Press Box: Heat's Bosh open to playing center

The SportsXchange

NBA

Chris Bosh said he's open to returning as the center of attention.

One of the Miami Heat's big three with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, Bosh told ESPN.com that he expects to open the 2012-13 as the team's starting center.

"It's becoming natural to me," Bosh told ESPN.com. "I have a very unique opportunity to do something very special for myself and my team. I think all the time that you have to evolve and get better. This is me evolving as a player."

Bosh, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound power forward, said he hesitated after logging minutes there during his time with the Toronto Raptors. But after seeing results, Bosh is more willing. In the Heat's lineup, Bosh essentially handled that role in the playoffs, anyway.

"We're such a unique team," Bosh said. "We have such great guys that are very talented. It's just all over the place -- I may be at the top of the key, I might be in the corner, I might be on the block, I might be on the wing. I prepare for everything."

NHL

Less than 24 hours before NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, the Washington Capitals signed restricted free-agent John Carlson to a six-year, $23.8 million contract extension.

The 22-year-old will earn $3.8 million in 2012-13 and $4 million per year from the 2013-14 season through 2017-18.

"John is a talented young defenseman who has played very well for the Capitals and still has room to grow," general manager George McPhee said in a statement. "He wanted to make a long term commitment to the team and we are delighted that this young man who is an important part of our future will be a member of the club for many years to come."

Carlson collected 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) and 22 penalty minutes in 82 games last season. He was originally taken by Washington in the first round (27th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

---Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension that could keep him with the team through the 2017-18 season.

Lehtonen, 28, landed with the Stars in a February 2010 trade. He went 32-22-4 last season with a .922 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average.

"Kari Lehtonen has worked extremely hard in his time with the Dallas Stars to establish himself as an elite goaltender in the NHL," general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said in a statement. "We believe that his best days as a goaltender are ahead, and that his work ethic and leadership will help guide this team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender."

---The Vancouver Canucks signed Alexandre Burrows to a four-year contract extension on Friday.

The team didn't release financial details, but TSN reported that the forward will earn an average of $4.5 million annually.

Burrows, 31, was about to enter the final season of a four-year contract. He could've become an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season.

He collected 28 goals and 24 assists in 80 games last season, led the team with seven game-winning goals and was second with a plus-24 rating.

---Free-agent defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings, the team announced Friday.

Detroit also re-signed restricted free-agent forward Justin Abdelkader for another four years. Financial terms weren't disclosed on either deal.

Colaiacovo, 29, had two goals and 17 assists in 64 regular-season games with the St. Louis Blues last season, and three assists in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Abdelkader, 25, had eight goals and 14 assists in 81 regular-season games last season, and appeared in five playoff games. MLive.com reported that his deal will pay him an average $1.8 million annually.

---Andrei Kostitsyn signed a one-year deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL, according to the Russian news website Sports.ru.

The 27-year-old winger scored just 16 goals in 82 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. Off the ice, he was suspended with Alexander Radulov during the second round of the playoffs for missing curfew.

Kostitsyn will play alongside Washington Capitals prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov and longtime NHL player Jan Bulis.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The University of Arizona secured a top recruit Thursday when forward Rondae Jefferson committed to the school.

Jefferson arrives at a time when the Wildcats are seeking to replace forwards Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom. Jefferson, ESPN's No. 14 prospect in the Class of 2013, also considered Florida, Texas, Rutgers, Syracuse, Memphis and Temple.

Jefferson's brother, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, opted to stay in his home state of Pennsylvania, and selected Temple.

Jefferson is a member of Chester High School team that is riding a 58-game winning streak and has won two consecutive state titles.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is not likely to start Saturday against No. 1 Alabama because of a head injury that kept him out of Thursday's practice because he has not yet been cleared, according to a report by Bo Mattingly, a veteran sports talk host in Fayetteville, Ark.

Wilson missed the second half of the Razorbacks' loss to Louisiana-Monroe last week. He participated in the team's walkthrough Wednesday, but coach John L. Smith said the quarterback was "busy" doing "evaluating" during practice on Thursday, when he did not participate.

Smith indicated he would know Friday if Wilson, the first-team All-Southeastern Conference quarterback last season, will be able to play against the Crimson Tide (2-0).

Redshirt freshman Brandon Allen or junior Brandon Mitchell will start for the Razorbacks (1-1). The Crimson Tide opened as a 20-point favorite.

Wilson is rated as a first-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com.

---Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o will play Saturday night at Michigan State, despite the death of his grandmother, a school spokesman told ESPN.com.

"Our players have been there for him and have been a great support," Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly told reporters Thursday. "We'll support him. He'll be with us. He practiced. He'll be playing Saturday against Michigan State. Unfortunately, he's gone through a very rough 24, 48 hours. But his support and his family at home have been great, and all of the coaches and players have been there for him.

"He wants to be with his teammates, he wants to be with the people that care about him. He's a strong man and he's going through a tough time, but he'll rise to the occasion."

The senior leads the team with 18 tackles through two games.

---Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel may be planning a return to Ohio Stadium.

Tressel, who resigned in May 2011 amid NCAA violations, could attend a 10-year reunion for the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship, planned for the final regular-season against Michigan.

"Obviously, the big question everyone has is will Tress be involved?" former Buckeyes defensive back Dustin Fox told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I don't know. I would like to think so. It wouldn't feel the same without him."

Athletic director Gene Smith told the paper that the school would allow "anyone associated with the team to be honored."

BOXING

Former world boxing champions Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez admitted alcohol and drug abuse during the waning years of their careers.

The two boxers told ESPN Deportes' new talk show "El Bar" that such abuse was a common thread as they approached retirement. They indulged while training for prize fights.

