Monday’s Sports in Brief

PRO BASKETBALL

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) Third time was the charm for James Harden.

The Houston Rockets star was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player after twice being runner-up, beating out four-time winner LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Pelicans at the NBA Awards.

Harden joined Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and 1.7 steals in a season.

He led the league in scoring, 3-pointers and 50-point games with four while helping the Rockets to an NBA-leading 65 wins.

James didn’t attend the show in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport amid frenzied speculation about his future. He has until Friday to tell the Cavaliers if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or opt for free agency.

Harden, who is from Los Angeles, led his mother on stage before he accepted the trophy from Commissioner Adam Silver.

Dwane Casey won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for his work with his former team, the Toronto Raptors. He was fired last month and has since become coach of the Detroit Pistons.

Casey led the Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time in franchise history. Toronto won a team-record 59 games. Casey coached the East in the All-Star Game for the first time.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) – Oscar Robertson commends the off-court activism of today’s NBA players, although the Hall of Famer wonders why more white athletes aren’t speaking out, too.

Robertson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from presenters Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the NBA Awards.

Robertson is the career leader in triple-doubles and was the first player to average one for a season. His antitrust case against the NBA also ushered in free agency for players, which Robertson said was his most important assist.

The 79-year-old former guard who starred at Crispus Attucks High in Indianapolis and in college at Cincinnati before going to the NBA said it’s time for players to speak out about politics and education, among other issues.

”But the only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?” he said backstage. ”This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around you.”

COLLEGE BASEBALL

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Game 1 of the College World Series finals between Arkansas and Oregon State was postponed until Tuesday night because of rain – just the latest in a line of delays caused by the weather this year.

”In my 16 years of being involved with this championship, this has been the most challenging College World Series as it relates to inclement weather,” NCAA director of championships and alliances Randy Buhr said.

Rain fell most of the day, and officials announced late in the afternoon that the game would be delayed. The decision to postpone came 90 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.

Arkansas (47-19) will start Blaine Knight (13-0) against Luke Heimlich (16-2) of Oregon State (53-11-1) on Tuesday.

COLLEGE SPORTS

CHICAGO (AP) – A federal appeals court has backed an NCAA rule requiring most football players who transfer schools to sit out a year.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower-court finding that NCAA transfer rules don’t violate U.S. antitrust laws.

Monday’s decision was in a lawsuit brought by a former punter for Northern Illinois University, Peter Deppe. The ruling focuses on a requirement that most Division I football players who transfer to another school must sit out a year.

Deppe’s lawyers argued the Indianapolis-based NCAA enforces the rule primarily to ensure transfers don’t hurt the quality of the football and thereby cut into lucrative revenues. They say that makes it an unreasonable restraint on trade.

But the 7th Circuit rejected that. Its unanimous opinion accepted the NCAA’s concern that easy player transfers would undermine ”the amateur character of college athletics.”

A statement from the NCAA welcomed the ruling, saying it was consistent with prior court rulings that recognize ”the NCAA’s ability to preserve college sports.”

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – UConn President Susan Herbst told Kevin Ollie she was upholding his firing because the former men’s basketball coach had a pattern of breaking NCAA rules and committed serious violations, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The school released the June 19 letter from Herbst to Ollie on Monday in response to open records requests from the AP and other news organizations.

Ollie has asserted that the violations which led to his firing in March were minimal and isolated.

Herbst denies that idea in the letter, writing that ”eventually even a series of `isolated’ or `de mimimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men’s Basketball program under your leadership.”

TENNIS

LONDON (AP) – Rafael Nadal is back at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, retaking the top spot from Roger Federer after just one week.

Monday’s new order is the sixth change of the year at No. 1, the most since there were eight in 1999.

The record is 10 switches at No. 1 in 1983.

Federer still is expected to be seeded No. 1 for Wimbledon, where he won his record eighth championship a year ago. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament’s seedings are scheduled to be announced Wednesday. Play begins next week.

Nadal holds a 50-point edge over Federer in the rankings and will hold onto No. 1 for at least the next three weeks.

Novak Djokovic rose five spots to No. 17 after reaching the final at Queen’s Club last week.

Borna Coric climbed 13 places to a career-best No. 21 thanks to his title at Halle, Germany, where he upset Federer in Sunday’s final.