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Isha Johansen to stand for re-election as president of Sierra Leone's Football Association

(CNN)Sierra Leone's Football Association president Isha Johansen has announced she will stand for re-election despite admitting that her decision will "infuriate a lot of people."

Johansen is the only female football president in Africa and one of only two females to have ever held the role as president of a football association.
 
"It will spark up more conspiracy theories and even actions," she told CNN Sport's Alex Thomas.
 
 
"Knowing the environment as I know it now, and the kind of environments I've been trying to work under and rise above, anything is possible.
"The fact that I'm here, willing to take the bruises and the knocks for and behalf of my country, that's applaudable. It's about good governance and putting Sierra Leone on the map for the right reasons."

'Ebola, infighting and political interference'

The 52-year-old was elected as her football association's president in 2013 but her reign has been a difficult one.
A match-fixing inquiry into a World Cup qualifier between Sierra Leone and South Africa in 2008 is ongoing, with 11 officials and four players, all of whom have denied wrongdoing, having been suspended by the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) since 2014 pending investigation.
Moreover, two years of her term was dominated by the Ebola crisis as the deadly virus inflicted parts of west Africa, killing thousands and damaging the economies.
In Sierra Leone where, Johansen has said, football is "like a second religion" the sport was banned in an attempt to curtail the spread of the virus.
The last 12 months in particular have been personally challenging.
She spent the night in custody after failing to attend a hearing set up by the country's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in September 2016.
On 21 September, two days after this interview with CNN, she was charged with abuse of office and misuse of public funds by the ACC -- charges which she denies.
Last month, an interim court injunction -- subsequently overturned on August 31 -- temporarily stopped Johansen and three other executive committee members from running the country's football affairs until their legitimacy to govern had been proved.
Her mandate to govern expired on August 3 but no electoral congress has yet been held, with FIFA, world football's governing body, delaying the elections until integrity checks are carried out by a task force.
Johansen told CNN Sport: "It's taken a toll on my health, for sure, I'm actually here [in London] for my medical checks ... but at the end of the day, even though it's affected my health, it's made me stronger.
"It's difficult, it's challenging, but I'm very up for the task. It's been particularly difficult for my family, especially for my elderly parents.
"There have been some positives that I'm proud of in our Sierra Leone football development. Despite all the odds, the challenges -- the Ebola, the infighting, the political interference -- all of these have helped strengthen our cause and strengthen my resolve."
Until elections are conducted, FIFA has said it will recognize the leadership of the executives currently running SLFA.
In a statement, FIFA told CNN Sport: "We reaffirm our position for the need for integrity checks before the SLFA can proceed with its General Assembly.
"All current and potential SLFA members of the SLFA Executive Committee, including the president, must undergo integrity checks in line with the FIFA statutes and the FIFA government regulations.
"Until these integrity checks are done, we have no alternative but to continue with the current leadership and management of the SLFA in preparation of the General Assembly.
"Once all these requirements have been clarified, SLFA executives will be cleared for the election."
Johansen said she would be happy to stand for election tomorrow.
"I do hope that people would understand that it's not in an attempt to keep me in office for any longer time than is necessary," she added.
"It's because, after four years, it wouldn't serve anybody's good purpose, definitely not in the country's best interest, to continue in the same manner."

A controversial appointment?

FIFA's task force is comprised of representatives from FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the SLFA and the country's Ministry of Sports and is chaired by Musa Bility, the controversial president of the Liberian FA.
Bility was prevented from running for FIFA's presidency in 2015 after failing the governing body's integrity checks, though the world governing body did not make the reasons for his failure public.
In 2013 the Liberian received a six-month ban from football after CAF said he had "violated statues relating to the use of official documents."
Describing Bility as a "brother and a friend," Johansen said it was not her decision to put Bility on the task force.
"Poor old Musa, he's taking a bashing and I'm having to defend Musa," she said.
"It's not my decision and not my place to tell FIFA who to put and who not to put. Allegations are allegations.
"I was arrested ... it wasn't pleasant. Very scary, especially when you don't know why you're being held and you're innocent. I have to say this, even with this announcement, you can't put anything past anything happening."
Source:CNN
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03/Oct/2017

Serena Williams shows off her incredible post-baby body

(CNN)Get it Serena Williams!

The tennis superstar has snapped back in a big way since giving birth.
Her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., was born September 1 and is the first for Williams and her fiancé, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
 
 
On Thursday, she shared a selfie on her official Instagram account showing her slimmed down physique in a black t-shirt and what appears to be either black short shorts or a pair of undies.
"It has been said I don't belong in Women's sports -- that I belong in Men's -- because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it)," she wrote.
 
Williams showed off that powerful and very pregnant physique for a Vanity Fair cover story in the August issue. She appeared nude with her baby bump and marveled in disbelief about her pregnancy.
"It just doesn't seem real ... If you would have told me last year in October or November that I would have a baby, not be pregnant but have a baby, I would have thought you were the biggest liar in the world," Williams said at the time.
 
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03/Oct/2017

World Cup qualifier to be replayed after referee banned for life for match manipulation

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA has ordered that a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal be replayed after the referee awarded a penalty for a non-existent handball and was banned for life for match manipulation.

FIFA on Wednesday ordered that a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal be replayed after the referee was found guilty of match manipulation and banned for life.

South Africa beat Senegal 2-1 in the qualifier last November, helped by a penalty awarded by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey for a non-existent handball.

That result will be annulled and the game will be replayed this November, FIFA said, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the life ban for Lamptey.

FIFA found Lamptey guilty of breaching the rule relating to "unlawfully influencing match results" and banned him for life in March. The referee failed with appeals to FIFA's appeal committee and now to CAS.

Lamptey awarded a penalty against Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly in the game in Polokwane, South Africa, when replays clearly showed the ball struck Koulibaly's knee and then dropped to the ground.

South Africa scored the 42nd-minute penalty and went on to win — its only victory so far in the final round of qualifying in Africa.

Full details of Lamptey's case have not yet been published and it hasn't been confirmed if a betting scam was the reason suspected for Lamptey's decision to award the penalty late in the first half.

A penalty awarded late in a scoreless first half could raise suspicion by potentially triggering bets relating to the state of the game and goals scored at halftime.

Lamptey joined FIFA's list of international referees in 2005 but was never selected for a World Cup. He did officiate matches at the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

The Ghanaian referee has a history of suspicious performances.

He was previously suspended by the Confederation of African Football for allowing a critical goal to stand in an African Champions League semifinal in 2010 when it was clearly punched into the net.

His antics in an African Cup of Nations qualifier last year also were suspect. He allowed the game between Congo and Angola to continue for two minutes longer than the injury time displayed before awarding a disputed penalty to Angola. He blew for full time straight after Angola scored from the spot.

Africa, and South Africa, have fallen victim to referees manipulating games before.

Source:USA Today

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07/Sep/2017

Black Stars players disappointed with government

The Black Stars of Ghana have expressed their disappointment with the government for failing to charter a flight for the team after their mauling of Congo by 5-1 in Brazzaville in the 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

The Sports Ministry had promised to airlift the 21-man contingent to Accra in a chartered flight to enable them get to their various clubs in Europe so they either not lose their positions or face some financial sanctions.

But an hour to the crucial encounter it was communicated through Captain Asamoah Gyan that the team will be transported by a commercial flight which will have affected the foreign-based players drastically.

Gyan as a leader quickly had to resource a travel agent to get his team-mates a chartered plane to save players disappointment.

“I did this to keep the morale of the players high because these things destroy national commitment, and don’t forget there are young ones in the team so I just saved the situation but still I think government must fulfill their promises always,” he told Hot FM.

Source:GhanaWeb.com

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07/Sep/2017

Black Stars divided into NPP, NDC groups - Boateng-Gyan

Veteran football administrator Yaw Boateng-Gyan has alleged senior Black Stars players are sharply divided on political lines - among the ruling New Patriotic Party and opposition National Democratic Congress.

The senior figure of the opposition National Democratic Congress claims captain Asamoah Gyan, the Ayew brothers, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Mubarak Wakaso have nailed their colours to the mast.

There have been widespread suspicion of massive division in the team which appears to have been escalated after the country's unflattering campaign in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

The Ayew brothers pulled out of the World Cup qualifying return leg against Congo while injured Gyan traveled with the team to Brazzaville as they toasted the home team 5-1 on Tuesday.

But former Black Stars management committee member and Bofoakwa Tano chairman Yaw Boateng-Gyan has alleged the friction in the team has political undertone.

"Our boys in the national team including Asamoah Gyan, the Ayew brothers, my own nephew Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (who has been overlooked) and Wakaso and the others must stop the politicization of the Black Stars," he fumed

"If not, Kwesi Appiah should not call any of them. What I have heard is that my own nephew Asamoah Gyan calls President Akufo Addo because he is his friend.

"Then Dede and his brother also call former President John Mahama. How can you play any productive football with these mindset?

"You could clearly see the last time that they avoided passing the ball to each other. They are toiling with our heart!

"There is an iota of truth in what I am hearing and its best they put a stop to it. Politics is gaining roots in the national team.They are professionals and should leave the politics for us.

"Even those of us who are engaged in politics and football administrations at the same time dont get the two mixed up."

Politics and football rarely mix. In fact, perhaps the beauty of competitive sport in this day and age is the complete absence of political manoeuvre and personal societal gain.

While elements of political gossip do still occasionally crop up in football, it is normally at board room level regarding off the pitch matters.

It's believed asserting political beliefs divides an audience because there’s a sense of apathy towards politics amongst the demographic of men who make it as professional footballers.

Source:GhanaWeb

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07/Sep/2017

Afriyie Acquah earns late call up to Black Stars for Congo clash

Midfielder Afriyie Acquah has earned a late call-up to replace injured Isaac Sackey in Ghana's squad to face Congo in the double-header of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The Birmingham City target was conspiciously left out of the initial 24-man squad released on Wednesday.

But GHANASoccernet.com understand head coach Kwesi Appiah has dialed up the Torino ace after Turkey-based midfielder Sackey sustained an injury in a league game on Friday night.

Acquah has been in top shape in a very young season having played two competitive matches.

The Black Stars are expected to start training on Monday in Accra for the first installment against the Red Devils on Friday.

Congo will host the return leg four days later in Bra zzaville

Source: GhanaWeb

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27/Aug/2017

Blockbuster trade between Cavaliers, Celtics in doubt over Isaiah Thomas' hip?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are concerned about the health of point guard Isaiah Thomas’ right hip, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports, jeopardizing the blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics that sent Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a first-round pick to the Cavaliers for point guard Kyrie Irving.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. 

Thomas took a physical in Cleveland on Friday, and the results have given the Cavs pause on proceeding with the deal. They are doing a deep and thorough review, which they expected to do given the nature of Thomas' injury. 

He sustained a torn hip labrum March 15 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and re-aggravated it during Game 6 of the conference semifinals against the Washington Wizards. 

In a trade, all players must pass a physical. If a player doesn’t, the trade can be voided.

The Cavs could back out of the deal, leaving both teams in a predicament. The Cavs’ front-office, led by new general manager Koby Altman, worked hard over the summer to accommodate Irving’s wish for a trade.

More: 

Cleveland found a deal that landed it an All-Star point guard, a three-and-D wing, a promising big man and Brooklyn’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft.

Voiding the trade would put the Cavs back at square one just four weeks before the start of training camp. Though it’s possible Cleveland backs out of the trade, a more likely scenario is a renegotiation of the deal with Boston sweetening the pot with an additional player or draft pick.

Cleveland must have had some idea that Thomas wasn’t 100%, but the physical may have revealed bigger issues.

Thomas and the Celtics decided against surgery following the season, and on the night of the trade, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said, “There’s going to be probably a little bit of a delay for Isaiah as he starts the season this year, but – um – I think that Isaiah should be fine and healthy as the season goes along.”

At the time of the trade early in the week, the Cavs were excited with the first-round pick. In a statement on Tuesday, Altman said the Cavs “felt that the unprotected first-round pick in the deal was very important for us and our future as well.”

Given their excitement at acquiring a first-round pick that should fall in the top 10 and their ability to trade Irving and avoid training camp issues, it’s difficult seeing Cleveland nixing the trade.

Source:USA Today

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27/Aug/2017

I want to win a trophy for Ghana before quitting football – Sulley Muntari

Ghana midfielder, Sulley Ali Muntari has disclosed that he wants to win a trophy for the national team, the Black Stars, before retiring from football.

The Italy based player reiterated that the Black Stars need to win a trophy badly in this current time and he believes he can contribute to the team’s quality to make this happen.

He said from experience, Ghana can still qualify for the next World Cup though many think it’s impossible.

Speaking in an interview on GhOne’s Football Legends Show, Sulley said he never gives up and he will never give up until he has breath no more.

When asked about a possible Black Stars come back, he said “Yes, of course, national team, of course, I want to play again with the national team. You know many people are saying that probably we can’t make it to the World Cup, but I think we can do it“.

Detailing how the slim fate in the Russia 2018 can be possible, he continued that “You know why? Because if we win all our games. We did the same in 2006 when we qualified for the first time to the World Cup. We lost our first game, we drew away but then we won all our games, it’s the same situation now. I think we can do it.”

Sulley, Kelvin Prince Boateng and Michael Essien were suspended from the Black Stars after the 2014 Brazil World Cup. However, Muntari later apologized and has been tipped to join the national team soon.

“But coming back to me, of course, I want to play the national team but I have to start playing a club then after we see what happens,” the father of one added.

Source:CNN.com

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06/Aug/2017

Jim Plunkett Says 'My Life Sucks,' Lives in Constant Pain from Football

im Plunkett spent 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback from 1971-86, with all those years of punishment taking a heavy toll on his body. 

In an interview with Elliott Almond of the Bay Area News Group, Plunkett said his "life sucks" and it's "no fun being in this body right now. Everything hurts."

