Sports News Post ! Monday Edition ! Lacerations , Marriage , and Fired Shots

CM Punk, AJ Lee getting married next month
CM Punk was at Wrigley Field today (Sat., May 17, 2014) for the Chicago Cubs 3-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers and, in addition to singing during the 7th Inning Stretch (see the photo of all that here), he did an interview in the booth with the announce team.

He didn't say much -- "I'm not working much these days" -- but he did drop one little interesting nugget: He will be getting married to AJ Lee next month.

That should go a long way toward killing any rumors of his returning to professional wrestling anytime soon, though it doesn't completely rule it out. To that end, one can't help but wonder what this means for the immediate future of AJ, who is currently on hiatus from WWE right now so she can run around with her husband-to-be (she was at the Cubs game with him).

Perhaps they're simply planning their wedding now and getting hitched before she heads back out on the road. Initial rumors suggested she would be on the European tour and while that's still possible, it no longer looks likely.

His contract comes up in July but there's still Payback on June 1 in Chicago for a crowd to get all riled up about his absence. The bigger question might be whether or not AJ is there for the show.

Ricky Rubio questions Kevin Love's leadership abilities



Things with the Minnesota Timberwolves are getting interesting now that Kevin Love has made it clear he will not sign an extension with the team.
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SB Nation 2014 NBA Playoff Bracket

Trade rumors involving Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love are swirling, but his place on his own team was a topic of conversation for teammate Ricky Rubio, who wondered to BasketAmericano.com earlier this month if Love could be a more vocal leader.

A rough translation from the original BasketAmericano.com article via Reddit:
All you need is Love
The primary players in the Kevin Love sweepstakes What does Love get you?

He is a special player, his numbers are incredible but maybe our leader must be other (...) He is our leader in points and other things, but in voice he is not the player he can be or wants to be. There are different types of leaders. Perhaps he shouldn't have been our leader, perhaps Kevin Martin could have been our leader because he had a bit more experience, perhaps I could take a step forward to be the definitive leader.

Contextually it's hard to understand how harsh Rubio's criticism is, if it's that harsh at all. What is clear is that Rubio does take some initiative here, adding his own leadership can develop.

Rubio's comments don't change the fact that the Timberwolves are in a tough spot. They must begin fielding trade proposals for other teams if they want to avoid Love leaving as an unrestricted free agent after the 2014-15 season. Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in 2013-14 and played 77 games in his sixth NBA season and sixth without a playoff berth.

Michael Phelps wins 100 butterfly



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Phelps lunged to the wall, popped his head out of the water, and turned immediately toward the scoreboard.

There was a "1" beside his name.

Felt pretty good.

For the first time since his supposed farewell at the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps was on top of the podium Friday night. He cruised to victory in the 100-meter butterfly at the Charlotte Grand Prix, while longtime rival Ryan Lochte watched from the VIP area, a brace on his injured left knee.

Phelps made it through a grueling double in the morning prelims, also swimming the 200 freestyle, then limited himself to one race in the evening. While he didn't improve on the time from the first meet in his comeback, when he finished second to Lochte at Mesa, Arizona, last month, it was another big step toward competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

[+] EnlargeMichael Phelps
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsMichael Phelps matched his time from the 100 butterfly last month in Arizona, where he competed for the first time since his supposed retirement after the 2012 London Olympics.

If nothing else, Phelps showed he still knows how to get to the wall first.

"It's been a while," he said. "It's nice seeing the first place next to your name. It's good to be on that side of it again. That's my first one since I came back. Hopefully, we can get a string of those."

Going out strong and remaining comfortably ahead on the return leg, Phelps cruised to victory in 52.13 seconds, about a half body-length ahead of runner-up Pavel Sankovich, a 2012 Olympian from Belarus.

Phelps matched his time exactly from Arizona, where he returned to competition for the first time since retiring after the London Olympics. But this time, he had the pool to himself. Lochte pushed a little too hard in Mesa, aggravated his surgically repaired knee, and was advised by his doctors to give it some rest.

The overflowing crowd at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center would've preferred another Phelps-Lochte showdown, especially since Lochte now trains in Charlotte, but they seemed more than satisfied to get the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

"I took a couple of selfies this morning that the kids were pretty excited about," Phelps said. "Even the moms were getting excited about taking selfies."

