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Today LeBron scores 25 as Cavaliers tame Grizzlies 105-91

CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James and Kyrie Irving stepped aside and let one of their teammates polish off an opponent.

On Sunday, Dion Waiters finished Memphis.

Waiters scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers handled one of the Western Conference's best teams, beating the short-handed Grizzlies 105-91.

The Cavs have been waiting for the enigmatic and inconsistent Waiters to become more reliable. It's still a work in progress but Waiters, who has frequently been mentioned in trade rumors over the past two seasons, is showing signs of developing into a steady scorer off the bench.

"He's learning every day," said James, who had 25 points and 11 assists. "He's a young guy. He hasn't experienced much in this league, so for him to have a game like he had, we needed it."

James scored 16 in the second half and the Cavs shot a season-best 61 percent from the field to improve to just 3-6 against West teams. Anderson Varejao scored 18 and Irving had 17 points and 12 assists for the Cavs, who are 11-3 since their sluggish 5-7 start.

Marc Gasol scored 23 and added 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who played without forward Zach Randolph. He's nursing a sore and swollen right knee he injured in Friday's loss at Chicago.

Jon Leuer added 16 points for Memphis, which dropped to 21-6.

Gasol refused to use Randolph's absence as an excuse.

"We play who we have," he said. "Whoever's not here is not here. Trust me, we have enough talent in this locker room not just to win tonight but to win the same amount of games we've won so far."

Despite not having Randolph, their leading rebounder, Grizzlies were still within 79-74 when the Cavs went on an 8-0 run to take control. Irving triggered the spurt with a basket before Waiters, who was benched in the second half of a win over Brooklyn on Friday, fed James for an alley-oop dunk. Waiters then drained a 3-pointer to cap an 11-3 run, and the ba

Today Wilson, Seahawks close in on NFC West title

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's defense was stifling as usual and its offense had a record-breaking eruption against a defense that's supposed to be one of the NFL's best.

That team from the Pacific Northwest sure looked a lot like the Super Bowl champs of last season in its 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

"I think it feels better than last year," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said.

Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and the Seahawks amassed a franchise-record 596 yards to close in on another NFC West title and the No. 1 seed in the conference.

"That's about as much fun as you can have playing NFL football in the regular season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.

Seattle (11-4) moved into a tie with Arizona (11-4) for first in the NFC West and holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over the Cardinals.

A Seattle win at home over St. Louis in next weekend's regular-season finale would clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed in the NFC. That would have the Seahawks at home throughout the playoffs, until they'd come back to this same Arizona stadium for the Super Bowl.

"They're playing awesome football," Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "You can't taking nothing away from that ballclub. They have a championship pedigree, what it takes to win on the road, what it takes to win the division. Obviously, it's not over yet, but they're one step closer."

Arizona's only remaining hope of winning the division is to have the Seahawks lose to the Rams and the Cardinals win at San Francisco. Otherwise, Arizona will be relegated to a wild-card spot and a first-round game on the road. The Cardinals would have clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference with a victory.

Instead, the Cardinals suffered their most one-sided loss of the season and their only one at home in eight games.

Wilson had the longest run of his career (55 yards) and matched the longest

Today Steelers, Packers, Cowboys, Seahawks win, move into playoffs

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both qualified for the NFL playoffs with wins Sunday. Next week, they will play for division titles at home.

Defending Super Bowl champion Seattle also qualified, routing Arizona 35-6, and moved into a tie for the top spot in the NFC West. The Seahawks (11-4) own the tiebreaker over the Cardinals should they both finish with the same record.

Dallas clinched the NFC East with a 42-7 romp past Indianapolis, ending any chance for Philadelphia to make the postseason.

The Steelers (10-5) beat Kansas City 20-12 to secure at least a wild-card berth. They will win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next Sunday night. The Bengals (9-4-1) host Denver (11-3) on Monday night.

"It was such a sense of urgency this week, knowing what was at stake. I just thought we answered the challenge," said Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward.

Green Bay topped Tampa Bay 20-3 and heads to Lambeau Field for next Sunday's showdown with Detroit for the NFC North crown. Both are 11-4 after the Lions won 20-14 at Chicago.

"We've won six out of seven games, so I'd like to classify that as playing a lot of solid football, that's for sure," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Seattle's lopsided victory gave it a good shot at the top seed in the NFC and was its fifth in a row, ninth in 10 games. It swept Arizona over the last four weeks.

The Seahawks host St. Louis, while the Cardinals visit San Francisco.

With their wins in Week 16, the Falcons (6-9) and Panthers (6-8-1) set up a winner-take-all game for the NFC South next Sunday at Atlanta. Carolina beat Cleveland 17-13, and Atlanta defeated New Orleans 30-14.

"Now it all comes down to one game and that's all we can ask for is to be in that situation," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

New England earned an AFC first-round bye with its 17-16 victory at the New York Jets. It will get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playo

20 hours ago AFC South champion Colts lose 42-7 at Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) So much for Andrew Luck and the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts building some momentum for the playoffs.

At least they avoided their first shutout in 21 years, long after Luck took his last snap Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tony Romo threw four touchdowns, one immediately after Dewey McDonald flubbed a perfectly thrown pass on a fake punt by the Colts, and Dallas clinched its first NFC East title in five seasons with a 42-7 victory.

