PAYTON JOINS HEAT: Once again, Gary Payton couldn't turn down Shaquille O'Neal. Payton signed a $1.1 million, one-year contract with the Miami Heat on Thursday — a move that begins a reunion with O'Neal, who lured him to the Los Angeles Lakers two seasons ago for what ultimately was a failed title run.
Now the duo is determined to get Payton — a nine-time All-Star entering his 16th NBA season — his first title.
"We want to win basketball games and not let our egos get in the way," said Payton, the latest big-name addition to join the Heat this offseason.
"Everybody on this team has, at one point, been a star or a starter or a bigger part of their team . . . We have to understand that we are talking about wins, not who is going to have the points."
Payton averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 assists for Boston last season, then became a free agent — and O'Neal said he was "the only guy in the world" that could help Payton win a title. Apparently, Payton agreed.
PROBATION RECOMMENDED: Community service and probation will be recommended for four Indiana Pacers players charged in a brawl with fans that broke out during a game last season, a prosecutor said Thursday, provided the players "take responsibility" by pleading guilty or no contest at pretrial hearings. Hearings for Ron Artest,Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson are scheduled for Friday in district court. David Harrison faces an Oct. 3 hearing.
NAILON TO SIXERS: Free-agent forward Lee Nailon agreed to terms with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Nailon, a 6-foot-9, 238-pounder, averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 68 games last season for the New Orleans Hornets.
The former TCU player has averaged 8.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in five seasons.
TCU PUNISHED: The NCAA placed Texas Christian's men's and women's track teams on probation for two years Thursday for violations by coaches that included taking a final exam for an athlete and giving others money to pay for moving expenses and taxes.
The NCAA said the violations happened between 1997-2004, when Monte Stratton was TCU's track coach. Stratton was fired last September after the NCAA and the school began investigating the program.
"The former head coach's purpose in providing these inducements and benefits was to gain an unfair competitive advantage," said Gene Marsh, chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.
"These impermissible activities were used to recruit, retain and ensure the eligibility of a significant number of world-class student-athletes."
Marsh said TCU fully cooperated with investigators and imposed meaningful sanctions, but the NCAA added three penalties Thursday. TCU's self-imposed sanctions include reducing its men's track scholarships by 20 percent to just more than 10 full scholarships for the next two years.
ROGGE: GUIDELINES NEEDED: IOC president Jacques Rogge says the quarreling over the doping allegations surrounding Lance Armstrong's 1999 Tour de France victory is hurting the fight against drugs.
In an interview with De Morgen to be published in today's editions, Rogge insisted it was not up to the seven-time Tour winner to prove his innocence.
Rogge said he would like the World Anti-Doping Agency to set up clear guidelines on the retroactive analysis of doping samples which would allow for independent research.
Last month, French sports paper L'Equipe published documentation allegedly showing six of Armstrong's frozen urine samples from 1999 contained endurance-boosting EPO when they were retested last year. Armstrong denied using banned drugs and said he was the victim of a "witch hunt."
Later, the International Cycling Union said it had not received enough information to make a judgment on the allegations and criticized L'Equipe. UCI and WADA then claimed that the other had leaked documents to L'Equipe, and two major sports organizations demanded the French laboratory involved in the testing be suspended.