Lochte was disappointed to miss a chance to swim in front of his new home fans for the first time.

Asked if he could've beaten Phelps, Lochte smiled.

"No," he said, holding out his left leg. "I've got a brace on my knee."

Assuming Lochte gets healthy, they'll have plenty of chances to race this summer. There are two important meets coming up in August: the national championships in Southern California and the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia, which will determine the team for the 2015 world championships in Russia.

"It's always good to have someone like that to race," Phelps said. "As much as I say I don't pay attention to anybody else, he and I hate to lose to each other. It's very good to get in a race with him. We do tend to really push each other to the max."

Phelps took a break after the Arizona meet to attend a golf outing in Mexico for his charitable foundation. He did get in some light training, but conceded that the layoff hurt his fitness a bit. Also, he didn't bother shaving down for the Charlotte meet, sporting a beard to make it a little tougher on himself.

"Obviously I want to improve every time I get in the water," Phelps said. "I would've liked to have been a little faster than I was in Mesa. But being able to go the exact same time while missing a couple of days and having a three-week beard on my face, it's respectable, I'll say that. My body is a little sore right now."

He's about to hurt even more. Phelps will head to a month of high-altitude training in Colorado next week, looking to improve his endurance, and he plans to swim a more extensive program at the final Grand Prix meet of the season at Santa Clara, California, in late June. He'll likely stick with the 100 fly, perhaps try another 200 free and maybe bring back another of his signature events, the 200 individual medley.

"Santa Clara will be my first full meet," Phelps said. "We'll have a better idea of what my body can handle, swimming multiple events and swimming every day. That's something we're looking forward to."

There's still plenty of room for improvement. He struggled to judge the distance to the walls in Charlotte, probably costing him at least a few tenths in the 100 fly. Also, his form might look fine to the naked eye but it didn't feel quite right to Phelps.

"The timing of my hips and my stroke was off," he said. "That's something I have to work on."

He headed home after swimming only one day in Charlotte, content that he had accomplished the next goal in his comeback.

"It felt better than Mesa. It felt more relaxed than Mesa," he said. "It was nice getting a double under my belt."

Daniel Bryan Undergoes Successful Neck Surgery, News On The Procedure, Photo
WWE has announced that WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan successfully underwent neck surgery today in Pittsburgh, PA with Dr. James Maroon. Bryan is now wearing a soft neck brace and is already out of bed. He is expected to be released from the hospital in 1-2 days.

WWE noted that a lingering nerve issue with Bryan's neck caused them to have to perform a cervical foraminotomy in order to decompress the root of the nerve. During that procedure, surgeons go in through the back of the neck and shave the inside edges of joints in the neck and spine that are causing compression in order to prevent the eventual collapse of a spinal disc.

WWE adds that there is no timetable for Bryan's return yet. Usual recovery from this procedure for heavy physical activity is 2-3 months.

We noted before that WWE sources were expecting Bryan to return around SummerSlam. WWE will address the state of the title on RAW this coming Monday from London.

You can check out a photo of Bryan after the procedure below:

Reigns’ Gruesome Battle Wound

Roman Reigns received a laceration above his right eye during a WWE Live Event in Glasgow, Scotland, earlier this week. Get an up-close look at the battle wound as The Shield’s powerhouse is treated by WWE medical personnel.



NHL Playoffs: Corey Crawford leads Blackhawks to Game 1 win over LA Kings



CHICAGO (AP) — Corey Crawford is playing so well right now that nothing seems to bother him. When the Chicago Blackhawks had a goal waved off in the second period Sunday, Crawford picked up the slack for his disappointed teammates.

Crawford made 25 saves, Jonathan Toews had a big goal in the third and the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in Game 1 of the Western Conference final.

“Confidence has always been there,” Crawford said. “Really the first thing is being prepared, having that preparation to try and have my game at the highest level it can be each time I get out there.”

He is on quite a roll right now, allowing only one goal in each of the past three games. The 29-year-old Crawford leads the NHL with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in the playoffs.

“He does a good job of never getting too high or too low because tomorrow’s another day,” teammate Brandon Saad said. “He did a great job tonight.”