A former No. 1 overall pick by the New England Patriots in 1971, Plunkett is forced to regularly take 13 pills throughout the day for various health issues, including his heart and blood pressure, per Almond. 

"There are a couple other drugs I take—I can’t know them all," Plunkett told Almond. "I’ve got to take them every day to quote-unquote survive."

Former San Diego Chargers running back Hank Bauer told Almond that playing football is like "getting in 50 car wrecks a week for 20 straight weeks a year."

Plunkett was one of the most successful quarterbacks in college and the NFL during his playing days. He won the 1970 Heisman Trophy while playing at Stanford, was named AFC Rookie of the Year in 1971 and led the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles in 1981 and 1984. 

The 69-year-old Plunkett has had a litany of health issues both during and after his NFL career. He's undergone 18 surgical procedures to repair his back and to give him artificial knees and an artificial shoulder, according to Almond. 

Source:CNN.com

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06/Aug/2017

Laryea Kingston haunted by the sight of one million dollar cash

Former Black Stars winger Laryea Kingston has disclosed that he had sleepless nights after signing for Russia club Krylia Sovetov in 2004.

According to the former Hearts of Oak wide man, he was haunted for two-weeks after they handed him a cash of one million dollar after signing with the Russian outfit.

Speaking on the Football Legends Nights Show on GHOne TV, Laryea said, “I couldn’t sleep for two weeks after I was given one million cash after signing my contract in Russia."

"They brought the money in cash but I asked them to pay it into my account and they said I should deal with it that they don’t have."

“For two weeks I couldn’t speak and had to change the position of the money every day on my return from turning at the hotel."

The retired winger has since invested into so many business adventures after leaving the pitch due a career ending injury.

Source:Ghana Web

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30/Jul/2017

Female footballers break world record for highest ever football match

(CNN)They came, they saw, they conquered -- and broke a world record.

Having climbed up Africa's highest mountain, taking goal posts and nets in tow, a group of fearless women have achieved what many thought impossible and played a 90-minute football match on Mount Kilimanjaro.
The squad of 30 footballers representing 20 nationalities, who included retired US international Lori Lindsey and former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, completed a 11-a-side match at nearly 19,000 feet, an altitude never attempted before.
 
 
 
Using flour to mark the pitch and trekking poles as corner flags, the women -- ranging in ages, from 18 to 66 years old -- played in punishing conditions on a volcanic ash pitch.
The game -- between Volcano FC and Glacier FC -- ended goalless, but the result was inconsequential as the sole purpose of the challenge was to highlight the inequality women face in sport.
American defender Erin Blankenship, co-founder of event organizers Equal Playing Fields, said: "You can't challenge the fact that you've got a group of athletes who are playing at almost 19,000ft. It doesn't matter what gender they are."
Substitutes' cheer from the sidelines during the match.
 
The women trek up Mount Kilimanjaro before playing their match.
 
The group sleep above the clouds on Mount Kilimanjaro.
 

'Needing oxygen'

Olympic champion Lindsey, who played for USA at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics, was one of the star players taking part. She was keen to raise awareness of the issues women and girls face when playing sport.
"I'm fortunate enough to have had pioneers who came before me, but it's our responsibility to continue to make strides forward for the generations to come," she told CNN Sport before embarking on the trip.
Playing in thin air, which causes a reduction in physical performance, isn't easy.
In May 2007, FIFA -- football's world governing body -- introduced a temporary ban, revoked a year later, on international matches at more than 8,200ft above sea level, citing concerns about players' health and the "unfair" advantage to acclimatized home teams.
Earlier in 2007, Brazilian club Flamengo had said it would boycott high-altitude games after a match at 12,467 ft -- against Bolivia's Real Potosi -- left some team members needing oxygen.
"We made a pact before the game that it was all about the game finishing," said Glacier FC coach Dawn Scott.
"It was equal opportunities and we termed the substitutes coming on as record makers as they'd be the ones pushing us on because you could see players dropping and needing oxygen towards the end."

The fight for equality in women's sport

Throughout history sportswomen have had to climb metaphorical mountains and organizers Equal Playing Field say the fight is ongoing, which is why they dreamed up this record-breaking mission.
This year alone, the debate over equality has made headlines.
Earlier this month it was revealed that Serena Williams, the most successful female tennis player in the Open era, was the only woman in Forbes' latest list of the world's top 100 highest-paid athletes.
The 35-year-old American is ranked 51st, with total earnings of $27 million last year -- $37m less than Roger Federer, the most successful men's tennis player in history, who is fourth on the list.
In April, the US women's national soccer team ended a long-running dispute over pay and conditions by agreeing a new deal with US Soccer, the country's governing body.
That was not the only case this year of international sportswomen taking a stand.
Also in April, the Republic of Ireland women's football team threatened to go on strike. Players' representative, Stuart Gilhooly, said they were being treated like "fifth-class citizens" by the Football Association of Ireland.
Meanwhile US women's hockey threatened to boycott the world championships before agreeing a pay deal just three days before the start of the tournament.
Equal Playing Field had said it wanted to "challenge the social norms for girls and women in sport" and acknowledge "the systematic, structured inequality that girls and women face in most aspects of their lives."
What will their next challenge be? There are whispers that they may attempt to play a football match in the lowest altitude ever recorded, near the Dead Sea in Jordan.
Source:CNN
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30/Jul/2017

Mike Tyson is positive that Conor McGregor is 'going to get killed boxing' Floyd Mayweather

The “world tour” is over, and we’re now closing in on a month until Conor McGregor’s Aug. 26 fight against Floyd Mayweather.

 
 
 
 
 

By now, most of the boxing world has weighed in on the fight. Very few think McGregor, who has never boxed professionally, has any chance of handing Mayweather the first loss of his career.

We can count Mike Tyson in with that crowd.

Tyson blasted the fight itself and McGregor — referring to the UFC star as “McConor” on two occasions. Tyson said in an appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast:

“McGregor is going to get killed boxing. I got mad because I thought they were going to use MMA rules against boxing because that’s what it’s all about: Can the boxer beat the MMA guy? McConor put his (expletive) in a position where he’s gonna get knocked out because this guy’s been doing this all his life since he was a baby. McConor can’t kick and grab and stuff so he won’t stand much of a chance.”

And well, Tyson is going to be right.

Mayweather has been boxing his entire life. He’s arguably the best boxer of this generation, and McGregor has no experience as a professional boxer. He talked his way into the fight, and he continued to talk his way around Mayweather in the world tour.

No amount of criticism will change the fact that both fighters will cash in on a ridiculous pay day, and millions will watch this fight. That’s why this fight is happening.

Source:USA Today

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25/Jul/2017

Cavaliers finalizing one-year contract with Derrick Rose

After one tumultuous season with the New York Knicks, former NBA MVP Derrick Rose is finalizing a one-year agreement with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The person requested anonymity because the deal wasn't announced publicly.

The one-year deal is for the veteran's minimum at $2.1 million.

Rose's signing comes on the heels of last week's possibly landscape-altering news that Kyrie Irving told Cavs management he was seeking a trade out of Cleveland.

If the Cavs follow through on Irving's request, Rose gives the team insurance in the backcourt. Rose would also get the chance to be an immediate starter on a title-contending team. If the Cavs don't trade Irving, Rose provides upgraded backcourt depth.

The Lakers were also pursuing Rose despite selecting point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in last month's draft.

Shortly after news of Rose's contract broke, LeBron James weighed in on social media.

Rose, who averaged 18.0 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 64 games for the Knicks, had his season cut short after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee late in the year.

Though injuries ultimately undermined Rose's time with the Chicago Bulls prior to last season, he at times showed glimpses of the athleticism that made him the 2010-11 MVP.

His 47% field goal percentage was his highest since 2009-10, and he still consistently showed the speed and ability to get to the rim.

The Vertical first reported Rose's deal.

Source:USA Today

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25/Jul/2017

Garbine Muguruza overpowers Venus Williams to win first Wimbledon title

Wimbledon (CNN)Trading blows from the baseline with Garbine Muguruza with two set points in hand to clinch the first set, it looked like Venus Williams was on the way to a historic sixth Wimbledon crown.

Then, with Muguruza serving to stay in the first set at 5-4 down, came a 19-shot rally that changed everything.
illiams lost it as she dumped a forehand into the net, and was never the same player again.
 
 
It was all Muguruza after that, taking nine straight games to win her first Wimbledon crown, 7-5 6-0, and become the first player in history to defeat both Williams sisters in grand slam finals.
What looked like a classic Wimbledon final after the first set turned into an anti-climax when Muguruza won the second, and the championship, 6-0 in 26 minutes on a challenge in front of a stunned Centre Court crowd.
"It was my hardest match today," said Muguruza, as former Spanish king Juan Carlos watched from the royal box. "I grew up watching her play."

Emotional rollercoaster

Williams' stunning collapse in the second set capped an emotional few weeks for the former top-ranked American, who had been involved in a car crash last month at home in Florida in which a man eventually died.
On July 8, Florida police said a newly surfaced video showed Williams "was acting lawfully" when she steered her car into a crossing before the fatal collision with another car on June 9, the Reuters news agency reported at the time.
"I try to do the same things you do, but I think there will be other opportunities" Venus said at the trophy ceremony, when asked if she missed her sister and last year's winner, Serena Williams, who is at home awaiting the birth of her first child.

French heartbreak

Muguruza's triumph comes two years after she lost to Serena in her maiden grand slam finals at the All England Club.
Six weeks ago, Muguruza crashed out of the French Open in tears, losing her Roland Garros crown in front of a hostile crowd rooting for her opponent and not many people would have bet on her winning the title on the Wimbledon grass.
For her temporary coach, Conchita Martinez, it must have been a case of deja-vu. In 1994, Martinez spoiled the party for Martina Navratilova, who had been trying to win her tenth Wimbledon crown at the age of 37.
"She just told me to go out there and forget about all of this," Muguruza said in a news conference. "Try to think it's another match."
With Muguruza's traveling coach, Sam Sumyk, absent from Wimbledon, Spanish Fed Cup captain Martinez had guided her at the All England Club.
It appeared Martinez had a calming influence on the 14th-seeded Spaniard, one of the game's hardest hitters who is capable of beating anyone when she in full flow but had struggled with pressure since winning her first major at the French Open last year.
When Muguruza was dethroned in the fourth round of the French Open in a tempestuous match against by France's Kristina Mladenovic, not many experts would have expected her to recover this quickly.
But her confidence increased with each round won and, after beating women's top seed Angelique Kerber in the fourth round in a thrilling encounter, Muguruza started to believe.

Missed opportunities

Williams had started off the final with an ace and easily held with a blistering forehand down the line, as the sound of her shots reverberated under the roof of Centre Court on a rainy day in southwest London.
Playing in her first final since she won Roland Garros last year, Muguruza started nervously as she produced a double fault in her first service game.
With both women playing first-strike tennis, Williams stood slightly closer to the baseline, thumping winners as she held to love for a 3-2 lead and then set up her first break point with a forehand passing at full stretch in the next game.
But she was unable to convert it, dumping a forehand into the net, and Muguruza ended up holding.
In the next game, Williams held despite serving three double faults, saving a break point with a 106 miles-per-hour second serve.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-4 down, Muguruza gifted Williams two set points with a couple of forehand errors.
 
Targeting her opponent's forehand relentlessly, Williams failed to take the first set point as she put a forehand into the net after the longest rally of the match at 19 shots.
After Muguruza saved the second set point with a huge serve, she held with an error and all of a sudden, Williams started to look vulnerable.
"Definitely would have loved to have converted some of those points," Williams, who made 25 unforced errors, said in a news conference. "But she competed really well. So credit to her. She just dug in there and managed to play better."
Completely losing her way on the forehand, Williams, who had been diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren's syndrome in 2011, got broken on the second break point with a wayward forehand that sailed over the baseline.
Serving for the set at 6-5, Muguruza set up two set points with a defensive backhand lob that seemed to go out. Williams chased it, but then let it go, and saw it land on the baseline.
"Vamos!" shooted Martinez from the players' box.
Muguruza missed the first set point as Williams drilled a forehand she failed to control, but took the first set when the American hit her 15th unforced error of the match.
"When I had those set points against me, I'm like, Hey, it's normal, I'm playing Venus here," Muguruza said. "So I just keep fighting. And I knew that if I was playing like I was playing during the two weeks, I was going to have eventually an opportunity. So I was calm. If I lose the first set, I still have two more. Let's not make a drama."

"Not ideal"

The momentum now completely with the Spaniard, she went up a double break in the second set as Williams struggled to find her range and sunk to the grass, holding her head in her hands after she crossed the finish line on a challenge.
"Not an ideal scoreline," said Williams about losing her first set to love at Wimbledon in 20 appearances.
"Very satisfied because I never knew how it was going to go because I was very nervous," Muguruza said. "I wanted it to go my way. I was doing everything I could to be prepared. Once you step on the court, you see the crowd, you see the final, you see I'm here playing another Wimbledon final. So very satisfied the way I handled it."

Williams believes

As for Williams, also a losing finalist to her sister in Australia in January, she will leave Wimbledon in the knowledge she is back in the mix when it comes to playing for the sport's biggest titles.
The US Open starts at the end of August, and there is no reason to think she won't be competing for the trophy once again.

"I'm in good form," she said. "I've been in a position a lot of times this year to contend for big titles. That's the kind of position I want to keep putting myself in. It's just about getting over the line. I believe I can do that."

SOURCE; CNN

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17/Jul/2017

Lonzo Ball leaves Lakers' Summer League playoff win with calf strain

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lonzo Ball’s bid for a third straight triple-double was short-circuited by a calf injury. The lead he helped the Los Angeles Lakers build while he was in the game proved to be just enough to top Dennis Smith Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks.

Ball had 16 points and 10 assists in 21 minutes before leaving with a strained right calf, and the Lakers held on for a 108-98 victory in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals on Sunday night.

Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points, Matt Thomas had 20 and Vander Blue added 17 to help the Lakers reach the championship game. They will face the Portland Trail Blazers, who beat Memphis 87-82 in the other semifinal, on Monday night.

Smith scored 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting for the Mavericks, who trailed by as many as 26 points in the second half before mounting a huge comeback in the fourth quarter. Yogi Ferrell added 15 points and Dorian Finney-Smith and Brandon Ashley each had 13.

The injury took a little of the edge away from an anticipated matchup of two rookie point guards who have excelled in Vegas. Ball was drafted second overall and Dennis Smith was taken ninth. Both have been cast as the future faces of their respective franchises, and both have made strong first impressions in summer league play.

The two went right at each other from the jump, combining to hit their first seven field goals in a back-and-forth affair.

The Lakers led by as many as 26 points before the Mavericks mounted a comeback, trimming the deficit to two with 2 minutes to play. Smith went right to the rim, using a little Euro-step to draw a foul.

But Thomas, who went 6 of 7 from 3-point range, hit a 3 on the other end and the Lakers were able to hold off the charge.

In the other game on Sunday night:

TRAIL BLAZERS 87, GRIZZLIES 82

Jarnell Stokes had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead Portland over Memphis in the first semifinal on Sunday night.

Caleb Swanigan continued his strong summer league with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who trailed by 16 points in the first half before rallying to overtake the Grizzlies in the second half.

Stokes got his NBA start with the Grizzlies, playing 19 games for Memphis in 2014-15 after he was acquired in a draft-night trade with Utah. The Grizzlies traded Stokes to Miami the following season in the deal that brought Mario Chalmers to Memphis. He played two games with the Nuggets last season.

Wayne Selden led the Grizzlies with 13 points in 22 minutes.

Jorge Gutierrez added 16 points and eight assists, including a pair of nifty, behind-the-back passes for easy layups, for the Grizzlies.

SOURCE:USATODAY

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17/Jul/2017

Badu considering China offers

Ghana midfielder, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu could be playing in China next season, after revealing having received offers from the Asian country.
After seven years with Italian outfit Udinese, the Ghanaian is considering a new

challenge, amid rumours that he could be heading to England.
“I have been there [with Udinese] for some time,” Badu said on GTV.
“I think for seven years now, I have been with them. I have made almost 200 appearances for them.
“I think it’s time for me to face a new challenge and so I will definitely grab a good offer that comes my way.
“I have received lots of offers. I have got a lot of offers from China.
“I don’t want to mention any name now because my managers are talking with the clubs.
“We will look at the offers well and if it is good, I will move.”
Badu joined Udinese in 2010, following impressive loan stints at local giants Asante Kotoko and Spanish club Recreativo de Huelva.
The 26-year-old made 29 Serie A appearances for Luigi Delneri’s outfit last season.
-Goal.com

Source:Ghanian Times

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10/Jul/2017

Oly sink Wa All Stars

Wonder Club, Accra Great Olympics yesterday ended their three-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over defending champions, Wa All Stars in their week 21 clash at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Playing an improved game from their last two home games that ended in defeat, Great Olympics squandered glorious opportunities that came their way in the opening minutes but had to thank Benjamin Arthur and Cofie Bekoe for ensuring victory.

The game started on a high note, making incursions into each other’s half but with Olympics enjoying greater share of the dominance.

Olympics grew in confidence minute after minute and could have opened the scoring in the ninth minute but Kwame Boateng’s effort in front of goal was too weak to beat goalkeeper Richard Ofori in post for Wa All Stars.

Striker Daniel Appiah also had two goal scoring opportunities in the 19th and 25th minutes but his final delivery raised question mark over the Oly attack.

On the 28th minute mark, midfielder Benjamin Arthur headed in the opener from an incisive free kick taken by Emmanuel Asante.

Spurred on by the goal, they kept probing but their problem remained the same – poor shooting from the strikers with Appiah being the worst culprit.

Wa All Stars did little to threaten the goal area of the host forcing only two saves from goalkeeper Michael Sai in post for Olympics.

The defending champions came back in the opening exchanges of the second half and could have drawn level after two minutes of play but Seth Amoateng who broke through the offside trap was stopped by Olympics’ skipper, Adom Ampofo.

Five minutes after that effort from Ampofo, Cofie Bekoe made it 2-0 for Great Olympics when he took a loose ball behind the center line and run past a host of defenders before hitting a right footed shot past Ofori in post for the visitors.

Source: Ghanian Times

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10/Jul/2017

James Harden, Houston Rockets Agree to Biggest Contract in NBA History

The Houston Rockets announced Saturday that they signed James Harden to a four-year contract extension that will run through the 2022-23 season. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported the extension is worth $170 million over four years. 

Harden, who signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets last July, became eligible for the designated player veteran extension by virtue of making the All-NBA team.

According to Wojnarowski, Harden will now earn $228 million total through the end of his contract. 

"Since he arrived in Houston, James has exhibited the incredible work ethic, desire to win, and passion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and talented superstars in the history of the game," Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in the team's statement. "Additionally, the commitment he has shown to our organization, the City of Houston, and Rockets fans all over the world makes him a perfect leader in our pursuit of another championship."

Wojnarowski and Windhorst also reported Saturday the Rockets "are turning full attention" to completing a trade with the New York Knicks for Carmelo Anthony after putting a bow on Harden's extension. 

"Houston is home for me," Harden said, according to the team's official Twitter account. "Mr. Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning."

According to the terms of his 2016 extension, Harden will earn $28.3 million next season and $30.4 million during the 2018-19 campaign before the new DPVE terms kick in. 

The MVP runner-up last season, Harden averaged 29.1 points, a league-high 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds while shooting 44.0 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three. 

Source:CNN

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10/Jul/2017

Floyd Mayweather Asks IRS for Tax Reprieve Until After Conor McGregor Fight

Floyd Mayweather filed a petition July 5 asking the IRS for a reprieve from unpaid taxes from 2015 until after his fight with Conor McGregor in August.

"Although the taxpayer has substantial assets, those assets are restricted and primarily illiquid," Mayweather's petition stated, per the legal website Law360 (h/t ESPN.com's Darren Rovell). "The taxpayer has a significant liquidity event scheduled in about 60 days from which he intends to pay the balance of the 2015 tax liability due and outstanding."

Mayweather, 40, made $220 million alone from his 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao. It is unclear how much he owes the IRS in taxes.

The petition asks the government to reduce Mayweather's penalty on the unpaid taxes. Given a 15-month lapse since the 2015 tax due date, Mayweather would owe 7.5 percent in penalties on top of what he was already scheduled to pay, according to Rovell.

Mayweather is expected to bring home a nine-figure payday from his bout with McGregor, which is slated for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. The fight will end a nearly two-year retirement. Mayweather has not boxed professionally since defeating Andre Berto via unanimous decision in September 2015, which moved him to 49-0 for his career.

Forbes estimated Mayweather's net worth at $340 million in January.

Source:CNN

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10/Jul/2017

Manny Pacquiao trainer: You can't be a fighter and a senator

Whether Manny Pacquiao fights again or not, his trainer of 16 years, Freddie Roach, believes that being a fighter and a senator simply doesn’t work if you want to be at the top of your game in both.

That was never been more obvious than last weekend in Brisbane, Australia, when Pacquiao, the first term Senator and only eight-division champion in boxing history, lost his WBO welterweight title to unheralded Jeff Horn by unanimous decision, an outcome few thought was even possible.

Roach, a seven-time trainer of the year, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday that Pacquiao’s loss, though highly controversial, might be traced back to their training camp, which was held in the Philippines. The senate was in session during the first half of camp.

“Being a congressman, it seemed like Manny really wasn’t pressed or challenged by it,” Roach said. “But being a senator, he’s like a whole different person. It takes a lot of his time, and the thing is, the first half of training camp wasn’t the best because he was being a senator, and sometimes they’d let him out at three o’clock and sometimes they let him out at nine o’clock. Sometimes 10 o’clock. And then we have to train after he gets off work. Being a great fighter and being a great person in politics, it’s just very, very difficult to do both, I feel.”

Roach said after the stunning loss to Horn, “I told Manny, give it a week, we’ll sit down and talk and see what’s next.” He said he did not urge Pacquiao, who will be 39 in December, to retire.

“I said either we retire or fight a rematch at this point,” he said. “Which decision? We should take some time and watch the fight on tape, and then I’ll have a long talk with Manny about what’s the best place to go: To fight (Horn) in a rematch, or possibly retire, or go on to bigger and better guys. Those are his options.”

Roach, who knows Pacquiao probably better than anyone except for Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee and lifelong friend Buboy Fernandez, was asked if he knows what the future Hall of Famer is thinking right now. “I think what’s on his mind is what we talked about, having two jobs and you can’t really do both. I hope that sunk in to him so he thinks about it. But right now, more realistically, is either a rematch with (Horn) or nothing. That’s it. That’s pretty much my thoughts, and I don’t think we ought to go after any other world champions right now. I would like a rematch and then if he wins that, it’s over. But is that possible? Can you retire off a win?”

Roach, a former fighter, said it’s much tougher to retire off a win than a loss.

Which brings us back to Horn, who was much bigger than Pacquiao during the fight, and was very dirty, said Roach. “He had a very dirty style. Headlocks, pushing a guy down, using his elbows, head butts, and the referee didn’t say nothing about nothing. The only thing (referee Mark Nelson) said to me was ‘Freddie, when a southpaw fights a righty it’s going to happen.’ I said, ‘not when he leads with his head. Those are intentional head butts.’

The head butts caused two gashes on Pacquiao’s hairline that took 17 stitches to close, and they affected Pacquiao during the fight.

“He doesn’t get a lot of cuts, and when he does cut he panics a little bit,” Roach said. “In between rounds when the referee was talking to him, Manny wanted to have the ring doctor look at them. “For a fighter to say that, he knows where he’s at and he wants to know how bad the cut is. The doctor OK’d it, so Manny fought on pretty well. He’s never done well when he’s had those issues, you know, blood in the face. It affects everyone differently.”

Roach said Pacquiao also might have over-trained.

“His work ethic is still very, very good, and he trains very hard, but he probably trains too hard. He tries to do what he did when he was younger, and you can’t do that. It’s part of life getting old. . . . He’s got to realize he’s 38 years old now and not 28,” the trainer said.

“Basically, he’s a senator, a fighter and father. He has a wife and kids. So the last thing I want to see is for Manny to get hurt. That’s why I lean toward retirement or one more fight with Horn. I think Manny got robbed. He definitely won the fight.”

Roach also addressed Top Rank promoter Bob Arum’s complaints that Pacquiao’s handlers were too overconfident coming into the fight and his corner was out of control during the fight.

“It’s hard when Buboy (Fernandez) is yelling, and (cutman) Miguel (Diaz) is telling me he has to get in the middle to work on the cuts,” said Roach. “And to get my message across to Manny what he should be doing is very difficult. Miguel is getting older and he has trouble getting in and out of the ring, and Buboy gets excited. Control in that corner has always been a little difficult.”

Roach wonders if Horn will give Pacquiao a rematch, and if so, “does he give us a rematch in America? Does he give us a rematch in The Philippines? Does he give us a rematch (in Australia) again?”

If Pacquiao has any notions about moving on and fighting undefeated 140-pound champion Terence Crawford or someone like that, “Manny would have to make a decision,” said Roach. “Either be a senator or boxer. Pick one or the other and that’s it. You can’t do both officially. It’s almost impossible.

“I’ve had a great run with Manny. It’s been a great ride. If he retires or fights one more time, we’ll see. But I want to watch the (Horn) fight very closely and break it down and see where that brings me. And I’ll give Manny a call and we’ll talk. We’re really good friends.”

Source:USA Today

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06/Jul/2017

Nick Young agrees to deal with defending champion Golden State Warriors

Just a little more than a year removed from telling the world that he hated Golden State Warriors fans, Nick Young has decided to join the Warriors.

Young has agreed to a one-year, $5.2 million contract, his agent Mark Bartelstein told USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick

Young became a free agent when he declined the player option in his contract for next season with the Los Angeles Lakers. That deal would have paid him more than $5.6 million.

He said in April he was about 60% sure he would leave the Lakers because he wanted to be part of a playoff team. He certainly got his wish.

Signing guys like Young is one of the reasons Kevin Durant took less money to sign his two-year deal with the Warriors, and he and Draymond Green had been recruiting Young to join them.

Young is a Los Angeles native and realized a childhood dream by joining the Lakers, but the 10-year NBA veteran's tenure has coincided with the worst four-year stretch in the 16-time NBA champions' history.

Then Young struggled on the court during the 2015-16 season and endured upheaval in his personal life because of a video scandal with then-rookie D'Angelo Russell -- that at times took attention away from Kobe Bryant's farewell tour. Young enjoyed a career revival last season under new coach Luke Walton.

Young averaged 13.2 points and 2.3 rebounds with the Lakers last season and a career-high .588 true shooting percentage, hitting 66.5% of his shots from three-point range, making 40.4% of them. 

Young's signing is the latest in a crazy free agency frenzy and a big-spending offseason for the defending champs. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry recently agreed to a record $201 million, five-year contract; NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant agreed to a two-year deal for approximately $53 million; 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala got a three-year contract with $48 million guaranteed; fellow key reserves Shaun Livingston for $24 million and three years, and David West on a one-year contract for the veteran minimum $2.3 million.

Also knowns as "Swaggy P", Young has done his share of trash talk. With the news of his deal, Durant returned the favor, taunting him for celebrating what turned out to be a missed three-pointer

Source:USA Today

 

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06/Jul/2017

Venus Williams left tearful by car crash questions

(CNN)Facing questions from the media at Wimbledon about her involvement in a fatal car accident, a tearful Venus Williams said what has happened has been "devastating."

The 37-year-old Williams comfortably beat Belgian No. 1 Elise Mertens on Court 1 Monday -- winning 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 -- but was lost for words when asked about the crash.
 
