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Wedding bells ring for Graf, Agassi

Tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf were married Monday in Las Vegas.

The couple exchanged vows in a small, private ceremony before District Judge Michael Cherry, said Todd Wilson, spokesman for Agassi Enterprises.

"We are so blessed to be married and starting this chapter of our lives," the couple said in a statement. "The privacy and intimacy of our ceremony was beautiful and reflective of all we value."

The wedding could not be immediately confirmed by the judge's office or the Clark County Marriage Bureau.

A Clark County clerk's office spokeswoman said it takes the office about three days to record a marriage license.

It is not known where the wedding took place or if the couple plans to go on a honeymoon.

"They want to keep all that private," Wilson said.

The couple, who live in Las Vegas, are expecting their first child -- a boy -- in December.

Agassi, 31, and Graf, 32, began dating after each won their side of the French Open in 1999.

Agassi was previously married to actress Brooke Shields. It is Graf's first marriage.

In September, Agassi told the Associated Press that while the couple definitely planned to marry, a wedding was on hold until after their son was born.

Heat beefs up backcourt by signing Strickland

The Miami Heat have added trouble-prone point guard Rod Strickland to their thin backcourt.

Strickland wasn't with the team Monday night in Minneapolis for a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Heat coach Pat Riley said Strickland worked out Monday in Miami and would stay there until the Heat's season opener Oct. 31 against the Toronto Raptors.

According to published reports in the Miami area, Strickland signed a one-year contract worth $1 million. His agent, Leon Rose, did not return a telephone call from the AP on Monday night.

Since Tim Hardaway signed with the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason and Anthony Carter is sidelined indefinitely with a lower abdominal strain, a veteran like the 6-foot-3 Strickland is a valuable addition. Also, shooting guard Eddie Jones has yet to play in the preseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.

"It's an intriguing move for us," Riley said.

Strickland, 35, finished last season with the Portland Trail Blazers.

In other NBA news, contrary to what Michael Jordan believes, NBA commissioner David Stern says he's very enthusiastic about No. 23's return to the league.

"Michael is going to be great this season. The concern everyone has is his ability to take the strain and the grind of an 82-game NBA season, because the NBA season is a very difficult season," Stern said Monday in his annual preseason conference call with reporters.

Jordan said over the summer that he felt Stern was only lukewarm to the idea of a comeback, believing it would undo some of the progress the league has made toward turning the public's interest toward its new generation of stars.

On the court Monday, Jordan finished with 17 points in 28 minutes -- well short of the 41 points he scored Saturday against the New Jersey Nets, in a 91-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in State College, Pa.

Also, The Denver Nuggets acquired Scott Williams and a future first-round draft choice from Milwaukee in a three-team trade with Houston on Monday night.

The Nuggets sent center Aleksandar Radojevic and Kevin Willis to Milwaukee. Willis was then traded to Houston in exchange for the Rockets' second-round draft pick in 2002.

Earnhardt keeps win but crew chief fined

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets to keep his victory in the EA Sports 500 at Talladega, but crew chief Tony Eury Sr. was fined $25,000 Monday by NASCAR for a rule violation.

The team's No. 8 Chevrolet was found to be 1/8 -inch lower than the minimum height of 51 inches during a routine postrace inspection Sunday. Several crew chiefs said the variance would have made virtually no difference in the car's on-track performance.

The discrepancy was announced several hours after the race and long after Earnhardt and the most of his team had left the Alabama track.

NASCAR said it never considered stripping Earnhardt of his victory and giving it to second-place finisher Tony Stewart.

"That has never happened in Winston Cup racing," Jim Hunter, vice president of corporate communications for NASCAR, said Monday. "The philosophy is when people leave the race on Sunday night they need to know who won."

Earnhardt's team had no comment Monday.

NASCAR also fined Larry Carter, crew chief for Todd Bodine's No. 66 Ford, $10,000 and placed him on probation until the end of the season for storming into the pit of Kevin Harvick.

In a related story, NASCAR will take a closer look at rules designed to make racing safer at Talladega and Daytona after angry drivers complained conditions at those tracks are actually more dangerous.

Drivers and crew chiefs stormed the NASCAR hauler Sunday following the EA Sports 500, which was marred by a wild 16-car wreck on the last lap in which Bobby Labonte's car ended up on its roof.

None of the drivers was injured in Sunday's wreck, but many of those involved -- and some who weren't -- complained bitterly to NASCAR about the rules.

The rules at Talladega and Daytona require the use of carburetor restrictor plates that limit horsepower to keep cars under 200 mph, presumably creating safer racing. But the power-sapping plates also cause cars to bunch up, which can lead to more crashes.

Women's hockey team pulls out of tourney

The U.S. women's national hockey team pulled out of a major pre-Olympic competition in Finland next month, citing security concerns.

The decision to withdraw from the only foreign event on the team's upcoming schedule was made following a team meeting in which players were split on whether or not they wanted to go, team officials said.

The father of forward Kathleen Kauth is missing and presumed among the dead from the World Trade Center attacks.

"She hasn't missed anything and is holding up well," said Larry Reid, the women's team manager. "She has the support of her family, which is her team."

The women's team, a favorite to win its second straight Olympic gold medal, was to have traveled to Finland Nov. 3-10, to play in the Four Nations Cup. The team had two games each scheduled with Canada, Finland and Sweden.

Orchard Park golf takes ECIC team title

The Orchard Park golf team, led by Matt Thomas' 35, ran away with the ECIC Team Championships on Monday at Springville CC. The Quakers' seven-man team averaged 38.6 to beat runner-up Williamsville East by 30 strokes. For the season the team averaged 38.4.

"I've never heard of a golf team with those kind of numbers," said coach Jerry Wahlenmayer. "This is a very special group."

Thomas' win was no surprise. In 12 ECIC matches this season, he had seven rounds under par, four at even-par and one at over-par. He lowered his school record of 37.0 from last year to 35.0. At last week's ECIC Championships, the Quakers qualified seven golfers for the sectionals in May.

Around & About

Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga is in fourth place after the fourth round of the PWBA Hammer Players Tournament in Rockford, Ill. Johnson has a total pinfall of 7,091. Janette Piesczynski, also of Cheektowaga, is in 21st place at 6,611. Michelle Feldman of Skaneateles is in first place at 7,523.

For the third consecutive week and fourth time in five weeks, St. Bonaventure freshman Jay Lindell (Southwestern) has earned Atlantic 10 Conference Golf Rookie of the Week honors. During the fall season, Lindell led the Bonnies in scoring at 73.9.

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