Sports Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

NBA approves realignment plan

NEW YORK The NBA's board of governors approved a realignment plan Monday that creates three divisions of five teams each in the Eastern and Western conferences.

The expansion Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA's 30th team, were placed in the Eastern Conference and the New Orleans Hornets were moved to the Western Conference. The Hornets previously played in Charlotte before moving to New Orleans two seasons ago.

Joining the new Charlotte franchise in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference will be Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and Washington. The Central Division will have Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana and Milwaukee. Atlantic Division teams will be Boston, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Toronto.

New Orleans will play in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference with Dallas, Houston, Memphis and San Antonio. The Northwest Division will have Denver, Minnesota, Portland, Seattle and Utah. The Pacific Division teams are Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix and Sacramento.

Kasten out as president of Braves, Hawks

ATLANTA Stan Kasten left his job Monday as president of Atlanta's Braves, Hawks and Thrashers amid the decision by corporate owner Time Warner to sell the teams.

Kasten said he might offer to return to management of the Hawks and Thrashers once a pending deal was approved. He said he decided to leave now because of major changes going on within the teams' organizations, including likely payroll cuts by the Braves.

''It was the whole package of things all at once. I just felt this was a real convenient time for me to make this move,'' he said.

A group led by Boston businessman Steve Belkin reached a deal in September to purchase the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena for $250 million. The deal is expected to be approved within the next month.

Meanwhile, the sale of the Braves has been put on the backburner by Time Warner.

Belkin said he welcomed Kasten's availability.

''Clearly he would be a serious candidate because of his experience and knowledge. This frees us up to at least talk about it,'' Belkin said Monday.

Yankees asked to consider opening season in Japan

NEW YORK Hideki Matsui may be going back to Japan next season and taking the rest of the New York Yankees with him.

The baseball commissioner's office asked the American League champions on Monday to consider moving their 2004 season opener to Japan, where the outfielder won three Most Valuable Player awards with the Yomiuri Giants.

While no public announcement was made, the talks were confirmed by two baseball officials who spoke on the condition they not be identified.

The Yankees received a letter Monday from Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, asking them to consider shifting games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to Japan, one of the officials said.

Vikings player arrested on DWI

EDINA, Minn. Minnesota Vikings rookie defensive tackle Kevin Williams was arrested on a drunken driving charge, police said Monday.

The Vikings' first-round choice in the 2003 draft was arrested by Edina police around midnight Thursday.

Police said he registered 0.14 percent on a blood-alcohol test and was issued a tab charge for fourth-degree driving while intoxicated. Minnesota's legal limit is 0.10 percent.

On a tab charge, a driver is normally given a ticket and a court date and released to a sober adult without going to jail, police said.

Coach Mike Tice said Williams informed him of the situation but wouldn't comment further.

Williams, drafted ninth overall out of Oklahoma State, is second on the team with 5 1/2 sacks.

''He's a player that's gotten better each and every week, and that's exciting to see,'' Tice said. ''I think it was a great draft pick. ... He's a pleasure to be around, and we're really lucky to have him.''

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