Wolves' Butler exits with apparent knee injury

Wolves' Butler exits with apparent knee injury

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler left Friday night’s 120-102 loss to the Houston Rockets with an apparent right knee injury.

Butler drove into the paint with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter, missed a short jumper, but then clawed the rebound. He dished to a teammate, then crumpled to the floor in pain, holding his knee.

Teammates, coaches and athletic trainers tended to Butler, who had to be helped off the court. He was unable to put any weight on the leg as he was helped to the locker room, where he was being evaluated.

Butler was seen hopping on one foot in the Toyota Center hallway as he headed to get an X-ray.

There was no immediate word on his condition, but he was ruled out for the game.

Butler, 28, leads the Timberwolves with 22.4 points per game. He also is tops in the league in minutes played per game at 37.3, but drew criticism for choosing to sit out the All-Star Game.

Butler told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth prior to Friday’s game that he’d rather sit out the NBA showcase than miss time with Minnesota.

“I’m not going to say that I want to cut back my minutes [with the Wolves], but when I have an opportunity [to rest], I will,” Butler said.

Lue: LeBron wants to lead by not sitting games

Lue: LeBron wants to lead by not sitting games

MEMPHIS — LeBron James is on pace to play in all 82 games for the first time in his 15-year career because, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says, the Cavs star feels obligated to be out there every night for his teammates.

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs played the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

Friday was the 58th game of the Cavs season and the 58th that James played in.

Last season, James rested in the Cavs’ 11th game of the season and played in 74 games total.

Cleveland came into the season with eight new players, then went through a rotation shuffle in late December through early January when Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson were worked back onto the court after rehabbing injuries and are in the midst of more change since dealing away six players and adding four more in their place at the trade deadline.

In January, James stated his intention to go 82-for-82.

“I told you I want to play every game,” James said. “If my health continues as it is right now, then that’s what it is.”

James, 33, has picked up the nickname “Benjamin Button” by Lue because of his ability to seemingly age in reverse. Lue was surprised to hear Friday that James has never played in all 82 games. The most games James played before resting was in 2008-09 when he played the first 81 before sitting out the season finale. James’ good friend Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets played all 82 games in 2014-15 and told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon he has held bragging rights over the four-time MVP ever since.

The subject of James resting came up Friday because Lue chose to sit James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving when the Cavs traveled to play the Grizzlies last December. Cleveland’s big three did not even make the trip with the Cavs that game, contributing to a growing debate in the NBA about when player rest is appropriate.

Player rest was eventually labeled a “significant issue for our league” by NBA commissioner Adam Silver in a memo distributed to all 30 teams in which Silver threatened “significant penalties” to NBA owners if their players rested in a manner that would be viewed as detrimental to the overall NBA product.

“I really forgot all about it,” Lue said of the controversy surrounding his decision to rest James, Love and Irving last season. “And I don’t even remember the backlash.”

When a reporter reminded Lue that he later referred to the game as a “forfeit” by Cleveland, it jogged the coach’s memory.

“Oh yeah,” Lue said. “Yeah, I had to apologize. OK. One of those games, like I said, sorry for the fans who had to go through that, because they come to see LeBron, Kevin [and Kyrie]. Just had to be smart, resting our guys on the back-to-back, and like I said, I was sorry for the fans that they had to go through that.”

Why Vonn is still America's most dominant Alpine skier

Why Vonn is still America's most dominant Alpine skier

The Olympics have always presented their own unique tests for American skier Lindsey Vonn.

First, there was the 2006 Torino Olympics, where Vonn crashed violently in downhill training and had to be airlifted off the course. The next day, barely able to walk, she finished sixth overall in the downhill event and later received the Olympic Spirit Award.

That determination would set the tone for future Games to come.

Injuries hampered her performance at the 2010 Vancouver Games, where she still medaled twice, and a torn ACL kept her out of Sochi four years later. The Pyeongchang Olympics were supposed to be a redemption tour of sorts, as Vonn again battled back from multiple injuries over the past year and secured bronze in her signature event, the downhill.

