoyable."

McIlroy is the defending champion at the Honda Classic, where he held on despite a birdie-eagle finish by Woods, who tied for second. McIlroy has played only three rounds that count this year, with the Masters only six weeks away. He and Woods missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, and both lost in the first round of Match Play. The difference is that Woods also played the Farmers Insurance Open, which he won for his record eighth win at Torrey Pines.

Both are to play next week at Doral.

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Indiana stays No. 1 in AP Top 25, Gonzaga No. 2

Indiana is No. 1 in The Associated Press' Top 25 for the fourth straight week, while Gonzaga moved to No. 2 for the first time in school history.

The Bulldogs were third last week, matching their previous best ranking.

"The polls mean a lot more this time of year than they do in November, December, even January," coach Mark Few said. "All of us are being judged on the true body of work. It's definitely rewarding.

"It establishes us as a national program, which I believe we have been for the last 10 years. This group has done a great job of competing at that level, winning games at the highest level."

While the West Coast Bulldogs made some news at the top of the poll Monday, Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs from Down South, moved into the rankings for the first time since a 13-week run in 1984-85, their only appearance in the poll.

Louisiana Tech, which is 25th this week, was led back then to a ranking as high as No. 7 by a forward named Karl Malone. Gonzaga at that time had a point guard named John Stockton. They went on to become one of the greatest combinations in NBA history with the Utah Jazz, were members of the Dream Team and both were inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hoosiers, who have been ranked No. 1 for a total of 10 weeks this season, received all but one first-place vote from the 65-member national media panel.

Gonzaga, which got the other No. 1 vote, was ranked third for the final two weeks of 2003-04.

Duke moved up three spots to third and is followed by Michigan and Miami, which dropped from second after falling to Wake Forest, the Hurricanes' first Atlantic Coast Conference loss this season.

Kansas is sixth, followed by Georgetown, Florida, Michigan State and Louisville.

Saint Louis, which beat Butler and VCU last week, moved into 18th in the poll, the Billikens' first ranking since being in for one week last season.

Colorado State, which was 22nd and lost twice last week, and VCU, which was 24th, dropped out.

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Early wreck in Daytona 500 takes out favorites

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — With one massive wreck, the favorite was gone from the Daytona 500. So was the sentimental favorite.

An early crash in the Daytona 500 on Sunday knocked out several top contenders, including 2007 race winner Kevin Harvick and three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, shaking up NASCAR's opener.

Winner of two races at Speedweeks, Harvick was sent to the garage.

So was Stewart. He must now wait another season to try for his first Daytona 500 win after he failed in his 15th try at winning "The Great American Race." In 17 seasons spanning NASCAR and IndyCar, Stewart has been able to cross most everything off his to-do list. Just not the Daytona 500.

"If I didn't tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I'd be lying to you," Stewart said.

While taking the checkered was out of the picture, Stewart ditched the safety goggles and grabbed some tools in the garage to repair his No. 14.

Stewart eventually returned to the track — only 82 laps back. Safe to say, he was a bit of a long shot.

The nine-car wreck started when Kasey Kahne let off the gas to slow as they neared the first turn at Daytona International Speedway. Kyle Busch tried to do the same, but couldn't avoid contact.

Busch sent Kahne spinning across the track. Juan Pablo Montoya, 2010 race winner Jamie McMurray and defending series champion Brad Keselowski also were involved. So were Kurt Busch and Casey Mears.

"It's crazy. I can't believe it," Kahne said. "I mean, I wanted to race."

The accident came a day after a horrific wreck in a second-tier NASCAR series race hurled chunks of debris, including a heavy tire, into the stands and injured nearly 30 people.

It also ended Harvick's attempt to become the first in NASCAR history to win the exhibition Sprint Unlimited, a twin qualifying race and the Daytona 500 in the same Speedweeks.

"I don't know who was behind me, but it was just one of those deals," Harvick said.

Harvick stripped his firesuit down to his waist and rode off in a golf cart, a more solemn ride than his two trips to Victory Lane this week. Harvick had dominated in Speedweeks as the prelude to his final season driving a Richard Childress Chevrolet. He won last weekend's Sprint Unlimited and one of the Duel races, each time plopping his son Keelan into the cockpit for a quick rub of good luck.

This time, his battered No. 29 couldn't be saved. Crew members pounded away at sheet metal trying to salvage a return for Stewart.

The parade of wreckers entering the garage hauled the dented or totaled remains of some of the sport's heaviest hitters. Montoya is a former Indianapolis 500 winner. Busch won the 2004 Cup championship. None of them had a chance to pad his resume.

"You could see it coming. They were all checking up," Montoya said. "And I thought, 'Somebody isn't going to check up and screw up.' And, then, they did."

Stewart won the crash-marred Nationwide Series on Saturday for his 19th victory at Daytona in all other levels of NASCAR except for Cup. He has more wins at one of NASCAR's most famous tracks except for Dale Earnhardt (34). Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in his 20th try.

Stewart will at least stretch it out to 16.

The race might not be a total loss for Stewart. His Stewart-Haas Racing team fields the car for pole winner Danica Patrick. Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap in the famed Daytona 500 on Sunday. She led two laps — Nos. 90 and 91. On the starting grid, Stewart gave her a big hug and whispered into her ear before she slid into the cockpit.

Told the accident spoiled the start of his season, Stewart wasn't buying it.

"To hell with the season," he said. "I wanted to win the Daytona 500.


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Te'o doing tough balancing act at NFL combine

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Manti Te'o wants everyone to know he's over the embarrassment of an online hoax, and he's ready to focus on football.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up acknowledges he could have done things to avoid a public spectacle. But he says if he was still embarrassed by it, he wouldn't have taken questions Saturday at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

Instead, nearly two dozen television cameras and a room full of reporters were capturing every word out of Te'o's mouth as he again tried to explain how he was duped into believing a girlfriend that never existed died last fall.

It was the largest group of reporters Te'o has faced since the story broke last month

More than 300 players, including Te'o, are in Indy this weekend to work out for NFL scouts.

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Oscar Pistorius gets bail as murder trial looms

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius walked out of a South African court Friday a free man — for now — after a magistrate agreed to release him on bail ahead of his premeditated murder trial over the shooting death of his girlfriend.

But even as he was driven away from court and chased by videographers and photographers, questions continued to hound the Paralympian about what actually happened when he opened fire on Valentine's Day inside his home and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair, who agreed to bail with harsh restrictions for the athlete, expressed his own doubts about Pistorius' story. Those questions, highlighted at a four-day bail hearing that at times foreshadowed his coming trial, come from Pistorius' account that he felt threatened and mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he fired the four shots at her in his bathroom.

