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

AP sources: Flacco agrees to Ravens deal

Joe Flacco is staying in Baltimore.

The Super Bowl MVP quarterback agreed Friday to a new contact with the Ravens, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.

Terms were not immediately available, but Flacco was expected to get a long-term contract close to the $20 million average salary Drew Brees earns with New Orleans.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not officially been announced.

Fox Sports first reported the new deal.

Flacco played out his rookie contract last season for $6.76 million and led Baltimore to the NFL championship.

The 28-year-old Flacco is the only quarterback to win a postseason game in each of his first five pro seasons. He had a spectacular playoffs and Super Bowl this year, throwing for 11 touchdowns with no interceptions.

He also holds the record for playoff road wins with six.

Before the Super Bowl, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti expressed confidence that Flacco would be the Ravens' quarterback of the future.

"We've never lost a great, great franchise player from the beginning," Bisciotti said. "I'm just very comfortable that it will get done."

On Friday, it did.

Flacco was a first-round draft pick in 2008 out of Delaware and one of the most consistent postseason winners in NFL history.

Flacco said after the Super Bowl victory over San Francisco that he expected to be back in Baltimore. He made sure of that Friday, coincidentally hours after the franchise tag figures for 2013 became known.

Had Flacco been franchised, he would have earned at least $14.896 million this season.

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AP Source: 49ers to send Smith to KC

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alex Smith quietly stayed behind the scenes after losing his job and watched from the sideline as San Francisco returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. Yet the No. 1 overall draft pick from 2005 did make one thing known: The veteran quarterback still considers himself a starter.

And he hoped to get that chance again. Now, he appears to have it.

The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to acquire Smith from the 49ers in the first major acquisition since Andy Reid took over as the team's new coach in early January, a person with knowledge of the trade told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot become official until March 12, when the NFL's new business year begins. Another person familiar with the swap said the 49ers will get a second-round pick in April's draft, No. 34 overall, and a conditional pick in the 2014 draft.

After spending his first eight up-and-down years with the 49ers, Smith will get a welcome new start. The Chiefs will get the proven play-caller they hope can help turn things around under a new coach much the way Smith did under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco.

"You never know when your opportunity's going to come," Smith said late in the season. "The good ones are ready when they do come."

The Chiefs have gone this route before, acquiring Joe Montana from the 49ers nearly 20 years ago, in April 1993, after he won four Super Bowls but gave way to Steve Young — San Francisco's quarterback of the future.

Not so different from Smith's situation last season behind second-year QB Colin Kaepernick.

Moving Smith was hardly unexpected. He realized it once Kaepernick emerged as a capable starter over the season's final two months, and Smith all but said goodbye with his first pro team when he played briefly in the regular-season finale against Arizona to cheers of "Let's Go, Alex!" and "Alex! Alex!" from the Candlestick Park crowd.

With Smith now headed for Kansas City, Matt Cassel is likely headed out of town. And Reid will enter his first draft as Chiefs coach in April no longer needing to search for a quarterback.

The Chiefs' problems at quarterback are the single biggest reason they went 2-14 last season and secured the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time in franchise history.

It's been a long-running problem for a franchise that has tried Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac (two more one-time 49ers), and more recently Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen and Tyler Palko at quarterback. And then there's Cassel.

He was acquired by recently fired general manager Scott Pioli, and has two years left on a $63 million, six-year deal. He will likely be cut once Smith is acquired.

Cassel was benched last season in favor of Brady Quinn, who also is a free agent after going 1-7 as the starter.

If Smith can bring the steady form that defined his last two years, the Chiefs might be able to establish a much-needed consistency under center. They also found themselves a team-first player who led the 49ers through workouts during the 2011 lockout.

Under the three-year contract he signed last March, Smith is guaranteed $8.5 million in base salary for the 2013 season.

Smith thrived under 49ers coach and former NFL quarterback Harbaugh in one-plus season as the starter. Then, just like that, it all changed after he sustained a concussion.

Last week at the NFL combine, Harbaugh praised Smith and reiterated just how strong San Francisco was with Colin Kaepernick as the starter and someone with Smith's credentials at backup.

Yet everyone knew it was likely the 49ers would do their best to improve Smith's situation considering all he did for the franchise for nearly the past decade.

"Alex is really playing the best football of his career the last two years," Harbaugh said. "We think we got the best quarterback situation in the National Football League, feel strongly about that. Again, that'll be a process that plays out. Alex Smith continuing to be a 49er or if a trade occurs in the next weeks or months. Those are the two possibilities, most likely possibilities."

Smith acknowledged when he lost the job to Kaepernick back in November that he had done nothing wrong but get hurt. Not only had he completed 26 of his previous 28 passes — 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and a 157.1 passer rating in a Monday Night Football win at Arizona on Oct. 29 — Smith had just earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after that victory in the desert.

He then sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11 — saying later he threw a touchdown pass with blurry vision. Smith sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter, beating the Bears handily at home on Monday Night Football.

After that, Harbaugh vowed to stick with the "hot hand," as he regularly put it, while complicating matters by still referring to Smith as a starter.

Smith's most poignant response to the situation was, "I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion."

Kaepernick led the 49ers to the NFC championship and a 34-31 loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl in his second season. Now the 49ers are looking for his backup.

The 28-year-old Smith struggled for most of his career in San Francisco, plagued as much by coaching and constant coordinator changes as by his own indecisiveness. But when Harbaugh became coach in January 2011, Smith blossomed under the former QB's guidance. He was among the league leaders in passer rating (104.1) with a 70.2 completion percentage when he got hurt last season.

Fox Sports first reported the deal Wednesday.


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this story.

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Experts: Pistorius violated basic firearms rules

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Even if Oscar Pistorius is acquitted of murder, firearms and legal experts in South Africa believe that, by his own account, the star athlete violated basic gun-handling regulations and exposed himself to a homicide charge by shooting into a closed door without knowing who was behind it.

Particularly jarring for firearms instructors and legal experts is that Pistorius testified that he shot at a closed toilet door, fearing but not knowing for certain that a nighttime intruder was on the other side. Instead of an intruder, Pistorius' girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was in the toilet cubicle. Struck by three of four shots that Pistorius fired from a 9 mm pistol, she died within minutes. Prosecutors charged Pistorius with premeditated murder, saying the shooting followed an argument between the two. Pistorius said it was an accident.

