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Dwight Howard's agent: No tampering

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dan Fegan, the agent for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, dismissed reports his client had illegal contact with the New Jersey Nets, saying Howard had received permission to explore potential trades.

Magic GM Otis Smith confirmed to ESPN the Magazine on Friday night that he granted permission to Fegan to speak to the Nets about a deal involving Howard.

Howard
Howard

Fegan read the following prepared statement over the phone to The Magazine: "I read reports today of a meeting between Dwight Howard, his representatives and the New Jersey Nets which claimed, according to the story's anonymous sources, that such a meeting violated the NBA's tampering policies. This story is clearly inaccurate with respect to tampering claims and other facts. Tampering doesn't apply once a team grants permission for a player and/or his representatives to make contact with another team. The Magic have given us permission to have contact with several teams in order for Dwight to explore his options. I most definitely had contact with the teams I was granted permission to speak with. Since we had permission to have contact with several teams the report of possible tampering is undeniably false."

Smith has given Fegan permission to speak with or meet with three teams -- New Jersey, Dallas and the Lakers -- about a potential trade, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

Howard, however, has not been given such permission and even a mere phone conversation with another club could qualify as tampering.

Fegan said both he and Howard have spoken by phone with the Nets but no face-to-face meeting has occurred.

Sources told Broussard that Howard had flown to Miami Thursday to meet with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins told the Associated Press the Magic have not filed tampering charges with the NBA against any team for interference with Howard.

"Well there aren't any tampering charges," Martins told the AP. "What I would say to that is that Dwight is under contract with us and our rules in the league are very explicit about the fact when a player's under contract with the team, other teams are not allowed to contact the player or player's representative about them.

"And if that's been voided in any way, we'll deal with it to the fullest extent that the NBA constitution allows. But at this stage there aren't any tampering charges."

The Magic firmly believe the Thursday meeting between Howard and the Nets took place and that there is evidence to prove it, sources said. But they are undecided about whether they will file charges against the Nets.

Howard, in a telephone conversation Friday with ESPN.com, denied meeting with the Nets.

Fegan, Howard and the Magic were committed to quietly determining where the Magic center might go to avoid the media attention that Paul received in recent weeks and Carmelo Anthony endured last winter when he left the Denver Nuggets for the New York Knicks.

The Magic are determined not to relive the experience they had with Shaquille O'Neal, who went to the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 1996 and left Orlando with nothing in return.

The Magic have had talks with the Nets and the Lakers about a potential trade, but talks with the Lakers have fizzled recently, sources said.

Orlando believes the Nets' package of Brook Lopez, two first-round picks and a willingness to take back Hedo Turkoglu's three-year, $34 million contract is not enough compensation for Howard.

McCoist: Aluko will bounce back

Rangers manager Ally McCoist has backed Sone Aluko to bounce back after being banned for diving.

Sone Aluko Rangers
GettyImagesSone Aluko joined Rangers from Aberdeen in 2011

Aluko's ban upheld

Aluko will sit out the next two Scottish Premier League games against Hibernian and Inverness after he was found guilty of simulation by the Scottish Football Association's fast track tribunal on Thursday.

The winger won a penalty in last weekend's meeting with Dunfermline to help Rangers secure a 2-1 win on what was only his second appearance for the Scottish champions and his Ibrox debut.

He also faced criticism the previous week for being slow to react and inadvertently playing Manuel Pascali onside for the Kilmarnock goal that inflicted a first SPL defeat of the season on the Light Blues.

However, despite his furious response to news of the ban yesterday, McCoist insists both he and the player were able to see the funny side of what has been a turbulent start to Aluko's Rangers career.

He said: "We had a little bit of a laugh about it yesterday, which you probably won't believe. It was like 'Welcome to Rangers'. It's been an interesting couple of weeks for him.

"I actually thought he played well down at Kilmarnock but he received a bit of stick for not coming off a post at the goal. Then the Dunfermline incident. If he ever needed a reminder of the situation he finds himself in at our club, he's got it quickly.

"He's a lovely lad and, disappointed as he is at yesterday's judgement, he will bounce back from it. He's a smashing lad and he will come back absolutely fine.''

Emotional Henry pays tribute

Thierry Henry paid an emotional tribute to Arsenal and his former team-mates after seeing himself immortalised in a bronze statue outside Emirates Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Thierry Henry
GettyImagesThierry Henry and Arsene Wenger address the press at the unveiling of Henry's bronze statue

Arsenal legends to be honoured

Henry - who left for Barcelona in June 2007, where he would go on to lift the Champions League before moving to the Major Soccer League in the United States with New York Red Bulls - felt he had been left "speechless'' by the whole tribute.

"At the very beginning, when I heard about it, I honestly thought it was a joke, until I realised it wasn't,'' said Henry, who netted 226 goals as the Gunners won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup twice.

