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Press Box: Wizards PG Wall out eight weeks

The SportsXchange

NBA

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall will be out for eight weeks after being diagnosed with early stages of a stress injury in his left knee, the team announced on its website Friday.

Wall was examined Thursday in New York after experiencing discomfort in his left knee and an MRI confirmed the injury.

"My teammates and I are all excited to build on the improvement we made at the end of last season, and I know they will continue to make great progress while I get through this setback," Wall said. "I will work extremely hard to make sure I get back as soon as possible so I can rejoin them and help our team continue to improve."

The Wizards begin training Tuesday and open the season Oct. 30 at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"We're all disappointed for John after how hard he worked this summer and how excited he was to begin training camp, but we feel fortunate that we caught the injury early and that he will be able to return with the vast majority of the season still in front of us," team President Ernie Grunfeld said. "In the meantime, we're confident that the versatility and depth of our team will help us move forward and continue the positive momentum that we've seen over the past several months."

NHL

New York Islanders center John Tavares signed a contract with Swiss club Bern, the team announced Friday.

Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, is expected to begin training with his Swiss club on Wednesday.

Tavares, 22, played in his first All-Star Game last season. He collected 81 points in 82 games during 2011-12.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

University of Kansas head men's basketball coach Bill Self will coach the Jayhawks through at least the 2021-22 season.

Self agreed to a new contract that increases his salary to nearly $3.86 million a year.

One of the country's winningest college basketball coaches, Self led the Jayhawks to the NCAA title in 2008 and to the championship game this past season. He's one of four coaches in NCAA history to lead three schools to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

In nine seasons at KU, Self took two teams to the Final Four, while three others have reached the Elite Eight.

"We believe Bill Self is among a very small number of elite basketball coaches in this country," KU Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger said in a statement, "and this ensures that we compensate him accordingly. We are proud of the way he represents the University of Kansas, Kansas Athletics and the entire State of Kansas, and we are thrilled that he will remain our coach for at least another decade."

For Self to realize the contract's maximum amount, including retention bonuses, he must remain head coach through the 2021-22 season. His current deal, which Self's current contract, which runs through June 2018, pays him $3.38 million.

---Notre Dame secured the No. 4 point guard in the Class of 2013 Thursday, when Demetrius Jackson (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian Catholic) selected the Irish over Illinois.

Jackson, the No. 19 overall prospect in the ESPN 100, grew up 20 minutes from Notre Dame's campus in South Bend, Ind.

"I believe that I'm going to bring them another point guard that will work his butt off to do whatever it takes to make the team better and win," Jackson told ESPN.com. "I'll bring some liveliness to the program."

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Mississippi State and Oklahoma State are close to an agreement to open the 2013 season Aug. 31 at Houston's Reliant Stadium, according to an ESPN report.

The game will kick off a yearly tradition for the venue, the home of the NFL's Houston Texans. Atlanta's Georgia Dome and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, also host high-profile college football games to open the season.

The Georgia Dome has hosted the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game since 2008, while Cowboys Stadium began hosting the Cowboys Classic in 2009. Both arenas have games scheduled through 2014.

---Oklahoma State recruit Matt Beyer had his scholarship offer pulled because he was recently diagnosed with the spinal-cord condition cervical stenosis, ending his playing career.

Beyer confirmed the news to SoonerNation Thursday night. He said he was told Tuesday by Oklahoma offensive tackles coach Bruce Kittle that the scholarship offer wouldn't be honored. Beyer committed July 2.

According to WebMD.com, the condition causes the spinal canal to narrow.

Beyer said he was born with the condition, and was told by doctors that there was a chance for permanent quadriplegia down the line if he continued playing.

"I was able to talk to Coach Kittle, and it was great to talk to him again," Beyer told SoonerNation. "I asked about my scholarship situation. He said the decision went above his head and as much as he would love to let me keep it, it's not possible."

The Sooners have honored scholarships for recruits with career-ending injuries in the past. After this year's national signing day, it was revealed that a back injury would end the career of signee Laith Harlow. He was given a medical scholarship and is now a freshman.

The difference with Beyer is that he had only verbally committed.

"That's kind of what it came down to," Beyer said. "It wasn't like I was signed. I was just too far away from being able to play. It hurts, but I understand completely."

AUTO RACING

Lewis Hamilton will join Mercedes next season, after McLaren failed to match a lucrative three-year offer, Mercedes confirmed on Friday.

Hamilton will replace seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, who shifts to McLaren, along with Sergio Perez.

Hamilton, 27, will team with Nico Rosberg next season.

"It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter," Hamilton told reporters. "Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share.

"Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world championships."

Hamilton won his only Formula One title with McLaren in 2008, but the past two seasons have been controversial. He recently angered management by posting a picture of a telemetry sheet showing data from his and teammate Jenson Button's car on his Twitter page at the Belgian GP. Button publicly criticized Hamilton, leading to rumors that a change was coming.

---Legendary auto racing announcer Chris Economaki, who was known as "The Dean of American Motorsports," died Friday at age 91.

"The passing of Chris Economaki is a tough loss for me on both a personal and professional level, having known Chris throughout my life," NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement. "Many people consider Chris the greatest motorsports journalist of all time. He was, indeed, 'the Dean.' Chris was a fixture for years at NASCAR events, and played a huge role in growing NASCAR's popularity. I'll miss seeing him and of course, I'll miss hearing that voice. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughters Corinne and Tina and the rest of Chris' family."

