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    === News Summaries from The Sports Network - Wednesday, December 24 ===
 
 
                    === Cavs' Varejao has torn Achilles ===
 
 Cleveland,  OH  (SportsNetwork.com)  -  Cleveland  Cavaliers  center  Anderson
 Varejao  will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn left
 Achilles tendon during Tuesday's game against Minnesota, the team revealed
 Wednesday.
 
 Varejao  collapsed under the basket while going for a rebound during the third
 quarter of Cleveland's 125-104 win and had to be helped off the court.
 
 The 32-year-old averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2014-15. This
 will  be  the fourth time in  the last five  seasons that Varejao will miss at
 least 50 games.
 
 With  an already thin frontcourt, the injury should put Cleveland in the trade
 market for another big man.
 
 Tristan Thompson will most likely replace Varejao in the starting lineup.
 
 
              === Durant listed as out for Christmas Day game ===
 
 San  Antonio, TX  (SportsNetwork.com) - The Oklahoma City Thunder list forward
 Kevin  Durant as  out for  the Christmas  Day game  against the  Spurs in  San
 Antonio.
 
 Durant  will  sit out his  fourth consecutive contest  due to a sprained right
 ankle  he  suffered last Thursday when  stepping on the foot of Golden State's
 Marreese Speights.
 
 In  nine games this season, the reigning NBA MVP is averaging 22.4 points, 5.0
 rebounds, and 3.6 assists.
 
 Oklahoma  City heads into Thursday's game with a 13-16 mark. Durant missed the
 first 17 games this season recovering from foot surgery.
 
 
                === Report: Josh Smith signing with Rockets ===
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Former Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith said Wednesday
 that  he  will sign  with the  Houston Rockets,  according to  a report by the
 Houston Chronicle.
 
 The  Pistons waived Smith on Monday, less than two years into a four-year, $54
 million  contract. According  to the  Chronicle, the  Rockets are  expected to
 announce  the signing either Thursday or Friday, once they are able to clear a
 roster spot.
 
 Smith  averaged 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds this season for the 5-23 Pistons,
 who hold the league's third-worst record.
 
 The 29-year-old will once again play with Dwight Howard, who is one of Smith's
 closest friends and a former AAU teammate.
 
 The  Pistons  acquired Smith as a  free agent after the 2012-13 season. During
 his time with Detroit, Smith averaged 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
 
 For  his career,  Smith  has averages  for  15.4 points  and  7.8 rebounds  in
 781 games with the Atlanta Hawks and Pistons.
 
 
               === Rockets award McHale three-year extension ===
 
 Houston,  TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets have agreed to a three-
 year  extension with head coach Kevin McHale that will run through the 2017-18
 season.
 
 Rockets  general  manager Daryl  Morey relayed the  news via Twitter Wednesday
 morning, with the Rockets confirming the agreement shortly afterward.
 
 "Very  excited about  Coach McHale's  extension,"  Morey tweeted.  "He is  the
 winningest   coach  in  Rockets  history  and  knows  what  it  takes  to  win
 championships."
 
 Though  the Rockets did not reveal financial terms of the new contract, Yahoo!
 Sports reported the pact to be worth close to $13 million.
 
 McHale was in the final season of the original four-year deal the Hall of Fame
 player signed to become Houston's head coach in June of 2011.
 
 The  57-year-old's long-term  status with  the organization  had been  unclear
 entering  this season,  with the  Rockets  losing in  the first  round of  the
 playoffs  in each of the previous two years. However, Houston got off to a 9-1
 start  and ranks  among the Western Conference's top teams with a 20-7 overall
 record.
 
 McHale  owns  a 153-104 record in  his three-plus seasons with the Rockets and
 guided  the team  to a  54-win campaign  in 2013-14,  the franchise's  largest
 victory  total  since 2007-08. His  .595 winning  percentage is the highest in
 club history.
 
