Sports briefs for Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012

Posted Dec. 16, 2012, at 8:47 p.m.

NHL lawsuit assigned to former federal prosecutor

NEW YORK — The NHL’s lawsuit against its players was assigned to a relatively new federal judge who is a longtime New York Yankees fan and a former federal prosecutor.

The sides didn’t talk Sunday, the 92nd day of a lockout that is threatening to wipe out an entire NHL season for the second time in nine years. NHL players started voting on whether to have their union give up collective bargaining rights, a “disclaimer of interest” that could be a precursor to an antitrust suit.

The league argued in a 43-page suit Friday in federal court in Manhattan that the union’s actions were a bargaining maneuver and asked that the lockout be declared legal. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who joined the bench in July 2011.

The 51-year-old is a graduate of Horace Mann School, Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

He spent a year between college and graduate school as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he had two stints in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, rising to chief of the major crimes unit. He also worked in the Solicitor General’s office in Washington, D.C.

One of his more prominent cases occurred in 1999, when he led the prosecution of Lawrence X. Cusack III, convicted on 13 counts on mail and wire fraud stemming from the sale of forged documents claiming President John F. Kennedy paid hush money to keep secret an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Cusack was sentenced to 10 years, 3 months in prison and ordered to pay $7 million restitution.

Three Michigan players suspended for bowl game

Michigan suspended starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, punter Will Hagerup and senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne from the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against South Carolina for a violation of team rules.

The school announced the suspension Sunday but did not specify what team rules the players broke.

Floyd, a senior and two-year starter, ends his Michigan career with 179 tackles, 18 pass breakups and three interceptions.

Hawthorne mainly played on special teams but played some at linebacker last season. He had 63 tackles and one interception for the Wolverines.

Hagerup, a junior, averaged 45 yards per punt and was named the Big Ten’s punter of the year.

Bulls’ Rose ‘still a ways away’ from practice

CHICAGO — Returning just shy of nine months after surgery to repair torn anterior and lateral cruciate ligaments, Ricky Rubio had eight points and nine assists to help lift the Timberwolves to an overtime victory over the Mavericks on Saturday.

The performance also lifted hopes for Bulls fans waiting for Derrick Rose’s comeback.

“I don’t think it has really anything to do with Derrick because I think each guy is different and separate,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But I’m happy to see it for him. Ricky is a terrific player. And you hate to see anybody go down with that type of injury.

“Derrick is doing fine. We just have to be patient and let him keep doing the things he’s doing.”

Rose, who passed the seven-month mark Wednesday since his surgery May 12, has been cutting for weeks and continues to experience no setbacks. Thibodeau said Rose had participated in occasional walk-through portions of pre-practice teaching when players review plays.

“But he’s still a ways away from the actual practice,” Thibodeau said. “He has to do a lot of things off the court still.”

Dickey must agree to extension to complete trade to Jays

R.A. Dickey needs only to agree to a contract extension for the proposed seven-player trade between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays to be completed, FoxSports.com reported Sunday.

According to the report, Dickey has until 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday to reach an agreement on an extension to become a member of the Blue Jays.

Dickey is under contract for the 2013 season, but was seeking a two-year extension for an additional $26 million to $28 million over two years from the Mets before the proposed trade.

A tentative agreement has been reached that would send Dickey, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner, from the Mets to Toronto. Blue Jays catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud would be the centerpiece of the group of players coming to New York in the deal.

Besides Dickey, the Mets would also send catcher Josh Thole and a non-elite prospect to the Blue Jays, and the Mets would get d’Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and a non-elite prospect from the Blue Jays.Bargnani denies calling Raptors worst team in NBA

Toronto Raptors forward/center Andrea Bargnani denied that he told an Italian journalist that the Raptors are the worst team in the NBA.

Bargnani intimated to the Toronto Sun that he may take legal action.

“Nobody is satisfied. Not me, not (teammate) DeMar (DeRozan), not coach, nobody,” Bargnani said. “That was my sentence, (a) pretty good answer to a pretty stupid question. But I think it was an answer that makes a lot of sense.

“I’m not going to go over every single (word) that was in there; I just wanted to clarify for all you media guys that specific sentence. I’m going to have people look over it and take care of the other stuff, because I don’t think some people can afford to change my words like that, so I’m going to have people taking care of that.”

The reporter, Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport, said he recorded the interview.

Japanese team announces signing of Andruw Jones

The Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League formally announced the signing of free agent outfielder Andruw Jones on its website on Sunday.

Jones agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, which had been reported earlier.

Jones batted .197 with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs in 94 games this past season for the Yankees.

Jones, 35, won 10 straight Gold Gloves from 1998-2007 and is a five-time All-Star, but his statistics have diminished considerably over the past few seasons.

It’s unclear whether he plans to try to return to the Major Leagues after his one-year stint in Japan.

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