South Africa has stringent laws regulating the use of lethal force for self-protection. In order to get a permit to own a firearm, applicants must not only know those rules but must demonstrate proficiency with the weapon and knowledge of its safe handling, making it far tougher to legally own a gun in South Africa than many other countries where a mere background check suffices.

Pistorius took such a competency test for his 9 mm pistol and passed it, according to the South African Police Service's National Firearms Center. Pistorius' license for the 9 mm pistol was issued in September 2010. The Olympic athlete and Paralympic medalist should have known that firing blindly, instead of at a clearly identified target, violates basic gun-handling rules, firearms and legal experts said.

"You can't shoot through a closed door," said Andre Pretorius, president of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council, a regulatory body for South African firearms instructors. "People who own guns and have been through the training, they know that shooting through a door is not going to go through South African law as an accident."

"There is no situation in South Africa that allows a person to shoot at a threat that is not identified," Pretorius added. "Firing multiple shots, it makes it that much worse. ...It could have been a minor — a 15-year-old kid, a 12-year-old kid — breaking in to get food."

The Pistorius family, through Arnold Pistorius, uncle of the runner, has said it is confident that the evidence will prove that Steenkamp's death in the predawn hours of Feb. 14 was "a terrible and tragic accident."

In an affidavit to the magistrate who last Friday freed him on bail, Pistorius said he believed an intruder or intruders had gotten into his US$560,000 (€430,000) two-story house, in a guarded and gated community with walls topped by electrified fencing east of the capital, Pretoria, and were inside the toilet cubicle in his bathroom. Believing he and Steenkamp "would be in grave danger" if they came out, "I fired shots at the toilet door" with the pistol that he slept with under his bed, he testified.

Criminal law experts said that even if the prosecution fails to prove premeditated murder, firing several shots through a closed door could bring a conviction for the lesser but still serious charge of culpable homicide, a South African equivalent of manslaughter covering unintentional deaths through negligence.

Johannesburg attorney Martin Hood, who specializes in firearm law, said South African legislation allows gun owners to use lethal force only if they believe they are facing an immediate, serious and direct attack or threat of attack that could either be deadly or cause grievous injury.

According to Pistorius' own sworn statement read in court, he "did not meet those criteria," said Hood, who is also the spokesman for the South African Gun Owners' Association.

"If he fired through a closed door, there was no threat to him. It's as simple as that," he added. "He can't prove an attack on his life ... In my opinion, at the very least, he is guilty of culpable homicide."

The Associated Press emailed a request for comment to Vuma, a South African reputation management firm hired by the Pistorius family to handle media questions about the shooting.

The firm replied: "Due to the legal sensitivities around the matter, we cannot at this stage answer any of your questions as it might have legal implications for a case that still has to be tried in a court of law." Vuma said on Monday it referred the AP's questions to Pistorius' legal team, which by Tuesday had not replied.

Culpable homicide covers unintentional deaths ranging from accidents with no negligence, like a motorist whose brakes fail, killing another road user, "to where it verges on murder or where it almost becomes intentional," said Hood. Sentences — ranging from fines to prison — are left to courts to determine and are not set by fixed guidelines.

The tough standards for legally acquiring a gun were instituted in part because of a wave of weapons purchases after the end of racist white rule in 1994, said Rick De Caris, a former legal director in the South African police. Under South Africa's white-minority apartheid regime, gun owners often learned how to handle firearms during military service. Many of the new gun owners had little or no firearms training, which brought tragic results, De Caris said.

"People were literally shooting themselves when cleaning a firearm," said De Caris, who helped draft the Firearms Control Act of 2000.

Prospective gun owners must now take written exams that include questions on the law, have to show they can safely handle and shoot a gun and are required to hit a target the size of a glossy magazine in 10 of 10 shots from seven meters (23 feet), said Pretorius of the Professional Firearm Trainers Council.

In his affidavit, Pistorius said he wasn't wearing his prosthetic limbs "and felt extremely vulnerable" after hearing noise from the toilet.

"I grabbed my 9 mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom, I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch-dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed," he testified.

Legal experts said they are puzzled why Pistorius apparently didn't first fire a warning shot to show the supposed intruder he was armed. Also unanswered is why, after he heard noise in his bathroom that includes the toilet cubicle, Pistorius still went toward the bathroom — toward the perceived danger — rather than retreat back into his bedroom.

"He should have tried to get out of the situation," said Hood, the attorney.

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AP source: Tom Brady gets 3-year extension

Tom Brady will be a Patriot until he is 40 years old.

Brady agreed to a three-year contract extension with New England on Monday, a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. The extension is worth about $27 million and will free up nearly $15 million in salary cap room for the team, which has several younger players it needs to re-sign or negotiate new deals with.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the extension has not been announced.

Sports Illustrated first reported the extension.

The 35-year-old two-time league MVP was signed through 2014, and has said he wants to play at least five more years.

A three-time Super Bowl champion, Brady will make far less in those three seasons than the going rate for star quarterbacks. Brady currently has a four-year, $72 million deal with $48 million guaranteed.

Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks, at an average of $20 million and $18 million a year, respectively.

Brady has made it clear he wants to finish his career with the Patriots, whom he led to Super Bowl wins for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, and losses in the big game after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. By taking less money in the extension and redoing his current contract, he's hopeful New England can surround him with the parts to win more titles.

Among the Patriots' free agents are top receiver Wes Welker and his backup, Julian Edelman; right tackle Sebastian Vollmer; cornerback Aqib Talib; and running back Danny Woodhead.

Brady has been the most successful quarterback of his era, of course, as well as one of the NFL's best leaders. His skill at running the no-huddle offense is unsurpassed, and he's easily adapted to the different offensive schemes New England has concentrated on through his 13 pro seasons.

The Patriots have gone from run-oriented in Brady's early days to a deep passing team with Randy Moss to an offense dominated by throws to tight ends, running backs and slot receivers.

Brady holds the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 50 in 2007, when the Patriots went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the Giants. He has thrown for at least 28 touchdowns seven times and led the league three times.

Last season, Brady had 34 TD passes and eight interceptions as the Patriots went 12-4, leading the league with 557 points, 76 more than runner-up Denver.

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Johnson wins 2nd Daytona 500; Patrick finishes 8th

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A big first for Danica Patrick, but an even bigger second for Jimmie Johnson.