"Why would (Pistorius) venture further into danger?" Nair asked.

Pistorius' supporters shouted "Yes!" when Nair made his decision after a nearly two hour explanation of his ruling to a packed courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa's capital. Yet when prosecutors and the defense said they agreed to bail terms, Nair more than doubled those conditions for the 26-year-old runner to be free ahead of trial.

Nair set the bail at 1 million rand ($113,000), with $11,300 in cash up front and proof that the rest is available. The magistrate said Pistorius must hand over his passports and also turn in any other guns that he owns. Pistorius also cannot leave the district of Pretoria without the permission of his probation officer, Nair said, nor can he take drugs or drink alcohol.

Pistorius' family members hugged each other after the decision was read, with tears in their eyes.

"We are relieved at the fact that Oscar got bail today but at the same time we are in mourning for the death of Reeva with her family," said Pistorius' uncle, Arnold Pistorius. "As a family, we know Oscar's version of what happened on that tragic night and we know that that is the truth and that will prevail in the coming court case."

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, had said earlier that the family wouldn't be watching the bail decision and hadn't been following the hearing in Pretoria.

"It doesn't make any difference to the fact that we are without Reeva," she told The Associated Press.

Nair set Pistorius' next court appearance for June 4. The Olympian left the courthouse in a silver Land Rover, sitting in the rear, just more than an hour after the magistrate imposed the bail conditions. The vehicle, tailed by motorcycles carrying television cameramen aboard, later pulled into the home of Pistorius' uncle.

Pistorius left behind more than a dozen international and local television crews at the red-brick courthouse. It's a sign of the growing global fascination with a case involving an inspirational athlete and his beautiful, law-school graduate girlfriend, who was a model and reality TV show contestant.

During Friday's long session in Pretoria Magistrate's Court, Pistorius alternately wept and appeared solemn and more composed, especially toward the end as Nair criticized police procedures in the case and as a judgment in Pistorius' favor appeared imminent. He showed no reaction as he was granted bail.

Before the hearing, Pistorius' longtime coach Ampie Louw said he hoped to put his runner back into his morning and afternoon training routine if he got bail.

"The sooner he can start working the better," said Louw, who was the person who convinced the double-amputee to take up track as a teenager a decade ago. But he acknowledged Pistorius could be "heartbroken" and unwilling to immediately pull on his carbon-fiber running blades, the reason behind his "Blade Runner" nickname.

There is one place, however, where Nair ordered that Pistorius cannot go: His upscale home in a gated community in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria, where he killed Steenkamp in the predawn hours of Feb. 14.

Pistorius said in a sworn statement to the court that he shot his girlfriend accidentally, believing she was an intruder in his house. He described "a sense of terror rushing over" him and feeling vulnerable because he stood only on his stumps before opening fire.

Prosecutors, however, say he intended to kill Steenkamp, saying the shooting followed a loud argument between the two. Yet despite poking holes in Pistorius' statement — they questioned why he didn't notice his girlfriend missing despite walking past the bed and brought up incidents that they said highlighted his temper — their case unraveled through testimony by the police's lead investigator in the case, Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha.

Botha, who faces seven charges of attempted murder in an unrelated incident, was removed from the case Thursday. His replacement, the nation's top detective Vinesh Moonoo, stopped briefly by the hearing Friday. Prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said later Friday: "We're still confident in our case."

While Nair leveled harsh criticism at Botha for "errors" and "blunders," he said one man does not represent an investigation and that the state could not be expected to put all "the pieces of the puzzle" together in such a short time. The magistrate questioned whether Pistorius would be a flight risk and be prepared to go "ducking and diving" around the world when he stood to lose a fortune in cash, cars, property and other assets.

Pistorius faced the sternest bail requirements in South Africa because of the seriousness of the charge. His defense lawyers had to prove that he would not flee the country, would not interfere with witnesses or the case and his release would not cause public unrest. They also had to show "exceptional" circumstances for his release as well, something Nair said could be found in the "weak" case offered by prosecutors.

Yet the magistrate still anticipated the shape of the state's case at trial. Nair said he had serious questions about Pistorius' account: Why didn't he try to locate his girlfriend on fearing an intruder was in the house? Why didn't he try to determine who was in the bathroom? And why would he venture into perceived "danger" — the bathroom area — when he could have taken other steps to ensure his safety?

Touching those unanswered questions, Nair said: "There are improbabilities which need to be explored."


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report from Johannesburg.


Jon Gambrell can be reached at .

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SAfrica police replace top Pistorius investigator

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Ahead of a judge's decision on whether to release Oscar Pistorius on bail, South African police on Thursday appointed a new chief detective in the murder case, replacing a veteran policeman who was himself charged with attempted murder.

The sensational twist in the state's troubled investigation fueled growing public fascination with the case against the double-amputee Olympian, who is charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of Valentine's Day.

Pistorius, a sporting icon and source of inspiration to millions until the shooting a week ago, is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and publicists. The abruptness of his fall, and its gruesome circumstances, have gripped a global audience and put South Africa's police and judicial system under the spotlight.

The man at the center of the storm sat in the dock during his bail hearing, mostly keeping his composure in contrast to slumped-over outbursts of weeping and sobbing on previous days in court. In front of Pistorius, defense lawyer Barry Roux pounced on the apparent disarray in the state's case, laying out arguments that amounted to a test run for the full trial yet to come.

Roux pointed to what he called the "poor quality" of the state's investigation and raised the matter of intent, saying Pistorius and Steenkamp had a "loving relationship" and the Olympian therefore had no motive to plan her killing.

Pistorius, 26, said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her through a locked door in a bathroom in his home. Prosecutors believe the shooting happened after the couple got into an argument, and prosecutor Gerrie Nel painted a picture of a man he said was "willing and ready to fire and kill."

Much of the drama Thursday, however, happened outside the courtroom as South African police scrambled to get their investigation on track.

In a news conference at a training academy, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said a senior detective would gather a team of "highly skilled and experienced" officers to investigate the killing of 29-year-old Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV contestant.

The decision to put police Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo in charge came soon after word emerged that the initial chief investigator, Hilton Botha, is facing attempted murder charges, and a day after he offered testimony damaging to the prosecution.

Botha acknowledged Wednesday in court that nothing in Pistorius' version of the fatal shooting of Steenkamp contradicted what police had discovered, even though there have been some discrepancies. Botha also said that police had left a 9 mm slug in the toilet and had lost track of allegedly illegal ammunition found in Pistorius' home.

"This matter shall receive attention at the national level," Phiyega told reporters soon after the end of proceedings in the third day of Pistorius' bail hearing.