 "Kevin  is an  integral part of the Rockets family," said Rockets owner Leslie
 Alexander.  "He embodies  the leadership,  passion, knowledge,  and team-first
 qualities  we  need  as  we  continue our  pursuit  of  bringing  another  NBA
 Championship to the City of Houston and Rockets fans all over the world."
 
 A  three-time  NBA  champion,  McHale previously  spent  two  separate  stints
 as   the  Minnesota   Timberwolves'  head  coach,  compiling  a  39-55  record
 with  that franchise.
 
 
                   === Pistons obtain Tolliver from Suns ===
 
 Auburn  Hills, MI  (SportsNetwork.com)  - The  Detroit  Pistons have  acquired
 veteran  forward  Anthony Tolliver  from the  Phoenix Suns  in a 1-for-1 trade
 announced by both teams on Wednesday.
 
 The Suns will receive second-year forward Tony Mitchell in the swap.
 
 Tolliver's acquisition comes one day after the struggling Pistons surprisingly
 waived forward Josh Smith, the team's second-leading scorer, with nearly three
 years remaining on his contract.
 
 The 29-year-old Tolliver's strength is his perimeter shooting, having made 102
 shots  from  3-point range in 247  attempts (41.3 percent) with Charlotte last
 season. He averaged 6.1 points over 64 games with the then-Bobcats in 2013-14,
 but has seen just 11.3 minutes per game of playing time over 24 contests since
 signing with the Suns in the offseason.
 
 Tolliver  averaged  3.3 points, 1.8  rebounds and made  38.7 percent of his 3-
 point tries during his brief time with Phoenix.
 
 Mitchell  was a  second-round  pick  (37th overall)  of  Detroit  in 2013  and
 appeared  in  21 games  with the  Pistons as  a rookie,  scoring 22 points and
 grabbing 26 rebounds.
 
 The  22-year-old North Texas product did not play for Detroit this season, but
 averaged  8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in six games for Grand Rapids of the NBA
 Development League.
 
 
                  === Pitt to hire Narduzzi as head coach ===
 
 Pittsburgh,  PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat
 Narduzzi  will  reportedly become  the new head  football coach at Pittsburgh,
 with the university to make an official announcement on Friday.
 
 The Panthers have scheduled a press conference for Friday at 3:30 p.m. (et) to
 confirm  Narduzzi's hire,  with ESPN.com  confirming through  sources that  an
 agreement  between the  highly regarded Spartans assistant and the school took
 place on Wednesday.
 
 Narduzzi  takes  over  a  position  vacated by  Paul  Chryst,  who  was  named
 Wisconsin's   head  coach  last  week  following  Gary  Andersen's  surprising
 departure for Oregon State.
 
 The  48-year-old Narduzzi  constructed one of the nation's top defenses during
 his  eight-year tenure  at Michigan State, and was named the 2013 recipient of
 the Broyles Award honoring college football's best assistant coach.
 
 Michigan State has ranked in the top 10 of the FBS ranks in both total defense
 and  rushing  defense in  each of  the last four  seasons. The Spartans' 293.5
 total  yards  allowed in  2014  is  the  seventh-best  mark in  major  college
 football, and they finished sixth overall in rushing defense (97.5 ypg).
 
 Narduzzi  will  be Pitt's fourth head  coach since 2010 and inherits a program
 that  has gone  6-6 in the regular season  in each of the last four years. The
 Panthers  are currently  preparing  for the  Jan. 2  Armed  Forces Bowl,  with
 offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph to serve as interim head coach for the game.
 
 This will be the first head coaching job for Narduzzi, who had previously been
 the  defensive  coordinator at  Rhode Island  (1998-99), Miami-Ohio (2003) and
 Cincinnati  (2004-06) before joining then-Bearcats sideline boss Mark Dantonio
 at Michigan State.
 
 
           === Nussmeier named new Florida offensive coordinator ===
 
 Gainesville,  FL  (SportsNetwork.com) -  Former Michigan offensive coordinator
 Doug  Nussmeier has  accepted  the  same position  with  Florida, the  Gators'
 athletic department announced Wednesday.
 