A police report says that Venus Williams is responsible for the car accident earlier this month in Florida, which caused injuries to a 78-year-old man who later died.
The Palm Beach Gardens Police report states the accident occurred on June 9 in Palm Beach Gardens and the victim, Jerome Barson, was a passenger in a car that was driven by his wife, Linda Barson.
The victim's family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams, alleging negligence.

After beating Mertens, Williams was repeatedly asked about the incident by the media and eventually became so emotional she began to cry.

"There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and -- yeah. I'm completely speechless. It's just ..." Williams said.
The five-time Wimbledon singles champion held her head for several moments and asked to leave the room before returning, still visibly shaken, to finish the interview session several minutes later.
Source:CNN.com
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04/Jul/2017

Dom Dwyer scores in his international debut as US beats Ghana 2-1

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Dom Dwyer scored in his international debut, joining Sydney Leroux to become the first husband-and-wife couple with goals for the United States, and the Americans beat Ghana 2-1 on Saturday in an exhibition ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

A 26-year-old English forward who gained American citizenship in March, Dwyer put the Americans ahead in the 19th minute with an acrobatic volley.

Brad Guzan saved Asamoah Gyan's penalty kick in first-half stoppage time, and Kellyn Acosta added his first international goal in the 52nd minute on a low free kick from just outside the penalty area that went through the wall and in on a bounce past goalkeeper Richard Ofori.

Gyan scored for the Black Stars in the 60th minute with a free kick that beat Guzan and went in just under the crossbar. Ofori made an outstanding stop in the 66th to deny Alejandro Bedoya's back-post header from Jordan Morris' cross.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena changed eight starters from his lineup in the June 11 World Cup qualifier at Mexico, retaining only Guzan, Acosta and Paul Arriola. Seven American starters entered with fewer than 10 international appearances

There also were debuts for a pair of midfielders. Kelyn Rowe started and Kenny Saief, who played twice for Israel before switching his affiliation to the U.S. last month, entered in the 71st. The U.S. improved has four wins and four draws in eight matches since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann in November. Arena's first stint as U.S. coach ended after eight years in 2006 when Ghana eliminated the U.S. in the World Cup's Group stage.

Most Europe-based players are on vacation ahead of preseason training, and Arena chose youth over experience in many instances for his Gold Cup roster, wanting to evaluate the deeper reaches of his player pool. The U.S. opens the Gold Cup against Panama on July 8 at Nashville, Tennessee; then play Martinique on July 12 at Tampa, Florida; and Nicaragua on July 15 at Cleveland.

Wearing new uniforms with red and blue horizontal stripes, the Americans played their first exhibition against a team they met in each of the last three World Cups. Ghana eliminated the Americans in 2006 and 2010, and the U.S. beat the Black Stars in its 2014 opener.

Dwyer, who has played for Sporting Kansas City since 2012, has been married since January 2015 to Leroux, a 26-year-old forward who was born in Canada but has 35 goals in 75 international appearances for the U.S. and was part of the team that won the 2015 World Cup. They are only the fourth husband and wife who both played for the U.S., joining Jim Gabarra and Carin Jennings, Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan, and Zach Loyd and Casey Nogueira. Egan's only goal was in 1993, four years before she married Reyna.

"I'm insanely proud of him and so happy for the overall win for the MNT," Leroux said. "I love the fact that we both came to the USA from other countries and get to chase our dreams together wearing the crest that means so much to us. When he scored, it's really hard to describe the feeling. Just chills. I know this is only the beginning for him."

Dwyer and Leroux announced on Valentine's Day 2015 that they had married a month earlier. She wears No. 2 and he No. 14. Leroux and son Cassius watched the game on television with Becky Sauerbrunn, her Kansas City teammate, and Sauerbrunn posted video of Leroux holding the infant to Twitter, taken in the aftermath of the goal.

"This was taken after we screamed and ran around and scared Cassius. He's calm now," Sauerbrunn tweeted.

Dwyer was dynamic atop a 4-5-1 formation. He broke in alone in the 14th minute but did not get much pace on his angled shot. Played in three minutes later by Rowe, he could not get off a shot from near the penalty spot as he was marked by a pair of defenders.

Jorge Villafana started the action toward the opening goal when he dribbled from a flank past defenders and laid the ball back to Joe Corona, who made his first U.S. appearance in two years. Corona's shot hit Villafana and bounced up to Dwyer, who volleyed in with his left foot from 8 yards, then did a backward somersault.

Dwyer broke in alone again when he was sent tumbling by a studs-up tackle from Ofori, who was given only a yellow card by referee Ismael Ornejo of El Salvador.

Guzan dived left to bat away Gyan's penalty kick in the third minute of first-half stoppage time after Villafana was given a yellow card for pulling down David Accam.

 

Source:USA Today

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02/Jul/2017

Warriors, Steph Curry agree to 5-year, $201M deal that's richest in NBA history

Steph Curry agreed to terms with the Golden State Warriors on what amounts to the richest deal in NBA history, according to his agent Jeff Austin of Octagon.

The five-year deal is worth $201 million dollars with no options.

Curry was finally able to cash in after playing on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NBA. He had previously been on a four-year, $44 million dollar contract.

urry, a two-time champion, is the first player to agree on a deal worth more than $200 million. 

The two-time MVP averaged 25.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds this past season. He also led the NBA with 324 made three-pointers throughout the regular season as the Warriors eventually won the title. 

 

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02/Jul/2017

Penn State abuse scandal costs approach a quarter-billion

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Penn State's costs related to the Jerry Sandusky scandal are approaching a quarter-billion dollars and growing, five years after the former assistant football coach's arrest on child molestation charges.

The scandal's overall cost to the school has reached at least $237 million, including a recent $12 million verdict in the whistleblower and defamation case brought by former assistant coach Mike McQueary, whose testimony helped convict Sandusky in 2012.

The university has settled with 33 people over allegations they were sexually abused by Sandusky, and has made total payments to them of $93 million.

The total also covers the $48 million "fine" levied by the NCAA that is funding anti-child-abuse efforts in Pennsylvania, $27 million in lawyer fees to defend lawsuits, nearly $14 million that includes the legal defense of three former administrators facing criminal charges for their handling of Sandusky complaints and $5.3 million for crisis communications and other consultants.

The school's latest financial statement said insurers have covered $30 million in costs, while other insurance claims remain pending.

The school also was hit in November with a $2.4 million fine from a federal investigation, started immediately after Sandusky was arrested, that concluded the university repeatedly violated campus crime reporting requirements.

A look at where some of the other pending Sandusky-related matters stand:

ADMINISTRATORS' CRIMINAL CASE

A senior judge sitting in Harrisburg is considering a request by three former high-ranking Penn State administrators to throw out their criminal charges, following an oral argument that was held in Harrisburg in October.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz are accused of not responding properly to McQueary's 2001 complaint that Sandusky was sexually abusing a boy in a team shower. They are also accused of putting children in danger.

The attorney general's office wants to add a new count, of conspiracy to commit endangering the welfare of children, against all three defendants. Judge John Boccabella has not indicated when he might rule.

The three men have consistently maintained their innocence.

SANDUSKY'S APPEAL

Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in Greene State Prison on a 45-count conviction for sexual abuse of 10 boys, and he is currently pursuing an appeal in county court near State College.

In November, the judge handling that appeal — Judge John Cleland, who was also the trial judge — took himself off the case after Sandusky's lawyers raised objections to Cleland's role in a December 2011 meeting in a hotel the night before Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing.

Cleland's sternly worded order included a footnote saying his review of the 34 issues raised by Sandusky found none of them had merit.

The state court system is working on appointing a new judge, but that decision has not been made.

SPANIER V. PENN STATE

Penn State countersued Spanier last month, saying he violated his employment agreement by not disclosing what he knew about Sandusky before Sandusky's 2011 arrest. The school is seeking repayment of millions of dollars it has paid him over the past five years.

Spanier's lawsuit claims the school violated an agreement made when he was pushed out of the top job — days after Sandusky was charged — by making public comments that were critical of him and not living up to promises regarding office space, teaching opportunities and payment of legal costs.

SPANIER V. FREEH

A judge has scheduled a hearing later this month in a lawsuit by Spanier against former FBI Director Louis Freeh and his law firm, who were paid by Penn State to produce a 2012 report into how Spanier and other top administrators handled the Sandusky matter.

Judge Robert Eby will hear oral argument in Freeh's preliminary objections to the lawsuit. Spanier is seeking damages for the reputational and economic harm he alleges resulted from the report.

PATERNO V. NCAA

The family of former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is suing the NCAA, saying it damaged the Paterno estate's commercial interests by relying on conclusions about Paterno in the Freeh report. Two former Paterno assistants, son Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney, are also suing, saying they have not been able to find comparable work because of the Freeh report. The most recent action in that case involved a dispute over subpoenas. Paterno died in 2012.

Source: USA Today.com

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07/Jan/2017

Cleveland Cavaliers trade with Atlanta Hawks for sharp-shooter Kyle Korver

Shooting guard Kyle Korver will soon be in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.

The Atlanta Hawks sent Korver, a three-point specialist, to the Cavs for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams and a 2019 first-round draft pick. The two teams, who reached a tentative agreement on the terms of the deal on Thursday, completed the trade call on Saturday.

This gives Cleveland – already one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league – another long-distance threat and adds depth to an injury-depleted roster. Though Korver had a slow start to the 2016-17 season and was moved from the starting lineup to the bench, he is shooting 40.9% on threes, including 43.3% in 11 games as a reserve.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to add a player and person the caliber of Kyle Korver to our Cavs family,” Cavaliers GM David Griffin said in a statement. “Among the most prolific and dynamic three-point shooters in NBA history, a selfless, and team first competitor, Kyle brings all of the elements of Cavs DNA that we covet on and off the floor. We look forward to welcoming Kyle, his wife, Juliet and their three children to Northeast Ohio and are certain our fans will embrace them with open arms.”

Since becoming a reserve, Korver has also increased his scoring from 8.5 points per game as a starter to 11.5 points per game in the same amount of minutes. His rebounding and assists averages are also up since he was replaced in the starting lineup. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue plans to use Korver as a reserve.

By trading two players and getting one back, Cleveland also opened a roster spot, giving them the flexibility to add another player. LeBron James made it clear on Friday that he wants another point guard on the roster.

Griffin, who has done an excellent job making additions to a team above the luxury tax, might also be on the lookout for wing defender.

Putting Korver on the floor with James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin and Love and Channing Frye gives Cleveland even more offensive firepower. The Cavs are second in the league in three-point shooting percentage (39.1%) and second in made threes per game (12.9).

Korver is in the final season of a four-year, $24 million contract.

In his 15th season, Dunleavy has averaged 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists with Golden State, Indiana, Milwaukee, Chicago and Cleveland.

Williams, a 13-year veteran, has appeared in 818 career games with Utah, Milwaukee, Cleveland, L.A. Clippers, Utah, Portland, Minnesota and Charlotte, averaging 13.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds.

The 2019 first-round draft pick headed the Hawks is top-10 protected in 2019 and 2020.

Source:USA Today.com

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07/Jan/2017

Dallas Cowboys Top Washington Redskins for Their 10th Straight Win

Dak Prescott accounted for two touchdowns, his fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott ran for two more, and the Dallas Cowboys extended their franchise regular-season record with a 10th straight victory, beating the Washington Redskins, 31-26, on Thursday.

Prescott tied Don Meredith’s 50-year-old club record for quarterbacks with his fifth rushing touchdown, and the N.F.L.-leading Cowboys won despite 449 yards passing and three touchdowns from Kirk Cousins, the first Redskins quarterback to post two 400-yard games in a season.

Dallas Coach Jason Garrett praised Prescott’s play.

“Over and over and over again, at critical moments, he came up with a big play, whether it was a third down, down in the red zone, again and again and again he just played winning football for us,” Garrett said.

The Redskins, the defending division champions, were swept by their N.F.C. East rival Dallas and fell three and a half games behind the Cowboys with five games left after their seventh Thanksgiving loss to them in eight tries.

The 21-year-old Elliott, the N.F.L.’s rushing leader, had 97 yards, giving him 1,199 for the season.

The Cowboys’ eight-game streak of at least 400 yards on offense ended, as they finished with 353. But Dallas answered with touchdowns when the Redskins pulled within a score on Cousins’s 5-yard pass to Jordan Reed and again on his 67-yard throw to DeSean Jackson, who had 118 yards receiving.

After Cousins’s second scoring toss to Reed, an 8-yarder with 1 minute 53 seconds remaining, Dustin Hopkins’s onside kick went out of bounds and the Cowboys ran out the clock.

Reed had 10 catches for 95 yards after missing most of the first half with an injury to his left shoulder, sustained when he leapt for a pass over his head in the end zone.

Cousins, who was 41 of 53, finished 8 yards shy of his career high.

Prescott was 17 of 24 for 195 yards and one touchdown. He had eight carries for 39 yards, including a career-long 18-yarder.

LIONS 16, VIKINGS 13 Matt Prater kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired after Darius Slay’s interception with 30 seconds left, lifting host Detroit over Minnesota and into sole possession of first place in the N.F.C. North.

The Lions have won six of seven, including two against the Vikings this month, despite having trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season.

They extended their N.F.L. record of having their first 11 games decided by 7 points or fewer.

Minnesota has lost five of six, plummeting out of first place after surging to the top of the division by winning its first five games.

The Vikings could have played for overtime on their last drive, but Coach Mike Zimmer allowed Sam Bradford to throw. Slay made him regret it, setting up Prater’s winning kick.

Prater made a game-tying 58-yard field goal at the end of regulation earlier this month at Minnesota, and Detroit won in overtime.

If the two teams finish the regular season tied atop the division, Detroit would win the tiebreaker.

STEELERS 28, COLTS 7 Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 25, 33 and 22 yards to Antonio Brown, connecting in the first, second and fourth quarters, as Pittsburgh won at Indianapolis.

