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Volume 24 No. 157

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Knicks G Jeremy Lin Thursday was added to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at the NBA All-Star Weekend despite Commissioner David Stern saying earlier in the week that Lin "would not participate" in the event, according to Zillgitt & Shuster of USA TODAY. TNT's Kenny Smith, serving as "'commissioner' of the Rising Stars Challenge, added Lin and Miami Heat guard Norris Cole to the pool of candidates" prior to the player draft Thursday night. TNT's Shaquille O'Neal, who is coaching one of the two teams, selected Lin with his 2nd pick, behind Clippers F Blake Griffin (USA TODAY, 2/17). The AP noted Lin's breakout came after the original "pool of 18 players was selected, and the NBA was pressured to add him after he scored 136 points in his first five starts." TNT's Charles Barkley, the game's other coach, "praised the addition, saying it was 'really stupid the NBA denied him in the beginning'" (AP, 2/16). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Freeman writes, "Kudos to the league for getting it done." All-Star Weekend is "often discussed as if it were primarily intended as a merit-based reward for players, but it's more sensible to think of it as a showcase for everything that makes the NBA interesting" (, 2/17).

I NEED A HERO: In Orlando, Brian Schmitz notes the NBA, lacking household names for All-Star Weekend's dunk contest, on Thursday announced a "new gimmick" for the Sprite Slam Dunk contest -- fan voting for the first time "entirely will determine the dunk king during all-star weekend, via social media." The four competitors -- Rockets F Chase Budinger, Pacers F Paul George, Knicks G Iman Shumpert and T'Wolves F Derrick Williams -- all making their first appearance in the event, and Schmitz writes the league "couldn't sweet-talk or coerce any of its stars to enter, apparently." It surely "couldn't have put together this bunch on purpose." Schmitz: "We've watched the dunk contest rapidly decline over the last decade since Vince Carter -- who we've heard of -- won it in 2000. Thankfully, Dwight Howard got in on a lark later and dropped jaws while entertaining us with props." For some time now, the "big names have been above it all, finding it cooler NOT to be in it, just sitting back and chest-bumping each other" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/17). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said of the new dunk contest format, “I’m buying the format change. It used to be way too long and it went on forever." However, he noted, "It’s not a great lineup. I’m mostly interested to see what Jeremy Lin does out there to try to help Shumpert.” Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, “I’m absolutely buying. It’s all about social media now. We don’t need guys sitting there with placards hanging them over their heads. This is all about what the fans like so very god for the NBA to include the fans.” But ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said she is "selling” the new format. MacMullan: “Why don’t we just give the trophy to Shumpert right now. For one thing, he’s going to have Lin next to him, and for another thing he’s from New York, where everybody’s going to vote for him. ESPN’s J.A. Adande said “You can’t have Twitter determining anything. You got a bunch of people out there that can’t tell the difference between ‘you’re’ the contraction and ‘your’ the possessive, and now they’re going to determine the dunk contest champion?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/16).

In L.A., Jill Painter wrote although PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem recently received “a contract extension good through 2016," he is "not coasting to the finish line” if this is the final four years of Finchem's reign. When asked about the legacy he envisions, Finchem said, "I don't think much about that. When I end my career, I want to be remembered as working hard and working well with other people. I want to make sure we're working closely with players, keeping our eye on the image of the tour and giving back to charity. That's not very complicated, but that's all you can ask for" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/16).

LOWER NUMBERS: The AP's Ronald Blum reported the overall rise of salaries for MLB players "in arbitration slowed to its lowest level since 2007.” A study of agreements showed that the 142 players who filed for arbitration last month “averaged an 89 percent increase.” That “was down from an average jump of 123 percent last year and was the lowest increase since a 73 percent rise in 1996.” Just 11 players “received multiyear contracts, down from 14 last year and the fewest since nine in 2004” (AP, 2/16).

CHALLENGES WELCOME: The European Volleyball Confederation announced Monday that the Hawk-eye ball tracking system “will be in place at the Champions League Final Four in Poland next month … paving the way for its possible introduction at the London Olympics.” The system will “allow team captains the possibility to challenge the decisions of the referees twice per set using ball-tracking TV replays” (REUTERS, 2/13).