"I was fortunate to have won a lot of stuff in my career, but that tops it all.''

Henry, though, added: "Without your team you are nothing. It would not have been possible without them so I want to thank them too.''

The French World Cup winner has been training with Arsenal following the end of the MLS season, and admits watching games as a fan can be difficult.

"I am in pain when Arsenal lose, I can't take it well,'' said Henry. I didn't like it when I was a player and it's worse now - at least when you're a player you can do something about it.''

Henry added: "It was hard at the beginning of the season, but now I think they are on the right track and they have to keep on going.''

Heart coach sees red over yellow cards

Melbourne Heart coach John van 't Schip saw the funny side before admonishing Argentinian Jonatan Germano for his Santa hat celebration during Friday night's impressive 2-1 A-League upset over Brisbane.

Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones may have been amused like many of the 10,000-strong crowd, but under the rules he had to book the exuberance of Germano with a yellow card which definitely didn't go down well with van `t Schip.

A smiling van `t Schip said later he had no idea the 22 year-old midfielder had taken the field at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night with a red Santa hat stuffed into his white shorts.

"I didn't control the pants before the game ... I didn't have a look inside," smirked van `t Schip.

"It's of course funny and nice for the people (fans) and the people at home to have a laugh but for us it's not professional of course.

"The way Germano plays. He's a fantastic player for us, he's young, he wants to win every ball.

"But if you get a yellow card for that, your next yellow is sending off and he and all our players have to be aware of that.

"We've got a few silly yellow cards this season with scoring goals and celebrating and I don't think that's professional.

"We'll have a chat about that"

Heart's fourth win from their past five games has lifted them into third place with van `t Schip predicting even more improvement from his young side.

"We're on the beginning of something I have the feeling of something that could happen," said van `t Schip.

"We have to be sharp, we have to be humble and we have to work hard on the training pitch and keep believing in the things we're working on.

"We're in a good moment now and we have to stay humble and understand you have to be a team and try and get better every day."

Mariners beat Jets to move level at top

The Central Coast Mariners moved level on points with A-League leaders the Brisbane Roar thanks to a 2-0 victory over fierce rivals the Newcastle Jets at Bluetongue Stadium.

Rostyn Griffiths Central Coast Mariners
GettyImagesRostyn Griffiths scored Central Coast Mariners' opener against Newcastle Jets

In a performance that delighted the 10,643 home fans, the Mariners led 1-0 at half-time courtesy of a 25th-minute Rostyn Griffiths and they sealed the points when Matt Simon netted his fourth goal of the season just before the hour.

The lead was twice very nearly extended towards the end but the Jets were saved by the woodwork.

Bernie Ibini smashed a first-time shot against the bar following a good run and cross from Joshua Rose in the 65th minute and then, with time almost up, substitute Daniel McBreen saw his header also crash against the bar.

The win means the Mariners have now gone seven matches without defeat, picking up 19 out of a possible 21 points.

Elsewhere, a late Ben Sigmund header earned Wellington Phoenix a 1-0 triumph over Perth Glory. The winner in the 85th minute was the only bright spot in an otherwise scrappy and often ill-tempered encounter at Westpac Stadium, where chances for either side were few and far between.

The Phoenix finished the match with 10 men after substitute Mirjan Pavlovic was sent off for cynically tackling Steve Pantelidis from behind deep in stoppage time.

Fabian Barbiero snatched an 82nd-minute equaliser as Adelaide United secured a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium.

Victory looked set to take home all three points after Archie Thompson grabbed his fourth goal of the campaign just before the hour, but it was not to be as Barbiero ensured Mehmet Durakovic's men failed to hold a lead for a fourth time in 10 outings.

Ronaldo is a Nietzschean superman

While Lionel Messi's genius is flawed, his main challenger for the Ballon d'Or, Cristiano Ronaldo, comes closest to the definition of the Nietzschean superman. The reaction to the prissy morality of his rivals defines him as the philosophy's modern flag-bearer. As you are all no doubt aware, Nietzsche declares exceptional people should follow their inner law, and who does that better than Ronaldo?

Cristiano Ronaldo
GettyImagesThe philosopher's muse: Is this what Nietzsche had in mind?

Slave morality was invented, he argued, to make those suffering feel that their morality was superior to those in charge. While football in the '90s became faster, stronger and more athletic, the lack of power in morality was renamed as meekness - a virtue - to imbue the sufferer with dignity. Look at Barcelona - Xavi, Messi, Villa - all half-pinters in a team of short rounds. By elevating the passing game above that of strength and power, they claim a false superiority. Ronaldo, though, and Real Madrid by extension, espouse master morality, theoretically the morality of the true victors. Look at Ronaldo's physique. If God is indeed dead, it's not because man killed him: it's because Ronaldo did. By himself, with his bare hands. The quality is true of his team-mates: Barca's effete Dani Alves was seen to by Real's Pepe, incurring a red card but proving the real superiority last season. Barcelona were reduced to waving to signal their apparent suffering in order to gain an advantage from the referee.