Indycar also issued a statement: "INDYCAR and the world of motorsports have lost a true friend with the passing of Chris Economaki. The Dean of American motorsports journalists, Chris dedicated most of his life to reporting the sport of auto racing and telling the stories of the heroes of our sport. He was truly one of a kind. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Economaki saw his first race at age 9. He began selling copies of the National Speed Sport News at age of 13, and became editor of that publication in 1950. He went on to become a commentator for ABC's "Wide World of Sports," covering several Indianapolis 500s, Daytona 500s and other forms of racing.

---By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

DOVER, Del. -- Who knew?

When Kurt Busch opted to change race teams, he also severed his psychic bond with Charlie Sheen.

Busch and Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone took questions Friday in the Dover International Speedway media center, confirming that Busch will take the seat of the No. 78 Chevrolet for the final six races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Earlier this week, Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row announced the signing of Busch to a one-year contract for 2013. Busch has been driving the No. 51 Chevrolet of James Finch this season after parting with Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 campaign.

At the Friday press conference, Busch took umbrage at the perception that he's making a lateral move.

"That's a slap in the face to (Furniture Row owner) Barney Visser, because he has put together a program that is tiers above, levels of competition above where James Finch is -- and James will admit to that," Busch said.

"Barney Visser, this program, they are committed. Their alliance with Richard Childress (Racing), it's there and it's solid. That's why, when you say a lateral move, I don't like it so much. It's a slap in the face to Barney Visser, but everybody in this garage area knows. ... if you have a hard card (a NASCAR annual credential), you know the differences in the teams."

Busch will race for the first time with Furniture Row on Oct. 13 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a move that will give him time to get to know his new team and crew chief Todd Berrier.

"I can't wait to get in the car and deliver," Busch said. "It's great to get a jump on 2013. That way we don't go to Daytona (in February) with a deer-in-the-headlights feel. We're going to get all the bugs worked out of the way, the newness, the operating procedures, the trips back and forth to Denver -- all this will be scienced out and smoothed out.

"Heck, it's just an opportunity to get in a quality car this year, and I can't wait."

Busch, who vowed to enjoy his time with Finch when he took the job in the No. 51 car, had some fun with the media at the close of his news conference.

"I had the wrong approach, I think, in the beginning of the season," said Busch, who has had an uneasy relationship with the media. "I was following my Zen master Charlie Sheen, and that wasn't going very well.

"So I had to look back, look around and then I followed another top-10 most hated athlete guy (according to an ESPN list), LeBron James. He brought his talents down to Miami and won a championship down there. So I'm going to take my talents to Denver and bring a championship out there."

Busch, an ardent baseball fan, has found a new role model on the diamond.

"I decided that I didn't need Charlie Sheen, so I'm going to look at a new Zen master," Busch said. "I found him. It's Bryce Harper, 19-year-old phenom out of Vegas (Busch's home town). He's the (Washington) Nationals guy that's helped their team get into the playoffs.

"He's so wise. He told the media, 'No more clown questions. I'm not going to answer any clown questions.' So I'm really looking up to a 19-year-old Bryce Harper to help me through all this."

SPEED SPORTS MOURN ECONOMAKI

Chris Economaki, long-time editor of National Speed Sport News and a pioneering racing broadcaster, died Friday morning at age 91. For years, Economaki was one of the most familiar names -- and voices -- in all forms of motorsports.

"Speed Sport News is something that I read religiously," Jeff Gordon said Friday at Dover. "Chris did a lot for that newspaper and for motorsports, and he was passionate about all of it. The last time I saw him was earlier this year, and still, that's all he thought about was racing.

"He cared so much about what was happening in this sport and wanted to make a difference and wanted to get those stories out there. It's just not that often that you come across somebody that puts their heart and soul and entire life mission into that."

FOX and SPEED play-by-play announcer Mike Joy put Economaki's contribution in perspective.

"Chris Economaki became the prototype for all radio and television journalists in his sport," Joy said. "His depth of knowledge and skilled questioning made network execs understand that auto racing needed specialists to properly cover the sport.

"Chris opened the door for a whole generation of voices you hear today, and we are all indebted to him."

HAMLIN: WE CAN WIN AT DOVER

Despite the disparity between Denny Hamlin's record at Dover and that of Jimmie Johnson, Hamlin isn't planning to fight a holding action in Sunday's AAA 400.

Hamlin recently has turned to sports psychologist Bob Rotella for guidance, and the result is a more aggressive attitude toward the track Hamlin freely admits is his worst in the Chase.

Hamlin has a 20.5 career average finish at the Monster Mile, a far cry from Johnson's 8.9. But Hamlin took encouragement from the first Cup practice session, during which he posted the third fastest single-lap speed among 48 drivers.

"Obviously, the outlook that I'm supposed to have was not to look past this weekend and want to get over this weekend," Hamlin said Friday between practice sessions. "It's to optimize this weekend and treat it as one we can win at. Until my speeds slow up, and my car slows down, I'm going to treat it like I can win this weekend, just like any other track.

"I'm not going to look forward. I'm just going to stay concentrated on this weekend, trying to do the best I can, knowing in the back of my head that every track from here on out, we've won at or been very, very good at year after year. Instead of doing damage control, I'm going to treat this weekend as being on offense instead of defense."
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