Bulewa Makeke, spokeswoman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said the attempted murder charges had been reinstated against Botha on Feb. 4. Police say they found out about it after Botha testified in Pistorius' bail hearing Wednesday.

Botha and two other police officers had seven counts of attempted murder reinstated against them in relation to a 2011 shooting incident. Botha and his two colleagues allegedly fired shots at a minibus they were trying to stop.

Makeke indicated the charges were reinstated against Botha because more evidence had been gathered. She said the charge against Botha was initially dropped "because there was not enough evidence at the time."

Pistorius' main sponsor Nike, meanwhile, suspended its contract with the multiple Paralympic champion, following eyewear manufacturer Oakley's decision to suspend its sponsorship. Nike said in a brief statement on its website: "We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."

On Thursday, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair asked the defense of Pistorius' bail application: "Do you think there will be some level of shock if the accused is released?"

Defense lawyer Roux responded: "I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released."

Prosecutor Nel suggested signs of remorse from Pistorius had nothing to do with whether he planned to kill his girlfriend.

"Even if you plan a murder, you plan a murder and shoot. If you fire the shot, you have remorse. Remorse might kick in immediately," Nel said.

As Nel summed up the prosecution's case opposing bail, Pistorius began to weep in the crowded courtroom, leading his brother, Carl Pistorius, to reach out and touch his back.

"He (Pistorius) wants to continue with his life like this never happened," Nel went on, prompting Pistorius, who was crying softly, to shake his head. "The reason you fire four shots is to kill," Nel persisted.

Earlier Thursday, Nair questioned Botha over delays in processing records from phones found in Pistorius' house following the killing of Steenkamp.

"It seems to me like there was a lack of urgency," Nair said as the efficiency of the police investigation was questioned.

Botha is himself to appear in court in May to face seven counts of attempted murder. Botha was dropped from the case but not suspended from the police force, Phiyega said, and could still be called by defense lawyers at trial.

Pistorius, in the same gray suit, blue shirt and gray tie combination he has worn throughout the bail hearing, stood ramrod straight in the dock, then sat calmly looking at his hands.

Roux said an autopsy showed that Steenkamp's bladder was empty, suggesting she had gone to use the toilet. Prosecutors say Steenkamp had fled to the toilet to avoid an enraged Pistorius.

"The known forensics is consistent" with Pistorius' statement, Roux said, asking that bail restrictions be eased for Pistorius.

But the prosecutor said Pistorius hadn't given guarantees to the court that he wouldn't leave the country if he was facing a life sentence. Nel also stressed that Pistorius shouldn't be given special treatment.

"'I am Oscar Pistorius. I am a world-renowned athlete.' Is that a special circumstance? No." Nel said. "His version (of the killing) is improbable."

Nel said the court should focus on the "murder of the defenseless woman."

Botha testified Thursday that he had investigated a 2009 complaint against Pistorius by a woman who said the athlete had assaulted her. He said that Pistorius had not hurt her and that the woman had actually injured herself when she kicked a door at Pistorius' home.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report from Johannesburg.

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Police offer confused testimony in Pistorius case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The detective leading the police investigation into Oscar Pistorius' fatal shooting of his girlfriend offered confusing testimony Wednesday, at one point agreeing with the athlete's defense that officers had no evidence challenging the runner's claim he accidentally killed her.

Testimony by Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha of the South African Police Service left prosecutors rubbing their temples, only able to look down at their notes as he misjudged distances and acknowledged a forensics team left in the toilet bowl one of the bullet slugs fired at Reeva Steenkamp. However, Botha still poked holes in Pistorius' own account that he feared for his life and opened fire on Valentine's Day after mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder.

The second day of the bail hearing in a case that has riveted South Africa and much of the world appeared at first to go against the double-amputee runner, with prosecutors saying a witness can testify to hearing "non-stop talking, like shouting" between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. before the predawn shooting on Feb. 14. However, Botha later said under cross examination that the person who overheard the argument was in a house 600 meters (yards) away in Pistorius' gated community in the suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Later, prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Botha again and the detective acknowledged the distance was much closer. But confusion reigned for much of his testimony, when at one point Botha said officers found syringes and steroids in Pistorius' bedroom. Nel quickly cut the officer off and said the drugs were actually testosterone.

Pistorius' lead defense lawyer, Barry Roux, asserted when questioning the detective — who has 16 years' experience as a detective and 24 years with the police — that it was not a banned substance and that police were trying to give the discovery a "negative connotation."

"It is an herbal remedy," Roux said. "It is not a steroid and it is not a banned substance."

The name of the drug, offered later in court by Roux, could not be immediately found in reference materials by The Associated Press. A spokesman for prosecutors later said it's too early to know what the substance is, as they don't yet have results of forensic testing on the material.

Pistorius, 26, said in an affidavit read in court Tuesday that he and his 29-year-old girlfriend had gone to bed and that when he awoke during the night he detected what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. He testified that he grabbed his 9 mm pistol and fired into the door of a toilet enclosed in the bathroom, only to discover later to his horror that Steenkamp was there, mortally wounded.

Pistorius, the first Paralympian runner to compete at the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder in the case.

The prosecution attempted to cement its argument that the couple had a shouting match, that Steenkamp fled and locked herself into the toilet stall of the bathroom and that Pistorius fired four shots through the door, hitting her with three bullets.

Botha said: "I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door."

But asked if the police found anything inconsistent with the version of events presented by Pistorius, Botha responded that they had not. He later said nothing contradicted the police's version either.

Nel projected a plan of the bedroom and bathroom in the courtroom and argued that Pistorius had to walk past his bed to get to the bathroom and could not have done so without realizing that Steenkamp was not in the bed.

"There's no other way of getting there," Nel said.

Botha said the trajectory of the bullets showed the gun was fired pointed down and from a height. This seems to conflict with Pistorius' statement Tuesday, because the athlete said that he did not have on his prosthetics and on his stumps and feeling vulnerable because he was in a low position when he opened fired.

Officers also found .38-caliber pistol rounds in a safe, which Botha said Pistorius owned illegally and for which he said the athlete would be charged with a crime. However, Botha also acknowledged investigators didn't take photographs of the ammunition and let Pistorius' supporters at the crime scene take them away.

Botha said the holster for the 9 mm pistol was found under the left side of the bed, the side on which Steenkamp slept. He also implied it would have been impossible for Pistorius to get the gun without checking to see if Steenkamp was there. Roux later argued that Pistorius had suffered an injury to his right shoulder and wore a "medical patch" the night of the killing which forced him to sleep on the left side of the bed.