De La Hoya said that he drank prior to at least two championship bouts, one against Manny Pacquiao and another he wouldn't identify. Chavez declined to name specific fights, but said there were many. The legend left the sport in 2005 with a 107-6-2 record.

"The truth ... during my training, it increased more and more," Chavez told ESPN Deportes. "For example, at times, I would leave spaces of a month and a half without using drugs or alcohol, but afterwards, I would shorten that time. Then later, it would be one month, 20 days, later 15 days. One week, four days, three days, so it would not show in the doping (tests)."

De La Hoya, who went 39-6 during his career and won an Olympic gold medal, said he was able to consume without being detected.

"We are very intelligent," De La Hoya told ESPN Deportes. "We knew how to plan to work the system."

---Boxing legend Muhammad Ali received the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Thursday for his many years of fighting for civil rights and humanitarian causes.

The three-time heavyweight champion was presented the award on the lawn of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia in front of hundreds of people.

"It is especially humbling for Muhammad, who has said on many occasions, 'All I did was to stand up for what I believe,'" his wife, Lonnie Ali, said.

Ali, 70, didn't speak at the ceremony, but stood with help as his daughter, Laila Ali, gave him the award.

AUTO RACING

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports XChange

JOLIET, Ill. -- In 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a career-best six races with family-owned Dale Earnhardt Inc. and entered the final race of the first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in fourth place -- with an outside shot at the title.

Even though Earnhardt has but one race in the win column so far this season, he believes he has a better shot at the championship this season than he did eight years ago.

"I think this is the best chance I've ever had," Earnhardt said Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, site of Sunday's Geico 400. "I think even more than 2004. Looking back on that year, I didn't realize how close we could have come or how good that chance was. We really were a strong team--maybe weren't the strongest team -- (but) one of the two strongest teams for sure in the series that year.

"I think we're a more complete team now, where we run good at all the race tracks, the majority of the race tracks with this group we've got today. I feel like there is no dominant figure in the group (of Chase drivers) that stands out. That really builds our confidence that it's there for the taking if we can put it together consistent weeks -- week-in and week-out, win a couple of races -- that we could be the champion. No question about it."

Earlier this week, Earnhardt denied a tabloid report he would wed girlfriend Amy Reimann at the end of the season. And he scoffed at the notion that a more stable personal life might have contributed to more solid performances on the track.

"I ran pretty good in 2004 -- and I was anything but stable off the race track," Earnhardt said with a smile.

Earnhardt was second fastest in Friday's first Cup practice session and will be the 46th of 47 cars to make a qualifying attempt in Saturday afternoon's time trials.

RETURN OF THE GEEK SQUAD

Best Buy will return as the anchor sponsor of the No. 17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing next season, but with a different driver behind the wheel, the organization announced Friday at Chicagoland Speedway.

The electronics and appliance retailer will sponsor the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion in 12 Cup races, as Stenhouse competes in his first full season in NASCAR's foremost series. Best Buy also will sponsor the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards in four Cup races.

Fifth Third Bank and Zest also will return as primary sponsors for the No. 17 car, which has approximately 70 percent of its inventory filled for 2013. Veteran Jimmy Fennig is expected to remain with the 17 car as Stenhouse's crew chief, though team owner Jack Roush reserves the right to change personnel.

"Ricky is a very lucky young driver, because he is able now to step into a mature team," Roush said Friday at Chicagoland. "Regardless of how the personnel winds up being distributed next year, he winds up taking one of the three seats at our table -- which have been very good seats based on the work that (general manager) Robbie Reiser has done on the manufacturing side, and all the crew chiefs at the race track.

"Unlike a lot of rookies that have to wait their time to either grow a team that can give them what they need, or to find a senior driver that backs away (and) leaves a spot open, he is very lucky to have that. Roush Fenway and Best Buy and Zest and Fifth Third are very lucky to have Ricky -- Ricky is going to make a statement in this business."

Stenhouse is fighting for his second straight Nationwide title in Roush Fenway's No. 6 Ford. He trails series leader Elliott Sadler by one point with eight races left.

PEAK PERFORMANCE FOR BOWYER

Michael Waltrip Racing followed Roush's announcement with more positive sponsorship news. Peak Motor Oil has signed on with Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota as primary sponsor for three races in each of the next three Cup seasons.

In addition, Peak will fill an associate sponsorship role on all three MWR cars for the entire seasons. The deal with MWR won't affect Peak's personal services contract with Danica Patrick, who represents the brand in a variety of advertising media.

"We have a number of people we're very proud to be associated with across a number of sports," said Bryan Emrich, vice president of marketing for Old World Industries, parent company of the Peak brands. "So Danica's certainly still a big part of our organization.

"But we're excited to have Clint and all of Michael Waltrip be on board with us."

CHASE CONTENDER FENDER-BENDER

It happens every day on the highway but seldom in the Cup garage.

As Chase driver Brad Keselowski was exiting the garage area, a NASCAR official motioned for him to stop. Keselowski didn't see the official right away and hit his brakes at the last second. Martin Truex Jr., who was following, couldn't stop in time and rear-ended Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge.

"Look at the back of my car, Joey," Keselowski radioed to spotter Joey Meier. "How bad is it?"

"It's (expletive) destroyed," Meier replied. "Bring it back in."

But the damage was more cosmetic than structural, and after repairs, the No. 2 team had Keselowski back on the track 15 minutes later.

Similarly, Truex's team worked on the nose of his No. 56 Toyota and got the car back into racing shape. Truex had paced the opening practice session with a lap at 181.763 mph, more than a mile-an-hour faster than Earnhardt's top speed.
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