Patrick made history up front at the Daytona 500 Sunday, only to see Johnson make a late push ahead of her and reclaim his spot at the top of his sport.

It was the second Daytona 500 victory for Johnson, a five-time NASCAR champion who first won "The Great American Race" in 2006.

"There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I'm a very lucky man to have won it twice," said Johnson, who won in his 400th career start. "I'm very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport."

It comes a year after Johnson completed only one lap in the race because of a wreck that also collected Patrick, and just three months after Johnson lost his bid for a sixth Sprint Cup title to go two years without a championship after winning five straight.

Although he didn't think he needed to send a message to his competitors — "I don't think we went anywhere; anybody in the garage area, they're wise to all that," Johnson said — the win showed the No. 48 team is tired of coming up short after all those years of dominance.

"Definitely a great start for the team. When we were sitting discussing things before the season started, we felt good about the 500," Johnson said, "but we're really excited for everything after the 500. I think it's going to be a very strong year for us."

Patrick is hoping for her own success after a history-making race.

The first woman to win the pole, Patrick also became the first woman to lead the race. She ran inside the top 10 almost the entire race, kept pace with the field and never panicked on the track.

Her only mistakes were on pit road, where she got beat on the race back to the track, and on the final lap, when she was running third but got snookered by the veterans and faded to eighth. That's going to stick with Patrick for some time.

"I would imagine pretty much anyone would be kicking themselves about what they coulda, shoulda have done to give themselves an opportunity to win," she said. "I think that's what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that."

There were several multicar crashes, but no one was hurt and none of them approached the magnitude of the wreck that injured more than two dozen fans in the grandstand at the end of the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the same track a day earlier. Daytona International Speedway workers were up until 2 a.m repairing the fence that was damaged in the accident, and track officials offered Sunday morning to move any fans who felt uneasy sitting too close to the track.

Several drivers said the accident and concern for the fans stuck with them overnight and into Sunday morning, and Johnson was quick to send his thoughts from Victory Lane.

"I just want to give a big shout-out to all the fans, and I also want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everybody that was injured in the grandstands," Johnson said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose father was killed in this race 12 years ago, was involved in Saturday's accident but refocused and finished second to Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

"Me personally, I was just really waiting to get the news on how everybody was, how all the fans were overnight, just hoping that things were going to improve," Earnhardt said, adding that he "wasn't really ready to proceed until you had some confirmation that things were looking more positive."

The race itself, the debut for NASCAR's new Gen-6 car, was quite similar to all the other Cup races during Speedweeks in that the cars seemed to line up in a single-file parade along the top groove of the track. It made the 55th running of the Daytona 500 relatively uneventful.

When the race was on the line, Johnson took off.

The driver known as "Five-Time" raced past defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart and pulled out to a sizable lead that nobody challenged over the final six laps.

Johnson and Keselowski went down to the wire last season in their race for the Sprint Cup title, with Johnson faltering in the final two races as Keselowski won his first Cup championship.

Although it was a bit of an upset that stuck with Johnson into the offseason, it gave him no extra motivation when he found himself racing with Keselowski late Sunday for the Daytona 500.

"As far as racing with Brad out there, you really lose sight of who is in what car," Johnson said. "It's just somebody between you and the trophy. It could have been anybody."

Once Johnson cleared Keselowski on the last restart he had a breakaway lead with Greg Biffle and Patrick behind him. But as the field closed in on the checkered flag, Earnhardt finally made his move, just too late and too far behind to get close enough to the lead.

Earnhardt wound up second for the third time in the last four years. But with all the crashes the Hendrick cars have endured in restrictor-plate races — teammate Kasey Kahne was in the first accident Sunday — team owner Rick Hendrick was just fine with the finish.

"We have a hard time finishing these races. Boy, to run 1-2, man, what a day," Hendrick said. Jeff Gordon, who was a contender early, faded late to 20th.

And Johnson considered himself lucky to be the one holding the trophy at the end.

"Man, it's like playing the lottery; everybody's got a ticket," he said. "I've struck out a lot at these tracks, left with torn-up race cars. Today we had a clean day."

Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Keselowski, who overcame two accidents earlier in the race, wound up fourth in Penske Racing's new Ford. Ryan Newman was fifth in a Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing and was followed by Roush-Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle, who was second on the last lap but was shuffled back with Patrick to finish sixth.

Regan Smith was seventh for Phoenix Racing, while Patrick, Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley rounded out the top 10.

Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish. When the race was on the line, she was schooled by Earnhardt, who made his last move and blocked any chance she had.

Still, Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in the 500 when she passed Michael Waltrip on a restart on Lap 90. She stayed on the point for two laps, then was shuffled back to third. She ended up leading five laps, another groundbreaking moment for Patrick, who as a rookie in 2005 became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and now is the 13th driver to lead laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500.

"Dale did a nice job and showed what happens when you plan it out, you drop back and get that momentum. You are able to go to the front," Patrick said. "I think he taught me something. I'm sure I'll watch the race and there will be other scenarios I see that can teach me, too."

Earnhardt was impressed, nonetheless.

"She's going to make a lot of history all year long. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress," said Earnhardt Jr. "Every time I've seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She's got a great level head. She's a racer. She knows what's coming. She's smart about her decisions. She knew what to do today as far as track position and not taking risks. I enjoy racing with her."

Johnson, one of three heavyweight drivers who took their young daughters to meet Patrick — "the girl in the bright green car" — after she won the pole in qualifications, tipped his cap, too.

"I didn't think about it being Danica in the car," Johnson said. "It was just another car on the track that was fast. That's a credit to her and the job she's doing."

The field was weakened by an early nine-car accident that knocked out race favorite Kevin Harvick and sentimental favorite Tony Stewart.

Harvick had won two support races coming into the 500 to cement himself as the driver to beat, but the accident sent him home with a 42nd place finish.

Stewart, meanwhile, dropped to 0-for-15 in one of the few races the three-time NASCAR champion has never won.

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

That accident also took former winner Jamie McMurray, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne out of contention.

The next accident — involving nine cars — came 105 laps later and brought a thankful end to Speedweeks for Carl Edwards. He was caught in his fifth accident since testing last month, and this wreck collected six other Ford drivers.

The field suddenly had six Toyota drivers at the front as Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing drivers took control of the race. But JGR's day blew up — literally — when the team was running 1-2-3 with Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch setting the pace.

