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Thursday, June 11, 1998

Agassi, Courier named quarterfinals

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Even in defeat, Andre Agassi showed U.S.
team captain Tom Gullikson why he deserves a spot in the
Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Agassi suffered his first Davis Cup loss since 1990 in the
first round in April, ending a 16-match winning streak that
tied the American record set by Bill Tilden from 1920-26.
But he didn't sulk, whine or throw his racket.

``He was obviously disappointed he didn't play better, but
he wasn't there really to keep the streak going or to break
the record. He was there to help our team win, which he
did,'' Gullikson said Wednesday, announcing Agassi, Jim
Courier, Todd Martin and Richey Reneberg will represent the
United States in the quarterfinals against Belgium next
month at the Indianapolis Tennis Center.

It's the same quartet that survived the loss by Agassi and
beat Russia 3-2 in the first round.

``I am delighted,'' Gullikson said. ``They are all very
committed to the team. In Davis Cup, that's the most
important thing, to have a passion for the team thing.
Agassi, after getting bounced, was out on the court 10
minutes later cheering for Courier. That's the kind of team
spirit you need.''

It's also why Gullikson isn't fretting over the failure to
get top-ranked Pete Sampras for the U.S. team.

``I want to play the guys who want to be there,'' Gullikson
said. ``I did talk to Pete about playing and thought it
would fit into his schedule, but I guess he felt he needed a
break after Wimbledon and he declined the invitation. So
I've got to concentrate on the guys who are committed to
Davis Cup.''

In April, Agassi lost to Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
Courier lost 10 of his first 11 games against Marat Safin in
the fifth and deciding match, but rallied to an 0-6, 6-4,
4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win to save the United States from
elimination. Earlier, Kafelnikov beat Courier and Agassi
beat Safin in singles, and Martin and Reneberg beat
Kafelnikov and Safin in doubles.

Belgium also beat the Netherlands 3-2. The United States and
Belgium have met twice before, with the Americans winning
4-1 in 1953 and 3-2 in 1957.

The quarterfinal matches will played July 17-19 on the hard
courts of the 8,461-seat Indianapolis Tennis Center, home of
the RCA Championships in August. The winner will play either
Italy or Zimbabwe on Sept. 25-27 in the semifinals at a site
to be determined.

It's likely the same American quartet would play in
succeeding rounds, even if Sampras has a change of heart,
Gullikson said.

``We want to be loyal to the guys who have been loyal to us
first. If they're not available, we'll look elsewhere. Pete
has his own personal goals and program. Unfortunately, it
didn't include the Davis Cup. I'm not going to beg these
guys to play.''

Gullikson said the hard surface at Indianapolis should favor
the Americans, who have won a U.S. record 17 straight
home-country matches in Davis Cup play.

``Our American players grow up on hard courts,'' he said.
``They play most of their tennis on hard courts now, whereas
the European players grow up playing pretty much on the red
clay during the summer and indoors during the winter. So our
game is more suited for taking the ball on the rise and
hitting very aggressive shots that get rewarded.

``On clay, it's a slower bounce, the movement is a lot
different. So we're well suited for hard courts. It fits our
personality as a country a little bit.''

The Belgian team is led by Filip Dewulf, who reached the
quarterfinals at the French Open after the Davis Cup victory
over the powerful Dutch team.

Gullikson has watched all the Belgians ``and got a few
scouting notes'' but hasn't talked to his players
specifically about their next opponents.

``Whoever you play, you need to respect what they've done,''
Gullikson said. ``With Russia, we knew what we were up
against. With Belgium, they've got some fine players, but we
haven't played against them much, so it's a little more of
an unknown matchup. We'll be ready for whatever happens, but
mainly we have to take care of our own preparation and be
fit, because it's going to be hot there in Indy.''

Wednesday's Sports Transactions

By The Associated Press


American League
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS-Assigned 3B Jared Sandberg and C-INF
Paul Hoover to Hudson Valley of the New York-Penn League, SS
Nestor Perez to Princeton of the Appalachian League, and
3B-C Troy Salinas and SS Jack Joffrion to Charleston, S.C.
of the South Atlantic League.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS-Designated RHP Erik Hanson for assignment.
Recalled RHP Luis Andujar from Syracuse of the International

National League

ATLANTA BRAVES--Signed RHP Rodney Dickinson.

