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

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

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — When Louisville coach Rick Pitino threw off his coat, it was game-on.

Miffed by two straight fouls against Luke Hancock when the 10th-ranked Cardinals trailed No. 12 Syracuse by a point with time running out, Pitino stomped on the sidelines as he altered his courtside wardrobe and his team responded with a late spurt for a 58-53 victory Saturday, silencing another huge Carrier Dome crowd.

"We had a couple of real tough calls go against us and veteran teams don't let it bother you," Pitino said. "They dig in. It bothered me, but it didn't bother the players."

Cool under fire despite the two quick fouls, Hancock hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to break a 48-all tie with 50 seconds left as the Cardinals exacted a measure of revenge for a loss to the Orange earlier this season.

"It's big," said Hancock, who hit 4 of 5 from behind the arc for all of his points in the game. "This was like a tournament game. It was that kind of atmosphere. This prepares us well. It definitely gives us confidence going into the end of the season. We want to win out the rest of our games and this was another step."

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

Louisville (24-5, 12-4) snapped a three-game losing streak against Syracuse, and the Cardinals did it before a stunned crowd of 31,173. The victory moved Louisville into a tie with Marquette (21-7, 12-4), which beat Notre Dame, one-half game behind the Hoyas (22-4, 12-3), who played later Saturday.

Russ Smith led Louisville with 18 points and Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Cardinals overcame a poor offensive performance by point guard Peyton Siva. Siva failed to score, missing eight 3-pointers, but had four assists and no turnovers.

C.J. Fair had 19 points to lead the Orange, James Southerland added 13 and point guard Michael Carter-Williams 11.

Syracuse, which trailed 23-19 at halftime, its fewest points in a first half this season, outrebounded Louisville 41-36 but was victimized by eight 3s and shot poorly again (20 of 56 for 35.7 percent). Senior guard Brandon Triche, one of the heroes in the win over Louisville in mid-January with 23 points, had just eight on this day, going 2 for 11 from the field and missing all three of his tries from long range. Syracuse's starting guards finished 5 of 21 overall and 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, while Triche had a game-high seven turnovers.

"We can't have him (Triche) play this way," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "He works his tail off. He's a good teammate. He wants to win, but I don't like the way he's playing right now. I don't like the way we're playing. We need to get something offensively."

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

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

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

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

"We had the lead. We just lost it at the end," Southerland said. "We just have to have the mentality that when we have the ball, we're not going to lose it. Unfortunately, we had some tough turnovers at the end of the game that definitely changed the outcome.

"We just have to forget about this game and move forward. This is stuff teams go through. The best thing about it is it's better to go through it now than in the tournament because you only have one chance then."

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

The Louisville players said they weren't thinking revenge. They're just happy to be playing at a high level after their fifth straight win.

"It wasn't a revenge game. We did what we were supposed to do," Dieng said. "Anyone can beat anybody in the Big East. We need to win all the games (left) and do what we're supposed to do, and the rest is going to take care of itself."

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

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

"It's March," Ware said. "Tournament time is right around the corner. We told ourselves yesterday every game is like an NCAA game. We don't want to lose. We want to keep this win streak going."

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Rodman tells Kim Jong Un he has 'friend for life'

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea's Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.

"You have a friend for life," Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the U.S. play, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press.

Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.

The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a "hostile" policy toward the North.

Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Chicago Bulls star he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith said.

Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on the table before him during the game as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman. Rodman, the man who once turned up in a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, wore a dark suit and dark sunglasses, but still had on his nose rings and other piercings. A can of Coca-Cola sat on the table before him in photos shared with AP by VICE.

"The crowd was really engaged, laughed at all of the Globetrotters antics, and actually got super loud towards the end as the score got close," said Duffy, who suited up for the game in a blue uniform emblazoned with "United States of America. "Most fun I've had in a while."

Kim and Rodman chatted in English, but Kim primarily spoke in Korean through a translator, Smith said after speaking to the VICE crew in Pyongyang.

"They bonded during the game," Smith said by telephone from New York after speaking to the crew. "They were both enjoying the crazy shots, and the Harlem Globetrotters were putting on quite a show."

The surprise visit by the flamboyant Hall of Famer known as "The Worm" makes him an unlikely ambassador at a time when North Koreans are girding for battle with the U.S. Just last week, Kim guided front line troops in military exercises.

North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes never signed a peace treaty, and do not have diplomatic relations.

Thursday's game ended in a 110-110 draw, with two Americans playing on each team alongside North Koreans, Detrick said. The Xinhua News Agency first reported on the game, citing witnesses who attended.

After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans, telling him, "You have a friend for life," Detrick said.

