Bryant tops All-Star voting
Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant led all players in votes in earning a record 15th successive NBA All-Star selection, the NBA said on Thursday. The league announced the starters for this year’s mid-season exhibition and said Bryant received 1,591,437 votes to edge Miami’s LeBron James (1,583,646). Bryant had been tied with Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal for the most consecutive All-Star nods. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul is to be Bryant’s partner at the guard position in the Western Conference starting lineup. Paul, with 929,155 votes, beat out Houston’s Jeremy Lin (883,809) for the spot. Paul’s teammate Blake Griffin, the Lakers’ Dwight Howard and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant — the reigning All-Star Game Most Valuable Player — round out the West’s frontcourt. In addition to James, the Eastern Conference’s frontcourt features New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Boston’s Kevin Garnett. The guards are Miami’s Dwyane Wade and the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo. The 62nd NBA All-Star Game is being played in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 17.
Loeb extends his lead
Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb won two of Thursday’s eight stages to extend his overall lead on the second day of the Monte Carlo Rally. Loeb, competing in one of only four races the Frenchman is contesting this season after going into semi-retirement, has won six of the past seven Monte Carlo Rallies and looks set for another triumph. The Citroen driver leads countryman Sebastien Ogier, who won the first stage of the day, by 1 minute, 34.8 seconds — adding nearly 15 seconds to his overnight lead over Ogier, who is also driving a Citroen. “It’s incredible how much snow there was today,” Loeb said. “You really had to ensure you kept the car steady on a steady line.” Spaniard Daniel Sordo climbed from fourth place overall to third in his Citroen, but is 2:38 behind Loeb. Loeb will not secure a 10th straight world title as he plans to race only in Sweden, Argentina and France this year after Monte Carlo. Evgeny Novikov of Russia won two stages in his Ford to move up from sixth overall to fourth.
Jacksonville hire Bradley
The Jacksonville Jaguars appointed Gus Bradley as their new head coach on Thursday. Bradley, who has been the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, takes over from Mike Mularkey, sacked last week by new Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell after a disastrous 2-14 season. “I am very proud to accept the offer to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Bradley said in a statement. The Seahawks had the tightest defense in the NFL this season under Bradley, allowing just 15.3 points per game.
Cardinals hire Arians
The Arizona Cardinals have installed Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as their new head coach, the NFL Web site reported on Thursday. Arians helped guide the Colts to the playoffs this season, stepping in as interim head coach for 12 games (9-3) when Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. Arians has reportedly signed on a four-year deal, with an option for a fifth, to replace Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after the Cardinals finished bottom of the NFC West division with a 5-11 record. The 60-year-old has followed Whisenhunt into a job before, doing so as offensive coordinator at the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be his first official NFL head-coaching role.