Kenseth, who led a race-high 86 laps, went to pit road first with a transmission issue, and Busch was right behind him with a blown engine. Busch was already in street clothes watching as Hamlin led the field.

"It's a little devastating when you are running 1-2-3 like that," Busch said.

Hamlin's shot disappeared when he found himself in the wrong lane on the final restart. He tried to hook up with Keselowski to get them back to Johnson, but blamed former teammate Joey Logano for ruining the momentum of the bottom lane.

Hamlin offered a backhanded apology to Keselowski on Twitter, posting that he couldn't get close enough because "your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time."

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Oscar Pistorius gets bail as murder trial looms

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius walked out of court Friday — free at least for now — after a South African magistrate released him on bail, capping four days of often startling testimony that foreshadowed a dramatic trial in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend.

But as he was driven away, chased by photographers and cameramen, questions continued to hound the double-amputee Olympian about what actually happened the night he gunned down Reeva Steenkamp inside a locked bathroom in his home.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder, and even Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair expressed doubts about his story that he mistook the 29-year-old model for an intruder and fired out of fear.

"Why would (Pistorius) venture further into danger" by going into the bathroom at all, Nair asked.

Cries of "Yes!" went up from Pistorius' supporters when Nair announced his decision to a packed courtroom after a nearly two-hour explanation of the ruling.

Nair set bail at 1 million rand ($113,000), with $11,300 in cash up front and proof that the rest is available. The 26-year-old track star was also ordered to hand over his passports, turn in any guns he owns and keep away from his upscale home in a gated community in Pretoria, which is now a crime scene.

He cannot leave the district of Pretoria without his probation officer's permission and is not allowed to consume drugs or alcohol, the magistrate said. His next court appearance was set for June 4.

Earlier, Pistorius alternately wept and appeared solemn and composed, especially as Nair criticized police procedures in the case and as a judgment in the track star's favor appeared imminent. He showed no reaction as he was granted bail.

Pistorius left the courthouse in a silver Land Rover just over an hour after the bail conditions were set. The vehicle, tailed by motorcycles carrying television cameramen, later pulled into the home of Pistorius' uncle.

"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."

Dozens of journalists and international and local television crews had converged on the red-brick courthouse to hear the decision — a sign of the global fascination with a case involving a once-inspirational athlete and his beautiful girlfriend, a law school graduate and budding reality TV show contestant.

Nair said Pistorius' sworn statement, an unusual written account of what happened during the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, had helped his application for bail.

"I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail," Nair said.

Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp 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 say he intended to kill Steenkamp as she cowered in fear behind the locked bathroom door after a loud argument between the two.

Yet despite poking holes in Pistorius' version of events and bringing up incidents they say highlight his temper, the state's case started to unravel during testimony by the lead investigator, 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 by the hearing briefly Friday.

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 prosecution accepted the judge's decision without protest. "We're still confident in our case," prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said.

Pistorius faced the sternest bail requirements in South Africa because of the seriousness of the charge, which carries a life sentence if convicted. His defense attorneys 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.

Nair questioned whether Pistorius would be a flight risk when he stood to lose a fortune in cash, cars, property and other assets. Nair also said that while it had been shown that Pistorius had aggressive tendencies, he did not have a prior record of offenses for violent acts.

Anticipating the shape of the state's case at trial, he said he had serious questions about Pistorius' account: Why didn't he try to locate his girlfriend if he feared an intruder was in the house? Why didn't he try to determine who was in the bathroom before opening fire? And why did he venture into perceived "danger" in the bathroom when he could have taken other steps to ensure his safety?

"There are improbabilities which need to be explored," Nair said, adding that Pistorius could clarify these matters by testifying under oath at trial.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, said the model's family would not be watching the bail decision and had not been following the hearing.

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

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

"The sooner he can start working the better," said Louw, who persuaded 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 the carbon-fiber running blades that earned him the nickname "Blade Runner."


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) — South African police appointed a new chief investigator Thursday in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, replacing a veteran detective after unsettling revelations that the officer was charged with seven counts of 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 Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius, a sporting icon and source of inspiration to millions until the shooting last week, 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 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 athlete had no motive to plan her killing.

Pistorius, 26, says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her through a locked bathroom door 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 contradicted what police had discovered, even though there have been some discrepancies. Botha also said that police left a 9 mm slug in the toilet and lost track of allegedly illegal ammunition found in Pistorius' home.

"This matter shall receive attention at the national level," Phiyega told reporters after testimony ended 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 connection with a 2011 shooting incident in which they allegedly fired shots at a minibus they were trying to stop.

Makeke indicated the charges were reinstated 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 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 regarding 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 slaying.

"It seems to me like there was a lack of urgency," the magistrate said.

Botha is to appear in court in May to face seven counts of attempted murder in connection with the minibus shooting incident. He has been quoted in the South African media as denying allegations he was drunk at the time, saying he and the other officers were trying to stop the vehicle and didn't know there were people inside.

While Botha has been dropped from the Pistorius investigation, he has not been suspended from the police force, Phiyega said, and could still be called by defense lawyers at trial.

Pistorius, wearing 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 the bathroom to use the toilet, rather than fled there to escape an enraged Pistorius, as prosecutors contend.

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

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 investigated a 2009 complaint against Pistorius by a woman who said the athlete assaulted her. However, Pistorius did not hurt the woman, who in fact injured herself when she kicked a door at Pistorius' home, Botha said.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report from Johannesburg

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Police add more confusion to Oscar Pistorius case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecution case against Oscar Pistorius began to unravel Wednesday with revelations of a series of police blunders and the lead investigator's admission that authorities have no evidence challenging the double-amputee Olympian's claim he killed his girlfriend accidentally.

Detective Hilton Botha's often confused testimony left prosecutors rubbing their heads in frustration as he misjudged distances and said testosterone — banned for professional athletes in some cases — was found at the scene, only to be later contradicted by the prosecutor's office.

The second day of what was supposed to be a mere bail hearing almost resembled a full-blown trial for the 26-year-old runner, with his lawyer, Barry Roux, tearing into Botha's testimony step by step during cross examination.

Police, Botha acknowledged, left a 9 mm slug from the barrage that killed Reeva Steenkamp inside a toilet and lost track of illegal ammunition found inside the house. And the detective himself walked through the crime scene without wearing protective shoe covers, potentially contaminating the area.