"We will find a way to get these things fixed. If we play the way we did tonight, we can't expect to do anything down the road," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's the National Football League. It's a tough business. It's not for everybody. That's why we don't get discouraged. Disappointed, yeah, but discouraged? Never."

Indianapolis (10-5), held to a season low in points and yards for the second week in a row, has one game left to get back on track before going straight into the playoffs without a first-round bye.

"I'm thinking about Tennessee first," Luck said. "We've got to fix this game and focus on Tennessee, and then we can worry about the playoffs."

Things went awry in a hurry for Indianapolis, with Dallas opening the game with a 15-play touchdown drive that took nearly 8 1/2 minutes and the Colts failing to get a first down on three rushing plays. When punter Pat McAfee saw McDonald uncovered on the outside, he threw a lofting pass. McDonald just flat out missed what would have been an easy first down.

Romo threw his own perfect pass on the very next play, a 19-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant to give Dallas (11-4) a 14-0 lead.

"A lot of these are self-inflicted wounds," said safety Mike Adams, who was then asked if the Colts are ready for the playoffs. "We have no choice but to be ready. After this performance, it's hard to say. ... The most dangerous team going into the tournament is the wounded team, and that's us right now."

After Rom

20 hours ago Newton: Fans 'classless' for cheering when Manziel injured

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Quarterback Cam Newton said the Panthers fans who cheered when Johnny Manziel injured his hamstring in the second quarter are "classless."

Manziel did not return to the game after the injury.

"I was saddened to see the crowd's response to when he got hurt," Newton said. "It was classless. Anytime when a person gets hurt you don't celebrate. I have had that done in my career and it just takes the integrity out of the game."

Newton has been friends with Manziel for a couple of years. Earlier this week on a conference call with Panthers beat reporters, Manziel said he looks up to Newton and thanked him for his support while he battled through off-the-field issues at Texas A&M.

"For the crowd to respond in that sort of way - we're better than that," Newton said.

Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and had one touchdown pass and one interception in the loss.

Manziel was injured with 1:49 left in the first half when he rolled out to his left side, and linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones converged on the rookie and took him to the ground. He attempted to get up and then fell back down.

Manziel emerged from the locker room after halftime still in uniform but remained on the bench.

The Browns were losing 10-3 at the time of the injury.

Manziel, who struggled in his first start last week against Cincinnati, didn't having much success against Carolina either.

He 3 of 8 for 32 yards and ran twice for 3 yards before the injury. The Browns were outgained 206-68 in the first half and Carolina had 15 first downs to Cleveland's two.

The Browns (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday when San Diego defeated San Francisco.

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20 hours ago Saints eliminated with 30-14 loss to Falcons

NEW ORLEANS (AP) As Jimmy Graham came down with a catch over the middle with his feet just short of the goal line, the star tight end began writhing in an effort to find just enough leverage to force his way through two Atlanta defenders and into the end zone.

Short of using the type of goal-line technology employed in certain soccer and tennis matches, it may be tough to know if Graham did enough to score before safety Kemal Ishmael ripped the ball loose and made a momentum-swinging fumble recovery. And regardless of how long debate rages, it won't change the fact that New Orleans lost the game, 30-14, and was eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday.

"Did I think it was a score? Yes," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It looked pretty clear and yet - look - it is what it is, right? ... It's disappointing."

Atlanta (6-9) next meets Carolina (6-8-1) for the NFC South title next week in the Georgia Dome. The Saints (6-9) are left with an anticlimactic visit to Tampa Bay after losing five straight at home in one season for the first time since the 1980 1-15 team.

Graham's forward progress appeared to have been stopped by safety Dezmen Southward and Ishmael before the ball came loose, but that was not reviewable.

One replay angle showed that the ball may have broken the plane of the goal line, and the Superdome crowd roared when it was shown on large video boards. However, referee John Parry could not find evidence conclusive enough to overturn the call. Parry's announcement spawned a cascade of boos from anxious Saints fans, whose team remained down 20-7 with its playoff hopes fading.

"There was nothing clear and undisputable to make a change to the ruling from the field," Parry said.

Graham was not present when locker rooms were opened to reporters.

Southward said he never had a good look at whether Graham got in.

"I was too busy putting my face in his ribs. I was just trying to keep him out," South

20 hours ago Steelers, Packers win, move into playoffs

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers both qualified for the NFL playoffs with wins Sunday. Next week, they will play for division titles at home.

Dallas clinched the NFC East with a rout of Indianapolis, ending any chance for Philadelphia to make the postseason.

The Steelers (10-5) beat Kansas City 20-12 to secure at least a wild-card berth. They will win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next Sunday. The Bengals (9-4-1) host Denver (11-3) on Monday night.

"It was such a sense of urgency this week, knowing what was at stake. I just thought we answered the challenge," said Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward.

Green Bay topped Tampa Bay 20-3 and heads to Lambeau Field for next Sunday's showdown with Detroit for the NFC North crown. Both are 11-4 after the Lions won 20-14 at Chicago.

"We've won six out of seven games, so I'd like to classify that as playing a lot of solid football, that's for sure," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

With their wins in Week 16, the Falcons (6-9) and Panthers (6-8-1) set up a winner-take-all game for the NFC South next Sunday at Atlanta. Carolina beat Cleveland 17-13, and Atlanta defeated New Orleans 30-14.

