Jayson Williams's trial for Feb. 18 was called off yesterday when an appeals court in Newark, N.J., agreed to consider dismissing manslaughter charges against the former NBA star.

An appellate panel is to hear arguments March 12 in Trenton from his lawyers and the prosecutor's office. The ruling was filed yesterday, without elaboration, by two appellate judges.

Williams's lawyers, Joseph Hayden Jr. and Billy Martin, said they were pleased the court accepted the appeal.

Steven Lember, first assistant prosecutor, said, "We prevailed in the trial court below and every defendant has a right to appeal any trial court decision."

Williams's lawyers contend the office's grand jury presentation was flawed and the grand jury never should have been told Williams exercised his right to remain silent after a limousine driver was shot to death at his mansion last Feb. 14.

They also accuse prosecutors of introducing rumors connecting Williams to organized crime while leaving out evidence that he was distraught after the shooting and tried to help the victim.

The grand jury indicted Williams on a more serious manslaughter charge than the one he originally faced, tripling the maximum sentence.

Baseball

Rose Case Drags On

The chances of Pete Rose being reinstated to baseball in time to help the Cincinnati Reds open their new stadium March 31 are dwindling.

Multiple baseball sources told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Commissioner Bud Selig's review of the all-time hits leader's application for reinstatement will take longer than initially expected, largely because of Rose's recent tax woes and reports that he was recently seen gambling in Las Vegas.

Hockey

Vaananen Hit by Car

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Ossi Vaananen was hit by a car while waiting for a taxi in Florida last weekend and will be out four to six weeks with a knee injury.

Vaananen was in Sunrise, Fla., for the NHL's all-star weekend. He was struck by an elderly driver outside the arena after playing in the YoungStars game.

He spent a night in a Miami-area hospital, returned to Phoenix on Sunday and had an MRI exam Monday. The MRI found a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. . . .

Colorado Avalanche forward Dan Hinote injured his head and leg in a car accident in Boston and is expected to miss at least two games.

Football

Elam Stays With Denver

Jason Elam agreed to a five-year contract that will keep the best kicker in Denver Broncos' history with the team for five more years. The 32-year-old Elam, a three-time Pro Bowl player, was set to become a free agent March 1. . . .

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was dropped from the list of candidates for the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching vacancy.

Media

Good Rating for Women

The No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between Duke and Connecticut was the most-watched regular season women's basketball game ever on one of ESPN's networks.

ESPN2 had a 1.45 rating for Saturday night's game, which was watched by an average of 1,226,000 households. It was the highest rating since ESPN's telecast of Tennessee and Louisiana Tech on Dec. 14, 1982, got a 1.7 rating. ESPN was available in considerably fewer households then, accounting for the smaller audience.

The telecast was ESPN2's third most-watched college basketball game ever, including the postseason and men's action. The top two most-viewed college basketball games both involved men's games between Duke and North Carolina.

Soccer

Manchester United Wins

Manchester United beat Birmingham City, 1-0, reducing Arsenal's lead in the English Premiership to three points. Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored his eighth goal in as many games in the 56th minute to give United its sixth straight victory.

Locally

Redskins Have Plans

The Redskins plan to initiate a pregame and postgame party venue at FedEx Field for the 2003 season. Called "The TailGate Club," the team expects to provide a private tent location for up to approximately 4,000 fans. Memberships, which include a $499 initiation fee and "peak" at $450 for the season, are available to general admission and season ticket holders. Included is entry to the stadium's club level and other lounges.

More than 1.2 million households tuned in to see Diana Taurasi, U-Conn. extend streak Saturday.