Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2000

Low takes over Rangers, Messier back with team

NEW YORK -- Ron Low knows it won't be easy to get the New York Rangers back in the playoffs. Anything less, however, is not good enough.

Low signed a multiyear contract Wednesday to coach the Rangers, an Original Six franchise that has been out of the postseason for three straight seasons. That failure will not be tolerated under the Rangers' new regime.

''It's not acceptable for this team not to make the playoffs,'' said general manager Glen Sather, who left the Edmonton Oilers last month to take over the Rangers.

Sather didn't wait long to make more news. The Rangers called a news conference for Thursday morning to announce the signing of Mark Messier, the captain of their 1994 Stanley Cup team.

The Rangers haven't been to the playoffs since Messier, their former captain, left as a free agent in 1997.

Messier, who led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994, was also a five-time champion with the Oilers. He won four Cups with Sather as coach and another under John Muckler, Low's New York predecessor.

After serving six years as an assistant with the Oilers, Low took over as head coach in April 1995 -- working under Sather. He quit last year when his contract expired and he wouldn't re-sign for the same salary.

''I thought I deserved a raise for getting a hockey club into the playoffs and knocking off heavily favored opponents twice in a row,'' Low said.

McEnroe turns to himself for semifinal

NEW YORK -- With Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras injured, U.S. Davis Cup captain John McEnroe knew which player to turn to for the team's semifinal against Spain: himself.

McEnroe's name was among the four he announced Wednesday for the best-of-five series at Santander, Spain, July 21-23. The 41-year-old U.S. captain said he'd limit himself to doubles, ''no question. You can bet your life savings.''

Agassi strained his back in a minor car accident this weekend, while Sampras was hobbled by a shin injured while winning Wimbledon.

''We've lost two of the best players that ever played. This certainly has not turned out the way I had it planned out in my mind,'' McEnroe said, putting his team's chances of beating Spain at 10 to 20 percent.

Agassi and Sampras are ranked third and fourth in the ATP Champions race.

Todd Martin, Jan-Michael Gambill and Chris Woodruff fill out the U.S. roster. None of them are in the top 25.

Abdur-Rahim selected for spot on Olympic team

NEW YORK -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim of the Vancouver Grizzlies has been selected for the final spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team, replacing the injured Grant Hill.

The USA Basketball selection committee made the decision Tuesday, and Abdur-Rahim's agent confirmed Wednesday that the star forward will accept the spot. Kobe Bryant of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers was the early choice to replace Hill, but his wedding plans kept him for making the commitment.

Hill broke his left ankle in April.

The U.S. team begins training camp in late August, and the Sydney Games will run from mid-September to Oct. 1.

Abdur-Rahim was a unanimous choice, a member of the selection committee told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Abdur-Rahim got the news while at home in Atlanta.

''He feels a sense of recognition. He's extremely happy,'' said agent Aaron Goodwin, whose client plays for one of the NBA's worst teams in one of its smallest markets.

Abdur-Rahim's selection came as a bit of a surprise, but only in part because Bryant and Charlotte's Eddie Jones were mentioned as the most likely replacement for Hill.

The committee, however, decided to go with a bigger player to fill the void at small forward.

''We thought that if they went small, it would be Kobe or Eddie,'' Goodwin said, ''and if they went big, it would be Shareef or Antonio McDyess (of Denver).''

Abdur-Rahim, 23, averaged 20.3 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Grizzlies last season, his fourth in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 former California star can play either forward position for the Olympic team, backing up bigmen Alonzo Mourning, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Vin Baker.

The rest of the U.S. team includes Jason Kidd, Tim Hardaway, Steve Smith, Allan Houston, Gary Payton, Ray Allen and Vince Carter.

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