"Now it all comes down to one game and that's all we can ask for is to be in that situation," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

New England earned an AFC first-round bye with its 17-16 victory at the New York Jets. It will get home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating Buffalo next week at home.

The Patriots are the first team since the current format was adopted in 1990 to get five straight first-round byes.

"I'm glad it came out the way it did - makes for a better Christmas," Tom Brady said.

Still alive in the AFC are Baltimore (9-6), whose loss to Houston (8-7) also kept the Texans in contention; Kansas City (8-7); and San Diego (9-6), which won Saturday night at San Francisco. The Chargers will be in if they win at Kansas C

20 hours ago QB Jameis Winston cleared in conduct hearing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared Sunday of the accusations he faced at a student code of conduct hearing involving an alleged sexual assault two years ago.

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote in a letter to Winston that the evidence was "insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof." Prosecutor Willie Meggs made a similar decision a year ago when he decided not to criminally charge Winston, citing a lack of evidence.

This month, a two-day hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct - two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment.

The ramifications for Winston ranged from a reprimand to expulsion from school.

The woman can request an appeal within five days.

"We will consider an appeal but right now we feel a little duped," Baine Kerr, one of the woman's lawyers, said in an emailed statement. "At some point we have to recognize that Florida State is never going to hold James Winston responsible."

AP is not identifying the woman because it does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.

"Somehow Jameis Winston still wins," Kerr said. "The order doesn't even follow the Student Conduct Code and it ignores the bulk of the evidence."

Kerr said that between his client, Winston, and two teammates that were at the off-campus apartment - Chris Casher and Ronald Darby - only the woman would answer questions about what happened.

Winston did submit a lengthy statement detailing his version of events.

Florida State president John Thrasher said the university selected the former state Supreme Court justice to remove any doubt about the integrity of the process.

"He (Harding) conducted a thorough Student Conduct Code hearing and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of evidence generated by three other investigations, and we would like to thank him sincerely for his service,"

Yesterday No. 23 Utah routs Colorado St in Las Vegas Bowl

LAS VEGAS (AP) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson ran for three touchdowns and passed for another Saturday, leading the No. 23 Utes to a 45-10 rout of Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Wilson rushed for a season-high 91 yards on 11 carries and completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards.

Utah (9-4) scored three times in the first quarter and finished with 548 total yards, including 359 on the ground. Devontae Booker ran for 162 yards and a TD and Troy McCormick ran for 86.

Colorado State (10-3) fell behind in the first three minutes and never got its vaunted offense in gear. Garrett Grayson completed 21 of 35 passes for 242 yards, but he was unable to avoid Utah's rush in the second half when the Rams were forced to throw the ball.

Yesterday Gruden praises RG3 after Redskins top Eagles 27-24

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) After all the negative things Jay Gruden has said about Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins' coach found some positives to discuss after the quarterback earned his first complete-game win in more than a year.

So maybe they'll figure out a way to coexist next season, after all.

Back as the starter because of an injury to Colt McCoy, Griffin threw for 220 yards and led the drive that resulted in Kai Forbath's 26-yard go-ahead field goal with 5 seconds left Saturday night. The Redskins beat the Eagles 27-24, pushing Philadelphia to the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

"You have to be impressed with his performance," Gruden said. "I just thought he managed the game extremely well, getting out of the huddle and no delay-of-game penalties. He competed, man, and that's what you want to see a quarterback do - be a `competer,' be a leader. I told him before the game, `I don't care if you go 14 for 100, 10 for 10, or 1 for 1, man, just as long as we get the W."'

Wins have been few and far between in Gruden's first season as an NFL head coach: This victory ended a six-game losing streak for Washington (4-11). Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year, hadn't been in from start to finish of a win since beating San Diego in overtime on Nov. 3, 2013.

"It really isn't about me. This one's about this team. We've been through the wringer a little bit this year. We've been through a lot of adversity, a lot of mess," Griffin said. "Guys have responded."

He was benched a few weeks ago, but regained the job by default because McCoy went on injured reserve this week with a neck injury.

"Everybody's helped me get through this time," Griffin said.

Griffin still looked a bit awkward and unsure at times, and threw an interception in the fourth quarter, but there were flashes of improvement as a drop-back passer. He connected with former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson for two big gains

Yesterday 49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Colin Kaepernick jumped into the open arms of his leaping coach and all seemed right with the San Francisco 49ers for a few hours Saturday night.

Then, in a matter of minutes, a matter of three clutch completions by Philip Rivers, the good feelings were gone.

Just when San Francisco seemed poised for a rare celebratory moment between embattled fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh and his highly criticized quarterback, Rivers changed everything and sent the 49ers to a fourth straight defeat.

After Rivers led a 21-point rally in the second half, Nick Novak kicked a 40-yard field goal nearly 5 minutes into overtime to give the Chargers a 38-35 victory over the 49ers on Saturday night.

Rivers completed his fourth touchdown pass of the day with a tying 11-yard TD pass to Malcom Floyd with 29 seconds left in regulation after completing a pair of fourth-and-longs as the Chargers (9-6) forced overtime.