Authorities, Roux asserted, were selectively taking "every piece of evidence to try to extract the most possibly negative connotation and present it to the court."

The case has riveted South Africa, with journalists and the curious crowding into the brick-walled courtroom where Pistorius, dubbed the Blade Runner for his prosthetic legs, faces a charge of premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day slaying.

Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and shot her out of fear, while prosecutors say he planned the killing and attacked her as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door.

The day seemed to start out well for the prosecution, with Botha offering new details of the shooting that appeared to call into question Pistorius' account of the moments leading up to the 29-year-old model's death.

Ballistic evidence, he said, showed the bullets that killed her had been fired from a height, supporting the prosecution's assertion that Pistorius was wearing prosthetic legs when he took aim at the bathroom door. The athlete has maintained he was standing only on his stumps, and felt vulnerable and frightened as he opened fire from a low position.

Projecting a diagram of the bedroom and bathroom, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said it showed Pistorius had to walk past his bed to get to bathroom and could not have done so without seeing that Steenkamp was not asleep there.

"There's no other way of getting there," Nel said in disputing Pistorius' claim that he had no idea Steenkamp was no longer in bed when he pumped four bullets into the bathroom door, striking her with three.

Botha backed the prosecutor up, saying the holster for Pistorius' 9 mm pistol was found under the left side of the bed, where Steenkamp slept, and it would have been impossible for Pistorius to get the gun without checking to see if she was there.

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

Botha described how bullets struck Steenkamp in the head and shattered her right arm and hip, eliciting sobs from Pistorius, who held his head in hands.

However, when asked if Steenkamp's body showed "any pattern of defensive wounds" or bruising from an assault, Botha said "no." He again responded "no" when asked if investigators found anything inconsistent with Pistorius' version of events, though he later said nothing contradicted the police version either.

Testimony began with the prosecutor telling the court that before the shooting, a neighbor heard "nonstop" shouting between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. at Pistorius' upscale home in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria.

However, Botha later said under cross examination that the witness was in a house 600 yards (meters) away, possibly out of earshot. He cut that estimate in half when questioned again by the prosecutor, as confusion reigned for much of his testimony.

At one point, Botha told the court that police found syringes and two boxes of testosterone in Pistorius' bedroom — testimony the prosecution later withdrew, saying it was too early to identify the substance, which was still being tested.

"It is not certain (what it is) until the forensics" are completed, Medupe Simasiku, a spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecution Agency, told The Associated Press. It's not clear if it was "a legal or an illegal medication for now."

The defense also disputed the claim. "It is an herbal remedy," Roux said. "It is not ... a banned substance."

Still, Botha offered potentially damaging details about Pistorius' past, saying the athlete was once involved in an accidental shooting at a restaurant in Johannesburg and asked someone else "to take the wrap."

The runner also threatened men on two separate occasions, Botha said, allegedly telling one he'd "break his legs."

The detective said police found two iPhones in Pistorius' bathroom and two BlackBerrys in his bedroom, and none had been used to phone for help. Guards at the gated community did call the athlete, Botha said, and all he said was: "I'm all right," as he wept uncontrollably.

Roux later suggested that a fifth phone, not collected by the police, was used by Pistorius to call for help.

The question now is whether Botha's troubled testimony will be enough to convince Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair to keep Pistorius in prison until trial. While Pistorius faces the harshest bail requirements under South African law, the magistrate has said he would consider loosening them based on testimony in the hearing. Final arguments were scheduled for Thursday.


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: Lover caught in tragedy or killer?

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius portrayed himself as a lover caught in tragedy, wielding a pistol and frightened as he stood only on his stumps, then killed his girlfriend after mistaking her for an intruder on Valentine's Day.

Prosecutors, however, said the double-amputee Olympian committed premeditated murder, planning the slaying, then firing at Reeva Steenkamp as she cowered behind his locked bathroom door with no hope of escape.

"She couldn't go anywhere," Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told a packed courtroom Tuesday. "It must have been horrific."

Weeping uncontrollably, Pistorius listened as his words were read out in court by his attorney during the opening of a two-day bail hearing, his first public account of the events surrounding the shooting death of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star who had spoken out against violence against women.

"I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated murder, as I had no intention to kill my girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp," Pistorius said in the sworn affidavit. "I deny the aforesaid allegation in the strongest terms."

It was the first time that the prosecution and Pistorius provided details of their radically divergent accounts of the killing, which has shocked South Africans and fans worldwide, who idolized the 26-year-old track star known as the Blade Runner for overcoming his disability to compete in last summer's London Olympics.

Nel said Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he rose from his bed after a fight with Steenkamp, pulled on his prosthetic legs and walked about 20 feet from his bedroom to the locked toilet door and pumped it with four bullets, three of which hit the model.

That contradicted the runner's statement, read aloud by defense attorney Barry Roux, who described how the couple spent a quiet night together in the athlete's upscale home in a gated community in the capital of Pretoria, then went to sleep around 10 p.m.

Sometime before dawn, Pistorius said he awoke, and walking only on his stumps, pulled a fan in from an open balcony and closed it. That's when he said he heard a noise and became alarmed because the bathroom window, which had no security bars, was open and workers had left ladders nearby.

"It filled me with horror and fear," Pistorius said in the statement.

"I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes," he said. "I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night."

Too frightened to turn on a light, Pistorius said, he pulled out his pistol and headed for the bathroom, believing Steenkamp was still asleep "in the pitch dark" of the bedroom.

"As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself," he said, adding that he shouted to Steenkamp to call the police as he fired at the closed toilet door.

It was then, Pistorius said, that he realized Steenkamp was not in bed.

He said he pulled on his prosthetic legs and tried to kick down the toilet door before finally giving up and bashing it in with a cricket bat. Inside, he said he found Steenkamp, slumped over but still alive. He said he lifted her bloodied body and carried her downstairs to seek medical help.

But it was too late. "She died in my arms," Pistorius said.

"We were deeply in love and I could not be happier," the athlete said. "I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine's Day but asked me only to open it the next day."

Pistorius broke down in sobs repeatedly as his account was read, prompting Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair to call a recess at one point.

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

"Yes, my lordship," Pistorius replied, his voice quivering.

