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Sports briefs for June 12, 2013

By BDN Staff and Wire Reports, Special to the BDN

NASCAR driver Leffler killed in N.J. race crash

The NASCAR world is mourning the death of driver Jason Leffler, who was killed Wednesday night in a crash in a dirt car event at the 5/8-mile, high-banked Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway oval.

Leffler, 37, was a two-time winner on the Nationwide Series. He was pronounced dead at 9:02 p.m., according to New Jersey State Police.

“NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening,” NASCAR said in a statement. “For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”

According to various media reports, Leffler was driving a sprint car at the speedway’s “Night of Wings,” when it flipped on the track’s front stretch. He was extracted from the wreck by rescue personnel and airlifted from the track in a helicopter.

The rest of the night’s racing was canceled by track promoters.

Leffler made 73 starts in the Sprint Cup Series. On Sunday, he finished last at Pocono in his only Sprint Cup start of the year.

Leffler is survived by Charlie Dean, his 5-year-old son.

“Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family,” NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said on Twitter. “Thinking about his little boy.”

MLB suspends Kontos, Bochy for actions vs. Pirates

San Francisco Giants pitcher George Kontos will still have to serve a three-game suspension, even though he was optioned to Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday.

Kontos will have to serve the suspension and pay an undisclosed fine when he is brought back to the major league club. The penalty is for intentionally throwing at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game at PNC Park.

Both teams had been issued a warning about throwing at each other earlier in the game by umpires.

Joe Garagiola, Jr., Senior Vice President of Standards & On-Field Operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement.

Kontos can appeal the penalty.

Also, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was suspended for Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh for Kontos’ intentional actions even after the umpires’ warning was issued.

Penguins extend coach Bylsma’s contract

The Pittsburgh Penguins quieted speculation about the future of coach Dan Bylsma with a two-year contract extension through the 2015-16 season, the team announced Wednesday.

There were some rumblings about possible moves after the Penguins were swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals, but general manager Ray Shero said he plans to move forward with the current coaching staff.

The contracts of assistants Tony Grarnato and Todd Reirden also were extended.

“When I came here seven years ago, one of the things I wanted to establish was tradition of being a playoff team year in and year out,” Shero said. “I think we’ve been able to establish something special here. I believe we have a great coach in Dan Bylsma. I believe he is our coach moving forward.”

Shero also announced at a news conference that goaltending coach Gilles Meloche would be taking a new job as a special assignment scout. Meloche had served as the goalie coach for seven years.

Disney’s ESPN to close U.S. 3D cable TV network this year

Walt Disney Co’s TV sports network, ESPN, said it will shut its 3D cable channel in the United States, ending a three-year experiment after sports fans failed to embrace the technology in their homes.

ESPN launched the 3D cable channel in 2010 and will close the channel by the end of the year, said ESPN spokeswoman Katina Arnold. It presented 3D broadcasts of college football games and the Masters golf tournament, among other offerings.

Despite declining costs for 3D televisions and widespread use of 3D in movies, consumers have not rushed to bring the technology into their homes.

ESPN 3D was commanding monthly fees on average of $2.79 per subscriber from cable and satellite operators this year, among the highest for a cable channel, according to research firm SNL Kagan. Pay TV providers also pay $5.54 on average for the flagship ESPN network.

The network was carried by major operators such as DirecTV , Time Warner Cable Inc and Comcast Corp in various programming packages.

“They were just too early,” SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine said. “This technology is not ready for prime time.”

Nets eye Kidd; Shaw still in mix

The Brooklyn Nets are down to two candidates to fill their head coaching vacancy, according to reports.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that former NBA player Jason Kidd is set to become the team’s coach and that a deal is expected to be finalized this week.

However, Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw interviewed on Wednesday, a session that lasted nearly five hours. Shaw is also in the running for the Los Angeles Clippers’ opening.

The Nets are expected to name a coach this week.

Kidd retired as a player earlier this month after one season with the New York Knicks. During seven of his 19 seasons in the NBA, Kidd played point guard for the then-New Jersey Nets.

The 40-year-old Kidd has emerged as a popular choice for the job despite his lack of coaching experience. Shaw, meanwhile, has worked as an NBA assistant for eight years after retiring as a player.

Grizzlies to talk with Pinckney

Chicago Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney has received permission to speak with the Memphis Grizzlies about their head coaching position, reported Wednesday.

Pinckney, 50, has received raves for his work with coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. The former Villanova and NBA player also has worked as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves for two seasons.

Other candidates on the Grizzlies’ radar include former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, Grizzlies assistant coach Dave Joerger and Indiana Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw, who is also a candidate for openings with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Grizzlies announced Monday that they will not offer coach Lionel Hollins a new contract for next season after he led Memphis to the Western Conference finals. Hollins is among the candidates for the Clippers’ and Nuggets’ vacancies.

USA Today also reported that the Grizzlies received permission to interview Nets executive Milton Lee for a front-office position. Memphis general manager Chris Wallace is a candidate for the same job with the Sacramento Kings.

Former Syracuse assistant Fine pursues suit against ESPN

Former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine has filed a $11 million defamation lawsuit against ESPN, according to a report. reported that the suit removes the ESPN reporter and producer who collaborated on the story that led to Fine’s dismissal at Syracuse in November 2011. The new legal action also no longer includes the parent Walt Disney Company and the Heart Corporation. ESPN is now the only defendant in the suit

ESPN’s attorneys have brought the case to federal court due to the fact that the company is based in Connecticut and Fine filed the lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court.

Fine was alleged to have sexually molested former Syracuse ball boy Bobby Davis and his stepbrother Mike Lang while they around the basketball program as children. Charges were dropped against Fine after it was learned the stories were made up.

A court hearing is scheduled for July 18.

Fine moved to Florida after he was let go at Syracuse and hasn’t spoken publicly about the case.

Spurs top scorer Parker day-to-day with hamstring strain

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio point guard Tony Parker has a mild hamstring strain but remains hopeful of playing in Thursday’s Game Four of the NBA Finals.

Parker, the Spurs’ leading scorer in the playoffs, was listed as a day-to-day prospect after an MRI scan revealed a grade 1 strain in his right hamstring.

“The good news is it’s not a tear. It’s not a defect. So that’s the good news. Now I just have to see how I’m going to feel tomorrow,” he said.

“If it was the regular season I would definitely have rest. I would not play. And same thing here, it’s an injury, and so we’ll see. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

The 31-year-old, 11-season veteran went to the locker room late in the third quarter of San Antonio’s blowout win on Tuesday to have his hamstring examined.

He returned briefly in the fourth quarter before coming out of the game with San Antonio cruising to a 113-77 victory to lead the top-seeded Miami 2-1 in the best-of-seven Finals.

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