Phil Dawson's 60-yard field goal attempt for San Francisco as regulation ended fell way short. Quinton Patton then fumbled in overtime to set up San Diego's winning drive.

A lot went right for San Francisco when it really didn't matter. Six days after the Niners' season essentially ended with playoff elimination at Seattle, Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the 49ers finally got it together in all phases - for most of the night, that is.

On second down during the 49ers' first drive of overtime, Quinton Patton got loose in the open field on an end around for 20 yards and fumbled on his way down when Eric Weddle knocked the ball loose and nose tackle Sean Lissemore recovered at the San Diego 38.

That gave Rivers the opportunity he needed to get his team into position.

The 49ers blew just their second game when leading by 21 or more at halftime and lost their fourth straight game under embattled coach Jim Harbaugh. They lost 42-41 to Minnesota on Oct. 24, 1965, after leading 35-14 at halftime.

Dec 19, 2014 49ers' Harbaugh mum on reported offer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is declining to respond to reports that he is weighing an offer from Michigan to become the new football coach at his alma mater.

Harbaugh has one season remaining on the $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Several media outlets, including ESPN and the NFL Network, have reported Harbaugh has a six-year offer on the table from the Wolverines to return to Ann Arbor.

"As you know, I'll only talk about the job that I have. We've been together a long time and it's a longstanding policy," Harbaugh said Thursday.

All season long, he has said he won't let outside issues affect him. His name has emerged as a possible candidate for what should be several NFL vacancies after the season if Harbaugh and the 49ers part ways, including to fill the job across the bay in Oakland.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this week that a decision on Harbaugh's future would come after the season. The Niners (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention in last Sunday's 17-7 loss at Seattle, giving them their first three-game losing streak under Harbaugh. San Francisco had reached three straight NFC championship games, losing the Super Bowl after the 2012 season.

"Trent and I have discussions every day," Harbaugh said, noting he still intends to coach out his contract. "I have said that I'm going to finish this `til the end. My focus is the same as the players' focus, the same as the coaches' focus, focused on the practice field, focused in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me."

Harbaugh said the 49ers still have plenty to play for in their final two games, Saturday at home against San Diego and next week hosting Arizona - like ending with a winning record.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who worked on Harbaugh's staff at Stanford before joining him in the jump to the NFL, said everybody wants to end this season on a positive note despite

Dec 19, 2014 Jones scores 21 to lead No. 2 Duke over UConn

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Freshman point guard Tyus Jones scored 21 points, Justise Winslow hit two key baskets late in the game and No. 2 Duke responded to a tongue lashing by coach Mike Krzyzewski to beat defending national champion Connecticut 66-56 on Thursday night.

Winslow and Jahlil Okafor - the other two members of the Blue Devils' trio of talented freshmen - added 12 points apiece. Ahead 30-25 at the break, Duke (10-10) got off to a slow start in the second half and UConn (4-4) tied it, raising Coach K's ire.

Amile Jefferson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Duke in a game that had the feel and intensity of a NCAA tournament contest.

Ryan Boatright had 22 points to lead the Huskies. Kentan Facey added 14 points and Daniel Hamilton had 10.

Dec 19, 2014 Durant leaves Thunder game with ankle injury

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant sat out the second half of a 114-109 loss at the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night after spraining his right ankle.

Durant said the sprain was mild and X-rays were negative. The reigning NBA MVP said he hopes to play at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night but will see how he feels.

"I wanted to play. I wanted go back out there, but we wanted to be cautious," Durant said.

Durant grabbed his ankle after stepping on Marreese Speights' left foot while going hard to the basket late in the second quarter. Durant was called for a charge on the play.

Durant lay on the ground in pain before walking to the bench with the help of teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Durant limped to the locker room at halftime under his own power.

"I was a little nervous, but I knew that when I got up and started walking that it felt good," he said. "I just wanted to make sure with the X-ray that everything was good."

Durant came back Dec. 2 after missing the team's first 17 games with a broken right foot, and his latest injury ended his best performance yet this season.

Durant scored 30 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. It was his highest-scoring game this season and the highest-scoring first half of his career.

Oklahoma City started the season 3-12 with Durant and Westbrook dealing with injuries but had been rediscovering its championship-contender form with both healthy again.

The Thunder had won seven straight entering the game, which was the longest active streak in the league after Memphis snapped Golden State's 16-game winning streak Tuesday night. Oklahoma City is 7-2 since Durant came back and 8-2 since the return of Westbrook, who sat out 13 games with a broken bone in his right hand.

Dec 19, 2014 Jaguars hold off Titans late, win 21-13 in home finale

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles revived a stagnant offense. Jordan Todman provided some cushion. And Sen'Derrick Marks sealed it with the most rewarding sack of his career.

The trio provided all the highlights in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night.

In a matchup that was widely billed as unwatchable, Bortles, Todman and Marks offered some compelling moments in a relatively meaningless game.

"The neat thing about this was different guys stood up at different times," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said.

Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Marcedes Lewis that got Jacksonville going late in the second quarter. He also ran for 50 yards playing with a sprained right foot.

"I wasn't going out there if I couldn't move around and help the offense," Bortles said.

Todman's 62-yard run put the Jaguars ahead for good. He juked one defender and stiff-armed another in his first carry of the night, ending his first score of the season with a leap into the stands.

Marks' play, though, got the most attention.