Le’veon Bell opened the scoring for the Steelers with a 5-yard run, and Roethlisberger and Brown hooked up for their first touchdown with about a minute left in the opening quarter, giving Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead.

Donte Moncrief scored the Colts’ only touchdown about three minutes later, on a 5-yard pass from Scott Tolzien, who started in place of the injured Andrew Luck.

Tolzien was 22 of 36 for 205 yards, with two interceptions.

Roethlisberger was 14 of 20 for 221 yards, as the Steelers took over first place in the A.F.C. North.

Source:NY times

Read more
26/Nov/2016

Kevin Martin Retires: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Veteran guard Kevin Martin has retired after 12 NBA seasons. 

Martin made the announcement in an ad that appeared in the Zanesville Times Recorder on Thursday, which read in part:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. There's not a more perfect day for me to express those feelings. There are so many ways to announce your after professional career plans. My family and close friends have known since June of the direction I wanted my life to go. Those were the toughest conversations that I have ever had but with the ultimate support I knew I was making the right decision. 

Martin last appeared in an NBA game on May 12 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He grabbed two rebounds in just under six minutes. 

The 33-year-old Martin played for five teams during his NBA career. The Sacramento Kings originally selected him 26th overall in 2004, and he spent five-and-a-half years with the franchise before it traded him to the Houston Rockets in 2010. 

In three seasons with the Rockets, Martin had the most successful stretch of his career, averaging 21.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Following his stint in Houston, he also spent time with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves before joining the Spurs in March. 

Prior to debuting in the Association, Martin emerged as a dynamic talent during his college career at Western Carolina. During his junior season in 2003-04, he averaged 24.9 points per game and notched 44 against Georgia. 

Martin never emerged as a superstar in the NBA, but he was a valuable role player who carved out a terrific career for more than a decade because of his ability to score. He's hanging up his basketball shoes without much fanfare but has a lot to look back on fondly.

Source:CNN.com

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26/Nov/2016

As Ratings Plummet, N.F.L. Considers Reducing Ads and Length of Games

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Thursday that the league was looking at a variety of ways to shorten game broadcasts, including trimming some advertising, to keep the action moving.

The league has seen its television ratings plunge this season, something that Goodell has said is related to a number of factors, including the intense interest in the presidential election, as well as shifts in the way fans have been watching games.

Though television ratings are down by double digits so far this season, Goodell said that N.F.L. ratings had risen 27 percent in the past decade even as ratings for prime-time television had fallen 36 percent. Speaking on Thursday at the annual DealBook conference hosted by The New York Times, he called this year’s decline “cyclical.”

Goodell noted, though, that the pace of games could also be a factor in the ratings decline. Fans have complained for years that games are too long, and they frequently express annoyance at the number of commercial breaks and video reviews. Last season, the average length of regular-season games, from kickoff to final whistle, was 3 hours 8 minutes, six minutes longer than in 2008.

Goodell said the league was considering a number of potential solutions to improve the pace of games, including running fewer advertisements and changing when they run. The league is also looking at ways to speed up video reviews by its officials as well as the time it takes referees to announce penalties on the field.

“We want to take as much what we call dead time, non-action out of the game, so that we can make the game more exciting,” Goodell said.

The league has expanded the number of games it plays on Thursday nights and overseas, leading some to speculate that the N.F.L. may be reducing interest in the game. Goodell said he was mindful of that possibility.

“Every game counts, so that makes our inventory incredibly valuable,” he said, adding that the league has to be careful not to saturate the market.

Goodell said he was aware of a surge of complaints that officials were botching calls on the field. He said the league was looking at how best to use technology to improve officiating without slowing down the game. “I was at Giants Stadium in the parking lot last weekend, and I got a lot of feedback from fans,” he said.

Goodell was uncertain how the election of Donald J. Trump who brought a lawsuit against the league three decades ago — would affect the N.F.L. He noted that Trump favored less regulation, but he said that the primary concern for the league was its ability to reach fans through the media and technology. It was unclear what changes, if any, a Trump administration might make that would affect those industries.

Source:NY times

Read more
11/Nov/2016

Before U.S. and Mexico Play, Fans Push for Respect in a Charged Atmosphere

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Friday night, just before kickoff of a World Cup qualifying match against Mexico, the most ardent fans of the United States men’s national soccer team will unveil a giant graphical display, known as a tifo, at one end of Mapfre Stadium to show their support for the Americans.

Tifos are common before big games — the last time these teams played here, the American tifo was of an enormous eagle above the word “HOME” — and their designs and messages are closely held secrets until they are revealed. But the one that will be revealed Friday will be just a little different from most: It will be missing one of its panels.

The piece, according to one of the tifo’s designers, was removed this week because of the charged political atmosphere that has followed Donald J. Trump’s victory in Tuesday’s presidential election. According to Kevin Glenn, a designer and local chapter vice president of the supporters group known as the American Outlaws, the deleted panel “wasn’t derogatory toward Mexican fans, but it was ribbing, or maybe intimidating,” and given the current climate, “it just didn’t need to be there.”

“It probably wouldn’t have caused any issues,” Glenn said, “but we just don’t want a potential for any blemish on this at all.”

Such restraint is notable within the soccer world — where fans, particularly in Europe and elsewhere, can often be obscene, if not disgraceful, in their en masse behavior — but it is also representative of the unusual feelings around this game, which is the most significant sporting event involving an American national team since Mr. Trump became the president-elect.

Photo

 

Fans of Mexico’s soccer team cheered at the 2015 Concacaf Cup in Pasadena, Calif. The Cup, between the United States and Mexico, determined Concacaf’s entry into the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Mexico won, 3-2, after extra time. Credit Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

That the match is against Mexico — whose citizens Mr. Trump insulted during his campaign and whose northern border Mr. Trump has vowed to separate from the United States with a massive wall — has only furthered the abnormal vibe.

“It’s been very, very intense,” said Manny Zambrano, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, but has lived in Columbus since he was 9. “Obviously the election took most everyone by surprise.”

Zambrano will be at the match on Friday night supporting Mexico. It is expected that only a few hundred fans out of the more than 20,000 inside Mapfre Stadium will be cheering for the visitors — that is one of the reasons U.S. Soccer has chosen to play this game here — but many other Mexico fans will be part of the pregame tailgates around the venue and will watch the game at nearby bars and restaurants.

Another Mexican supporter, Blanca Garcia, said she and a large group of friends who will attend the game and cheer for Mexico had a meeting this week that quickly turned emotional, as a discussion that was supposed to be about the game kept veering back to politics.

Garcia said her fan group was organizing an elaborate pregame party near the stadium, which will include Mexican musicians, a D.J. and free food during the buildup to the game. Anyone is welcome to come to the gathering, she said, and she expressed hope that there would not be any conflicts between Mexico fans and those arriving to cheer the United States.

“Honestly, from the talks we had yesterday — people are scared,” she said, referring both to the game and to the future under Mr. Trump. “They’re scared in a way that they don’t want to be disrespected, don’t want to be cut down. They don’t want to be disrespected and have to sit back and not do anything or say anything.”

Ms. Garcia added that, for her, like many Americans, the results of the election had prompted a re-examination of what she thought she knew about the leanings of others within her community. While some might assume that all the members of her group would have opposed Mr. Trump’s election, she said that actually was not the case. That led to some frank exchanges this week.

“I felt like I was definitely angry with some of the things I was hearing them say,” Garcia said, noting that one friend, whose parents are Mexicans with permanent residency in the United States, was outspoken in supporting Mr. Trump and his plan to build a wall. “He thinks there are a lot of people here that shouldn’t be here,” she said. “We have people in our group that are undocumented, who want desperately to stay and aren’t doing anything, so it was very awkward.”

Brock Hemphill, the president of the American Outlaws chapter here and a veteran of earlier U.S.-Mexico meetings here, said the group’s organizers had taken steps to ensure that the atmosphere at the stadium was rowdy but respectful. The Outlaws plan to sing a verse from a Woody Guthrie folk song, “This Land Is Your Land,” before the game, and the group will place monitors wearing yellow badges in each of the sections.

There had been online talk among some fans, Hemphill said, about possibly chanting, “Build that wall!” and other taunts at Mexico fans, but “we’re going to shut anything like that down immediately.”

Photo

 

A fan of the United States team at the Rose Bowl in 2015 before the game against Mexico. Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

On Thursday, at the Outlaws’ traditional night-before party, Mexican fans mingled easily with American fans at a bar. Several players from the United States team, which has players from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, said they expected the crowd at the game to be inclusive — yet still passionate.

“People want to politicize this game, but I don’t think there is a need for that,” Alejandro Bedoya, a New Jersey-born midfielder of Colombian descent, said.

The coaches for the teams — both of whom immigrated to the United States — struck a similar tone, though Javier Hernández, Mexico’s star forward, said he understood the passion that some Mexican fans, in particular, might feel about the game coming so soon after the election.

“There are moments that are not so nice for some people, and it wasn’t the best for Latinos and all of us,” Hernández said in an interview with Univision this week. “Sadly, that was the decision that the country took. If our game can give them some joy and take away the sadness they are going through, well, good then.”

Of course, that sentiment seems to presuppose certain leanings for a large demographic group as well, and postelection results have indicated that such blanket suppositions are misguided. That is why, Garcia said, her group of pro-Mexico fans ultimately decided to do its best to table any political talk and, for a few hours at least, just focus on the game.

“It’s been so powerful, but we’re putting aside what happened on Tuesday and trying not to make things bad at the game,” she said.

Then she hesitated. “Or, at least, not make things worse.”

Source:NY times

Read more
11/Nov/2016

Jose Fernandez had cocaine, alcohol in system during fatal boat crash

CNN)Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez had cocaine in his system when he and two friends were killed in a boat crash last month off Miami Beach, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's office said Saturday.

Associate Medical Examiner Kenneth Hutchins listed "boat crash" as the cause of death and also said Fernandez was legally drunk with a blood-alcohol concentration of .147.
Fernandez, 24, suffered blunt-force injuries to the head and torso, along with skull and jaw fractures when the boat he was in hit a jetty near Miami Beach in the early morning hours of September 25.
Fernandez and two friends, Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero, were found dead later that morning after their boat was discovered near South Pointe Beach on Government Cut.
Coast Guard personnel on patrol noticed the vessel upside down on the north end of a rocky jetty shortly after 3:15 a.m.
Authorities have not determined who was piloting the boat, which Fernandez owned.
Autopsies determined that Macias and Rivero had levels of alcohol below the legal limit in Florida, which is .08. Rivero also had traces of cocaine in his system, the medical examiner's report said.
Authorities are conducting a homicide investigation.
A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was a beloved sports figure in the city where so many of his countrymen have settled and prospered. Drafted by the Marlins in 2011, he rose to become the franchise's marquee pitcher, the National League Rookie of the Year 2013 and a two-time all-star.
His death stunned Miami and the baseball world, where he was a popular figure with teammates and opponents.
Source:CNN.com
Read more
29/Oct/2016

Fierce. Kind. Unsinkable. After a turbulent summer, Draymond Green is ready to rediscover himself

t’s a simple question. Four little words.

But Draymond Green is struck silent. And quite easily so.

He stares ahead, then at the floor. Rocks back and forth. Fiddles with the drawstring on his shorts. Goes to speak. Stops.

Nearly 20 seconds pass. He is surprised by the fact he’s caught off guard.

“Aw, man,” is all his husky baritone offers. “Let me think.”

He sits on a folding chair at the far end of the Golden State Warriors’ downtown Oakland practice facility. It’s two hours after a spring practice and most of his teammates have already departed.

He repeats the question out loud. The words hang in the air. The silence confounds.

Who is Draymond Green?

“Man, I guess…I mean…,” Green stammers. “What I’m trying to say is…”

He laughs nervously. Steels himself.

“OK, there’s the Draymond Green you see out on the floor,” he explains. “But that’s not me. I mean, it is, but there’s more. People see the fiery guy, the competitive guy, the trash talk and everything. But they don’t see the love and compassion. They don’t see the person. They don’t see the real me who values his friends and puts people first. I put everyone and everything before myself. That’s me.

“I could just give you a bunch of words,” Green continues, “but I want you to understand. People don’t see what’s underneath. At the end of the day, I care for you. It’s not just about how I am on the basketball court.

“I got real love for you,” he says. “That’s what allows my teammates to accept me.”

But Green’s tendency to operate on the razor’s edge has threatened to erode the goodwill his leadership and likability have earned him. His forgettable summer began with a leg to the groin of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in the Western Conference Finals, followed by a costly suspension in Game 5 of the NBA Finals for striking LeBron James in the same region.

A month later, he was arrested in East Lansing, Michigan, at 2:28 a.m. for slapping a Michigan State football player outside a restaurant. (Green agreed to a plea bargain and paid a $560 fine.)

Then he accidentally posted a Snapchat picture of his private parts during Team USA’s training camp before heading to the Rio Olympics, which began his tour of contrition.

“I’m human, and I make mistakes,” Green says. “I learned a lot about myself. And I wouldn’t change anything that happened this summer. It helped me grow as a person, and it helped me grow as a leader, and it’s helped me grow as a man. You learn from adversity more than anything because it allows you to see so much. It really allows you to see things in a different way.”

Self-reflection aside, the onus is on Green to walk a straight path lest he exhaust the remainder of his credibility as the vocal leader of a potentially historic dynasty.

“That’s life, and things do happen, but the thing is they can’t happen again because I am a leader, and I’m in a position of responsibility,” Green says.

“I’m going to still be me. That’s something that will never change.”

— Draymond Green

His remorse and willingness to be open with management about his difficulties have served to speed up the recovery process in the eyes of his teammates and coaches.

“He’s been upfront with us about everything,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr says. “He’s learned quite a bit this summer. We still rely on him for energy and leadership.

