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National Sports Briefs

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó NASCAR chairman Brian France passed on the chance to trumpet the fast start to the season, stressing the task is sustaining the positives over the entire year.
Television ratings are up for the first three races of the season, and the events at both Phoenix and Las Vegas sold out. France also credited the competition, which produced 20-year-old Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and saw Jeff Gordon snap his 66-race losing streak.
“No one around here is celebrating,” France said in a Wednesday conference call. “We’re obviously pleased we’re up dramatically in our ratings, but we know that is an ebb and flow thing. We’re focused on a lot of things that will give us growth down the road.
“We’re going to work on those, not get too excited or too down.”
NASCAR does not race this weekend because the series has historically had an early season break. Despite concerns the timing could hurt the momentum NASCAR is trying to build after several seasons of slumping ratings and attendance, France said the length of the 11-month season made it a minor issue.
But, the off weekend will move next season because NASCAR is pushing back the Daytona 500 one week in response to potential NFL scheduling changes.
“In my view, all things being equal, we’d probably like to be racing this weekend,” France said. “But I don’t believe that to be a significant challenge for us because we happen to have an open week. We have a long season; we’re going to have some open weeks. In the long run, with the 500 moving, it will by definition take care of that.”
BIFFLE UNHURT
CONCORD ó NASCAR driver Greg Biffle praised his pilots Wednesday for successfully landing his plane after a mechanical failure at a Kentucky airport.
Biffle said the right main landing gear failed and the wing hit the runway as his plane came to a stop at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.
ěMy pilots are purely heroes for maintaining control of the aircraft (and) keeping (it) on the runway,î he posted on his Twitter page. ěIf not it wouldnít have been the same outcome.î
Biffle characterized the incident as a ěsmall plane accident.î
NBA
MILWAUKEE ó The NBA is consulting with an independent neurologist and may establish a league-wide policy for handling concussions by next season.
The move would bring the NBA more in line with both the NHL and the NFL. In just the last four weeks, six NBA players have missed games because of concussions or concussion-like symptoms.
ATLANTA ó Kobe Bryant scored 26 points to pass Moses Malone for sixth place on the NBA’s career scoring list.
Bryant, the 13-time All-Star, began the night 12 points from matching Malone’s 27,409 points. He passed Malone when he made three free throws with 2:05 remaining in the first half of the Lakers’ 101-87 win against the Atlanta Hawks.
DENVER ó Two weeks after Carmelo Anthony punched his ticket out of town, Nuggets coach George Karl signed his own long-term extension to stay in Denver.
Karl is 1,023-698 in 23 NBA seasons for a .594 winning percentage.
PORTLAND, Ore.ó The Portland Trail Blazers and coach Nate McMillan agreed to a two-year contract extension. McMillan, in his sixth season as coach of the Blazers, has a 235-239 record with the team.
TENNIS
NEW YORK ó Serena Williams still has blood clots in her lungs but hopes to return to tennis this summer after recovering from a pulmonary embolism, which she called the “scariest moment in my life.”
The 13-time Grand Slam champion spoke on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday from Los Angeles, saying she hasn’t left her house much since going to the hospital nearly three weeks ago.
“I had a lot of swelling in my leg, which really is a telltale sign of an embolism, and I could not breathe,” Williams said.
NFL
WASHINGTON ó Players’ union leader DeMaurice Smith indicated Wednesday that NFL owners have lowered from $1 billion to $800 million the amount of additional revenues they want to take off the top of their $9 billion business.
He also was clear he considers the lower figure still too high, because the league is not offering to turn over enough financial information.
Leaving the 14th day of mediated talks ó and with the labor contract set to expire Friday ó Smith called the information the NFL proposed to provide “utterly meaningless.”
COLLEGE HOOPS
NEW YORK ó Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Wednesday that he will not “pursue any further action” concerning the NCAA’s sanctions against him and his program for recruiting violations.
Calhoun was cited for failure to create an atmosphere of compliance within the program.
UConn was spared a postseason ban, but received three years’ probation, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.
NEW YORK ó Barry Rohrssen has been fired as the basketball coach at Manhattan College after five seasons that saw the Jaspers go 58-95.

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