 It's the first major hire made by new Gators head coach Jim McElwain, who left
 Colorado State earlier this month to replace the fired Will Muschamp.
 
 Nussmeier,  who  supplanted McElwain  as Alabama's offensive coordinator after
 the  latter was  named Colorado State's head coach in December of 2011, became
 available   when  Michigan  dismissed  Brady  Hoke  at  the  conclusion  of  a
 disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2014.
 
 The   onetime   NFL  quarterback  and   1993  Walter  Payton  Award  recipient
 previously worked with McElwain on John  L. Smith's  staff  at Michigan  State
 from  2003-05. Nussmeier  was the  Spartans' quarterbacks  coach and  McElwain
 an assistant head coach in charge of wide receivers.
 
 "Doug  and  I have worked  together on  the same staff  and I've known him for
 years,"  McElwain  said. "We  are like thinkers  in that he  will adapt to the
 players we have in the program and develop them as we continue to evolve."
 
 Nussmeier  had a  successful run  upon taking  over for  McElwain at  Alabama,
 with  the Crimson Tide establishing school records for points scored (542) and
 total  offense  while winning  the  2012  BCS national  championship.  Alabama
 ranked seventh   nationally  in  pass  efficiency  the  following  season,  in
 which  quarterback A.J.  McCarron finished  as the  runner-up for  the Heisman
 Trophy.
 
 His  offense  at Michigan didn't  produce the  same success, however, with the
 Wolverines averaging a modest 20.9 points per game and ranking 110th in FBS in
 passing yards.
 
 Nussmeier  also replaced  McElwain as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in
 2008  following the new  Gators head coach's move to Alabama. He was there one
 year  before joining Steve Sarkisian's staff as the OC at Washington, where he
 spent three seasons and helped the Huskies to a pair of bowl games.
 
 "I'm excited to reunite with Coach Mac -- we obviously have a long history and
 share  similar  philosophies," Nussmeier said.  "I'm honored to join The Gator
 Nation  and work  for one  of  the most  storied  programs in  all of  college
 football."
 
 Nussmeier  passed  for 10,824 yards during  his collegiate career at Idaho and
 played five seasons in the NFL with New Orleans and Indianapolis from 1994-98.
 
 
                === Sharks enforcer Scott suspended 4 games ===
 
 New  York,  NY (SportsNetwork.com)  - San  Jose Sharks  forward John Scott has
 been  suspended four  games  by the  National Hockey  League  for his  actions
 during a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
 
 Scott  swung  his right arm  at Ducks forward  Tim Jackman, catching him flush
 in  the face with his  glove and the butt end of his stick at the 8:18 mark of
 the second period.
 
 As  a repeat offender, Scott's $34,146.36 fine was based on his average annual
 salary, which automatically goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
 
 He  will not be eligible to return until Jan. 5, when the Sharks play the Jets
 in Winnipeg.
 
 
                === Stricker recovering from back surgery ===
 
 (SportsNetwork.com) - Steve Stricker, who has battled a balky back for several
 years, had outpatient back surgery on Tuesday and is home recovering.
 
 The  surgery  was to  "relieve  issues  stemming  from  acute and  chronic  L5
 radiculopathy' according to a statement on PGATour.com.
 
 Stricker,  a 12-time  PGA Tour winner, has played just 24 official events over
 the  past two seasons. That was by design so he could spend more time with his
 family.
 
 He skipped the FedExCup playoffs due to the bulging disc in his back.
 
 Stricker  returned to  play  in Tiger  Woods's Hero  World  Challenge and  the
 Franklin  Templeton Shootout.  After playing  those two  events, doctors  told
 Stricker  that he  would continue  to have  hip and  quad pain  if he  did not
 undergo the surgery.
 
