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National briefs: NBA labor meetings to continue Saturday

November 4, 2011

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— NBA players and owners will start negotiating again Saturday, and the union’s leaders say they’re unified as they seek to resolve the lockout.

President Derek Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter and executive committee members said after meeting for about three hours Thursday that there was no truth to reports of a rift among them.

Hunter said they spent no more than 10-15 minutes total on a conference call earlier this week and during Thursday’s gathering discussing the reports.

Owners and players haven’t met since talks to end the lockout broke off last Friday. Hunter said federal mediator George Cohen contacted him earlier this week about possibly rejoining the negotiations. Cohen probably won’t be involved Saturday, but the conversation led to Hunter calling Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday about resuming talks.

Hunter said union leaders had spent the last several days cautioning players that the two sides were still far apart on several system issues, so completing a deal was not as simple as a compromise on the revenue split.

Djokovic, Roddick advance

Basel, Switzerland — Novak Djokovic cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Lukasz Kubot of Poland in the second round at the Swiss Indoors on Thursday.

The top-ranked Serb needed just 55 minutes to defeat Kubot, a 64th-ranked qualifier.

Seventh-seeded Andy Roddick recovered from losing the opening set to beat Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Roddick next plays Roger Federer, a four-time champion at his hometown event, in a meeting of the remaining seeded players to reach the last eight.

BoSox, Cubs to talk to Maddux

Arlington, Texas — Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux has been given permission to interview for the manager openings with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Maddux has been in Texas for three seasons.

Free agents now available

New York — Baseball’s free-agent signing season began Thursday with Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Aramis Ramirez all available in a market far stronger on hitting than starting pitching.

C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda topped the list of free-agent starters, while Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Broxton were among the available closers.

With no new collective bargaining agreement, draft-pick compensation remained in force for top free agents ranked according to a statistical formula agreed to in 1981.

NCAA prez: No pay-for-play

Houston — NCAA President Mark Emmert says university leaders across the country are “adamant” about never allowing student-athletes to be paid for playing.

Emmert spoke Thursday to the Houston Economic Club, a week after the Division I Board of Directors approved a set of sweeping reforms. The move included an option to add $2,000 annually to scholarship offers.

Critics view the stipend as the first step toward eventually paying student-athletes to compete. Emmert said the money is simply meant to close the gap between a scholarship — which only covers tuition, room and board and books — and the “full cost of attendance,” which include other expenses incurred by athletes during the season.

Manning still hopes to return

Indianapolis — Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay agree on one thing: The Manning Era isn’t over in Indianapolis.

Manning said Thursday that he hopes to return to practice yet this year and still holds out hope of playing if doctors say he is finally healed from his Sept. 8 neck surgery. Irsay, the team owner, said he expects the four-time NFL MVP to play at least a few more years at a high level.

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