With the Titans driving, Marks sacked Charlie Whitehurst on the final play. It gave him 8 1/2 sacks on the season, triggering a $600,000 bonus in his contract.

"What a great way to end the night," Bradley said.

Marks stood up and starting rubbing his fingers together before getting mobbed by teammates near midfield.

"Oh, we're going to spend some of that money," Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant said.

The Jaguars (3-12) won for the second time in four weeks thanks to a rejuvenated offense that had scored just two touchdowns in the previous four games. Playing the Titans (2-13) surely aided the effort.

Tennessee lost its ninth consecutive game and moved a step closer to securing the No. 1 draft pick.

"It was more about mistakes that we made than anything else because when we did it right

Dec 19, 2014 Bears bench QB Jay Cutler for Clausen

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The thought crossed Jay Cutler's mind as soon as he found out he was being benched: He might have played his final game for Chicago.

The Bears announced Thursday that they will start Jimmy Clausen against the Detroit Lions on Sunday instead of the man who signed a massive, seven-year deal at the end of last season.

Coach Marc Trestman said Cutler will be available as the backup at Soldier Field, where boos have rained down on a punchless, porous team that is now 5-9 and playing out the string after starting the season with legitimate hopes of a playoff run. They will miss the postseason for the seventh time in eight years and it's unclear whether Trestman - or Cutler - will be back for another try next year.

"I would like to stay here," Cutler said. "I really like it here. I love the guys in the locker room that I get to play with. Clearly, it's a different circumstance now. But going forward, this is where I'd like to be."

The move comes after Trestman pledged his allegiance to Cutler as the starter several times the past few weeks.

"Certainly, it was not an easy decision," Trestman said. "In my mind those types of decisions never are, and I worked it through and think it through not only myself but with our staff."

Trestman said he met with general manager Phil Emery on Tuesday and informed Cutler and Clausen of his decision on Wednesday. He met again with Emery later in the day to discuss his decision and informed the staff that night.

Did Emery support the decision?

Trestman paused for a few seconds, then said: "That's the way we are with each other. When we make decisions, we support it. We give our opinions and then we actively and passionately support each other with the decisions that we have to make. That's the way it's been the last two years. We talk thoroughly about it. We talk analytically about it. We talk passionately about it. And once a decision is made, we support ea

Dec 19, 2014 Celtics trade Rondo to Mavericks

BOSTON (AP) The Boston Celtics traded point guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Thursday night, cutting ties with the last remnant of their last NBA championship while giving Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks a chance at another title.

The Celtics will send Rondo and forward Dwight Powell to Dallas for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, two draft picks and a $12.9 million trade exception.

"Welcome to Rajon Rondo the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks," team owner Mark Cuban wrote on the social media application Cyber Dust shortly before the official announcement. Cuban also thanked the three departing players, calling them "Amazing players and better people."

Boston got a first-round pick in next year's draft and a second-rounder in 2016. The Celtics have eight first-round picks in the next four years, picking them up in trades for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and even coach Doc Rivers as they shed the pieces of the New Big Three that earned the franchise its unprecedented 17th NBA title in 2008.

"We would not have won Banner 17 without Rajon and will always consider him one of our most valuable Celtics," the team's owners said in a joint statement. "We will always cherish the time he was here."

The Mavericks get a pass-first point guard - a four-time all-star - to team with Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler in what they hope will make them a contender again. Dallas is 19-8 this season but in third place in the Southwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks, who won their only NBA title in 2011, have not won a playoff series since.

The deal has been years in the making, with the Celtics shopping Rondo every time a coach grows tired of his moods or his contract expectations grow too large for their budget. But every previous time Boston management decided that the offers weren't enough.

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge found a partner in Dallas, which

Dec 18, 2014 Mack leads surging Hawks to blowout in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) The Cavaliers' largest loss of the season didn't sit well with coach David Blatt.

"That was embarrassing, how we played," he said after the Atlanta Hawks routed Cleveland 127-98 on Wednesday night. "I apologize to all the good fans who came out here. Really, just a poor, poor performance."

Shelvin Mack scored a career-high 24 points and the Hawks won for the 11th time in 12 games.

Mack, a reserve guard who came in averaging 3.8 points, made all six of his 3-pointers as the Hawks went 16 for 28 from behind the arc.

Trailing 50-38 midway through the second quarter, Atlanta outscored Cleveland 89-48 the rest of the way. The Hawks, playing without leading scorer Jeff Teague, avenged a 127-94 defeat in Cleveland on Nov. 15.

"We got blown out the first game, like blown all the way out," Mack said. "That wasn't a great feeling. We wanted to come back and see what we're made of."

LeBron James scored 21 points but didn't play in the fourth quarter, which began with Atlanta leading 95-75.

While Blatt said he didn't see any fight in his team, James didn't find the loss embarrassing, but said the team had a setback defensively. The four-time MVP took an analytical approach to the defeat, Cleveland's third in four games since winning eight straight.

"We allowed them to get too many open looks," he said. "This is a well-coached team that we played. It reminds you of playing San Antonio, that system. They move the ball and get you in uncomfortable positions."

Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, a longtime Spurs assistant before taking over the Hawks last season, was understandably pleased with the performance.

"It's a great team win," he said. "You go up and down the roster, different guys contributing at different times. That's what we're trying to build, is a team."

