Spurs coach Greg Popovich sent home four of the team's top players before Thursday's night's game against the Heat in Miami. Popovich acknowledged the decision was so that the players could rest as the team played its sixth road game in nine nights (and fourth in five).

It didn't sit well with NBA commissioner David Stern.

"I apologize to all NBA fans," Stern said in a statement. "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."

Forbes magazine released its annual list of NHL team values, and it shows that the Maple Leafs are the first hockey team to break the $1 billion mark. The Bruins check in at No. 5, worth $348 million. The list also demonstrates hockey's inequality, as the top five teams (Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens, Blackhawks and Bruins) are valued at an average of $605 million, while the five least valuable (Hurricanes, Islanders, Blue Jackets, Coyotes and Blues) are worth an average of $145 million.

Following the ACC's announcement Wednesday morning that it would add Louisville as a 14th member, the University of Connecticut again finds itself on the outside looking in. Seven schools, including Boston College, have departed the Big East for the ACC since 2005, but UConn continues to get passed over.

Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien guided Penn State to an 8-4 record in his first season at the helm of the Nittany Lions, no small feat given the school's troubles related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Now there are rumors that O'Brien has other opportunities -- college and pro -- should he want to jump ship while the program serves three more years of NCAA punishment that includes reduced scholarships and a bowl ban. O'Brien, who has eight more years left on his contract, said Tuesday he's not going anywhere.

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who three weeks ago was positive the Jets would rally and make the playoffs, was not as confident on Monday, as his team returned to practice following the 49-19 embarrassment vs. the Patriots on Thanksgiving night that dropped New York to 4-7.

"I don't even know what I believe right now, the way we've been playing," he said. "We've still got five games left. Anything can happen. My biggest focus right now is this one important game. I can't worry about the playoffs right now."

"Fireman Ed" Anzalone, the diehard Jets fan who leads the J-E-T-S chants from his seat at MetLife Stadium, announced Sunday that he will no longer be a cheerleader for the team. Anzalone, in a guest column for New York Metro, explained that he left Thursday's 49-19 embarrassment against the Patriots before halftime not because it was a rout but because of confrontations with fellow Jets fans that have grown more frequent.

Wrote Anzalone:

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was suspended two games last year for stomping on the arm of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith in a Thanksgiving Day game, might face disciplinary action again this year after his foot landed in the midsection of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub during Detroit's overtime loss Thursday.

On a first-quarter play, Suh was on the ground after being taken down by an offensive lineman when he extended his left foot and it landed below Schaub's belt.

Boston will have a team in the new eight-team women's professional soccer league that was announced Wednesday. The league, set to begin play in the spring, will feature national team players from the United States, Canada and Mexico, with those countries' federations paying the salaries.

The U.S. has agreed to fund up to 24 players -- three per team. Canada will pay the salaries of 16 players, and  Mexico will pay 12.

Nets forward Reggie Evans became the first NBA player to be fined by the league for flopping when he was hit with a $5,000 penalty Wednesday. Evans picked up his second flopping violation of the season during Tuesday night's 95-90 loss to the Lakers. His first one came against the Celtics last Thursday in Brooklyn's 102-97 victory.

Tweeted Evans: Feel like the FEDS looking at the Boi. #iaintlyin!!!!!!!!!!!!

I moan about traffic on Route 20 leading to Route 128 on my way to Gillette Stadium every morning.

I know I complain to my daughters about it being pitch black at 4:20 p.m. driving them to swimming practice in mid-November.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

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