MONTREAL EXPOS--Placed LHP Trey Moore on the 15-day disabled
list, retroactive to June 7.

NEW YORK METS--Traded INF Shawn Gilbert and a player to be
named to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF Wayne Kirby.
Designated OF Rich Becker for assignment.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS--Placed 2B Jeff Kent on the 15-day
disabled list. Purchased the contract of INF Jeff Ball from
Fresno of the PCL.


National Football League

CAROLINA PANTHERS--Agreed to terms with TE Wesley Walls on a
contract extension through the 2001 season. Signed DL Chuck

DENVER BRONCOS--Signed RB Curtis Alexander. Placed LB Chris
Gizzi on the reserve-military list for the 1998 season.

DETROIT LIONS--Signed TE David Sloan and OT Larry Tharpe to
one-year contracts.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS--Re-signed S Chris Hudson.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS--Re-signed DE Chris Mims to a one-year
contract. Agreed to terms with CB Charles Dimry and TE Rod


National Hockey League

FLORIDA PANTHERS--Signed D Curtis Doell.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS--Signed G Mike Valley.

Bulls close to another celebration
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) -- One win from another NBA championship. One
victory, perhaps, from the end of a dynasty.

The cigars and chilled champagne are ready; the downtown
rally has been planned; the city that embraces them is ready
to party.

The Chicago Bulls know how to celebrate. They've had plenty
of experience this decade. The sixth title, though, could be
the most memorable of all because it might be the last.

``I don't want to think about it right now. I'll think about
it Friday night when it's over,'' Bulls coach Phil Jackson
said. ``But right now we're hoping this is our final game in
the season.''

The Bulls are ready to send the Utah Jazz home without the
championship they have been seeking for so many years.

Chicago, behind the scoring of Michael Jordan, the brilliant
all-around play of Scottie Pippen and the defense,
rebounding and clutch free-throw shooting -- yes, free-throw
shooting -- of wrestler wannabe Dennis Rodman has a 3-1 lead
in the NBA Finals.

The Bulls beat the Jazz 86-82 Wednesday night in Game 4 as
the Jazz again failed in the closing minutes. Game 5 is
Friday at the United Center.

``They have to beat us three in a row to win this series,
and we know that's a pretty difficult task for any team,''
Jackson said.

``The other thing is that we want to win it on Friday as
they want to win desperately on Friday.''

Utah needs a victory to take the series back to Salt Lake.
But the Jazz faltered in the closing minutes of Game 4 just
as they did in Game 2 when they lost home-court advantage.
In between, they were blown out by 42 points.

``You come out, you work hard your whole career to be in
this position to be in the finals,'' said Karl Malone, who
managed just two points in the fourth quarter Wednesday
night as he battled Rodman.

``Maybe, I need to try a little harder, maybe I need to do
different things, but you can't start second-guessing
yourself right now. The only thing I can do now and what we
can do as a team is just get ready to play on Friday.''

With less than a minute to play, Rodman -- who skipped a
practice and headed to a wrestling show Monday -- wrestled
Malone for a rebound.

It was the game's defining play.

The two locked arms going for the ball that Rodman tipped
with his loose hand.

Malone got the foul. Rodman got two free throws and made
them both to put Chicago up by four. Just better than a 50
percent shooter this season from the line, The Worm was
5-of-6 in the final quarter. He also had 14 rebounds.

And Pippen, who might unseat teammate Jordan as Chicago's
MVP in the final series, continued to disrupt the Jazz with
his defense, doubling and foiling the screen-and roll.

John Stockton, who scored 24 points in Utah's Game 1
victory, has managed just 18 in the last three games,
including seven -- with 13 assists -- Wednesday night.

``I'm catching Stockton where he's not able to see the whole
court,'' Pippen said of his Olympic Dream Team teammate.

``I have good size, good wing span. So he has to respect my
quickness of being able to attack him. It's about finding
the right person out there that can make me pay for coming
and having the double teams.''

So far, the Jazz have not been able to do that. And there
are other factors making their assignment even more

No team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a title.
And the Bulls haven't lost at home in the finals since 1993.

``It's not a good situation to be in,'' Stockton said. ``We
have one game to play, and if we win, it's a different
situation. We go home for two games and anything can happen.
One win can change the whole complexion of things.''

Pippen, unhappy with team management all season, was asked
if his performance had made the Bulls' uniform more
comfortable for him.