This way of thinking is fine for Barcelona - it allows them to make their team game a strength. Their passing suffocates teams into submission, and their incredible technique finishes them off or challenges whatever resistance might remain. For Real Madrid, though, they embrace the exceptional abilities of their superman, Cristiano Ronaldo. The ball is given to him so he can continue his remarkable scoring feats. To be a one-man team is to embrace the other morality of the master. Ronaldo is able to achieve greatness with his own talents: his team-mates simply highlight it. Of course, pragmatism steps in - even Ronaldo cannot play in 11 positions at a time - so they need ten other players to fill the pitch. But Ronaldo's greatness should not be confused merely with his goalscoring - it should be recognised in the other areas on the pitch.

His free-kicks are not always top corner highlight material, destined to be repeated in admiration. No, Ronaldo is clever enough to work out that sometimes it serves his team - and therefore him - if he is able to create a chance from shooting just in front of the 'keeper, so that the rebound can be bundled in. Pretty? No, but the most effective in securing Cristiano Ronaldo trophies and achievement in the long term.

Just because he's attacked as an egotistical bore, it's not the case that he is disinterested in passing. He expresses his superiority in allowing his colleagues to succeed at his behest. In 2009-10, he contributed seven assists; in 2010-11, a further 14; and this season he already has eight. He may have selfish traits but his commitment to his own success is reflected in the number of key passes he makes. He has the ability to set up goals with both feet, from distance or with short passes. If to be exceptional is to be an ubermensch, then the sheer breadth of his abilities must qualify him as the uberest.

Irina Shayk, Cristiano Ronaldo
GettyImagesLadies love Nietzschean supermen

Further, if the ubermensch is someone who can look at mere humans with contempt, then Ronaldo personifies this. His most talented team-mates, let alone opponents, cannot match his worth. Ronaldo is the one man whose injury would without doubt end Real Madrid's attempt to thwart Barcelona this year. Without Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso or Mesut Ozil, the team could endure. If it happened before the end of the transfer window, they could in all probability be replaced if not bettered were it deemed necessary. If Ronaldo had a long-term injury, who could fit into his role? Nobody. His otherworldliness is reflected in that his absence would lead to a fundamental readjustment to Real Madrid. Their aims would shift from domination to simply victory. No other player can do that.

The will to power of Ronaldo is what allows him to be the best player he can be with a relentless vigour. It is that he aims for the highest possible achievement that makes him vital for any team. An ubermensch is supposed to answer a question that we did not know existed, and Ronaldo has done that by reinventing football. Before Barcelona had their false nine, at Manchester United, with Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney, he was able to create a false front three, with no fixed positions. He invented the first and only irresistible English team in the Champions League. His qualities, above all, lead him to pursue the record books because he is aware of the eternal return - the acceptance of fate. He knows his time is limited on the field as it is in life, and as such he is striving to provide a bridge from human achievement, to something else entirely.

Kean backs Yakubu to claim 20 goals

Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean has backed in-form striker Yakubu to become the first player to score 20 Premier League goals for the club in a season since Alan Shearer in 1996.

Blackburn's four-goal hero Yakubu fraternises with the enemy; manager Steve Kean
GettyImagesYakubu's most prolific season so far in English football was in 2003-04 when he scored 16 for Portsmouth

Yakubu, 29, has already hit the back of the net nine times in eight starts in the league so far this campaign - including all four last weekend in the 4-2 victory over Swansea - and Rovers boss Kean says there is no reason why the Nigerian should not breach 20.

Roque Santa Cruz has come closest for Rovers, with 19 in the 2007-08 season, and Kean says the key will be to keep the service to Yakubu going and make sure the 29-year-old remains fit.

Kean said: "Any top striker thrives on good service. He has an eye for goal and he's in a position now when he gets any chance he expects to score. Last week he had five chances and scored four and was a couple of inches away from the fifth which would have been fantastic.

"If we can keep him fit there is no reason why he can't get those 20 goals in the season. It's not a case of him thinking 'I could be in here' - he just expects to see the net bulge every time he has a shot.

"I don't think it is a surprise how well he has done. Look back on his stats and as long as you keep him fit and on the pitch his returns are there to see. He has been breath of a fresh air for us.

"He does his work where you want him to, in the box. I don't want him to chase into corners from the half-way line I would prefer him to conserve his energy.''

Yakubu is already being viewed as the bargain buy of last summer after he moved from Everton for a fee just over £1 million on the last day of the transfer window.

Kean resisted labelling his striker as such - pointing out that the signing of 24-year-old centre-back Scott Dann could prove to be equally important.