And while her World Cup domination hasn’t completely translated to the Olympics, the 33-year-old Vonn is arguably the most dominant American skier of all time. If Pyeongchang will indeed be her last Games, here is a look at the numbers behind her impressive career.

Vonn will always have Vancouver

Vonn is still the only American woman to win Olympic downhill gold. And her margin of victory from that Vancouver triumph in 2010 is still the largest among the past six Games.

Her Cup runneth over

Vonn’s 1,980 World Cup points in 2011-12 are the second most all-time by any female skier. (Tina Maze had 2,414 in 2012-13, a season when Vonn was injured.) Vonn has two of the top five point totals by a female World Cup champion, and three of the top eight. No other female skier has more than one.

It’s all downhill for Vonn

Vonn’s dominance stretches across gender: She has the most overall World Cup titles (four) of any American and double those of any who have competed in the 21st century. Her 42 World Cup downhill wins more than quadruple the next most of any American, male or female; all other Americans combined, male and female, have tallied 54 downhill wins.

Vonn, the survivor

Vonn’s injury history is a laundry list of misfortunes that would’ve derailed even some of the toughest athletes. Right MCL and multiple ACL tears, a fractured tibial plateau, a fractured ankle, multiple fractures in her left knee, a severely fractured humerus, and acute spinal joint dysfunction. Despite often skiing through injuries or crashing out, Vonn has 81 World Cup wins and 135 World Cup podiums. She also boasts 210 top-10 World Cup finishes, 12 more than the next-highest female skier.

ESPN The Magazine’s Dan Hajducky and ESPN Researcher Paul Carr contributed to this report.

Honda Classic: Tiger Woods cards 74, 4 back

Honda Classic: Tiger Woods cards 74, 4 back

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The noise echoed off the hospitality suites as Tiger Woods emerged from a tunnel and onto the 17th tee at PGA National late Friday afternoon, a sun-baked gallery of thousands in full throat.

They were roaring for Woods, who was faced with the unenviable task of hitting one of the toughest tee shots on the course, a 185-yard approach over a pond into a howling wind.

A total of 36 balls found the water there Friday, but Woods carved a 5-iron up into the air and watched it fade toward the hole, stopping 10 feet away. When he rolled in the birdie putt — one of just nine there all day — the screaming on-lookers let loose.

It was vintage Tiger, and while there are still plenty of obstacles for him to overcome in his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, Friday’s effort in the second-round of the Honda Classic was a promising sign.

A 1-over-par 71 left him just four strokes back of leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark on a day when just 13 players broke par in difficult conditions. Only 10 players are under par through 36 holes.

“I feel like I’m right there,” Woods said after finishing at 141, 1 over par and in a tie for 14th. “I’m right where I can win a golf tournament. You know four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.”

While Woods talking about winning just eight rounds — 12 if you count the December exhibition in the Bahamas — into his comeback might seem a bit bold, the 14-time major champion has plenty of reasons to be pleased.

He improved his driving after missing the cut a week ago at the Genesis Open and grinded out a lot of pars in trying conditions.

Woods hit 8 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens during the second round and needed 28 putts. After getting within 2 shots of the lead with a birdie at the ninth hole, Woods missed good opportunities at the 10th and 12th before hitting his tee shot in the water at the par-3 15th.

The start of a three-hole stretch known as “The Bear Trap” in honor of Jack Nicklaus, who redesigned the course, the 15th, 16th and 17th holes are fraught with trouble, especially when it is windy. The ball in the water at 15 led to a double bogey, and when Woods three-putted the par-4 16th for a bogey to fall back to 2 over, he was standing on some shaky ground.

Woods watched Brandt Snedeker nail a 5-iron to a few feet at the 17th but then the wind backed off. Getting some 15,000 people to quiet down proved nearly impossible as Woods tried to figure out what to do.