 The  47-year-old will  rest and rehab his  back over the next six weeks. After
 that  time,  Stricker will be able  to begin practicing and doctors expect all
 restrictions will be lifted after eight weeks.
 
 "I'm  very excited to  get back to practicing and competing in 2015 and expect
 to  be 100  percent physically, which really excites me," said Stricker, whose
 last  win was  at the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "I've been limited
 the  last several  years and  I'm  confident the  procedure will  allow me  to
 perform at the level I expect from myself.
 
 "I  don't have a  target date for a return to the PGA Tour at this point, that
 will very much depend on how my body responds to the surgery and rehab."
 
 Prior  to  scaling back  his schedule  the last two  years, Stricker had eight
 victories  from 2009-12.  He finished inside the top-20 on the FedExCup points
 standings each year from 2007-14.
 
 
                     === Bengals' Green misses practice ===
 
 Cincinnati,  OH (SportsNetwork.com)  - Cincinnati  Bengals wide  receiver A.J.
 Green  did  not participate in  practice Wednesday  due to bruised biceps, but
 he's hoping to play in Sunday's big game in Pittsburgh.
 
 The  primetime  contest at Heinz Field  will determine the AFC North champion,
 although both the Bengals and Steelers are already assured of playoff spots.
 
 "I  think  A.J. Green's arm is  coming along fine," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
 said. Lewis added that Green has a shot at playing Sunday night.
 
 Green  had a career-best  224 receiving yards on 11 catches and a touchdown in
 Cincinnati's 42-21 loss to the Steelers on Dec. 7.
 
 Lewis  also revealed  quarterback Andy Dalton didn't practice Wednesday due to
 the  flu. Tight  end Jermaine  Gresham, safety  Reggie Nelson,  and cornerback
 Terence Newman also didn't practice due to illness.
 
 
                       === Manziel formally put on IR ===
 
 Berea,  OH  (SportsNetwork.com) -  The Cleveland  Browns have officially ended
 Johnny  Manziel's  rookie season by  placing the rookie quarterback on injured
 reserve Wednesday.
 
 Browns  head  coach Mike  Pettine had  already stated  during his Monday press
 conference  that Manziel would miss Sunday's season finale at Baltimore with a
 hamstring  injury the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner sustained in Cleveland's Week
 16 loss to Carolina.
 
 Manziel  wasn't able to meet expectations in his NFL debut, as the first-round
 pick  was beaten out  by journeyman Brian Hoyer in the preseason and served as
 the  backup  for the  Browns' first  13 games. He  got his  chance to start in
 Cleveland's  game  against Cincinnati on Dec.  14, but managed just 80 passing
 yards and was intercepted two times in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals.
 
 The  former Texas A&M star was 3-for-8 for 32 yards before exiting late in the
 first half of Sunday's 17-13 setback to the Browns.
 
 Hoyer replaced Manziel but hurt his throwing shoulder during the Carolina game
 and did not take part in Wednesday's practice. His status for Sunday's contest
 remains uncertain.
 
 If  Hoyer  cannot play, either newly  signed Tyler Thigpen or undrafted rookie
 Connor  Shaw  would draw  the starting assignment  at quarterback. Thigpen was
 just  signed  by the Browns  on Tuesday, while Shaw  is currently still on the
 team's practice squad.
 
 Nose  tackle  Ishmaa'ily Kitchen  was also  put on  IR Wednesday  due to a leg
 injury,  while fellow defensive lineman John Hughes was activated from injured
 reserve/designated to return.
 
 Hughes  has  been sidelined since spraining  his right knee against Oakland in
 Week  8. The third-year pro had 10 tackles in four games (two starts) prior to
 the injury.
 
 
          === Rivers, Kirkpatrick, Bullock earn AFC weekly honors ===
 
 New  York, NY  (SportsNetwork.com)  - San  Diego  Chargers quarterback  Philip
 Rivers, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Houston kicker Randy
 Bullock were selected as the AFC's top players for Week 16 of the NFL season.
 