Steenkamp was shot in the head over her right ear and in her right elbow and hip, breaking her arm and hip, Botha said. However, Roux later asked Botha if Steenkamp's body showed "any pattern of defensive wounds." The detective said no.

Botha also said the shots were fired from 1.5 meters (five feet), and that police found three spent cartridges in the bathroom and one in the hallway connecting the bathroom to the bedroom. However, later on cross-examination by the defense, Botha said he wasn't a forensics expert and couldn't answer some questions.

Police also found two iPhones in the bathroom and two BlackBerrys in the bedroom, Botha said, adding that none had been used to phone for help. Roux later suggested that a fifth phone, not collected by the police, was used by Pistorius to make calls for a hospital and help. After the hearing, Roux told journalists that Pistorius' defense team had the phone, but did not elaborate.

Guards at the gated community where Pistorius lives did call the athlete, Botha said. The detective said that all the athlete said was: "I'm all right."

He didn't hang up, Botha said, and the guards heard him uncontrollably weep.

"Was it part of his premeditated plan, not to switch off the phone and cry?" Roux asked sarcastically.


Gerald Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report.


Jon Gambrell can be reached at Gerald Imray can be reached at

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Pistorius: Thought lover an intruder in shooting

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius wept Tuesday as his defense lawyer read the athlete's account of how he shot his girlfriend to death on Valentine's Day, claiming he had mistaken her for an intruder.

Prosecutors, however, told a packed courtroom that the double-amputee known as the Blade Runner intentionally and mercilessly shot and killed 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp as she cowered inside a locked bathroom.

Pistorius told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court at a bail hearing he felt vulnerable in the presence of an intruder inside the bathroom because he did not have his prosthetic legs on, and fired into the bathroom door.

The Valentine's Day shooting in Pistorius' home in Pretoria shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized him for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program that was broadcast on Saturday, two days after her death.

In a major point of contention emerged even during Tuesday bail hearing, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Pistorius took the time to put on his prostheses, walked seven meters (yards) from the bed to the enclosed toilet inside his bathroom and only then opened fire. Three of the bullets hit Steenkamp of the four that were fired into the door, Nel said.

Pistorius said in his sworn statement that after opening fire, he realized that Steenkamp was not in his bed.

"It filled me with horror and fear," Pistorius said. The 26-year-old Olympian said he put on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the door before finally bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over. He said he lifted her bloodied body into his arms and tried to carry her downstairs to seek medical help.

But by then, it was too late.

"She died in my arms," the athlete said.

Nel charged Pistorius with premeditated murder and said the athlete opened fire after the couple engaged in a shouting match and she fled to the bathroom.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," Nel said. "It must have been horrific."

A conviction of premeditated murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in jail.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled that Pistorius must face the harshest bail requirements available in South African law. That means Pistorius' lawyers must offer "exceptional" reasons for the athlete to be free before trial, besides simply giving up his two South African passports and posting a cash bond.

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer, Barry Roux, insisted the shooting was an accident and that there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"We submit it is not even murder," he said. "There is no concession this is a murder."

Pistorius' emotional outbursts again played a part in how the hearing progessed, as it did during an initial hearing Friday. At one point, Nair stopped the hearing after Pistorius wept as Roux read a portion of the athlete's statement describing how Steenkamp bought him a Valentine's Day present, but wouldn't let him open it the night before.

"Maintain your composure," the magistrate said. "You need to apply your mind here."

Pistorius' voice quivered when he answered: "Yes, my lordship."

Affidavits from friends of Pistorius and Steenkamp described the two as a charming, happy couple. The night before the killing, they said, Pistorius and Steenkamp had canceled separate plans in order to spend the night before Valentine's Day together at his home, in a gated neighborhood.

Outside the court, several dozen singing women protested against domestic violence and waved placards urging that Pistorius be refused bail. "Pistorius must rot in jail," one placard said.

As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-coast port city of Port Elizabeth. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

South Africa has some of the world's worst rates of violence against females and the highest rate in the world of women killed by an intimate partner, according to a study by the Medical Research Council. Professor Rachel Jewkes of the council said at least three women are killed by a partner every day in this country of 50 million.

Steenkamp campaigned actively against domestic violence and had tweeted on Twitter that she planned to join a "Black Friday" protest by wearing black in honor of a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped and mutilated two weeks ago.

What "she stood for, and the abuse against women, unfortunately it's gone right around and I think the Lord knows that statement is more powerful now," her uncle Mike Steenkamp, the family's spokesman, said after her memorial.

He said the family had planned a big get-together at Christmas but that had not been possible. "But we are here today as a family and the only one who's missing is Reeva," he said, breaking down and weeping.

Pistorius has lost several valuable sponsorships estimated to be worth more than $1 million a year.

On Tuesday, the athlete was ousted from a pro-gay campaign being launched in Cape Town, organizers said. In a video axed from the campaign, Pistorius says: "You don't have to worry. You don't have to change. Take a deep breath and remember, 'It will get better.'"

And Clarins Group, which owns Thierry Mugler Perfumes, said in an email that "out of respect and compassion for the families involved in this tragedy, Thierry Mugler Perfumes have taken the decision to withdraw all of their advertising campaigns featuring Oscar Pistorius."

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Jerry Buss, Lakers' flamboyant owner, dies at 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers' playboy owner who shepherded the NBA team to 10 championships from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the Kobe Bryant era, died Monday. He was 80.

He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Bob Steiner, his assistant.

Buss had been hospitalized for most of the past 18 months while undergoing cancer treatment, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure, Steiner said. With his condition worsening in recent weeks, several prominent former Lakers visited Buss to say goodbye.

"The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come," NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend."

Under Buss' leadership since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Hollywood glamour. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

"He was a great man and an incredible friend," Johnson tweeted.

Few owners in sports history can approach Buss' accomplishments with the Lakers, who made the NBA finals 16 times during his nearly 34 years in charge, winning 10 titles between 1980 and 2010. With 1,786 victories, the Lakers easily are the NBA's winningest franchise since he bought the club, which is now run largely by Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss, two of his six children.

"We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community," the Buss family said in a statement issued by the Lakers.

"It was our father's often-stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well, and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy."

Buss always referred to the Lakers as his extended family, and his players rewarded his fanlike excitement with devotion, friendship and two hands full of championship rings. Working with front-office executives Jerry West, Bill Sharman and Mitch Kupchak, Buss spent lavishly to win his titles despite lacking a huge personal fortune, often running the NBA's highest payroll while also paying high-profile coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

Always an innovative businessman, Buss paid for the Lakers through both their wild success and his own groundbreaking moves to raise revenue. He co-founded a basic-cable sports television network and sold the naming rights to the Forum at times when both now-standard strategies were unusual, further justifying his induction to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Buss was a "cornerstone of the Los Angeles sports community and his name will always be synonymous with his beloved Lakers," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "It was through his stewardship that the Lakers brought 'Showtime' basketball and numerous championship rings to this great city. Today we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of a man who helped shape the modern landscape of sports in L.A."