“He’s talked about taking the next step in terms of keeping his edge and not allowing it to spill over,” Kerr continues. “We’re not good when Draymond doesn’t play with that fire and energy, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”

“The word that comes to mind is mercurial,” says Bruce Fraser, a Warriors assistant/player development coach. “He’s up and down. He’s emotional. Sometimes it can hurt or help him just like it can hurt or help our team. But you have to take the good with the bad.”

Green says he’ll make the necessary changes but won’t tone down his trademark intensity.

“I’m going to still be me,” he says. “That’s something that will never change.”

✦ ✦ ✦

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant hated each other from the start. The no-name rookie and the All-Star. Green was annoying as hell and wouldn’t shut up. Draymond's mom didn’t like Durant, either. She was as loud as her son. She yelled at the skinny enemy from the sidelines, too.

Draymond would push and shove Durant. He knew KD’s skill set was above his own. So he compensated by being loud. By being tough. By being Draymond.

They would cuss and bitch at each other.

The battles were fierce. KD was killing it. Draymond threw elbows. They had words after timeouts. They were not friends.

Durant was big on getting respect from his peers. He told Draymond he hadn’t proved anything yet.

“But I didn’t back down from him,” Green says. “At first I was like, ‘Who is this dude?’”

And then it happened. Slowly. They realized they liked each other.

They couldn’t know their heated opposition was a precursor to one of the most important friendships of their respective careers. It wasn’t hate—it was fun.

Image title

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant of the USA men's national team stand on the court during a game against Nigeria on August 1, 2016, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

KD needed approval. Day Day loved to bust balls. The yin to each other’s yang. The respect grew over time, especially over the summer when they played together on Team USA in the Olympics.

“I can’t tell you exactly when we became friends,” Green says, “but when it’s real and genuine, you can’t pinpoint it. The more time you spend with somebody, the more your relationship grows. I think we were together for 37 days this summer. I just realized, man, I like that dude because he’s a lot like me.”

Green was famously involved with Durant’s recruitment to Golden State, to the point of embarrassment about the dozens of texts he sent him during the first week of July. He got up early on the day of Durant’s announcement and shot him one last text for good measure.

During the Olympics, the pair spent most of their downtime on the team’s cruise-ship headquarters playing cards and talking about what they wanted to accomplish. Green said he would show Durant around the Bay Area.

In the preseason, the pair have taken to shooting contests after practice and dinner on off days.

But the official stamp on their friendship came at the expense of Durant when Green recently made fun of his premature balding on Snapchat.

“If Draymond kids, he cares,” says Fraser, the three-year assistant who is known for his strong relationships with his players. “Dray is such a good voice for Kevin on the floor. He’s constantly pumping him up and encouraging him. Kevin’s just trying to fit in, and it can be tough. There is a transition period no matter how good you are, and Draymond is making it as easy as possible on and off the floor.”

“Well, he’s passing him the ball and telling him to shoot,” Kerr says with a chuckle. “So that helps.”

✦ ✦ ✦

It all started because she sat in the wrong section. After arriving late to a game at Arthur Hill High, Mary Babers-Green, Draymond’s mom, was forced to sit in the visiting Saginaw High section. Draymond was still in middle school.

As always, Mary was the loudest voice in the gym. Her taunts and barbs were often punctuated by a deliciously wicked cackle and the occasional expletive. She cheered for Hill and rode the refs unmercifully. A brute sitting several rows up began jawing with the boisterous woman, telling her to pipe down.

But she only got louder. Because that’s what she does. She gave up a hundred pounds to the antagonizing teen but unabatedly proceeded to spew junk.

He began pelting her with Peanut M&M’s. She’d had enough.

“If you don’t stop throwing those things at me, I’m gonna drag you down the steps,” she said forcefully. Another zipped by.

“He has to be an assh--e because that's what his team needs.”

— Mary Babers-Green, Draymond's mother

Several police officers converged on Babers-Green, and a loud argument ensued. After several minutes, she was restrained, and four officers picked her up by her arms and legs and tossed her out of the gym. Protesting all the while, she said the elbows she landed more than made up for the public embarrassment.

“I got in a couple good shots,” she says. “Shoot, had to let them know. But to me, it was the funniest thing ever."

A role model was born.

Asked to describe her son’s personality, Babers-Green responds sarcastically: “Which one? Let’s see, how do I describe Draymond?”

She usually emphasizes the second syllable of her second son’s name—Dray-MOND.

Much like when her son faced the same question, the words easily escape her. “He’s that person that wants to be all things to all people,” Babers-Green says. “He wants to be a friend to everyone. That’s why it upsets me so much when they talk bad about him on social media, because they don’t know who Dray is.

“When he’s doing his job, he has to be an assh--e because that’s what his team needs. They need his fire because the Warriors don’t have any alpha males on the team. His attitude is ‘I can handle it,’ and he just wants to make sure you’re OK.”

But even Babers-Green has insisted Draymond learn to rein in his fiery nature—the one he inherited from her—if it comes at the expense of the team. She could do without the technical fouls.

“I hate it,” she says. “I hate it, but I understand. That’s where his passion goes too far. It’s like, ‘Dray, relax.’ The refs are there to do a job, but they don’t understand your passion. I’ve told him a hundred times, 'Just be quiet!'”

Chris Palmer

Illustration by Dadu Shin

October 21, 2016

Bleacher Report

It’s a simple question. Four little words.

But Draymond Green is struck silent. And quite easily so.

He stares ahead, then at the floor. Rocks back and forth. Fiddles with the drawstring on his shorts. Goes to speak. Stops.

Nearly 20 seconds pass. He is surprised by the fact he’s caught off guard.

“Aw, man,” is all his husky baritone offers. “Let me think.”

He sits on a folding chair at the far end of the Golden State Warriors’ downtown Oakland practice facility. It’s two hours after a spring practice and most of his teammates have already departed.

He repeats the question out loud. The words hang in the air. The silence confounds.

Who is Draymond Green?

Image title

Draymond Green warms up with Team USA before a July 26, 2016, game against China at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Getty Images)

“Man, I guess…I mean…,” Green stammers. “What I’m trying to say is…”

He laughs nervously. Steels himself.

“OK, there’s the Draymond Green you see out on the floor,” he explains. “But that’s not me. I mean, it is, but there’s more. People see the fiery guy, the competitive guy, the trash talk and everything. But they don’t see the love and compassion. They don’t see the person. They don’t see the real me who values his friends and puts people first. I put everyone and everything before myself. That’s me.

“I could just give you a bunch of words,” Green continues, “but I want you to understand. People don’t see what’s underneath. At the end of the day, I care for you. It’s not just about how I am on the basketball court.

“I got real love for you,” he says. “That’s what allows my teammates to accept me.”

But Green’s tendency to operate on the razor’s edge has threatened to erode the goodwill his leadership and likability have earned him. His forgettable summer began with a leg to the groin of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in the Western Conference Finals, followed by a costly suspension in Game 5 of the NBA Finals for striking LeBron James in the same region.

A month later, he was arrested in East Lansing, Michigan, at 2:28 a.m. for slapping a Michigan State football player outside a restaurant. (Green agreed to a plea bargain and paid a $560 fine.)

Then he accidentally posted a Snapchat picture of his private parts during Team USA’s training camp before heading to the Rio Olympics, which began his tour of contrition.

“I’m human, and I make mistakes,” Green says. “I learned a lot about myself. And I wouldn’t change anything that happened this summer. It helped me grow as a person, and it helped me grow as a leader, and it’s helped me grow as a man. You learn from adversity more than anything because it allows you to see so much. It really allows you to see things in a different way.”

Self-reflection aside, the onus is on Green to walk a straight path lest he exhaust the remainder of his credibility as the vocal leader of a potentially historic dynasty.

“That’s life, and things do happen, but the thing is they can’t happen again because I am a leader, and I’m in a position of responsibility,” Green says.

“I’m going to still be me. That’s something that will never change.”

— Draymond Green

His remorse and willingness to be open with management about his difficulties have served to speed up the recovery process in the eyes of his teammates and coaches.

“He’s been upfront with us about everything,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr says. “He’s learned quite a bit this summer. We still rely on him for energy and leadership.

“He’s talked about taking the next step in terms of keeping his edge and not allowing it to spill over,” Kerr continues. “We’re not good when Draymond doesn’t play with that fire and energy, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”

“The word that comes to mind is mercurial,” says Bruce Fraser, a Warriors assistant/player development coach. “He’s up and down. He’s emotional. Sometimes it can hurt or help him just like it can hurt or help our team. But you have to take the good with the bad.”

Green says he’ll make the necessary changes but won’t tone down his trademark intensity.

“I’m going to still be me,” he says. “That’s something that will never change.”

✦ ✦ ✦

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant hated each other from the start. The no-name rookie and the All-Star. Green was annoying as hell and wouldn’t shut up. Draymond's mom didn’t like Durant, either. She was as loud as her son. She yelled at the skinny enemy from the sidelines, too.

Draymond would push and shove Durant. He knew KD’s skill set was above his own. So he compensated by being loud. By being tough. By being Draymond.

They would cuss and bitch at each other.

The battles were fierce. KD was killing it. Draymond threw elbows. They had words after timeouts. They were not friends.

Durant was big on getting respect from his peers. He told Draymond he hadn’t proved anything yet.

“But I didn’t back down from him,” Green says. “At first I was like, ‘Who is this dude?’”

And then it happened. Slowly. They realized they liked each other.

They couldn’t know their heated opposition was a precursor to one of the most important friendships of their respective careers. It wasn’t hate—it was fun.

Image title

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant of the USA men's national team stand on the court during a game against Nigeria on August 1, 2016, at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

KD needed approval. Day Day loved to bust balls. The yin to each other’s yang. The respect grew over time, especially over the summer when they played together on Team USA in the Olympics.

“I can’t tell you exactly when we became friends,” Green says, “but when it’s real and genuine, you can’t pinpoint it. The more time you spend with somebody, the more your relationship grows. I think we were together for 37 days this summer. I just realized, man, I like that dude because he’s a lot like me.”

Green was famously involved with Durant’s recruitment to Golden State, to the point of embarrassment about the dozens of texts he sent him during the first week of July. He got up early on the day of Durant’s announcement and shot him one last text for good measure.

During the Olympics, the pair spent most of their downtime on the team’s cruise-ship headquarters playing cards and talking about what they wanted to accomplish. Green said he would show Durant around the Bay Area.

In the preseason, the pair have taken to shooting contests after practice and dinner on off days.

But the official stamp on their friendship came at the expense of Durant when Green recently made fun of his premature balding on Snapchat.

“If Draymond kids, he cares,” says Fraser, the three-year assistant who is known for his strong relationships with his players. “Dray is such a good voice for Kevin on the floor. He’s constantly pumping him up and encouraging him. Kevin’s just trying to fit in, and it can be tough. There is a transition period no matter how good you are, and Draymond is making it as easy as possible on and off the floor.”

“Well, he’s passing him the ball and telling him to shoot,” Kerr says with a chuckle. “So that helps.”

✦ ✦ ✦

It all started because she sat in the wrong section. After arriving late to a game at Arthur Hill High, Mary Babers-Green, Draymond’s mom, was forced to sit in the visiting Saginaw High section. Draymond was still in middle school.

As always, Mary was the loudest voice in the gym. Her taunts and barbs were often punctuated by a deliciously wicked cackle and the occasional expletive. She cheered for Hill and rode the refs unmercifully. A brute sitting several rows up began jawing with the boisterous woman, telling her to pipe down.

But she only got louder. Because that’s what she does. She gave up a hundred pounds to the antagonizing teen but unabatedly proceeded to spew junk.

He began pelting her with Peanut M&M’s. She’d had enough.

“If you don’t stop throwing those things at me, I’m gonna drag you down the steps,” she said forcefully. Another zipped by.

“He has to be an assh--e because that's what his team needs.”

— Mary Babers-Green, Draymond's mother

Several police officers converged on Babers-Green, and a loud argument ensued. After several minutes, she was restrained, and four officers picked her up by her arms and legs and tossed her out of the gym. Protesting all the while, she said the elbows she landed more than made up for the public embarrassment.

“I got in a couple good shots,” she says. “Shoot, had to let them know. But to me, it was the funniest thing ever."

A role model was born.

Asked to describe her son’s personality, Babers-Green responds sarcastically: “Which one? Let’s see, how do I describe Draymond?”

She usually emphasizes the second syllable of her second son’s name—Dray-MOND.

Much like when her son faced the same question, the words easily escape her. “He’s that person that wants to be all things to all people,” Babers-Green says. “He wants to be a friend to everyone. That’s why it upsets me so much when they talk bad about him on social media, because they don’t know who Dray is.

“When he’s doing his job, he has to be an assh--e because that’s what his team needs. They need his fire because the Warriors don’t have any alpha males on the team. His attitude is ‘I can handle it,’ and he just wants to make sure you’re OK.”

But even Babers-Green has insisted Draymond learn to rein in his fiery nature—the one he inherited from her—if it comes at the expense of the team. She could do without the technical fouls.

“I hate it,” she says. “I hate it, but I understand. That’s where his passion goes too far. It’s like, ‘Dray, relax.’ The refs are there to do a job, but they don’t understand your passion. I’ve told him a hundred times, 'Just be quiet!'”

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Draymond was raised in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Saginaw, Michigan, which locals affectionately dubbed The Nickel. The tiny three-bedroom house he shared with Babers-Green, older brother Torrian Harris and sister LaToya Babers was a hub of activity that buzzed with laughter and the drama of extended family and neighbors.

After his senior year in high school, in which he led Saginaw High to a 27-1 record and a Michigan Class A state championship and was named Fourth Team Parade All-American, Green started hanging out at all hours, going to clubs and getting in fights.

When Draymond got in trouble, his mom usually knew about it before he got home. His transgressions were usually kid stuff, but she knew how easily things could escalate. She quickly became fed up.

“We’re done with this, buddy,” she told him when he walked in the door one night after she waited up for him.