Al Horford scored 20 points and Mike Scott added 15 for Atlanta, which had seven players in double figures and shot 64.5 perc

Dec 18, 2014 Grizzlies outlast Spurs 117-116 in 3 overtimes

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Marc Gasol scored 26 points, including a banked-in 3-pointer as regulation expired, and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame blowing a 23-point lead for a 117-116 triple-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds in the Grizzlies' sixth straight victory. Vince Carter added a season-high 18 points for Memphis (21-4).

Danny Green scored 25 points, and Tim Duncan had 23 points and 16 rebounds for San Antonio. His jumper rattled in to force the third OT, but he finished just 5 for 15 on free throws.

Manu Ginobili added 21 points, but shot an airball on a 3-pointer in the final seconds for the Spurs. San Antonio made a season-high 17 3-pointers but was 13 for 27 on free throws, including 5 for 15 by Duncan.

Duncan hit a fallaway, high-arcing jumper that bounded on the rim three times before dropping in to tie the game at 111 at the close of the second overtime.

The shot was part of an eventful final minute in regulation and the first two overtimes.

After Green's fifth 3-pointer gave San Antonio a 92-89 lead with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Gasol banked in a 30-footer against Ginobili as time expired.

Green tumbled to the floor and injured his knee while colliding in midair with Mike Conley on an outlet pass, giving Memphis a 5-on-4 situation that resulted in Gasol's layup that tied the game at 102 with 9.3 seconds left. Ginobili missed a 7-foot running jumper to end the first OT.

Conley's 3-pointer gave Memphis a 111-109 lead with 2.6 seconds left in the second overtime before Duncan's shot that finally fell in.

The Grizzlies were fresh off snapping Golden State's 16-game winning streak Tuesday night, but they were fresher early than the rested Spurs, who played without injured starters Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.

San Antonio gave up a season-high 34 points in the first quarter as Memphis shot 14 for 20 (70 perce

Dec 17, 2014 Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Sprint informed NASCAR it won't extend title sponsorship of the top Sprint Cup Series beyond its current contract, which expires after the 2016 season.

"Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports," Steve Gaffney, vice president of marketing for Sprint, said in a Tuesday statement. "Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor.

"As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless,"

The wireless carrier assumed a 10-year sponsorship agreement with NASCAR when it acquired Nextel in 2005. The Nextel Cup Series became the Sprint Cup Series in 2008, and Sprint later agreed to a three-year extension that took the contract through 2016.

Now, the company is citing "a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities," in ending its relationship with NASCAR. SoftBank bought out Sprint in 2013 and the change in leadership has led to a new CEO and changing marketing strategies.

The announcement Tuesday gives NASCAR two seasons to find a replacement, and NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said the series understands that significant changes within Sprint led to the decision.

"The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner," Jewkes said in a statement. "In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint's partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons."

Sprint's exit means NASCAR will enter a new entitlement agreement for just the fourth time since 1971, when RJ Reynolds began its 33-year sponsorship of the top series through its Winston brand. RJR

Dec 17, 2014 Isles delay hospital visits due to mumps outbreak

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) The New York Islanders postponed their annual holiday hospital visits due to the ongoing mumps outbreak in the NHL.

Team members were scheduled to go see children at various hospitals on Wednesday, but the Islanders said Tuesday those visits will be rescheduled.

"We're extremely disappointed that the event has been postponed, but understand the circumstances," forward Kyle Okposo said in a statement. "This has always been one of our favorite events to take part in because seeing a child smile when we give them a gift or take a picture with them is what the holiday season is all about.

"We're happy the children will still receive the gifts and look forward to visiting the local hospitals soon."

The toys that were purchased through donations from Package All Corp. and the New York Islanders Children's Foundation have already been given to the hospitals to distribute to children.

No makeup date for the visits was announced.

The postponement came in light of the Pittsburgh Penguins saying forward Beau Bennett is the latest NHL player diagnosed with the mumps. He had attended a function at Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital last week with the team.

The hospital said in a statement Monday that children who haven't received an age appropriate vaccine will be put in isolation and monitored for symptoms.

Islanders players and coaches have received the mumps vaccine, and the team says no player or staff member has shown any signs or symptoms of infection.

However, in order to assure the health and wellness of hospitalized children, the team said it has decided to be extremely cautious and postpone the event.

Dec 17, 2014 Chargers to play at Qualcomm again next season

SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego Chargers will be staying at Qualcomm Stadium for at least another year.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said in a statement Tuesday night that the team will not exercise its lease termination clause before next season and will continue to work to get a new facility built in San Diego. He noted that 2015 will be the team's 14th year working to get a new stadium in San Diego.

The Chargers have announced their return each year since 2007. The team says they need a new stadium to stay financially competitive with other franchises.

The announcement is a blow to the NFL hopes of Los Angeles, which is looking to lure a team back to the city.

Dec 17, 2014 Yankees GM Cashman: A-Rod now a full-time DH

NEW YORK (AP) Alex Rodriguez faces a diminished role in his return to the New York Yankees, who have stripped A-Rod of his third-base job and plan to limit his role to full-time designated hitter - at most.

General manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday that A-Rod's days as an everyday fielder are over in the Bronx and Chase Headley will start at third after agreeing this week to a $52 million, four-year contract.

