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National Sports Briefs

Associated Press
SPARTA, Ky. ó Jimmie Johnson has won five consecutive championships, yet doesn’t always get the proper recognition ó both in NASCAR and across all professional sports ó for such a remarkable feat.
The same could be said about Dario Franchitti.
Franchitti moved a step closer to his fourth IndyCar title Sunday with a second-place run at Kentucky Speedway. He overcame a poor qualifying effort to lead a race-high 143 laps before losing a wheel-to-wheel race to the finish line with Ed Carpenter.
But the strong run, coupled with a pit-road accident that ruined Will Power’s day, sends Franchitti into the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas with an 18-point lead in the standings.
NBA
NEW YORK ó Owners and players are meeting on a “very huge day” in the NBA, with perhaps the fate of the league’s 82-game schedule at stake.
With both sides acknowledging they are nearly out of time to save the Nov. 1 opener, some level of progress seemed essential Tuesday by their full bargaining committees. The sides met first among themselves before the bargaining session started in the early afternoon.
Union president Derek Fisher said Monday that signs pointed to Tuesday being a “very huge day.” His teammate Kobe Bryant arrived Tuesday for the meetings, with Boston Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett among other players joining the union’s executive committee.
ROME ó Kobe Bryant’s representatives and Virtus Bologna are “working very intensely” to bring the Los Angeles Lakers’ star to Italy during the NBA lockout.
Bologna President Claudio Sabatini had told The Associated Press on Friday he had reached a tentative deal with agent Rob Pelinka for a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million.
WNBA
MINNEAPOLIS ó For the first time in WNBA finals history, both teams have women calling the shots as head coaches.
Cheryl Reeve led the Minnesota Lynx to a league-best 27-7 record in the regular season, and Marynell Meadors has guided the Atlanta Dream to two straight finals appearances.
The Lynx lead the best-of-five series 1-0 heading into Game 2 tonight.
MORE BUCKEYE TROUBLES
COLUMBUS, Ohio ó Ohio State is in trouble with the NCAA again, this time because three Buckeyes players ó including two who have already been sitting out for taking cash and free tattoos ó accepted too much money for too little work in their summer jobs.
Last year’s leading rusher, Daniel Herron, and the top returning receiver, DeVier Posey, along with offensive lineman Marcus Hall will not be permitted to play when the Buckeyes visit No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday.
Athletic Director Gene Smith insisted there was no “systemic” problem at Ohio State, which has admitted to having several players involved in NCAA violations over the past 10 months.
SIDNEY CROSBY UPDATE
PITTSBURGH ó Pittsburgh Penguins All-Star Sidney Crosby’s return to the ice will have to wait a little longer. The team placed the former MVP on the injured list, meaning he’ll have to miss at least the first week of the season.
Crosby is continuing to recover from concussion-like symptoms sustained last January. He has been skating with the team since training camp opened but has not yet been cleared for contact.
The Penguins open the season on Thursday at Vancouver.
Under the rules, the earliest Crosby could be activated is Oct. 13, when Pittsburgh hosts Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
SURFING A PREP SPORT
HONOLULU ó Hawaii will soon become the first state in the nation to call surfing an official high school sport.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state education officials said that riding the waves will join the likes of football, basketball, volleyball and swimming as a state-sanctioned prep sport in public schools, starting as early as spring 2013.
The Aloha State is known for its world-class surf breaks and competitions. It is home to many pro surfers and has produced several world champions including Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, who this summer became the youngest world champion at 18.

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