She had him enroll in summer school at Michigan State to get him out of Saginaw. Even gave him her Impala to sweeten the deal.

Soon, Green found his groove at the next level after butting heads with Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, managing to adjust his fiery nature in accordance with an unfamiliar system.

Green’s passion both aggrieved and excited Izzo.

He was a fireball of emotion in practice. He would scream. He would cuss. He would punt balls up to the concourse level. He’d knock over trash cans. He was a freshman.

He was particularly volatile when it came to the War Drill, a brutal five-on-five rebounding exercise few players looked forward to. But Green loved it. Five players on defense would position themselves inside the lane. The offense lined up along the three-point line. After a coach would intentionally miss a shot, the defense would fight to keep the offense out of the lane and secure the ball.

Green and white practice jerseys crashed together like front lines in an epic war movie. More often than not, the drill would lead to fights, which Izzo didn’t exactly discourage so long as nobody got hurt and there wasn’t an underlying cause other than the moment’s intensity.

Draymond was usually in the middle.

“He’d be getting in fistfights with guys,” Spartans teammate Austin Thornton says. “Seemed like there were brawls all the time. He’d get off a couple punches, end up wrestling on the ground. There were headlocks, torn jerseys, everything. But it was all about love and competition. It was never from a bad place. He never wanted to hurt anyone. He considered his teammates family.

“After practice, he’d be the first one to put his arm around you, then start making jokes. He knew when to be competitive and when to be supportive. But he went at it with just about everybody.”

Green would challenge his teammates on all things. After his junior year, Thornton invited a group of his teammates to hang out at the lake by his parents’ 30-acre ranch in Sand Lake, Michigan. They swam and rode Jet Skis.

None of the players had ever ridden horses before when they set eyes on the Thorntons’ stable of quarter horses.

“I bet I’ll be the first one to get up on that horse and ride it by myself,” Green said to Michigan State teammate and now-Minnesota Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne, a burly power forward who had never seen a horse that close up before.

After getting acquainted with a mare named Stormy—16 hands high—and walking her around the enclosure, Green mounted the equine.

“It was the funniest thing to see,” Thornton says. “His feet almost touched the ground when he was riding. But that’s just Day Day.”

Green led the Spartans to three conference championships in four years and garnered Big Ten Player of the Year honors, along with a host of other awards after his senior season. None of them were more special than the Glue and Guts Award he picked up at the team banquet at the end of his last year. His teammates stood and cheered. Izzo’s heart burst.

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Wardell Stephen Curry II, the Brilliant Blur, is changing the game of basketball before our eyes. The awe-inspiring improvisation of step-back, no-look threes mocks defenses designed to thwart it. His wizardry with the basketball is pumped into living rooms and mobile devices and our new consciousness nightly.

But the man who sits directly across from Curry in the Warriors locker room, about a corner three away, is no less an agent of change.

The improbability of Green’s bewildering rise has yielded a cavalcade of praise and put him on a short list of second-rounders to sign a contract in excess of $80 million. His 2015-16 numbers—14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game—resulted in the most productive season in NBA history according to plus/minus statistics that measure how a team fares when a player is in and out of the lineup.

His career is a divine avoidance of the scrap heap. He is an underdog who, by the force of his will and contagious cult of personality—and constant study—has become one of the best players on the planet.

Curry pull-ups gloriously live forever on Vine. Klay Thompson’s perfect release gets raves from broadcasters. But Green dominating 7'1" Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert—pushing him five feet away from his comfort zone—swatting San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard’s shot at the rim while helping the helper and improbably stopping Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook at full tilt on the break wins games.

“He’s like our Energizer Bunny,” Curry says. “There’s days when you just don’t have it in games or practices, and he’s the one who picks us up. Sometimes your body is catching up to you and you’re just tired. But he has it every night and every practice.”

“In 10 years, when people ask these guys who's the best teammate they ever had, I want the answer to be Draymond Green.”

— Draymond Green

“He’s just so assertive,” new teammate David West says. “It’s the force of his personality. He’s always moving and always talking. He makes you bring it.”

He screams in the locker room. At Kerr. At opposing coaches. At Kevin Garnett. He rolls his eyes. He flexes. He throws up his hands. He imposes his will. He puts his arm around you. Tells you how proud he is. Tells you he loves you.

“It makes him a real person,” former Warriors center Festus Ezeli says. “He’s not just someone you work with—he’s someone you connect with.”

“As a human being, he has a high emotional quotient and is a loving soul,” Warriors co-owner Peter Guber says. “I learn from him every day. He cares. He feels. He’s kind.”

“In 10 years, when people ask these guys who’s the best teammate they ever had,” Green says, “I want the answer to be Draymond Green.”

Still, critics, loyalists and trolls battle over Green’s authenticity. He may be the most divisive player to never average 15 points.

Despite leading the NBA playoffs in technical fouls, skirmishes and war cries, ad campaigns for the products he endorses don’t play up his fiery persona. He appears in the NBA’s Lean In campaign, which endorses men’s support of women in both the home and the workplace.

Everything about his career feels accidental. Yet his timing is as impeccable as his fit is snug. Guber likens it to a movie.

“Draymond is Jack Nicholson in the original Batman,” says Guber, who has produced more than 40 movies. “He was the villain in a sense, but all the kids loved him. He was the most interesting character. He wasn’t the star of the picture, but he had a role to play and played it with such excitement. The movie depended on him. He was predictably unpredictable.”

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Draymond Green reacts against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena on June 19, 2016, in Oakland, California. (Getty Images)

Draymond Jamal Green sits at his locker after the Warriors' Game 2 victory over a plucky Blazers squad in the second round of the NBA playoffs. There’s no rhyme or reason why Mary gave him the middle name Jamal.

“I just thought it sounded good,” Babers-Green says.

There’s no reason a Frankenstein of body parts and indifference and peculiarity and unreasonable enthusiasm should be one of the NBA’s best players.

And then you see it. The incongruence of Green’s awkward perfection.

It’s Mary. It’s Saginaw. It’s being too small and too fat. It’s being nobody. Combined, they transcend improbability and plant a flag. The underdog label fades with deliberate speed. Even if the words take time.

The pudgy kid made it.

It’s a complex question after all.

Who is Draymond Green?

“Look around this room,” he says after that playoff victory over the Blazers. “Look at these guys. This is why I do this. This is why I fight. This is why I love.”

Thompson sits quietly at his locker. Curry whispers to daughter Riley.

“Basketball is a perilous industry,” Guber says. “Fortunes wax and wane. Draymond’s intellectual curiosity will carry him far beyond this sport. He will continue to learn and grow. We are all in transition. We’re all learning from each other. I tell him the only thing I have in my life is my experiences. Everything else is rented.”

We are all in transition. This Mary knows.

“I can’t help him,” Babers-Green says as her voice lowers with the realization. “Not anymore. He’s a man now. This is the life he chose. This is his world. I can’t fly to California and make it all better. But I will always be his mom.”

And Draymond will always be her son.

Source:CNN.com

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22/Oct/2016

Kristaps Porzingis, Adidas Reportedly Agree to Multiyear Contract

Kristaps Porzingis is set to cash in on an outstanding rookie season with the New York Knicks.

The 21-year-old forward has agreed to a multiyear endorsement deal with Adidas, according to a Wednesday report from Nick DePaula of The Vertical. He will reportedly make between $3 million and $6 million per year as part of the largest shoe deal ever for a European player.

Nike, which sponsored Porzingis last season, has the right to match Adidas' offer.

The Latvian star averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during his 2015-16 rookie campaign.

While the No. 4 overall pick was met with mixed reactions on draft night, the 7'3" forward exceeded expectations on the court while earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Team.

Perhaps his most notable endorsement came from 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant ahead of a January matchup between the Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

"He can shoot. He can make the right plays. He can defend. He's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the three-point line," Durant said, per Royce Young of ESPN.com. "That's rare. And block shots—that's like a unicorn in this league."

Porzingis' strong play and unique skill set led to plenty of popularity both in New York and nationally. According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, Porzingis had the fourth-highest-selling jersey in the NBA behind only Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

It's no surprise Adidas is trying to take advantage of a young player on the rise by locking him into a sponsorship deal for the long term. New teammate Derrick Rose is also one of the company's biggest endorsers.      

Source:CNN.com

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06/Oct/2016

Why the Future of Texas Program Hinges on Saturday's Red River Rivalry

Last season, Charlie Strong and Texas stunned Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry and saved his job.

If he wants to stay in Austin, he'll have to repeat the feat this weekend.

It's the middle of the third season of the Strong era, and the roller coaster that has featured offensive ineptitude and a revolving door of quarterbacks in 2014 and 2015, then sudden offensive promise with true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele at the helm in 2015 is about to go flying off the tracks.

Why?

Because Strong—a defensive coach by trade—has neglected his side of the ball while fixing the Longhorns' offensive issues that plagued them during his previous two seasons.

Texas' defensive unit ranks 116th in the country in scoring defense (38.3 points per game), has given up 47 or more points in three of four contests in 2016 and 38 or more in five of the last seven games overall.

Those struggles forced Strong to make drastic changes this week, when he demoted defensive coordinator Vance Bedford to secondary coach and took over the play-calling responsibilities himself in what clearly is a desperation move—even though he'll never admit it.

Strong commented on the move according to Texas' official site:

I don't think it's desperate or desperate measures. Talking with the defense and defensive staff, they understand. They understand what we need to get done. It's not this big desperation, all of the sudden, 'Hey, coach, you've got to.' I know this. That, 'Hey, I've done it before and I can see where I can help us.' And sometimes you feel like you need new energy and eyes, and hoping this will be a good move for that, which it will be.

If you can't decipher that code, let me do it for you. 

It means: "Psst, Tom Herman: Don't you go falling in love with LSU over the next couple of months. Because we're coming."

The current Houston head coach has spent time at Texas, Texas Lutheran, Sam Houston State and Rice during his career. He also led Ohio State to the national title as the Buckeye offensive coordinator in 2014, guided Houston to a New Year's Six bowl berth in 2015 and has combined his lethal offense with the nation's sixth-best defense in 2016 (250 yards per game).

He's the elixir for what ails Texas, and LSU already has a jump-start on courting the hottest coaching commodity in America (through his agent, of course) after it fired former head coach Les Miles following a 2-2 start.

 

 
Chris Covatta/Getty Images
Houston head coach Tom Herman

 

The problem at Texas begins and ends with Strong, who has not gained any traction save for the week after beating what we now know is a mediocre Notre Dame team in the Longhorns' first game this year.

"When you're the head coach, you have to have your fingerprints in everything—offense, defense and special teams," said former Miami and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, who's now an analyst for SiriusXM and ESPN. "Your forte might be offense or defense, but if you let one side of the ball go completely untouched with every little emphasis on it, you're going to have problems."

Strong being pulled in the direction of fixing his offense—which he did by hiring offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and running more of a power attack out of the spread with tempo—put too much on Bedford's shoulders.

"Charlie trusted Vance, who's a close friend," Davis said. "He probably gave him too much leeway and said, 'OK, Vance can spin this ball and I'll try to get the offense fixed. I'll get quarterback Shane Buechele ready and get the running game going.'"

 

 
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Texas head coach Charlie Strong

 

As a result, you've seen confusion with Football 101, including confusion on where to line up and with missed tackles.

"What we are doing is we are freezing and all of a sudden the guy freezes us and he takes off and we just can't get restarted, whereas he's on the move," Strong said Monday of his team's defensive woes, per the official website. "If you're stationary and a guy is on the move, you have no chance at all to tackle him, zero chance. Every time he's going to beat you."

What's more, Texas' lack of focus on special teams created a debacle for the ages against Oklahoma State last week, when the Cowboys blocked three extra points.

"To get three extra points blocked in one game, that's unheard of," Davis said. "You might get one in a season or two in a decade. But three in one game? I've never heard of that."

Strong wants a different voice for his defense, in the hopes that it will spark a change. 

If the plan to fix the defense is simply "a different voice" heading into a rivalry game against an Oklahoma team that's averaging 492.5 yards per game, 6.86 yards per play and 39.5 points per contest, it will be a long afternoon deep in the heart of Texas—one that will define the future of Strong and his program.

"It's like the kid who's sticking his finger in the dike, and there's a leak, and then another leak and another," Davis said. "Before long, you run out of fingers."

As Finger noted in the quote from Red McCombs, the possibility of change is already out there among Texas' powerbrokers, all of whom will undoubtedly look squarely in Herman's direction. 

The Red River Rivalry has always mattered for bragging rights.

But for the second straight year for Strong, it's personal. He was carried off the field following last season's 24-17 win over Oklahoma, which eventually went on to play in a national semifinal against Clemson. That was after a 1-4 start for the Longhorns and enough offensive problems to fill the Cotton Bowl.

The script for this season's annual showdown with the Sooners is essentially the same, with the plot twist coming on Strong's side of the ball instead of the other. 

A good defensive performance from the Longhorns will hold off the posse for now.

More of the same, and the wheels will start spinning at a high rate toward Herman. Even though Texas would likely have plenty of pull if and when the job opens up, it can't let LSU get too much of a head start.

Source: CNN.com

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06/Oct/2016

Kevin Garnett Leaves Behind Legacy as NBA's Most Beloved Bully

Kevin Garnett is leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA relatively quietly, and that's a little weird for a player whose career has been defined by high volume and confrontation.

Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune reported the iconic forward won't play for the Wolves this season after Garnett and the team agreed to a buyout Friday. Garnett announced his retirement on Instagram shortly thereafter.

A genuine game-changer and indisputably one of the best players the league has ever known, Garnett leaves behind a complicated legacy. Underlying his competitive greatness was a sort of selective ferocity. Wildly intense and devoted to winning, KG will be remembered nearly as much for his mold-busting game as his countless episodes of chippy on-court barking.

It's just that the targets of his intensity were often soft ones, and his willingness to follow through on all that scowling chatter seemed to often depend on the readiness of the victim to fight back.