Coming off a season-long suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez will have to compete with Martin Prado for time as Headley's backup at third.

"I can't expect Alex to be anything," Cashman said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I've got to think the worst and hope for the best. Even before the suspension, he wasn't the same player at third base on the defensive or offensive side. And that was before the suspension.

"And now he's been out of the game for a year. He's approaching 40 years of age. And just to automatically assume given his circumstances that he'll be able to plug right in, play third as an everyday guy and hold up and be productive, I think that would be dangerous thinking from my perspective, in the seat I'm sitting in."

Rodriguez turns 40 in July and has not played a full season since 2007 because of leg injuries, operations on both hips and the suspension. Cashman said A-Rod will have to prove to manager Joe Girardi he can play the field.

"So given all that circumstance, we look forward to him hopefully solidifying himself as a tremendous DH for us, and if he shows he has retained athleticism, then he can play third as a choice when Joe decides to give Headley a rest," Cashman said. "He can compete for Joe's thought process, whether it's Prado swinging over or Alex playing third."

Cashman said he has not spoken with Rodriguez about his new role.

"I don't need to. I've been very consistent with my conversations publicl

Dec 17, 2014 Panthers outlast Capitals in longest NHL shootout

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Nick Bjugstad scored the game-winning goal in the longest shootout in NHL history to lift the Florida Panthers over the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Bjugstad's goal came in the 20th round - on the 40th shot of the shootout - and beat Braden Holtby on the right side. The previous NHL record was 15 rounds, when the New York Rangers beat Washington on Nov. 26, 2005.

The Panthers outscored the Capitals 6-5 in the tiebreaker; the six goals were the most ever in a shootout. Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, Derek MacKenzie, Sean Bergenheim and Dylan Olsen were also successful for Florida.

The Panthers were down to their last shot five times and answered each time with a goal.

Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, John Carlson and Brooks Orpik had shootout goals for the Capitals.

Derek MacKenzie scored in regulation for Florida, and Roberto Luongo made 23 saves.

Troy Brouwer scored in regulation for Washington. Holtby stopped 28 shots.

The Panthers are 4-0-1 in their last five home games. The win was only their second in their past 12 games against the Capitals.

With the score tied 1-all at 3:08 of the third, it appeared the Capitals took the lead when the puck slid by Luongo and into the net. The goal was overruled after a video review because it was determined that Laich kicked in the puck with his left skate.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead when MacKenzie one-timed a rebound at 9:36 of the first. The Capitals tried to clear the puck from behind the net and the puck went off the skate of Florida's Scottie Upshall and out in front, where MacKenzie beat Holtby on the glove side.

The Capitals tied it on Brouwer's power-play goal in the second. Alex Ovechkin passed from the left circle across to Brouwer in the slot. His wrist shot beat Luongo on the glove side at 14:35 for his ninth goal of the season.

NOTES: Holtby made his 13th consecutive start for the Capitals. ...

Dec 17, 2014 Memphis stops Golden State's 16-game win streak

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Marc Gasol scored 24 points, and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped the Golden State Warriors' NBA-best 16-game winning streak with a 105-98 victory on Tuesday night.

Mike Conley and Zach Randolph each scored 17 points, and Randolph grabbed 10 rebounds as Memphis earned its fifth straight win. Vince Carter added a season-high 16 points, and Jon Leuer had 11.

The Warriors came in with the NBA's best record at 21-2. They lost for the first time since Nov. 11 against the Spurs, also the last team to beat Memphis. This was the first time in NBA history in which both teams had 19 or more wins in the first 24 games.

Golden State star Stephen Curry missed back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds. He finished with 19 points, but was 9 of 25 from the field.

Dec 16, 2014 Penguins use rookies, Fleury to top Lightning 4-2

PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots, and Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin scored their first NHL goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Monday.

Brandon Sutter added a short-handed goal and Steve Downie had a goal and an assist as the Penguins beat the Lightning for the 10th straight time.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby missed his third straight game due to the mumps, though he is expected to return later in the week.

Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov scored for Tampa Bay.

At Uniondale, New York, Josh Bailey scored the winning goal in the fifth round of the shootout as the Islanders rallied in the third period for the second straight game to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2.

Bailey fired a shot between the pads of Long Island native Keith Kincaid, who was trying for his first NHL victory in front of nearly two dozen family members. He was in line for the win until Matt Martin scored the tying goal with 4:15 left.

Bailey also scored in the second period, and Kyle Okposo added a shootout goal for the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves to top the Devils.

Marek Zidlicky and Scott Gomez scored first-period goals, and Jaromir Jagr assisted on both but New Jersey dropped its fourth straight game.

Buffalo's Matt Moulson scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Sabres to its sixth straight home win, 5-4 over the Ottawa Senators.

Moulson and Rasmus Ristolainen also scored in regulation for the Sabres, while Brian Flynn and Marcus Foligno each had a goal and an assist as Buffalo has won a season-high four straight overall.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and an assist for the Senators, and Bobby Ryan, Curtis Lazar and Mark Stone also scored.

Dec 16, 2014 Bucks rookie Parker injures knee against Suns

PHOENIX (AP) Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker left the Milwaukee Bucks' game against the Phoenix Suns early in the third quarter because of a left knee sprain.