Saad had a goal and an assist for defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which remained perfect in seven home playoff games this year. Duncan Keith had a tiebreaking score in the third period.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night.

Playing just two days after a Game 7 victory over Anaheim, the Kings got a second-period score from Tyler Toffoli and outshot the Blackhawks 26-20 in the opener of a rematch from last year’s Western Conference final. But Crawford made a couple of solid stops in another terrific performance.
Corey Crawford (r.) gets a celebratory head butt from Jonathan Toews after a Game 1 win. Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images Corey Crawford (r.) gets a celebratory head butt from Jonathan Toews after a Game 1 win.

“I think we can do a better of getting in front of the net and make it harder on their goalie because we had some pretty good shots, but nobody was hanging around, so he was able to see everything,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said.

With the Blackhawks clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third, Toews, Marian Hossa and Johnny Oduya got loose on a 3-on-1 break. Toews one-timed Oduya’s pass right by Jonathan Quick for his sixth playoff goal at 16:10.

Quick made 17 saves after he played a key role in Los Angeles’ rally from a 3-2 deficit in the series against the Ducks. The Kings also battled back from a 3-0 hole against San Jose in the first round.

“We had a chance,” Los Angeles forward Mike Richards said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a bit on their goals, and give them credit, they’re an opportunistic team. But we made a couple of mistakes and it ended up in our net.”

Toews’ 26th career playoff goal came after he had one waved off in a confusing stretch in the second period.

It looked as if Chicago had a 2-0 lead when Toews’ rush to the net resulted in the puck going off the skate of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and into the goal. But it was waved off after a conference by the officials, prompting a round of boos from the crowd of 21,832 and a waving, yelling display from Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

According to the NHL, the original call of good goal was changed because the officials decided Toews made incidental contact with Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. The league said the ruling was not reviewable, so the call on the ice remained in place.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images The Blackhawks and Kings mix it up in the Western Conference finals.

The sequence seemed to wake up the Kings while deflating the Blackhawks. Los Angeles got its first goal about a minute later, with Tanner Pearson making a terrific pass to the middle to Toffoli for his fourth of the playoffs at 4:35.

“I thought we lost a little momentum there,” Quenneville said.

The Kings then had a couple of chances to take the lead, but Crawford stepped up each time. He denied Kyle Clifford on a 2-on-1 break with 13:42 remaining, and stopped Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown in rapid succession midway through the period.

Crawford’s solid play bought Chicago some time to shake off the disallowed goal, and it paid off when Keith’s slap shot went off the stick of Kings forward Trevor Lewis and bounced past Quick for a 2-1 lead at 11:54.

Crawford made another big save on Jeff Carter in the first minute of the third, and Toffoli had a backhander go off the outside of right post on a breakaway opportunity in the final period.

The Blackhawks turned a bad roughing penalty by Kings defenseman Alec Martinez into Saad’s power-play goal with 5:14 left in the first. The Kings had a prime scoring chance with 2:42 to go in the period, but Nick Leddy tied up Richards at the end of a 2-on-1 break.



Serena Williams routs Sara Errani to win 60th WTA title at the Italian Open

ROME — Serena Williams routed No. 11 Sara Errani 6-3, 6-0 to successfully defend her title and capture her 60th WTA title at the Italian Open on Sunday. Williams came into Rome without a clay-court title this season, and her participation in the tournament was in doubt after withdrawing from the Madrid Open last week with an upper leg injury. But she rebounded quickly and marched to her third title in Rome, losing just one set all week.

With her straight set win over Jelena Jankovic in the semifinal, Errani became the first Italian to make the final in Rome since 1985 and had the full support of the vocal Italian crowd from the start. But the match was as much a mismatch on court as it was on paper; Williams was 6-0 against the Italian No. 1 and had never lost a set to her on clay. Their last match came in the French Open semifinals last year, which Serena won 6-0, 6-1 in just 46 minutes.

Williams did her best to silence the pro-Errani crowd, racing to an easy 3-0 lead and had a point for 4-0 before a string of unforced errors let the underpowered Italian back into the match. Serving at 3-4 in the first set, Errani slid awkwardly on the clay and, after getting broken at love, called the trainer for an upper left leg injury. She did not win another game the entire match.