Nair adjourned the case until Wednesday without ruling on whether Pistorius would be granted bail. However, he said the gravity of the charge — which carries a mandatory life sentence — meant the athlete's lawyers must offer "exceptional" reasons for bail to be granted, making his release unlikely.

Roux, the defense attorney, said there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder," he said.

The prosecutor disagreed.

"It is our respectful argument that 'pre-planning' or premeditation do not require months of planning," Nel said. "If ... I ready myself and walk a distance with the intention to kill someone, it is premeditated."

Hundreds of miles from the Magistrate's Court, a memorial service was held for Steenkamp in the south coast 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 and cremation.

Relatives recalled how the model with a law degree had campaigned against domestic violence and had planned to don black for a "Black Friday" protest in honor of a 17-year-old girl who was recently gang-raped and mutilated.

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," said her uncle, Mike Steenkamp.

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

Since the shooting, several of Pistorius' sponsors have dropped him. On Tuesday, Clarins Group, which owns Thierry Mugler Perfumes, said it would withdraw all advertising featuring the Olympian. A cologne line with the company, called A(asterisk)Men, bears his image.


Associated Press writer Michelle Faul in Johannesburg and AP photographer Schalk van Zuydam in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, contributed to this report.


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

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Jerry Buss, Lakers' flamboyant owner, dies at 80

Jerry Buss built a glittering life at the intersection of sports and Hollywood.

After growing up in poverty in Wyoming, he earned success in academia, aerospace and real estate before discovering his favorite vocation when he bought the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979. While Buss wrote the checks and fostered partnerships with two generations of basketball greats, the Lakers won 10 NBA titles and became a glamorous worldwide brand.

With a scientist's analytical skills, a playboy's flair, a businessman's money-making savvy and a die-hard hoops fan's heart, Buss fashioned the Lakers into a remarkable sports entity. They became a nightly happening, often defined by just one word coined by Buss: Showtime.

"His impact is felt worldwide," said Kobe Bryant, who has spent nearly half his life working for Buss.

Buss, who shepherded his NBA team from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the current Bryant era while becoming one of the most important and successful owners in pro sports, died Monday. He was 80.

"Think about the impact that he's had on the game and the decisions he's made, and the brand of basketball he brought here with Showtime and the impact that had on the sport as a whole," Bryant said a few days ago. "Those vibrations were felt to a kid all the way in Italy who was 6 years old, before basketball was even global."

Under Buss' leadership, the Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Los Angeles 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.

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. Whatever the Lakers did under Buss' watch, they did it big — with marquee players, eye-popping style and a relentless pursuit of success.

"His incredible commitment and desire to build a championship-caliber team that could sustain success over a long period of time has been unmatched," said Jerry West, Buss' longtime general manager and now a consultant with the Golden State Warriors. "With all of his achievements, Jerry was without a doubt one of the most humble men I've ever been around. His vision was second to none; he wanted an NBA franchise brand that represented the very best and went to every extreme to accomplish his goals."

Buss died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Bob Steiner, his assistant and longtime friend. 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.

"Anybody associated with the NBA since 1980 benefited greatly from Jerry Buss' impact on the game," Steiner said. "He had a different way of looking at things than I did, and people who had been raised in basketball."

With his condition worsening in recent months, several prominent former Lakers visited Buss to say goodbye. Buss' list of basketball friends is long and stellar, with Johnson citing him as a role model and nearly all former Lakers considering him a friend.

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

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 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.

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."

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 repartee.

The buzz extended throughout the Forum, where Buss used the Laker Girls, a brass band and promotions to keep Lakers 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."

Always an innovative businessman, Buss paid for the Lakers through both their wild success and his 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 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

"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."

Although Buss gained fame and another 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 in the past two seasons.

After a rough-and-tumble childhood that included stints as a ditch-digger and a bellhop in the frigid Wyoming winters, 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 the 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 during two years of negotiations, 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, and the Lakers came to define 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 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.

Ownership of the Lakers is now in a trust controlled by Buss' six children, who 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.

"I am blessed with a wonderful family who have helped me and guided me every step of the way," Buss said in 2010 at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "This support is the best anybody could ever have."

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 his 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 service, likely at Staples Center or a nearby theatre in downtown Los Angeles.


Associated Press writers Beth Harris and Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.

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Wisconsin holds on to beat Minnesota 3-2

CHICAGO (AP) — Wisconsin scored three times in the second period and held on to beat second-ranked Minnesota 3-2 Sunday in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field.

Sean Little scored the game-winner at 16:22 of the second period for the Badgers (13-10-7, 10-7-7), who spoiled the Gophers' first outdoor game. Wisconsin is 3-0-0 in games played outdoors.

After a scoreless first period, Kevin Schulz and John Ramage scored 1:10 apart for a 2-0 lead. Little slapped in a rebound 2:09 later with the eventual winner.

Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel kicked away a shot as time expired to preserve the win. He had 36 saves.

Seth Ambroz and Zach Budish scored in the third period for the Gophers (20-6-4, 12-6-4).

Goalie Adam Wilcox made 16 saves.

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Hunter voted out as head of NBA players' union

HOUSTON (AP) — Billy Hunter was ousted unanimously as executive director of the union by NBA players who said Saturday they will "no longer be divided, misled, misinformed."

"This is our union and we have taken it back," players' association president Derek Fisher said.

Fisher said it was a day of change for the union, which has seemed inevitable since a review of the union last month was critical of Hunter's leadership and urged players to consider whether they wanted to keep him.

They didn't.

"We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the players," Fisher said. "No threats, no lies, no distractions will stop us from serving our memberships."

In brief remarks, Fisher said a new executive committee was elected and he will remain as president. The Spurs' Matt Bonner is vice president, Miami's James Jones is secretary-treasurer and the Nets' Jerry Stackhouse the first vice president. The Clippers' Chris Paul, Golden State's Stephen Curry, Denver's Andre Iguodala, the Hornets' Roger Mason, Jr. and the Clippers' Willie Green are vice presidents.

Hunter had led the union since 1996, guiding the players through three collective bargaining agreements and helping bring their average salaries to more than $5 million, highest in team sports. But Fisher pushed for the review after a falling out between the two leaders, and though it found Hunter wasn't guilty of any criminal activity involving union funds, it cited him for a number of conflicts of interests and poor choices that led the players to remove him.

Released in January, the review conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP criticized Hunter for hiring family members and friends. It said he knew his 2010 contract extension wasn't properly ratified by union rules, and raised questions about everything from travel expenses to the amount he spent on gifts.