At a lavish dinner at Kim's palace, the leader plied the group with food and drinks as the group made round after round of toasts.

"Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total," Duffy said in an email to AP. "I'd say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang cold noodles earlier in the trip and that's been the runaway favorite so far."

Duffy said he invited Kim to visit the United States, a proposal met with hearty laughter from the North Korean leader.

"Um ... so Kim Jong Un just got the (hash)VICEonHBO crew wasted ... no really, that happened," VICE producer Jason Mojica wrote on Twitter.

Rodman's trip is the second attention-grabbing U.S. visit this year to North Korea. Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, but did not meet the North Korean leader.

In Washington, the State Department refused comment on Rodman's visit or his meeting with Kim. "Private, individual Americans are welcome to take actions they see fit," spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

He said the Obama administration wasn't in touch with Rodman and wasn't making an effort to contact him.

The administration had frowned on the trip by Schmitt and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, but has avoided criticizing Rodman's outing, saying it's about sports.

North Korea's invitation to a man known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as for his basketball may seem inexplicable. But Kim is known to love the NBA, and has promoted sports since becoming leader.

"We knew that he's a big lover of basketball, especially the Bulls, and it was our intention going in that we would have a good will mission of something that's fun," Smith said. "A lot of times, things just are serious and everybody's so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings."

Rodman's agent, Darren Prince, said Rodman wasn't concerned about criticism about making a visit to an enemy nation.

"Dennis called me last night and said it's been a great experience and he made this trip out of the love of the USA ," he said. "It's all about peace and love."


Associated Press NBA writer Brian Mahoney in New York and writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report. Follow AP's Korea bureau chief Jean Lee at

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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 victory for Johnson, a five-time NASCAR champion who first won "The Great American Race" in 2006.

Patrick, the first woman to win the pole, also became the first woman to lead the race. She was running third on the last lap, but faded to eighth at the finish.

There were several crashes during the race, none approaching the magnitude of the wreck that injured more than two dozen fans a day earlier in a second-tier race on the same track.

Johnson 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.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. settled for second as Hendrick Motorsports drivers went 1-2 in the new Chevrolet SS. Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.

Keselowski, who overcame two accidents earlier in the race, wound up fourth in the new Ford that Penske Racing is fielding this year.

Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish. But she admitted she wasn't sure what move to make if she was going to try for the win.

"You know I kept thinking about it the whole time," she said. "You spend a lot of time thinking what to do when the opportunity comes."

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 in 2005 as a rookie became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500.

Janet Guthrie was the first woman to lead laps at NASCAR's top Cup Series, in 1977 at Ontario, where she led five laps under caution.

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 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.

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Fans injured when car sails into fence at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR fans were injured Saturday when large chunks of debris, including a tire, sailed into the grandstands when a car flew into the fence on a frightening last-lap accident in the second-tier Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

As emergency workers tended to injured fans and ambulance sirens wailed in the background, a somber Tony Stewart skipped the traditional post-race victory celebration. The crash began as the field closed in on the finish line and sent rookie Kyle Larson's car sailing into the fence that separates the track from the seats.

Large chunks of Larson's car landed in the grandstands. The car itself had its entire front end sheared off, with the burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.

Neither NASCAR nor Daytona International Speedway officials had any immediate details on injuries in the accident in the race held the day before the season-opening Daytona 500.

"There obviously was some intrusion into the fence and fortunately with the way the event's equipped up, there were plenty of emergency workers ready to go and they all jumped in on it pretty quickly," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "Right now, it's just a function of determining what all damage is done. They're moving folks, as we've seen, to care centers and take some folks over to Halifax Medical."

Stewart, who won for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races, was in no mood to celebrate.

"The important thing is what going on on the frontstretch right now," said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. "We've always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it's hard. We assume that risk, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it.

"So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as this is a big deal to us, I'm more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now because that was ... I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn't look good from where I was at."

The accident spread into the upper deck and emergency crews treated fans on both levels. There were five stretchers that appeared to be carrying fans out, and a helicopter flew overhead. A forklift was used to pluck Larson's engine out of the fence, and there appeared to be a tire in the stands.

Daytona President Joie Chitwood waited by steps as emergency workers attended to those in the stands. Across the track, fans pressed against a fence and used binoculars trying to watch. Wrecked cars and busted parts were strewn across the garage.

"It's a violent wreck. Just seeing the carnage on the racetrack, it's truly unbelievable," driver Justin Allgaier said.

It was a chaotic finish to a race that was stopped nearly 20 minutes five laps from the finish by a 13-car accident that sent driver Michael Annett to a local hospital for further evaluation. NASCAR said Annett was awake and alert.