Johnson and fellow Hall of Famers Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy formed lifelong bonds with Buss during the Lakers' run to five titles in nine years in the 1980s, when the Lakers earned a reputation as basketball's most exciting team with their flamboyant Showtime style.

The buzz extended throughout the Forum, where Buss used the Laker Girls, a brass band and promotions to keep Los Angeles fans interested in all four quarters of their games. Courtside seats, priced at $15 when he bought the Lakers, became the hottest tickets in Hollywood — and they still are, with fixture Jack Nicholson and many other celebrities attending every home game.

Worthy tweeted that Buss was "not only the greatest sports owner, but a true friend & just a really cool guy. Loved him dearly."

After a rough stretch of the 1990s for the Lakers, Jackson led O'Neal and Bryant to a three-peat from 2000-02, rekindling the Lakers' mystique, before Bryant and Pau Gasol won two more titles under Jackson in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers have struggled mightily during their current season despite adding Howard and Steve Nash, and could miss the playoffs for just the third time since Buss bought the franchise.

"Today is a very sad day for all the Lakers and basketball," Gasol tweeted. "All my support and condolences to the Buss family. Rest in peace Dr. Buss."

Although Buss gained fame and fortune with the Lakers, he also was a scholar, Renaissance man and bon vivant who epitomized California cool his entire public life.

Buss rarely appeared in public without at least one attractive, much younger woman on his arm at USC football games, high-stakes poker tournaments, hundreds of boxing matches promoted by Buss at the Forum — and, of course, Lakers games from his private box at Staples Center, which was built under his watch. In failing health recently, Buss hadn't attended a Lakers game this season.

Buss earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at age 24 and had careers in aerospace and real estate development before getting into sports. With money from his real-estate ventures and a good bit of creative accounting, Buss bought the then-struggling Lakers, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and both clubs' arena — the Forum — from Jack Kent Cooke in a $67.5 million deal that was the largest sports transaction in history at the time.

Last month, Forbes estimated the Lakers were worth $1 billion, second most in the NBA.

Buss also helped change televised sports by co-founding the Prime Ticket network in 1985, receiving a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for his work in television. Breaking the contemporary model of subscription services for televised sports, Buss' Prime Ticket put beloved broadcaster Chick Hearn and the Lakers' home games on basic cable.

Buss also sold the naming rights to the Forum in 1988 to Great Western Savings & Loan — another deal that was ahead of its time.

Born in Salt Lake City, Gerald Hatten Buss was raised in poverty in Wyoming before improving his life through education. He also grew to love basketball, describing himself as an "overly competitive but underly endowed player."

After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Buss attended USC for graduate school. He became a chemistry professor and worked as a chemist for the Bureau of Mines before carving out a path to wealth and sports prominence.

The former mathematician's fortune grew out of a $1,000 real-estate investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building with partner Frank Mariani, an aerospace engineer and co-worker.

Heavily leveraging his fortune and various real-estate holdings, Buss purchased Cooke's entire Los Angeles sports empire in 1979, including a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County. Buss cited his love of basketball as the motivation for his purchase, and he immediately worked to transform the Lakers — who had won just one NBA title since moving west from Minneapolis in 1960 — into a star-powered endeavor befitting Hollywood.

"One of the first things I tried to do when I bought the team was to make it an identification for this city, like Motown in Detroit," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. "I try to keep that identification alive. I'm a real Angeleno. I want us to be part of the community."

Buss' plans immediately worked: Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and coach Paul Westhead led the Lakers to the 1980 title. Johnson's ball-handling wizardry and Abdul-Jabbar's smooth inside game made for an attractive style of play evoking Hollywood flair and West Coast sophistication.

Riley, the former broadcaster who fit the L.A. image perfectly with his slick-backed hair and good looks, was surprisingly promoted by Buss early in the 1981-82 season after West declined to co-coach the team. Riley became one of the best coaches in NBA history, leading the Lakers to four straight NBA finals and four titles, with Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and A.C. Green playing major roles.

Overall, the Lakers made the finals nine times in Buss' first 12 seasons while rekindling the NBA's best rivalry with the Boston Celtics, and Buss basked in the worldwide celebrity he received from his team's achievements. His womanizing and partying became Hollywood legend, with even his players struggling to keep up with Buss' lifestyle.

Johnson's HIV diagnosis and retirement in 1991 staggered Buss and the Lakers, the owner recalled in 2011. The Lakers struggled through much of the 1990s, going through seven coaches and making just one conference finals appearance in an eight-year stretch despite the 1996 arrivals of O'Neal, who signed with Los Angeles as a free agent, and Bryant, the 17-year-old high schooler acquired in a draft-week trade.

Shaq and Kobe didn't reach their potential until Buss persuaded Jackson, the Chicago Bulls' six-time NBA champion coach, to take over the Lakers in 1999. Los Angeles immediately won the next three NBA titles in brand-new Staples Center, AEG's state-of-the-art downtown arena built with the Lakers as the primary tenant.

After the Lakers traded O'Neal in 2004, they hovered in mediocrity again until acquiring Gasol in a heist of a trade with Memphis in early 2008. Los Angeles made the next three NBA finals, winning two more titles.

Through the Lakers' frequent successes and occasional struggles, Buss never stopped living his Hollywood dream. He was an avid poker player and a fixture on the Los Angeles club scene well into his 70s, when a late-night drunk-driving arrest in 2007 — with a 23-year-old woman in the passenger seat of his Mercedes-Benz — prompted him to cut down on his partying.

Buss owned the NHL's Kings from 1979-87, and the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks won two league titles under Buss' ownership. He also owned Los Angeles franchises in World Team Tennis and the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Buss' children all have worked for the Lakers organization in various capacities for several years. Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel and the second-oldest child, has taken over much of the club's primary decision-making responsibilities in the last few years, while daughter Jeanie runs the franchise's business side.

Jerry Buss still served two terms as president of the NBA's Board of Governors and was actively involved in the 2011 lockout negotiations, developing blood clots in his legs attributed to his extensive travel during that time.

Buss is survived by six children: sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse, and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel. He had eight grandchildren.

Arrangements are pending for a funeral and memorial services.


Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.

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Danica Patrick wins pole for NASCAR's Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Danica Patrick has won the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any Sprint Cup race.

It was the biggest achievement of her four-year NASCAR career.

Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session Sunday and covered the 2½-mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, averaging 196.434 mph.

"Hopefully, there are good things to come," Patrick said.

She waited about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot. Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off.

Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in next week's season-opening Daytona 500.

"It's great to be part of history," Gordon said. "I can say I was the fastest guy today."

The rest of the field will be set in duel qualifying races Thursday.

However the lineup unfolds, all drivers will line up behind Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet SS for "The Great American Race."

"We say it's not really us, but she's got to do her part, too," team owner and fellow driver Tony Stewart said. "She did a really good job. I'm proud of all of us."

Patrick has been the talk of Speedweeks. Not only did she open up about her budding romance with fellow Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but she was considered the front-runner for the pole after turning the fastest laps in practice Saturday.

And she didn't disappoint.

She kept her car at or near the bottom of the famed track and gained ground on the straightaways, showing lots of power from a Hendrick Motorsports engine.

The result surely felt good, especially considering the former IndyCar driver has mostly struggled in three NASCAR seasons. Her best finish in 10 Cup races is 17th, and she has one top-five in 58 starts in the second-tier Nationwide Series.

She raced part-time in 2010 and 2011 while still driving a full IndyCar slate. She switched solely to stock cars last season and finished 10th in the Nationwide standings.

She made the jump to Sprint Cup this season and will battle Stenhouse for Rookie of the Year honors.

But taking the pole will make her the talk of the town for another week. She also won the pole at Daytona for last year's Nationwide race.

This is considerably bigger.

The previous highest female qualifier in a Cup race was Janet Guthrie. She started ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.

"That's a really big deal because qualifying for the Daytona 500 is really interesting thing," Patrick said. "If you're anywhere but the front row, it's really hard to see on race day. This just speaks volumes of Stewart-Haas Racing. It just shows what a great organization it is."

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Pistorius' family strongly denies murder charge

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius is "numb with shock as well as grief" after the shooting death of his model girlfriend at his home in South Africa, the runner's uncle said Saturday, as his family strongly denied prosecutors' claims that he murdered her.

Arnold Pistorius spoke with The Associated Press and two other South African journalists about his nephew's arrest in the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot four times on the morning of Valentine's Day. Arnold Pistorius spoke to reporters from the garden of his three-story home in the eastern suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

The statement, the first on camera and directly made in person by Pistorius' family, also came out strongly against prosecutors seeking to upgrade the charge against Pistorius to one of premeditated murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison.

"After consulting with legal representatives, we deeply regret the allegation of premeditated murder," Arnold Pistorius said. "We have no doubt there is no substance to the allegation and that the state's own case, including its own forensic evidence, strongly refutes any possibility of a premeditated murder or murder as such."

He said the family was "battling to come to terms with Oscar being charged with murder."

The track star's arrest in the killing of 29-year-old Steenkamp shocked South Africa, where Pistorius was a national hero and icon dubbed the Blade Runner for his high-tech carbon fiber running blades and revered for overcoming his disability to compete at the London Olympics. She was discovered in a pool of blood before dawn Thursday by police called to Pistorius' upscale home in a gated community. Authorities said she had been shot four times, and a 9 mm pistol was recovered at the home.

Pistorius remains held at a police station pending a bail hearing Tuesday. Police have already said they'll oppose Pistorius being released before trial. A premeditated murder charge also makes it more difficult for his defense team to get bail.

On Saturday afternoon, Pistorius' lawyers visited the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria, where the athlete is being held. His younger sister Aimee, who stood alongside Arnold Pistorius when he made his statement, also was at the police station later.

There will be a variety of hearings before Pistorius, 26, could go on trial. In South Africa, there are no juries, so a judge ultimately would decide Pistorius' guilt or innocence, sometimes with the help of two advisers. At an initial hearing Friday, Pistorius sobbed and held his head in his hands at times. He has yet to enter a plea in the case.

The family denial that Pistorius committed murder doesn't necessarily mean that they say he didn't shoot her, as murder is a legal term. Initial speculation immediately after the shooting Thursday suggested that it could have been accidental, though police say they are not currently considering that.

Arnold Pistorius did not discuss the circumstances of the shooting, but said that his nephew and Steenkamp had become very close since they started dating in November.

"They had plans together and Oscar was happier in his private life than he had been for a long time," the uncle said.

As Arnold Pistorius read his statement, Pistorius' sister Aimee stood nearby and broke down in tears at one point. Her uncle stopped reading for a moment to put his right arm around her. Pistorius remains very close with his uncle, a man he once lived with as a teenager.

"Words cannot adequately describe our feelings," his uncle said. "The lives of our entire family have been turned upside down forever by this unimaginable human tragedy and Reeva's family have suffered a terrible loss. As a family we are trying to be strong and supportive to Oscar as any close family would be in these dreadful circumstances."

The entire family was "devastated," Pistorius' uncle said, and was "grieving for Reeva, her family and her friends."

Since news of the killing, shock waves have rippled across South Africa, a nation of 50 million where nearly 50 people are killed each day, one of the world's highest murder rates. U.N. statistics say the nation has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, behind only Colombia. Others have focused their attention on Pistorius and his fascination with fast cars, cage fighting and firearms.

Steenkamp, who graduated from law school, is known in South Africa for appearing in commercials and as a bikini-clad model in men's magazines. On Saturday, South Africa's state broadcaster SABC planned to air a reality TV show featuring the model. Another portion of the show released earlier Saturday included a clip of her swimming with two dolphins, which tap her on the cheek with their snouts.

"I think the way that you go out, not just your journey in life, but the way that you go out and the way you make your exit is so important," the blonde-haired Steenkamp says in the video. "You either made an impact in a positive or a negative way, but just maintain integrity and maintain class and just remain true to yourself.

"I'm going to miss you all so much and I love you very, very much."


Jon Gambrell reported from Johannesburg.


Gerald Imray can be reached at . Jon Gambrell can be reached at .

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Weeping Pistorius faces life in prison in shooting

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius wept in court Friday as prosecutors said they'll pursue a charge of premeditated murder against him in the killing of his model girlfriend, meaning the man who once inspired the world could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Pistorius' family and London-based management issued a statement disputing the murder charge he now faces for the slaying of Reeva Steenkamp. The athlete himself initially appeared solemn and collected in his first court appearance, but later sobbed loud enough for his cries to be heard over the more than 100 spectators gathered for the hearing.

His tears even drew the attention of Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir, who at one point simply said: "Take it easy."

The double-amputee athlete's arrest stunned South Africa, which awoke the morning of Valentine's Day to hear that Steenkamp had been shot to death at Pistorius' home in a gated community in an eastern suburb of South Africa's capital, Pretoria. Police said investigators recovered a 9 mm pistol from the home.

In Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Friday, throngs of photographers, videographers and journalists besieged the brick-walled Courtroom C, where Pistorius appeared. Nasir's first ruling in the matter focused on the press: He dismissed requests from a private television station and the state broadcaster to air the hearing live.

Nasir also ordered that no photographs be taken while court was in session. That left kneeling photographers less than a meter (three feet) from Pistorius to simply stare at a man some previously photographed sprinting on his famous carbon-fiber blades as he cried uncontrollably. Pistorius' brother, Carl, and his father, Henke, reached out at separate times to comfort him as he sat in the dock.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court he would pursue a charge of premeditated murder against Pistorius for allegedly killing Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model known for her vamping, bikini pictures in men's magazines and appearances in cosmetics commercials. Police have said Steenkamp is 30. The discrepancy has not been explained.

Police said Friday that investigators conducted an autopsy on Steenkamp's body. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

Pistorius entered no plea at the hearing and his family left quickly, without speaking to journalists who followed them outside. In a statement later Friday, his family and management questioned the criminal charge the 26-year-old athlete faces.

"The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms," the statement read, without elaborating.

The statement also said Pistorius wanted to "send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva."

"He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received — but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family — regardless of the circumstances of this terrible, terrible tragedy," the statement read.

South Africa continues to question itself over what to think about the shooting, with local newspaper headlines veering from the lurid to "Blade gunner?" on Friday morning, playing on Pistorius' nickname given for his running blades. The nation of 50 million has one of the world's highest rates of shooting deaths, behind only Colombia. South Africa as a whole recently recoiled at the brutal gang rape and attack that killed a 17-year-old girl and many wore black Friday to demonstrate against the high levels of violence against women in the country.

Others focused their attention on Pistorius, who is fascinated by fast cars, cage fighting and firearms. He crashed a speedboat in February 2009, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs and damaging an eye socket. He later required 180 stitches to his face. Witnesses said he had been drinking, and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they did not do a blood test on Pistorius.

His love life, the fodder of gossip columns in the country, also saw turmoil. In November, Pistorius was involved in an altercation over a woman with a local coal mining millionaire, South African media reported.

Gianni Merlo, who co-authored the 2009 biography "Blade Runner" with Pistorius, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday from Italy that Pistorius once drove out in the middle of the night to see his first love after a fight. Pistorius crashed his car when he fell asleep behind the wheel, though Merlo said it showed his devotion.

However, he said Pistorius once threw a friend's girlfriend out of his house, prompting police to investigate and take him in for questioning.

"He explained that this was a kind of (plot) against him, planned against him," Merlo said.

At the defense's request, the chief magistrate delayed Pistorius' bail hearing until Tuesday and Wednesday. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to keep Pistorius in a police holding cell, rather than transfer him to prison like most normal suspects. While Nasir acknowledged that could give them impression that the athlete was getting "preferential treatment," he agreed to it. Police have said they oppose Pistorius being freed on bail.

In saying they'll seek a premeditated murder charge against Pistorius, prosecutors likely are claiming they have evidence that the athlete planned the killing ahead of time, said William Booth, a prominent defense lawyer from Cape Town. The charge, which carries a sentence of life in prison, also makes it more difficult for Pistorius to successfully apply for bail, Booth said, though it could be a challenge to get a conviction.

"It's quite difficult to prove that in a situation where there isn't a witness," the defense lawyer said. "If I just plan it in my mind and I arrive at somebody's house and there's no witnesses and I shoot the person, it's really tough for the prosecution to show that planning."

On call-in radio shows and in private conversations Friday, some in South Africa compared Pistorius' case to that of O.J. Simpson, a former football star accused of the slayings of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. That case, drawing international media attention, saw Simpson acquitted by a jury in 1995. However, in South Africa, there is no jury system, leaving Pistorius face largely to the judge who will oversee his possible trial.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star and one of the world's best-known sportsmen.

But police hinted at a troubled lifestyle away from public scrutiny for the runner Thursday when they said there had previously been domestic incidents at Pistorius' home.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg contributed to this report.


Jon Gambrell can be reached at . Gerald Imray can be reached at .

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Olympian Oscar Pistorius charged with murder

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged Thursday with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa, a stunning development in the life of a national hero known as the Blade Runner for his high-tech artificial legs.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model who spoke out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women, was shot four times in the predawn hours in the house, in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria, police said.

Hours later after undergoing police questioning, Pistorius left a police station accompanied by officers. He looked down as photographers snapped pictures, the hood on his gray workout jacket pulled up, covering most of his face. His court hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon but has been postponed until Friday to give forensic investigators time to carry out their work, said Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for the prosecution.

South Africans were shocked at the killing. But while Pistorius captured the nation's attention with his Olympic quest, police said there was a recent history of problems involving him. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes said the incidents included "allegations of a domestic nature."

"I'm not going to elaborate on it but there have been incidents (at Pistorius' home)," Beukes said. Police in South Africa do not name suspects in crimes until they have appeared in court but Beukes said that the 26-year-old Pistorius was at his home at the time of the death of Steenkamp and "there is no other suspect involved."

Pistorius' father, Henke, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, only saying "we all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents."

Neither Pistorius' agent Peet van Zyl nor coach Ampie Louw could be reached while Pistorius' own cellphone went straight to voicemail.

Pistorius' former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hopes it was "just a tragic accident." Giannini said he believed that Pistorius had been dating Steenkamp for "a few months."

"No matter how bad the situation was, Oscar always stayed calm and positive," Giannini told the AP in Italy. "Whenever he was tired or nervous he was still extremely nice to people. I never saw him violent."

Yet Pistorius had troubles in his personal life. In February 2009, he crashed a speed boat he was piloting on South Africa's Vaal River. Witnesses said he had been drinking before the crash and officers found alcoholic beverages in the wreckage, though they acknowledged at the time they hadn't conducted a blood test on the athlete. Pistorius broke his nose, jaw and several ribs in the crash, as well as damaged his eye socket and required some 180 stitches to his face.

In November, Pistorius also found himself in an altercation with a local coal mining millionaire over a woman, South African media reported. Eventually, the two men involved the South African Police Service's elite Hawks investigative unit before settling the matter.

Pistorius owned firearms and posted a photograph of himself at a shooting range in November 2011 to the social media website Twitter, bragging about his score.

"Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he tweeted.

Police said that earlier reports that Steenkamp may have been mistaken for a burglar by Pistorius did not come from the police. Several local media outlets initially reported that the shooting may have been accidental.

Capacity Relations, a talent management firm, earlier named model Steenkamp as the victim of the shooting. Police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told the AP that officers received a call around 3 a.m. after the shooting.

