- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016


LOS ANGELES (AP) - The day began for the Oklahoma City Thunder with the stunning news that part-owner Aubrey McClendon had died. It ended with the players and coaching staff shaking their heads for another reason.

The Thunder squandered a 22-point lead in a 103-98 loss to the Clippers. Los Angeles ended the game with a 26-5 run after trailing by 16 with 7:30 left. Oklahoma City had only one field goal during that stretch, a 17-foot jumper by Kevin Durant.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons 97-81 to clinch their 19th straight playoff berth.

San Antonio won its 29th straight home game to open the season in its first game following a month-long road trip brought on by the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.

The Spurs (51-9) joined the Golden State Warriors (54-5) as the only teams to clinch spots in the postseason.


BALTIMORE (AP) - Joe Flacco pocketed several million dollars and the Baltimore Ravens saved valuable salary cap space after the quarterback signed a three-year extension.

Flacco received an NFL-record $40 million signing bonus to extend the six-year, $120.6 million contract he received in 2013 after earning Super Bowl MVP honors. The pact includes $44 million in guaranteed money - the signing bonus plus a $4 million base salary in 2016.

If a new deal hadn’t been made, Flacco’s salary cap hit to the club this season would have been $28.55 million. But Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome insisted the team’s motivation was to keep the 31-year-old quarterback through the 2021 season.

CLEVELAND (AP) - Alex Mack snapped the ball into the Browns’ court.

The three-time Pro Bowl center voided the final three years of his contract and will become a free agent, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. He will be eligible to sign with other teams when NFL free agency opens on March 9, but Mack can still re-sign with the Browns, and that is “very possible,” said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Mack had until Friday to opt out of his contract.

ATLANTA (AP) - When it came time to make the tough call on releasing Roddy White, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t ask the popular wide receiver about reworking his contract.

This decision was at least as much about performance as about money.

The Falcons released White, the leading receiver in franchise history following his least productive season in a decade. White’s role in the offense declined in 2015 under first-year coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.


DORAL, Fla. (AP) - Tiger Woods says he continues to feel better, though the 14-time major champion remains unsure when he can return to competitive golf.

Woods released a statement saying he has been chipping and putting at home in Florida as his recovery from back surgeries progresses, and that he and his son, Charlie, are competing in three-hole chipping contests.

Woods has not played in a tournament since August and has not won since August 2013. He has battled injuries for the past several years, and he underwent the second and third surgeries on his back late last year.


LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - With five months to go before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian organizers are struggling to sell tickets for South America’s first games. Don’t worry, says the IOC president, the locals will buy up tickets at the last minute.

On a day when Rio organizers provided reassurances over the Zika outbreak, venue delays, doping legislation, metro construction and other issues, Rio organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said only about 47 percent of the 7.5 million tickets on offer have been sold so far.

The revenue from ticket sales stands at $194 million, or 74 percent of the total target, he said.

Tickets for “premier events” and the Aug. 5 opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium are essentially sold out, Andrada said.

Most tickets for the foreign market have been sold, he added, leaving domestic sales as the main priority.

PARIS (AP) - French prosecutors confirmed they have widened their investigation into corruption in athletics to include bidding for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

The 2016 and 2020 Olympics were awarded to Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

After The Guardian newspaper first reported that the investigation had been widened, the International Olympic Committee said it has seen “no evidence” so far to support allegations of possible bribery in the bidding for the games. The IOC added it was in “close contact” with French prosecutors, who have been investigating bribery and money-laundering involving doping cover-ups at the IAAF.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - Olympic officials have identified 43 candidates for a team of refugee athletes who will compete in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in a “message of hope” for millions of refugees around the world.

IOC President Thomas Bach said he expects between five and 10 athletes to be selected for a team that will compete under the Olympic flag as “Team Refugee Olympic Athletes.”

The final list of athletes will be named by the International Olympic Committee executive board in June.


Lindsey Vonn’s season started late after she broke her ankle in a training crash. It wrapped up much earlier than anticipated because of another wipeout.

This latest spill came with her popularity peaking - she appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue - and another overall World Cup title right there for the taking, too.

Now, the big questions loom: How bad is she hurt and how can she stay healthy for a full season?

After all, Vonn’s ailments are piling up like her accomplishments. She announced that she was leaving the racing circuit early after an MRI revealed three significant breaks where the shinbone meets the knee joint. She hurt it in a crash over the weekend and competed the next day, when she thought it was only a hairline fracture.


WASHINGTON (AP) - Phil Kessel has to wait to find out if he plays for the United States at the World Cup of Hockey, and P.K. Subban will have to remain in a holding pattern on getting the call about representing Canada.

Kessel and Subban were among the most notable players left off the initial 16-man World Cup rosters. There’s still time for them to be added as each team must fill out its 23-man roster by June 1.

Other teams had difficult decisions, too. Team North America, made up of American and Canadian players age 23 and under, has the past three No. 1 picks in Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and Nathan MacKinnon but didn’t have room for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers or Alex Galchenyuk of the Canadiens.

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