Williams unleashed her ground strokes, hitting 31 winners to 18 unforced errors (16 of which came in the first set) to cruise to her tour-leading third title of the season. Perhaps in reaction to the crowd and Errani’s injury concerns, her celebration was subdued, with just a quiet fist pump, and offered words of concern and comfort for Errani, who was in tears during the post-match festivities. Much to the delight of the crowd, Serena showed off her linguistic skills, and conducted her victory speech in Italian.

The win is a much-needed boost for Williams as she attempts to defend her title at the French Open which begins in one week. Rome has historically been an important catalyst for her success in Paris. In the two years she won Rome — 2002 and 2013 — she went on to win her only two titles at Roland Garros. As opposed to the WTA’s three other major clay lead-up tournaments in Charleston, Stuttgart and Madrid, the conditions in Rome are more comparable to what she will find in Paris. In the last two years, the women’s champion in Rome has gone on to win Paris.

Mets honor Derek Jeter with gifts before his final Subway Series game






NEW YORK — The Mets added to Derek Jeter’s growing retirement gift collection before his final Subway Series game Thursday.

While keeping with their tradition of honoring retiring players in a press conference at Citi Field and not on the field, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon presented the retiring shortstop a No. 2 mosaic designed using subway tiles, a Subway Series-themed cake and painting, and a $22,222.22 check for his Turn 2 Foundation.

A video tribute was later played on the field while the clubs warmed up.

“For all the great work you’ve done and the Turn 2 Foundation, we figured we’d put a lot of twos on the check,” Wilpon said.

Confusion then commenced. Wilpon stumbled over the amount given, provoking some humor from Jeter.

Mets give Derek Jeter a Subway tile Mosaic gift as he plays last regular season game at Citi Field New York Mets Jeff Wilpon gives New York Yankees Derek Jeter a Subway Mosaic as a gift for his last regular season game at Citi Field. (Video by William Perlman/The Star-Ledger)

“Two hundred and something?” Jeter joked.

“No, no, no,” Wilpon insisted.

Thursday marked Jeter’s 88th regular-season game against the Mets since interleague play began in 1997, a total that spans new ballparks for each franchise and a couple generations of stars. He entered batting .368 with a .966 on-base plus slugging percentage in 394 plate appearances.

He also played five contests opposite the intra-city rivals in the 2000 World Series, in which he was named Most Valuable Player after going 9-for-22 (.409) with two home runs, including one on the first pitch of Game 4.

“There’s been a lot of history, starting when interleague play started and all the excitement about the Yankees-Mets,” Jeter said. “And it doesn’t get any bigger than the World Series. But I have a lot of great memories here. It’s been fun playing in these series. Like I’ve always said, the fans are very energetic on both sides. That makes it very fun for us as a players to go out there and compete.”

SOLARTE'S HOT START CONTINUING

Yangervis Solarte continued the tardy torrid start to his major-league career in the Yankees’ 4-0 Wednesday, slamming a home run off Mets rookie Rafael Montero and upping his batting average to .336, tops in the American entering Thursday. His on-base percentage of .935 was third and his 23 runs batted in led the Yankees.

Solarte, a 26-year-old rookie, has emerged as the Yankees’ primary third baseman and has also spelled Brian Roberts at second base. He made the club on the final day of spring training over incumbent utilityman Eduardo Nuñez after signing as a minor-league free agent. He had spent eights years in the Twins and Rangers farm systems.

“Our scouting report is our club went and got him because they thought he could have an impact as an extra player for us, being a switch-hitter, playing second and third base,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He was going to get every opportunity to be a utility player for us. They liked what they saw. I’m not so sure that anyone would’ve predicted the impact that he’s had the first six weeks. But if you watched him day in and day out in spring training, we’re seeing a lot of the same that we saw in spring training.”

BILLINGS DESIGNATED

To make room on the 40-man roster for Chase Whitley, the Yankees’ starting pitcher Thursday, the Yankees activated right-hander Bruce Billings from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.

Billings, 28, appeared in just one game, his first major-league contest since 2011, and allowed four runs over four innings before being put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained forearm.

NBA Playoff Standings


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