Sports briefs 3/23/04

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Basketball

  • Houston Rockets point guard Steve Francis was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Monday for cursing during a halftime television interview and for criticizing officials. Francis drew a technical foul, then complained about what he considered a non-call in the closing seconds of the first half of Houston's 100-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. When an ESPN reporter interviewed him at halftime, Francis swore and stormed off the court. He apologized before the third quarter began.

    An examination of Jason Kidd's left knee showed no new injuries, but the New Jersey Nets' All-Star guard remains in pain and is sidelined indefinitely. Nets coach Lawrence Frank said he wouldn't put a timetable on Kidd's return.

    Football

  • When Lovie Smith coaches his first preseason game for the Chicao Bears, he'll be up against a familiar team: the Rams. The exact time and date of the Rams' home game against the Bears have not been announced, but the NFL announced some details of the Rams preseason. The Rams also will play at Kansas City Aug. 23, at home against the Washington Redskins Aug. 27, and a game in Oakland against the Raiders in early September. Smith, who spent the last three seasons as the Rams' defensive coordinator, will start his head coaching duties with the Bears when they gather for minicamp on Friday. He was hired by the Bears in January.

    Safety John Lynch, released by Tampa Bay last week, agreed to a deal Monday with the Denver Broncos, instantly becoming a division rival of old teammate Warren Sapp, who signed Saturday night with the Raiders. Lynch, 32, had narrowed his choices to the Broncos and New York Jets, coached by Herman Edwards, a close friend from their days together in Tampa.

    Hockey

  • New York Rangers captain Mark Messier was suspended for two games for spearing an opponent. Messier, 43, was ejected in the second period of the Rangers' 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night, when he went after defenseman Martin Strbak during a New York power play.

    The NHL suspended Wade Belak eight games for his two-handed chop to the face of Colorado defenseman Ossi Vaananen. The Maple Leafs defenseman will be out for Toronto's remaining six regular-season games and the club's first two postseason games. Belak slashed Vaananen on Saturday night and was given a match penalty for attempt to injure.

    -- From wire reports

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