The Bucks said Monday night Parker would not return.

Parker's knee appeared to buckle on a drive to the basket before he collided with the Suns' P.J. Tucker, and Parker was unable to get to his feet immediately afterward.

Parker, the Bucks' first-round draft pick this year and the second player chosen overall, had to be carried off the court by teammates to the locker room.

Parker had eight points in 15 minutes. He's averaging 12.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Dec 16, 2014 Rushing leader DeMarco Murray has broken hand

IRVING, Texas (AP) NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray has a broken left hand in what could be a damaging blow to the playoff hopes of the Dallas Cowboys.

Murray was set for surgery Monday and might be sidelined Sunday at home against Indianapolis, already a playoff qualifier. Even though the Cowboys just beat Philadelphia to take the NFC East lead, they might have to win both of their remaining games to end a four-year postseason drought.

If the Eagles beat division also-rans Washington and the New York Giants in their final two games, Dallas (10-4) could be knocked out by a loss to the Colts even with a win against the Redskins in the regular-season finale.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday that it was "probably a tough expectation" that Murray would play against Indianapolis (10-4), though he wouldn't rule it out. Neither would coach Jason Garrett.

"The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is, is he functional to do his job," Garrett said. "Can he hold the football, can he carry it under duress, can he block, can he do the things necessary to play the position. He's as strong-willed and determined an individual as I've ever been around. If anybody has a chance to come back, he does."

Murray has 1,687 yards rushing and needs 87 yards to break all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith's franchise record of 1,773 yards. The fourth-year back is 409 yards ahead of Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell in the race for the rushing title.

Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle split carries as Murray's backup in Sunday's 38-27 win over Philadelphia. Murray was injured near the end of the game. Television footage showed him leaving the field while wincing in pain.

The Cowboys have had Ryan Williams on their practice squad all season. He was taken 33 picks ahead of Murray by Arizona in the 2011 draft. The Cardinals released him after three mostly injury-plagued seasons. Randle, a fifth-round pick

Dec 16, 2014 James, Love lead Cavaliers over Hornets 97-88

CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James and Kevin Love were at the top of their game Monday night.

That's bad news for any opponent, which the Charlotte Hornets discovered in Cleveland's 97-88 win.

James scored 27 points with 13 assists while Love added 22 points and 18 rebounds in a game highlighted by big runs from both teams.

The Cavaliers jumped to a 21-0 lead, but the Hornets regrouped and got within two points early in the third quarter before Cleveland pulled away.

In information provided by the Cavaliers from Elias Sports Bureau, the 21-0 lead to start a game is the largest to start a game since Portland scored the first 22 points against Boston in 2004.

"Being 21 down against an elite team on their floor is tough to overcome," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "We played a good enough offensive game to win against a terrific team, but our first-quarter defense was obviously poor."

Charlotte got the lead into single digits in the second quarter and trailed 59-57 early in the third, but Cleveland ended the third on a 21-9 run.

"We had a lull in the second quarter and in the third quarter, which really allowed them to get back in the game, but we sustained the effort for close to 48 minutes," James said.

While James displayed his noted passing ability, he was the recipient of two length-of-the-court passes from Love for dunks that brought the crowd to its feet.

The plays brought back memories of James' high school days when he played football.

"It's a unique gift that he has that not too many guys in our league have," James said. "He can go over the head, two-handed. Me, being a wide receiver in my day, I can go `em also."

Kyrie Irving scored 16 points for the Cavaliers, who were coming off consecutive road losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans after winning eight in a row.

Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 24 points. Al Jefferson added 14 for the Hornets, who are 1-10 away from home -

Dec 16, 2014 Saints beat Bears 31-15, grab South lead

CHICAGO (AP) Turns out all Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints needed to solve their problems was to show up in Chicago.

Nothing like playing the Bears to break a slump. Even better, the Saints jumped into first place.

Brees threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans beat Chicago 31-15 on Monday night to grab the NFC South lead.

The Saints (6-8) moved into first place ahead of Carolina (5-8-1) and Atlanta (5-9) after losing four of their previous five games. They also rebounded from a 41-10 loss to the Panthers.

"I think we've shown a couple times we can handle adversity," Brees said. "Let's make sure we can handle success, too."

The Saints host the Falcons before finishing the season at Tampa Bay.

"The tendency after success is to relax, and it's not time to relax," Brees said.

Brees completed 29 of 36 passes and reached the 4,000-yard mark for the ninth straight year. He threw two touchdown passes to Josh Hill and another to Marques Colston.

Pierre Thomas had five catches for 83 yards. David Hawthorne had three of New Orleans' seven sacks and the Saints intercepted Jay Cutler three times to bring his NFL-leading turnover total to 24.

"We were not in unison tonight collectively on the offensive side of the ball and that starts with me," Chicago coach Marc Trestman said.

For the Bears (5-9), the loss comes after a week in which they were again engulfed in controversy. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer acknowledged he was a source behind a critical report by the NFL Network about Cutler, owning up to it in public Friday after earlier asking players and coaches for forgiveness.

Cutler completed 17 of 31 passes for 194 yards, and the Bears couldn't get anything going. They managed only 278 yards against one of the league's worst defenses on a soggy night in which thousands of seats went unused.

There were 10,749 no-shows, and that might not have been a bad thing for