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National Sports Briefs

Associated Press
Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh and his career in the foot.
It doesnít have to be a fatal wound.
The former Super Bowl star walked out of prison Monday after serving nearly two years behind bars on a weapons charge. Heís ready to put his life back together and shouldnít be denied a chance at redemption in the NFL, having served an extremely harsh penalty ó too harsh in my view ó for carrying an unlicensed gun into a nightclub in 2008.
Talk about a fall from grace. Nine months before the shooting, Burress was the toast of New York after he predicted an upset over the undefeated New England Patriots, then backed up his bravado by hauling in the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the Giantsí stunning 17-14 win.
But as Michael Vick proved, Burressí time away from the game could turn out to be a blip in his career. He says he worked out four times a week in that New York state prison, and he sure looked in game shape when he emerged through a gate topped with barbed wire in a Phillies cap, black hoodie, shorts and sneakers, pulling a single suitcase.
NFL LABOR
MINNEAPOLIS ó As the labor battle between NFL owners and players moved from the bargaining table to the courtroom, judges at each stop have urged both sides to reach an agreement before they have to issue significant rulings.
The latest nudge in that direction came on Monday from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who scheduled a hearing on the owners’ motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit from a group of players for Sept. 12.
Coincidentally or not, Sept. 12 is four days after the regular season is set to open in Green Bay, and one day after the first Sunday of games for the 2011 season.
NBA
DALLAS ó As exciting as it is to watch Dirk Nowitzki make shot after shot in the NBA finals, the Dallas Mavericks donít want to keep doing that.
Nowitzki needs help ó from someone. Anyone.
The supporting cast that helped carry Nowitzki and the Mavericks into the NBA finals has shriveled under the pressure of this stage, the defense of the Miami Heat or a little of both.
The Mavs trail 2-1 going into Game 4 tonight mainly because they arenít scoring enough. Their average of 88.3 points per game is down 11.4 from the previous three rounds.
Nowitzki is contributing 28.3 points, almost exactly his postseason average coming in. The drop-off is everywhere else, especially among the three guys who are supposed to provide instant offense from the bench: Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic.
OAKLAND, Calif. ó Mark Jackson’s leadership skills as a player more than outweighed his lack of coaching experience when it came time for the Golden State Warriors to hire their coach.
The Warriors hired Jackson to replace Keith Smart on Monday, giving the former point guard and television analyst his first chance to be a head coach on the game’s biggest stage.
DETROIT ó John Kuester juggled his lineup, benched veterans and tried seemingly every combination he could think of to shake the Detroit Pistons out of their funk. When none of it worked, he lost his job.
The Pistons fired their embattled coach, four days after new owner Tom Gores completed an agreement to buy the team from Karen Davidson. Kuester, a former UNC guard, was 57-107 over two seasons with Detroit.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The Bowl Championship Series stripped Southern California of its 2004 title on Monday, leaving that season without a BCS champion.
The announcement was no surprise. BCS officials had said USC was in danger of having its championship vacated after the Trojans were hit with heavy NCAA sanctions last year for rules violations committed during the 2004 and ë05 seasons.
GOLF
MESA, Ariz. ó Hall of Famer Betsy King has qualified for U.S. Women’s Open, finishing second in a 36-hole sectional qualifier at Alta Mesa Golf Club.
The 55-year-old King, the 1989 and 1990 champion, had rounds of 73 and 71to finish a stroke behind amateur Kyung Kim (71-72). Amateur Margarita Ramos took the third and final spot in a playoff.
TENNIS
PARIS ó Rafael Nadal is gaining on Roger Federer. Quickly.
By winning four of the past five Grand Slam tournaments ó capped by a victory over Federer in the French Open final ó Nadal has raised his career haul to 10 major championships. That’s only six fewer than Federer’s proudly held record of 16.
“Ten Grand Slams is a lot,” Federer said. “He knows this. I know this. Everybody knows this.”
Seven men have won that many: Federer, Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Bjorn Borg (11), Rod Laver (11), Bill Tilden (10), and Nadal.
Of that group, only Borg was younger when he cradled his 10th Grand Slam trophy than Nadal.

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