A 9 mm pistol was recovered and a murder case opened against Pistorius.

Pistorius enjoyed target shooting with his pistol and an online advertisement featuring him for Nike read: "I am a bullet in the chamber." An article in January 2012 in The New York Times Magazine described him talking about how he pulled a pistol to search his home when his alarm went off the night before an interview. At Pistorius' suggestion, he and the journalist went to a nearby target range where they fired at targets with a 9 mm pistol. At one point, Pistorius told the writer: "If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly."

Asked how often he went target shooting, Pistorius replied: "Just sometimes when I can't sleep."

Police have still not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Steenkamp confirmed in a statement that the model was dead.

"We can confirm that Reeva Steenkamp has passed away," Steenkamp's publicist Sarit Tomlinson said. "Our thoughts and prayers go to the Steenkamp family, who have asked to have their privacy respected during this difficult time, everyone is simply devastated. She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed."

Tomlinson said Steenkamp, known simply as Reeva, was one of FHM's (formerly For Him Magazine) 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running, appeared in countless international and national advertisements and was one of the celebrity contestants on the reality show "Tropika Island of Treasure," filmed in Jamaica.

She and Pistorius were first seen publicly together in November at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Later, she began mentioning the athlete in public messages on Twitter.

She also tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape as well as her excitement about Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she tweeted. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, propelling him to the status of an athletics superstar.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history when his selection for South Africa's team was confirmed at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement on Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting. The International Paralympic Committee also said it wouldn't comment in detail apart from offering its condolences to the victim's family.

South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.

U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.

"The question is: Why does this story make the news? Yes, because they are both celebrities, but this is happening on every single day in South Africa," said Adele Kirsten, a member of Gun Free South Africa. "We have thousands of people killed annually by gun violence in our country. So the anger is about that it is preventable."


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Johannesburg.

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Rivera plans to announce if this is final season

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera said he's reached a decision on whether this will be his final season and plans to announce it before opening day.

"Yes, I have," Rivera said Wednesday after the Yankees' first spring training workout for pitchers and catchers. "But again, I will tell you guys when I think it's the right moment."

Baseball's career saves leader had surgery June 12 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, an injury that occurred while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3.

The 43-year-old right-hander expects to be ready for the regular season. He threw 25 pitches off a bullpen mound and said it felt good.

"It was wonderful to be out there again," Rivera said.

When asked on a scale of one to 10 how the knee currently is, Rivera said, "around nine, for sure."

He added: "The other point will be the running that I do here."

Rivera wore a small, light-weight brace during Wednesday's workout, which had him also take part in fielding drills, including covering first base. He is planning to use a brace in games this year.

Rivera will continue shagging fly balls in batting practice, an activity that has the approval of Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

"That's part of who he is," Girardi said. "So, I don't want to take it away from him."

Rivera will likely pitch his normal seven or eight innings in spring training games, but could throw additional batting practice sessions or simulated games.

"We really don't have a whole lot of restrictions on Mo," Girardi said. "We will watch him carefully to make sure that we don't think he's taxing it too much. We feel pretty good about where he's at."

NOTES: LHP Andy Pettitte decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic after talking with team officials that included Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman. "I wanted to play," Pettitte said. "Obviously, after having some conversations with the Yankees — (who were) not too excited about me playing in it — just decided against it. It was a tough decision. I've never had a chance to play for my country, but it was a real big deal to me. And was really, really, really considering do that. It was one of those deals where I felt like this was probably the best move that I could make for this organization and for our team."

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Wrestling body reacts to Olympic rejection

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The governing body of wrestling says the IOC's move to drop the sport is an "aberration" against a founding event of the Olympics.

Known by its French initials FILA, the organization says it is "greatly astonished" by the IOC executive board decision.

FILA says it will take "all necessary measures" to convince IOC members to maintain wrestling's Olympic status when they meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September.

Still, FILA President Raphael Martinetti faces criticism when his ruling board meets this weekend in Thailand.

Russian federation leader Mikhail Mamiashvili says FILA is the problem, and Martinetti's tasks include defending "wrestling's place before the IOC."

German official Jannis Zamanduridis says "a piece of the Olympic idea is dying with this decision."

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Eagles, QB Vick agree to restructured deal

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Quarterback Michael Vick, who was slated to earn $16 million next season, has agreed to a restructured deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Vick, who was injured and inconsistent last season, eventually giving way to rookie Nick Foles, now has a three-year contract, and will compete with Foles over the next nine months to see who runs new coach Chip Kelly's offense this season.

Vick, who returned to start the season finale vs. the New York Giants in December because Foles was injured, finished the season with 2,362 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Eagles finished 4-12 and in last place in the NFC East.

Andy Reid was fired as coach the day after the season ended, and Kelly was hired last month. Vick, who will be 33 when next season begins, is still elusive when healthy, and seems equipped to run Kelly's aggressive, up-tempo offense that he is bringing to the Eagles from Oregon.

"He wanted to be here," Kelly said Monday in his first meeting with the media following his opening press conference on Jan. 17. "I had never met him before. The one thing that attracted me to him, is Michael is a competitor. Nick is, too. You want guys who want to compete."

Vick was signed by Philadelphia in 2009, and became the starter in 2010. He led the Eagles that season to an NFC East title, and a memorable 38-31 December win over the Giants in which he rallied the team from a 21-point deficit.

There are questions, of course, about his durability and his age, as he now seems far removed from that resurgent 2010 season. He finished that year with 3,018 yards passing, 676 yards rushing and 30 total touchdowns.

"He's younger than (Dallas quarterback) Tony Romo, and he's right about the same age as (Giants quarterback) Eli Manning," Kelly said. "The only reason I say that is because I told Michael that this morning, and he didn't know."

Vick only played in 10 games last season, and in the finale vs. New York, he had a quarterback rating of just 68.4 en route to a 42-7 loss.

"I looked at the films, and studied the tape. When you look at Michael, it's his toughness. That cannot be overrated at all," Kelly said. "We looked at his skillset. He still has that skillset. He can still throw the football.

"He's got an unbelievable release, and it's our job as coaches to make sure he can get the ball out quickly."

All told, Vick has started 35 games for Philadelphia over the last three seasons. Foles has started six. The Eagles scored just 280 points last season as they endured an eight- and a three-game losing streak. Only Arizona (250) scored fewer in the NFC.

When asked which quarterback would work with the first-team offense in training camp, Kelly smiled and quickly showed he's going to be able to handle the Philadelphia media just fine.

"We'll go alphabetical," he said with a grin. "First name? Last name? We'll flip a coin."

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