Players acted quickly, putting Hunter on a leave of absence on Feb. 1. He hoped to be invited to Saturday's annual meeting, which included about 35 players, superstar LeBron James among them.

But Hunter's attorneys said their client was told he wouldn't be welcomed. They said his contract was legal and indicated there could be a lawsuit if the players removed him and attempted to withhold the more than $10 million that remains on his salary.

"We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in an ugly way," said Fisher, who then reminded reporters that there are three ongoing government investigations into Hunter, likely the reason he didn't take questions after his remarks.

It's a swift fall for the 70-year-old Hunter, a former athlete who was well-respected by many players. But agents didn't like him, questioning his bargaining strategies and frustrated they didn't have a bigger role in his union.

Hunter's family did, and that was another central issue of the report. He had since fired his daughter and daughter-in-law, and cut ties with a financial institution that employed his son. He also instituted an anti-nepotism policy at the NPBA.

Fisher, Paul, Bonner, Mason and Jones were holdovers from the previous executive committee. Stackhouse, who along with James was vocal during the meeting, joins Iguodala, Curry and Green among the newcomers.

Fisher and Hunter clashed during the 2011 lockout and their fractured relationship divided the union. Hunter originally persuaded the executive committee to vote to request Fisher's resignation last year. Fisher did not resign and instead pushed for the outside review, which lasted more than eight months and cost the union more than $4 million.

The law firm reviewed NBPA documents and emails, and interviewed more than three dozen witnesses. It found that Hunter spent more than $100,000 on gifts for executive committee members — including a watch worth more than $20,000 for Fisher before their falling out — and accepted a payout of $1.3 million for unused vacation time when records made it unclear how his time off was kept.

Fisher remains president even though he isn't on an NBA roster, having asked the Dallas Mavericks for his release after a brief stint earlier this season. He gave no update on what would happen to the executive director position. Union attorney Ron Klempner was appointed to the position on an interim basis when Hunter was placed on leave.

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Different looks for Heat, Lakers at All-Star break

HOUSTON (AP) — If Kobe Bryant's season seems tough, imagine what Dwyane Wade went through five years ago.

"I came to All-Star weekend one year, I think we had won nine games. Seriously," Wade said Friday. "I was looking for my 10th win at the All-Star game."

Things sure have changed for his Miami Heat.

Back where they first teamed up as All-Stars in 2006, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh return as NBA champions who will start together for the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.

Now the misery belongs to Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose season has been so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a "retreat" for him.

"I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on," he said.

As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that — a break — from a forgettable season.

He arrived for the 2008 All-Star game with a 9-43 record after the Heat lost on Valentine's Day to the Chicago Bulls, on their way to a 15-win debacle just two years after they won the NBA title.

"I put all that aside though, and I came and I enjoyed the weekend, and when I went back to Miami, it was like, 'Oh my God, we're back in it,'" Wade said. "But All-Star weekend, you just enjoy being an All-Star. You enjoy being around the guys. You can kind of forget about that a little bit, unless you have the cameras and the microphones in front of you asking you questions about it, but besides that you try to enjoy it."

This time, the Heat celebrated Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City with a 110-100 victory over the Thunder, the team they beat in five games last summer for the title. They have won seven in a row, James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, and they can relax and reminisce as they return to Houston.

"It's really indescribable," Bosh said, "just to not only win a championship with great guys, be in a great locker room, and just to have fun doing it, but just to be an All-Star every year, play with great teammates, I mean to play in front of a lot people in arenas every night. I don't take those things for granted."

James, Wade and Bosh were in their third NBA seasons when they were chosen for the 2006 game, which turned out like so many Heat games these days. James was voted MVP after scoring 29 points and leading a huge East comeback that was wrapped up when Wade made the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left.

Think about that: James was already the best player that night, and he was nowhere near the player he is today.

"I'm a better player. At that point in time, I wasn't a complete basketball player. I couldn't shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then," James said. "More games, more playoff games, more knowledge. You continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better player. That's what you want, to become a better player. That's what I want. I want to be the greatest of all-time. I try to do whatever it takes to get me in that position.

"Seven years, I've tried to improve each and every year."

He's gotten to the point now where he ran off an NBA-record six straight games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting from the field, and seems to be distancing himself from anyone else that can take the MVP award he won last year for the third time in four years.

"He's doing well," Bosh said in a Texas-sized understatement. "That's the best way to put it."

Bosh was chosen as a starter Friday by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who will lead the East. He replaces Boston guard Rajon Rondo, who pulled out with a torn ACL.

Bryant and Howard are still here, away from a Los Angeles season that's been anything but a Hollywood story.

Considered a title contender after acquiring Howard and Steve Nash in the summer, the Lakers fell to 25-29 after they were blown out Wednesday by the rival Clippers, who opened a 13-game lead over them in the Pacific Division standings.

Smiling as he sat with his daughter, Natalia, Bryant laughed that he wished the All-Star break was a chance for the Lakers to "hit the reset button" on what he's said has been a most difficult season.

"Hopefully there's an easy button like in the commercial when we come back in the second half of the season and things are a little easier for us," he said.

Howard has battled injuries to his back and shoulder and has been nothing like the player who has been the NBA's dominant big man in recent years. He said at times he hasn't been having fun and has tried to ignore all the bad news around the team.

"You just try to stay away from the tube and do as much as I can to rehab my back and my shoulder and my mind, and really just get away from everything when I'm not playing basketball," he said.

If he's looking for a chance to enjoy himself this season, it may get no better than the next few days.

"It's a great weekend, it's an unbelievable weekend for the fans to be able to put all their favorite players together in one venue," James said. "We have a great time with it."


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Amputee Olympic star Pistorius charged in slaying

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter dubbed the Blade Runner, was charged Thursday in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend at his upscale home in South Africa, a shocking twist to one of the feel-good stories of last summer's Olympics.

Pistorius buried his face in the hood of his workout jacket as officers escorted him from a police station after his arrest in the shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp, a 30-year-old model who had spoken out on Twitter against rape and abuse of women.

Police said she was shot four times in the pre-dawn hours at Pistorius' villa in a gated community in the capital, Pretoria. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge.

What sparked the shooting remained unclear, but police said they had received calls in the past about domestic altercations at the home of the 26-year-old athlete, who has spoken publicly about his love of firearms.