"The last day of the transfer window when he got Yakubu and Scott Dann we felt was very good business and they have both hit the ground running," Kean said.

'Gobsmacked' AVB slams Neville jibes

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has continued his war of words with television pundit Gary Neville, saying he has been "gobsmacked" by Neville's "assumptions" and "speculations".

Andre Villas-Boas training crouch
GettyImagesAndre Villas-Boas says Gary Neville 'cannot know' what goes on under him at Chelsea

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Neville initially invoked Villas-Boas' ire after suggesting Blues defender David Luiz played as if he was controlled by a 10-year-old on a Playstation after the club's defeat to Arsenal last month.

The former Manchester United defender has continued his criticism of Chelsea's current deficiencies in recent weeks, and Villas-Boas could barely contain his fury as he revealed exactly how he would like to confront Neville.

"I'd say this to his face with most pleasure," Villas-Boas said. "What does he know about the Chelsea dressing room? What does Gary Neville know about our dressing room?

"How can you imagine what is going on in the Chelsea dressing room? How can you know? Have you been here? Do you know where Cobham is? You don't even know how to get here!

"You can't speculate and invent on things that are going on, based on assumptions or informants or speculation. Some people can have more or less an idea. But not him. He cannot know.

"I'm normally indifferent, not watching on the telly to see what these people say. But I was watching the television at that moment, and I was gobsmacked."

Villas-Boas, who went on to launch a passionate defence of Luiz after he appeared lucky to avoid a red card for a foul on Demba Ba in the club's 3-0 win over Newcastle last weekend ("Nobody tried to focus on the fact that maybe Demba Ba was offside in the David Luiz challenge. Nobody took that option"), also questioned the impartiality of some of Britain's other prominent pundits, including ex-Liverpool stars Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson.

"Most of these people we are speaking about have a direct past related to single clubs, which are their favourite clubs, which in the end brings a likely biased position in their opinion-making," Villas-Boas said.

"Comic criticism and the lack of in-depth criticism from top ex-professional players, when they take the route to the ridiculous, I think I have a word to say. When they opt for words as we've been seeing, in the past, I have to be aggressive."

Vidic out for the season

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that captain Nemanja Vidic will be sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Ferguson rues Vidic KO

Preview: Man United v Wolves

Vidic ruptured his cruciate ligament during Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League defeat to Basel, a result that saw the Red Devils knocked out of the competition at the group stage for the first time in six years.

The former Serbia defender was carried off the St. Jakob-Park pitch on a stretcher after colliding with Marco Streller during the first-half and appeared to be in agony as he signalled to the bench that he needed to be immediately substituted.

Vidic later left the stadium on crutches and United boss Ferguson announced at his pre-match press conference on Friday that the defender will not play again this term.

"We thought it was a bad one," Ferguson said. "He's out for the season. It's not unexpected but it's still bad news. He'll see a specialist on Monday to work out the progress of when he has the operation. It won't be immediate as we have to let the swelling come down."

Ferguson is likely to call on Phil Jones to play in Vidic's stead alongside Rio Ferdinand for Wolves' visit to Old Trafford this weekend, with Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling also able to fill in at centre-back.

Wenger, Henry laud Van Persie abilities

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie is "on the way" to entering the pantheon of Gunners greats, while club legend Thierry Henry said he is "in admiration" of the Dutchman's recent form.

Robin van Persie and Thierry henry Arsenal
GettyImagesRobin van Persie has taken on Thierry Henry's mantle of captain and goalscoring talisman at Arsenal

Arsenal unveil stadium statues

Van Persie, 28, has been in sensational goalscoring form this calendar year having plundered 38 goals in all competitions for Arsenal in 2011.

And after watching the club unveil a statue of Henry, alongside monuments of Tony Adams and Herbert Chapman as part of the Gunners' 125th anniversary celebrations, Wenger tipped Van Persie to follow in his former forward's footsteps by etching his name into the Emirates Stadium history books.

"Robin is on the way,'' Wenger said. "It was the club's choice [with the statues] and I had the privilege to manage two of the players who were unveiled - hopefully there will be some more.''

Henry, who is Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, echoed Wenger's sentiments - hailing Van Persie's form and labelling his development since his arrival at the club "amazing".

"I saw him come in here and at the very beginning he wasn't the easiest guy to deal with, like I wasn't I guess, but it's amazing to see how he has improved," Henry said. "That tells you how intelligent a player he is.

"I am just in admiration. What he is doing right now, thank God he is playing for us and doing well. It is nice to see a player improve, and Robin is doing something amazing.

"That also tells you how important it is for him to not get injured. He has never had a chance to have a full season since he has been here - he was always out for two or three months.

"For the very first time he can go on a roll now and you can see the difference. I can only admire what he's doing now.''

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