Bulls one win from final berth in East
Advertiser News Services
As if there wasn't enough drama already, the Chicago Bulls' season took another weird twist and this one involves coach Vinny Del Negro and executive vice president John Paxson.
It also overshadowed a crucial victory.
On a night when the host Bulls boosted their playoff hopes by beating the Boston Celtics, 101-93, behind Derrick Rose's career-high 39 points, the attention centered on a report that their top executive pushed their coach during a confrontation following a game last month.
"I'm not going to comment," Del Negro said. "I go about my job everyday no matter what happens. I'm a competitor. I've been involved in the game a long time. I love the challenge of it. All the other things that happen pretty much stay internally."
Yahoo! Sports, citing unidentified sources, reported Paxson shoved Del Negro twice in the chest and had to be restrained in a dispute after the March 30 home game against Phoenix over how much Joakim Noah played.
Paxson did not return a call from The AP seeking comment.
"This is an organizational issue, which we will handle internally," Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam said.
The "organizational issue" popped up at a time when the Bulls are trying to secure the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They lead Toronto by a game in the Eastern Conference, thanks to Rose's big effort and Kirk Hinrich's season-high 30 points, and will reach the postseason with a win at Charlotte today or a loss by the Raptors to New York.
GASOL, BROWN LEAD LAKERS PAST KINGS
Pau Gasol had 28 points and eight rebounds, Shannon Brown scored 24 points and Kobe Bryant rested as the host Los Angeles Lakers finished their regular-season home schedule with a 106-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings last night.
Sasha Vujacic scored 13 points for the Lakers, who lost six of nine before Gasol and the reserves pulled away in the second half of their sixth straight win over the Kings.
OKUR LEADS JAZZ'S SWEEP OF WARRIORS
Mehmet Okur had 23 points and seven rebounds, Paul Millsap grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds, and the visiting Utah Jazz swept the three-game season series against Golden State with a 103-94 win over the Warriors last night despite losing leading scorer Carlos Boozer to an early injury.
Boozer strained his right ribcage while playing all 12 minutes of the opening period. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays at the start of the second quarter but didn't return.
SUNS ROUT NUGGETS TO EARN HOMECOURT
Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points, and Steve Nash had 18 points and 10 assists before sitting out the fourth quarter while the Phoenix reserves completed a 123-101 rout of the Denver Nuggets last night.
Phoenix clinched homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Suns can finish no worse than No. 4 in the West and would be No. 3 if they win at Utah tonight. Denver, which finished its regular season, would get the No. 4 spot and a first-round homecourt edge if Phoenix beats the Jazz.
NO ROOKIE VOTE FOR CHARLOTTE'S CURRY
The NBA has taken away Charlotte Bobcats broadcaster Dell Curry's rookie of the year vote because his son is among the leading candidates for the award.
Stephen Curry is averaging 17.2 points and 5.9 assists per game for Golden State. He and Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who is averaging 20.3 points and 5.8 assists, are considered the front-runners to be top rookie.
ONE-PUNCH BRIGGS KNOCKS OUT PEDRO
Former world heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs took only 28 seconds to knock out Rafael Pedro last night in Hollywood, Fla.
With the only punch he threw, the 38-year-old Briggs (49-5-1, 43 KOs) stunned Pedro (20-9-1) with a right to the head. Pedro, a native of Cuba, fell to the canvas and was counted out by referee Sam Burgos.
"That's all I needed," said Briggs, who has stopped 28 opponents in the first round.
BZDELIK TO BE NAMED WAKE FOREST COACH
Wake Forest selected Colorado's Jeff Bzdelik its new men's basketball coach, a person told The Associated Press, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made.
The school has a news conference scheduled for this morning to introduce its new coach.
Bzdelik went 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado, including a 15-16 record this past season.
BROWNELL HIRED AS CLEMSON COACH
Brad Brownell of Wright State was hired yesterday as the basketball coach at Clemson, which is turning to another coach from a mid-major school in Ohio.
Brownell succeeds Oliver Purnell, who was hired in 2003 from Dayton and led Clemson to the past three NCAA tournaments. Purnell surprised Clemson last week when he left to coach DePaul.
Brownell went 84-45 in four years at Wright State.
TIGER ENTERED TO PLAY IN U.S. OPEN
Tiger Woods has taken the first step toward playing the U.S. Open by sending in his entry form.
The USGA said it received Woods' entry on Monday, one day after he tied for fourth in the Masters.
The U.S. Open will be held June 17 to 20 at Pebble Beach.
OILERS WIN FIRST PICK IN NHL DRAFT
After finishing with a league-low 62 points, the Edmonton Oilers have won the NHL draft lottery for the first overall pick in June.
Boston, the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, will pick second in the June 25-26 draft after acquiring Toronto's first-round pick in an offseason trade that sent Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs.
The Oilers (27-47-8) will select first for the first time.
Florida will select third, followed by Columbus and the New York Islanders. Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta, Minnesota and the New York Rangers round out the top 10.