“I thought 5 (iron) is too much but I can’t get 6 there,” Woods said. “So that’s one of the reasons why I started thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick. Worked out great. I hit it right below the hole and hit a good putt.”

It was a big moment because of No. 17’s difficulty. It ranked as the hardest hole of the day, playing to an average of 3.74. In addition to the 36 tee shots that found the water, only 42 players hit the green out of 141. There were eight scores of triple bogey or worse with the hole playing a total of 104 over par.

“I can’t believe it’s his third start,” said Snedeker, who played with Woods during the first two rounds and also third round at Torrey Pines last month. “I thought it was more than that. Third start with a chance to win? This is a perfect golf course for him. This is a golf course where you’ve got to hit greens, driver is not a huge weapon here because the fairways are so fast. It plays into his strengths – great iron play, sharp short game.”

Woods wasn’t necessarily admitting it was the perfect course for him. “Maybe I ought to have been a little smarter to pick some easier venues,” he said. But being able to hit more 2-irons and 3-woods off tees while he works out some issues with his driver is a help.

He’s made just six birdies through two rounds and has two double-bogeys on his scorecard but has really played just two bad holes out of 36.

“I’m just being very steady,” he said. “I’m trying to make a lot of pars, maybe sprinkle in a birdie here or there. It’s going to come down to a pretty bunched leaderboard on Sunday. We all know that. It’s going to be jam packed. Anyone can win this tournament.”

MLB honors HS shooting victims with 'SD' hats

MLB honors HS shooting victims with 'SD' hats

Spring training got off to a solemn start as MLB teams wore hats to honor Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were fatally shot nine days ago.

Stoneman Douglas baseball coach Todd Fitz-Gerald and his two sons were guests of the Houston Astros for their spring opener against the Washington Nationals. Members of the school’s baseball and softball teams were guests of the Miami Marlins and mingled on the field with players, coaches and CEO Derek Jeter.

Teams had the option of wearing the caps, which are black with “SD” in block letters, during the games or only during warm-ups. The Astros, Nationals, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees were among the teams to wear the hats Friday.

“Anytime people are hurting, and we know the community is hurting right now, baseball can sometimes play a part with the healing process,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “And so to honor them and try and have a little bit of thoughts and prayers and our thoughts are with people who are hurting, it’s something small that it was cool to be a part of.”

MLB ordered more than 2,500 of the caps from New Era, league spokesman Steven Arrocho said. Many teams will have players sign them, and they will be auctioned to benefit the victims and families affected by the shooting.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday’s gesture “puts everything in perspective.”

“Wearing the hats today, I think that means a lot to all of us. It puts everything in perspective,” Cora said. “Something that obviously, it gets your attention. My daughter turns 15 in a few weeks, and I got an email the other day from her school talking about them having a drill. That’s not normal.”

Fitz-Gerald said it was a “relief” to get back to the sport he loves and to stop thinking, at least for a moment, about the tragedy that befell his school. Fourteen students and three teachers were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded. A former student is in custody on 17 counts of murder.

Since the tragedy, many of the Stoneman Douglas survivors have been outspoken in calling for change, a sentiment Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he respects.

“I hope the kids stay after it,” Maddon said. “From me to them, anything I can do personally, I’m here to help. A lot of guys on the team feel the same way. If there is anything more specific that can be done, I need to know that.

“At some point we have to re-establish sensibility and common sense. Whatever we can do. I want it out there. We need to come together and create some answers.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Lakers' Ball says NCAA players should be paid

Lakers' Ball says NCAA players should be paid

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball weighed in on the subject of college athletes being paid and the FBI investigation into college basketball, saying the NCAA should allow players to be paid.

“Everybody knows everybody’s getting paid,” Ball said Friday. “Might as well make it legal.”

Ball said he did not receive money from agents during his one season at UCLA.

“My dad wasn’t big on that,” Ball said. “We just focused on going there and getting out.”

Ball will return to the court Friday night for the first time since suffering a sprained left MCL in January. He missed 15 games.

Ball will be on a minutes restriction and will not play in Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.