A 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," Beukes said. She said Pistorius was home at the time of Steenkamp's death and "there is no other suspect involved."

Pistorius made history in the London Games when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and became an international star.

Thursday, companies quickly removed billboards and advertising featuring Pistorius, a national hero in South Africa who also inspired fans worldwide with the image of his high-tech carbon-fiber blades whipping through the air.

Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius' lawyer, told reporters the athlete was "emotional" after his arrest, "but he is keeping up." He said he planned to seek bail for Pistorius at a preliminary hearing Friday.

Pistorius has had troubles in the past in his personal life, which often featured fast cars, cage fighters and women.

In February 2009, he crashed a speedboat on South Africa's Vaal River, breaking his nose, jaw and several ribs and damaging an eye socket. He 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 blood tests.

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

Pistorius' father, Henke Pistorius, said Thursday: "We all pray for guidance and strength for Oscar and the lady's parents."

A spokeswoman for Pistorius at Fast Track, an international sports marketing agency in London, said the athlete was assisting with the investigation and there would be no further comment "until matters become clearer."

The sprinter's former coach, Andrea Giannini, said he hoped the shooting was "just a tragic accident."

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

Firearms captivated Pistorius, the subject of an online Nike advertisement that featured him with the caption: "I am a bullet in the chamber." In November 2011, he posted a photograph on Twitter of himself at a shooting range, bragging about his score. "Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he wrote.

Linked to a number of women by the South African media, Pistorius and Steenkamp were first seen together publicly in November. She was named one of the world's 100 Sexiest Women for two years running by the men's magazine FHM.

The leggy blonde with a law degree also appeared in international and South African ads and was a celebrity contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure," a South African reality show filmed in Jamaica.

While known for her bikini-clad, vamping photo spreads, she tweeted messages urging women to stand up against rape. Her tweets also focused on Pistorius, with one of her last messages noting her excitement over Valentine's Day.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she wrote. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

Police have not publicly named Steenkamp as the victim, saying only that a 30-year-old woman was killed. Steenkamp's publicist, however, confirmed in a statement that the model had died.

"Everyone is simply devastated," the publicist, Sarit Tomlinson, said. "She was the kindest, sweetest human being; an angel on earth and will be sorely missed."

Police arrived at Pistorius' home after 3 a.m., and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive Steenkamp, police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said.

Officers later took Pistorius to a hospital so doctors could collect samples for DNA testing and check his blood alcohol content.

Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, and campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes.

He was initially banned because of his carbon fiber blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — before being cleared by sport's highest court in 2008.

He was a last-minute selection to South Africa's Olympic team, competing in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay. He later retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters.

South Africa's Sports Confederation, its Olympic committee and the International Paralympic Committee all had no comment on the shooting.

Shock 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 South Africa also has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, behind only 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."


Gerald Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa. Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Ed Brown in Johannesburg contributed to this report.


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Barry Bonds seeks dismissal of felony conviction

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawyer for Barry Bonds urged a federal appeals court on Wednesday to toss out the slugger's obstruction of justice conviction, saying a rambling answer he gave while testifying before a grand jury was not a crime.

Appellate specialist Dennis Riordan argued that Bonds was not formally or specifically charged with the felony that he was convicted of committing. A federal jury in April 2011 found baseball's all-time home runs leader guilty of obstruction for saying he was a "celebrity child" when asked about injecting steroids.

Prosecutors asked Bonds during his December 2003 grand jury appearance whether Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, ever gave him "anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?"

Bonds referred to his father, former major leaguer Bobby Bonds, when he responded "that's what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see ..."

That particular exchange wasn't included in the indictment originally released in November 2007. The omission is "the dagger in the heart of this conviction," Riordan argued.

Further, Riordan said that Bonds ultimately answered the question when put to him again and denied receiving any substance to inject.

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wondered aloud if Bonds' direct denial undercut the government's argument that Bonds intentionally misled the grand jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan countered that the denial was a lie because Bonds' former personal assistant, Cathy Hoskins, testified that she witnessed Anderson inject Bonds. Chan said Bonds' denial and his other rambling answers to the same question throughout his grand jury appearance added up to obstruction.

"He answered the question falsely each time," she said.

Bonds and his legal team are asking a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the lone felony conviction stemming from Bonds' 2½ hours of testimony in December 2003 before a grand jury investigating performance enhancing drug use and sales among elite athletes. Bonds, who was rejected by voters last month in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, wasn't required to attend Wednesday's highly technical hearing, though Riordan said his client expressed a desired to watch the proceedings in person.

Riordan said outside court that he advised Bonds to watch from afar rather than personally attending the 35-minute session San Francisco. A local television station was given permission to show the hearing live and streamed at least a couple of segments on the Internet.

"His presence would have been a distraction," Riordan said.

Legal experts who have followed the case closely since his grand jury appearance in December 2003 are divided over Bonds' chances before Daly Hawkins and Judges Mary Schroeder and Mary Murguia, each of whom was appointed by a different Democrat president and all of whom are based in Phoenix, home of San Francisco's division rival Diamondbacks and about a 20-minute drive from the Giants' Scottsdale spring training facility.

One set of analysts argue that appellate courts are reluctant to overturn jury verdicts absent an overwhelmingly obvious mistake. They say that U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who ran the trial, is a respected jurist who has few of her cases overturned.

"There is a definite overriding respect of a jury's verdict," said Howard Wasserman, a Florida International University law professor. "Typically, it's pretty hard to get a jury's verdict reversed."

On the other hand, there are those lawyers who argue that Bonds stands a good chance to clear his name.

"The government's biggest hurdle is that testimony obstruction cases are usually based on blatant, undeniable lies to questions at the heart of an investigation," said William Keane, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney. "Here the prosecution limps in with only a single rambling, unresponsive, unimportant answer that is literally true."

Regardless of the outcome, University of New Hampshire law professor Michael McCann contends that the case was ultimately a loss of the U.S. Department of Justice. In a case that put a superstar athlete at the defendant's table, the jury deadlocked on three charges of making false statements

"The main thrust of the government's original case was that he lied when he denied taking steroids," said McCann, who also edits the popular Sports Law Blog. "That's not what he was convicted of. Obstruction was not the main charge."

If Bonds' conviction is upheld, he will have to serve 30 days house arrest.

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