 Rivers  earned the  offensive award for the  sixth time in his career with 356
 yards  passing  and four touchdowns in  San Diego's 38-35 overtime win against
 San  Francisco. He  helped the Chargers overcome a 21-point deficit, tying for
 the largest comeback in franchise history.
 
 Kirkpatrick  claimed the  defensive honor, helping Cincinnati secure a playoff
 spot  with two  interceptions of Denver's Peyton Manning in the Bengals' 37-28
 win  over  the Broncos  on Monday. He  picked off Manning  on each of Denver's
 final  two  drives, returning the first  interception 30 yards for a touchdown
 while the second came with just over a minute left to seal the victory.
 
 Bullock converted each of his six field goal tries in Houston's 25-13 win over
 Baltimore to nab the special teams award. The victory kept the Texans alive in
 the AFC playoff race.
 
 Other  offensive nominees  included Dolphins  quarterback Ryan  Tannehill, who
 completed  35-of-47  passes for 396 yards  with four touchdowns in a 37-35 win
 over  Minnesota; Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill, who rushed for 147 yards
 with a touchdown against the Broncos; and Houston's Arian Foster, who compiled
 119 scrimmage yards and threw a touchdown pass in the win over the Ravens.
 
 Defensive  consideration  went to  Jacksonville  linebacker  Khalil Mack,  who
 recorded  15  tackles in a 21-13  win over Tennessee; and Houston's J.J. Watt,
 who notched eight tackles and a sack against Baltimore.
 
 Miami's  Terrence  Fede was up  for the special  teams award after his blocked
 punt resulted in a safety and the winning points against the Vikings.
 
 
          === Wilson, Matthews, Bosher claim NFC's best of Week 16 ===
 
 New  York,  NY  (SportsNetwork.com)  - Seattle  Seahawks  quarterback  Russell
 Wilson,  Green  Bay Packers  linebacker Clay Matthews  and Atlanta punter Matt
 Bosher were chosen as the NFC's top players for Week 16 of the NFL season.
 
 Wilson  was the  top offensive player for  the second time this season and the
 fourth  time in his career, leading the Seahawks to a 35-6 win at Arizona that
 has the defending Super Bowl champions in position for the top seed in the NFC
 playoffs. He threw for 339 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 88 yards with
 a  score, leading  a Seahawks  offense that  generated a  franchise-record 596
 total yards.
 
 Matthews  claimed the  defensive  award for  the fourth  time  in his  career,
 helping  the Packers  claim a  playoff spot  in a  20-3 win  at Tampa  Bay. He
 notched  six tackles,  four of  which  resulted in  losses, and  2 1/2  sacks,
 leading  a  Green Bay  defense that  limited the Buccaneers  to just 109 total
 yards.
 
 Bosher picked up the special teams honor after four of his five punts finished
 inside  the  20-yard line in  Atlanta's 30-14 win  at New Orleans. He averaged
 44.2  yards  per punt  and the Falcons  allowed zero punt  return yards in the
 dominating victory that has them a win away from the NFC South title.
 
 Other  offensive nominees  included Eagles  tight end  Zach Ertz,  who had  15
 catches  for  115 yards  in a  loss to Washington;  San Francisco running back
 Frank  Gore, who had 158 rushing yards with a touchdown in an overtime loss to
 San Diego; and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 18-of-20 passes for
 218 yards with four touchdowns in a 42-7 romp over Indianapolis.
 
 Defensive  consideration  went to Giants  defensive end  Kerry Wynn, who had a
 sack,  an interception,  a fumble recovery and three tackles in a victory over
 St.  Louis; and  Washington  linebacker Ryan  Kerrigan, who  had  a sack,  six
 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the win over the Eagles.
 
 Redskins  kicker Kai  Forbath was considered for the special teams award after
 his  26-yard field  goal with five seconds  to play gave Washington a win over
 the Eagles.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 12/25 00:36:04 ET

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