The race resumed with three laps to go, and the final accident occurred with Regan Smith leading as he headed out of the final turn to the checkered flag. He admittedly tried to block Brad Keselowski to preserve the win.

"I tried to throw a block, it's Daytona, you want to go for the win here," Smith said. "I don't know how you can play it any different other than concede second place, and I wasn't willing to do that today. Our job is to put them in position to win, and it was, and it didn't work out."

As the cars began wrecking all around Smith and Keselowski, Stewart slid through for the win, but Larson plowed into Keselowski and his car was sent airborne into the stands. When Larson's car came to a stop, it was missing its entire front end. The 20-year-old, who made his Daytona debut this week, stood apparently stunned, hands on his hips, several feet away from his car, before finally making the mandatory trip to the care center.

He later said his first thought was with the fans.

"I hope all the fans are OK and all the drivers are all right," Larson said. "I took a couple big hits there and saw my engine was gone. Just hope everybody's all right."

He said he was along for the ride in the last-lap accident.

"I was getting pushed from behind, I felt like, and by the time my spotter said lift or go low, it was too late," Larson said. "I was in the wreck and then felt like it was slowing down and I looked like I could see the ground. Had some flames come in the cockpit, but luckily I was all right and could get out of the car quick."

It appeared fans were lined right along the fence when Larson's car sailed up and into it.

Keselowski watched a replay of the final accident, but said his first thoughts were with the fans. As for the accident, he agreed he tried to make a winning move and Smith tried to block.

"He felt like that's what he had to do, and that's his right. The chaos comes with it," Keselowski said. "I made the move and he blocked it, and the two of us got together and started the chain events that caused that wreck. First and foremost, just want to make sure everyone in the stands is OK and we're thinking about them."

Keselowski said the incident could cast a pall on Sunday's Daytona 500.

"I think until we know exactly the statuses of everyone involved, it's hard to lock yourself into the 500," Keselowski said. "Hopefully, we'll know soon and hopefully everyone's OK. And if that's the case, we'll staring focusing on Sunday."

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Oscar Pistorius gets bail as murder trial looms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Jon Gambrell can be reached at .

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SAfrica police replace top Pistorius investigator

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — 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 offer confused testimony in Pistorius case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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Pistorius: 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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Danica Patrick wins pole for NASCAR's Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Danica Patrick has won the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's top circuit.

It was the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.

"We have a lot more history to make and we're eager to do it," Patrick said.

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

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

"That's a huge accomplishment," team owner and fellow driver Tony Stewart said. "It's not like it's been 15 or 20 years she's been trying to do this. It's her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She's made history in the sport. That's stuff that we're proud of being a part of with her. It's something she should have a huge amount of pride in.

"It's never been done. There's only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn't matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first."

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

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

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

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

Patrick joked about wanting to get Monday and Tuesday off, but then quickly realized her accomplishment likely will result in more attention and more demands.

"I feel a scheme coming on," she said. "I feel a plane coming. I feel nervous."

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

And she didn't disappoint.

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

"It's easy to come down here in your first or second year as a driver and clip the apron trying to run too tight a line or do something and scrub speed off," Stewart said. "That's something she did an awesome job. Watching her lap, she runs so smooth. ... She did her job behind the wheel, for sure."

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

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

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

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

This is considerably bigger.

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

Patrick shattered that mark Sunday, putting her squarely in the spotlight for the next week. It's a position she's comfortable in, evidenced by her racing career, her television commercials and her sudden openness about her personal life.

"I think when pressure's on and when the spotlight's on, I feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments and my better races and better results," Patrick said. "I don't know why that it. I'm grateful for it because the opposite of that would be I probably wouldn't be here today, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in. I guess thanks mom and dad. Thanks for the genetics. Thank you for all that.

"I just understand that if you put the hard work in before you go out there that you can have a little peace and a little peace of mind knowing that you've done everything you can and just let it happen."

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Pistorius' family strongly denies murder charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jon Gambrell reported from Johannesburg.


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

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Bosh gives Heat 3 starters in NBA All-Star game

HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Bosh will start in the All-Star game, giving the NBA champion Miami Heat three starters for the Eastern Conference.

Bosh says he was told Friday by Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who will lead the East, he had been chosen to replace injured Boston guard Rajon Rondo in the lineup.

Bosh will join teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as starters Sunday. The three played together here in 2006 as East All-Stars, long before they teamed up in 2010 and won their first title together last summer.

Rondo was voted to start by fans, but had to withdraw because of a knee injury.

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Olympian Oscar Pistorius charged with murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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