``I'm just trying to get through one more game. And that's
it. And then I can stick it (the uniform) in my trunk,'' he

Jordan, who had 34 points to 28 for Pippen, said the world
won't know for a while if this is the final running of the
Bulls, even if they clinch Friday night.

``I understand Scottie wants to take his uniform and put it
in the trunk,'' Jordan said.

``I want to take my uniform and put it in the trunk, too --
they give out new ones next year -- whenever or whatever.

``I just want to end this season. And believe me, when it's
finished we're due a celebration. The job isn't done yet.''
NOTES: The Jazz reached 54 points -- their infamous total
from Sunday night's record-setting loss -- when Howard
Eisley made a free throw with 38.4 seconds left in the
third. ... Pippen made his first four 3-pointers and
finished 5-for-10. ... Adam Keefe started at center for Utah
as coach Jerry Sloan tried another shakeup. Greg Ostertag
started Game 3 after Greg Foster started Games 1 and 2.
Keefe had six points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

Tom Hicks owns the Rangers now. Will Don Smiley own the
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) -- Baseball's owners made Tom Hicks one of
their own by a 30-0 vote.

Will Florida Marlins team president Don Smiley follow Hicks,
new owner of the Texas Rangers, into the fold?

``Don Smiley and I have been talking on a daily basis,''
interim commissioner Bud Selig said after the owners'
quarterly meeting ended Wednesday night.

``They were not ready to bring anything to this group. But I
would not read anything into that. Don has been out working
putting his group together and putting deals together.''

Smiley, seeking to come up with Wayne Huizenga's $169
million asking price to buy the Marlins' franchise, was at
Wednesday's meeting, where the owners approved Hicks'
purchase of the Rangers.

Smiley met with reporters, but refused to say anything on
the record when quizzed about his so-called financial

Amid reports that Smiley's bid is in jeopardy because he
might not be able to come up with enough money to buy the
franchise, the owners pulled the Marlins' proposed sale off
their agenda Monday -- without an explanation. Then they
shortened what was supposed to be a three-day meeting to

``I'm hopeful and I'm optimistic,'' Selig said of the
Marlins' sale to Smiley. ``It's terribly important for us to
put a group together down there. I think that will serve as
a way we solve the stadium problem and all the other
problems in South Florida.

``Hopefully, we will have something in the very near

The owners' next meeting will be in Milwaukee on Sept.

After the Marlins won the World Series with a $53 million
payroll in October, Huizenga tore apart his franchise. His
payroll is down to $16 million, and his team, at 19-45, has
the worst record in the majors.

``What happened in South Florida is a microcosm of
baseball's economic problems,'' Selig said. ``I think Don
Smiley understands it well, as does Wayne. What we need to
do is get a stable ownership group in place and then they
need to turn their directions directly into getting a new

Huizenga is trying to distance himself from the Marlins to
improve the chances for a taxpayer-financed stadium.

In Hicks, 52, the Rangers got their fifth owner since the
franchise moved to Arlington from Washington, where they
were the Senators, for the 1972 season.

Bob Short, Brad Corbett and Eddie Chiles owned the Rangers
before Gov. George W. Bush and Rusty Rose purchased
controlling interest in the Rangers from Chiles in 1989.

The Bush-Rose group paid $89 million for the Texas team.
Hicks is paying $250 million -- the second-highest price for
a baseball franchise in history -- to add the Rangers to his
sports portfolio that includes the Dallas Stars of the NHL.

Hicks, a 1968 graduate of University of Texas, owns more
than 400 radio stations in 100 markets in the United States.

In the Rangers, he takes over a team with the fifth-highest
payroll in baseball at $55 million. Not surprisingly, Texas
has a three-game lead over Anaheim in the AL West.

``I don't think there will be a dramatic increase in our
player payroll,'' said Tom Schieffer, who will remain as the
Rangers' president. ``We're already among the highest
payroll teams.

``So I don't think you'll see a marked difference in that in
the future. But I would expect for us to remain in that area
at the top of the payroll.''

Hicks was unable to be at the Seattle meeting because he was
in New York on business. He was scheduled to appear at a
news conference in Arlington today.

Baseball's effort to shorten its games this season
apparently is working. AL games are down an average of seven
minutes to 2:53, while NL games are down five minutes to
2:41, Selig said.

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