This is how you describe a bully—albeit one more widely revered and generally celebrated than most.

Because bullies take cheap shots that inspire responses like this from Charlie Villanueva (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports): "K.G. called me a cancer patient. K.G. talks a lot of crap. He's [probably] never been in a fight. I would love to get in a ring with him. I will expose him."

There was also the time he bonked the mighty Andrea Bargnani and then threw his hands to the sky proclaiming innocence:

In contrast, Garnett was decidedly less willing to push the envelope with more formidable figures such as Carmelo Anthony and Metta World Peace—players with actual track records of on-court fighting.

Perhaps to his credit, an older Garnett eventually began picking on guys his own size. Though Dwight Howard's reputation for silliness doesn't exactly make him a high-risk target.

Chances are, if you've got a favorite KG memory, it involves him yelling like a man possessed or verbally tearing into a foe. Even if the moment that sticks in your mind is an actual basketball play (and Garnett had plenty of terrific ones), the odds are good he does some post-highlight shouting, or at least frowns a little.

And it's telling that one of the most seared-in images from a surefire Hall of Fame career involves a hit...that Garnett received and didn't return:

Anthony Peeler wasn't even slightly intimidated by Garnett's prodding. The thing is, after Peeler decked Garnett in Game 6 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, KG obliterated the Sacramento Kings with 32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals in a Game 7 win.

This is an important distinction to make: The complicated or selective nature of his non-basketball intensity never applied to Garnett's play. He was uniformly monstrous in that regard.

Which is partly why we'll also never forget when it led to ultimate success:

And more yelling.

In the end, we need to be careful about this discussion because we can't very well fault Garnett for being less physically violent than he otherwise might have been. Nobody's saying he should have fought everyone who took issue with his needling. That's ridiculous.

This is all just to say that the complete picture of KG has always featured two sides—even for his teammates.

Here's Jackie MacMullan on that point from her 2015 ESPN The Magazine feature:

Former teammate Chauncey Billups maintains that Garnett is the most unselfish superstar of his era and the most dynamic leader he has seen. Then again, if Towns is devoured by KG's fire, he wouldn't be the first. A partial list of ex-teammates who have endured the wrath of the Big Ticket includes Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Mason Plumlee, Ray Allen, Wally Szczerbiak, Rajon Rondo, Rasho Nesterovic, Patrick O'Bryant and Deron Williams. Some have survived to be welcomed into Garnett's inner circle; others are forever dead to him. 'If you don't meet his expectations," says Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, "he has no use for you.'

It's encouraging that Garnett's final mentorship role seems to have gone well. Whatever tough love he gave Karl-Anthony Towns seems to have built a bond.

Without question, Garnett is one of the best players we'll ever see. He changed the NBA in more ways than one, repopularizing the prep-to-pro leap and establishing the template for the modern multiskilled big man. In many ways, he was a perfect basketball player. But there's also this strange wrinkle to his legacy where the one trait that came to define him, intensity, was so obviously flawed.

Consider it an overarching example of the type-defying versatility and uniqueness we'll remember him for.

Source:CNN.com

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25/Sep/2016

Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa: 'I will be killed if I go back to Ethiopia'

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)When Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa raised his hands and crossed his wrists above his head in a defiant political gesture as he approached the finish line at the Rio Olympic marathon, it put the spotlight on his home nation.

"Crossing my wrists in Rio has already had a great impact on my life," he said. "I am now separated from my dear mother, my supportive wife and my precious children in Ethiopia who I miss dearly."
With his simple gesture, Lilesa joined a long list of athletes who have used the global sports stage to protest what they describe as injustices in their home countries.
In his case, the crossed wrists symbolized the handcuffs of political prisoners and dissidents in Ethiopia, who he said have been imprisoned for protesting against the taking and selling of land belonging to the Oromo people to foreign investors.
The Oromo are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group and make up at least a third of Ethiopia's 100 million people. But they have been marginalized for decades, with tensions rising recently as the government promoted development that took over Oromo farmland.
"In November, the government forced farmers off their land and we began to peacefully protest. Since then, human rights organizations say around 500 people are dead. I say that over 1,000 have died; this includes at least 12 people that I know from my home district of Jaldu in Oromia," Lilesa said.
CNN has not been able to independently verify the claim that 1,000 people have been killed since protests began.
Last month, Ethiopia's Communications Minister Getachew Reda described the figure of 1,000 as "nonsense" but he would not offer a figure for the number of protesters who have died. "This game of numbers has no merit," he said at the time.
CNN has tried to contact the Ethiopian government by telephone several times for further comment on these allegations but those attempts have not been successful.
Previously, Reda said Ethiopia's security response to the protests is standard police protocol -- to disperse "rioters." Some protesters have been armed with guns and hand grenades, he said.
As for Lilesa, Reda said he was "entitled to make" a "political statement. That is his right," Reda said. "It's not about holding one political view or another."
Lilesa, who says his family named is correctly spelled as Lelisa but appears differently on his passport and in reporting of his Rio political gesture, spoke of his anguish at what he feared was happening at home.
"Families do not know what happened to their sons and daughters after they were taken by the army and police. We all know someone who has been killed or disappeared," Lilesa told CNN in an email interview.

Olympian fears backlash from government

The marathon runner is now effectively a political exile, estranged from his family and friends and afraid to go back to his country again, despite assurances from the Ethiopian government that he will receive a hero's welcome.
Reda told CNN that Lilesa is an "Ethiopian hero."
"I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family, nothing is going to happen to him."
However, Lilesa told CNN he did not believe these assurances. "This government says one thing and does something different. I know if I go back to Ethiopia, I will be killed, arrested, or put on a list of people never allowed to leave the country again. The government security has killed hundreds of people for just doing what I did."
After the Olympics, Lilesa stayed on in Brazil for weeks and has now traveled to the US where he has received a special skills visa to train for upcoming races there, he said.
Despite fearing for his safety, Lilesa said he had no regrets following his actions.
"I would have regretted if I had returned to Ethiopia without taking the opportunity to make the situation of my people known in this way and make their voices heard," he said in the email interview from Washington DC.
"My people were yearning to be heard... to let their condition be known and because of my protest... now people know who the Oromo are and what they face," he added.

Runner calls for change in Ethiopia

Lilesa says he has received an outpouring of support since the Olympics.
"People make the sign wherever I go," he said.
A crowd funding site has raised more than $160,000. The site was set up by someone in the US who says he recognized that Lilesa would need support following his anti-government protest.
Lilesa, who has two children in Ethiopia, said he misses his family but added: "I know that the families of all those who are lost and those who are maimed are just as precious. Mine is no different from theirs."
He hopes to one day go back to Ethiopia but, he said, not before things change drastically for those persecuted there.
"We need change in Ethiopia," he said.
"I look forward to a day when all people of Ethiopia can live in peace, with their full rights protected. Like all other people, the people of Ethiopia want justice, free speech, accountable government and a free press."
Source:CNN.com
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24/Sep/2016

Entire San Francisco high school football team kneels for national anthem

An entire high school football team in San Francisco decided to take a knee for the playing of the national anthem and intends to continue throughout the season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mission High is believed to be the first high school team to take a knee en masse after individual players have taken a knee on teams across the country in the last week.

Being based in San Francisco, the team has had a front row seat to the movement spurred by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Among the core values in the school’s mission statement is “we serve the needs of individuals and the interests of a diverse community.” That diversity is reflected in a football team made of white, African-American, Latino and Asian players.

Coach Greg Hill, who is an African-American, decided to stand while his players took a knee.

“I decided I’d stand for them,” he told the Chronicle. “I’m gonna stand for my team.”

The decision to kneel was broached by team captain Niamey Harris and the other captains. They said they intended to kneel and asked their teammates to join them.

Harris said the captains said, “This is for helping everybody else in the world to understand that black people and people of color are going through difficulties and they need help. It’s not going to take care of itself.”

Harris, who is an African-American, lives a few blocks from where city police officers killed Mario Woods in December, sparking protests throughout the city of San Francisco and a Justice Department review.

Source:USA Today.com

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16/Sep/2016

Ugo Udezue: The man who wants to build Africa's NBA

Lagos (CNN)Ugo Udezue is a man on a mission

His goal is to create a sports empire to rival one of the most lucrative and successful franchises in the world; the NBA.
"I woke up one day and said, 'I have to do something,'" Udezue told CNN. "Africa has the best talent in sports, look at, even LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Their lineage is from Africa."
The former basketball player and NBA agent is now CEO of the African Basketball League (ABL), which aims to promote the sport on the continent and discover and cultivate young talent.

Finding the new LeBron James

"The motivation is more about creating an opportunity for all those kids I see that are seven foot tall walking down the streets not doing anything," he said.
"I want to cultivate all our LeBron James and our Kevin Durants here in Africa for Africa. We have the talent."
The ABL is currently active in four countries with a total of six teams, but Udezue's goal is to cover the continent.
"In the next three years we'll be in 20 countries in Africa," he continued. "We want to create an opportunity for each individual franchise and each individual city to be a whole business entity that is profitable and can create jobs."

Boosting the economy

Udezue recognizes the difficulties in building a venture like this from the ground up, particularly during trying economic times.
"We're working on a system where there is no industry," he said. "You have to find people to hire, you have to train them and you can't be forceful"
But he sees the ABL as the perfect way to boost sports-mad Nigeria's lagging economy.
"The NBA generates billions of dollars into the economy of the United States. Why can't we do that here? Everybody claims they're sports fans, [then] invest in it! It's a business," he said.

ore popular than football?

Although interest is growing in basketball it is not as popular on the continent as football. Udezue is aware that building a strong fan base will take time, but he's confident it will happen.
"What we're doing is so organic, he said. "You can't just bring a product from United States or Europe and think Africa is gonna take it like that. There's so much we're capturing in this first season, I think when we get to the next season it's going to be more seamless."
"Believe in Africa. Believe and don't be frustrated with what's going on. There's going to be change, it's coming. We're going to do this here in Africa."
Source: CNN.com
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12/Sep/2016

Cape Verde's remarkable journey to the top of African football

(CNN)Cape Verde, a remote Atlantic archipelago, is not the most likely candidate for soccer supremacy. And yet, remarkably, the island nation has risen from obscurity to the point where, until a few months ago, they were the top ranking team in Africa.

But how? The obstacles standing in the way of the archipelago, 600 km off the west coast of mainland Africa, are many. The standard of league football isn't that high and resources are limited -- for instance teams based in Santiago, the largest island, all play in the same, old-fashioned stadium. Unlike football-mad Nigeria, with a population of 181 million, Cape Verde only has 500,000 people from which to source footballing excellence.
In April 2000, Cape Verde were languishing at 182nd in the FIFA world rankings. They'd never qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations. Known as the Blue Sharks, in reality they were minnows among the big fish of African soccer. But then Cape Verde won the now defunct Amilcar Cabral Cup, a competition between West African countries, and the ball started rolling.
 
Over the following 14 years Cape Verde moved into ascendancy, due in part to the -- sometimes literal -- groundwork of FIFA initiatives. In 1998 the nation had no grass pitches -- now there are 25.
"They made great contributions to the development of football in Cape Verde," explains former president of the Cape Verde FA Mario Semedo. "FIFA projects were indispensable in fostering the soccer culture of the region."
It's a soccer culture that humbled former colonial masters Portugal 0-2 in March 2015 and, but for fielding a suspended player, would have taken them to the World Cup in Rio in 2014.
Caught in the dragnet of national team success is a generation of children hoping to emulate their idols. From Semedo to coach Jose Maria Lobo to national team goalkeeper Nilson Batilha, all agree injecting money into grassroots soccer is key.
"Cape Verde is producing excellent players from the senior level down to the youth level," says Batilha. "There is a lot of talent amongst youth and if we don't invest in youth, we won't be able to have good players later."
Another challenge is talent retention. Batilha is one of the few national team players still based in Cape Verde. Most of his teammates have traveled abroad to play in other leagues in pursuit of glory.
This exodus is mostly keenly felt in those who have turned away from the Cape Verdean national squad. Valencia and ex-Manchester United player Nani was born in Praia but opted to represent Portugal; Gelson Fernandes, once of Manchester City, plays for Switzerland. Soccer royalty such as French international Patrick Vieira and Swedish legend Henrik Larsson could both have played for Cape Verde given their parentage.
 
"Before it was really hard for a player to have any interest in playing for the national team," Semedo admits. "But today things have changed... We have examples of players who have turned down offers to play in other countries so they could play for Cape Verde instead -- and they have no regrets.
"[They] can't buy what we offer them. We give them love, caring and friendship. They aren't admired only when they score a goal or play for the team. Even after retirement, they are cared for; the friendship continues. That is one important aspect about how we and Africa must treat our players so they may contribute to their countries of origin."
They may be able to offer their players love, but former player, coach, and 40 year veteran of Cape Verde soccer Luiz Da Silva says the nation needs to open its coffers if it wants to secure longterm success.
"How is it possible that a team that has made it to the qualifiers, and then qualified [for the African Cup of Nations] must rely on donations to play?" he asks. "That's unheard of."
Cape Verde is not a rich nation, and hardly ever plays friendlies because of the expense incurred. It's a serious handicap, preventing the national coach from experimenting or introducing fresh blood from local teams. Silva argues the lack of trickle-down opportunities stymies soccer at a domestic level.
How long Cape Verde can continue to defy the odds remains to be seen. It's going to take time and money to maintain their remarkable trajectory, and sustained exposure at international level. For the players on the pitch the job is much simpler: keep on winning.
"[Soccer] happens to unify everyone," says captain Marcos Soares. "We hope to continue getting good results so that we can give a good example to the country, particularly for the youth to follow."
Source:CNN.com
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08/Sep/2016

Shaq Won't Enter Springfield a Perfect Player, but as the Player He Wanted to Be

Because he was blessed with something we weren't, Shaquille O'Neal knew something we didn't.

In body, he was basketball perfection.

As O'Neal understood, such a blessing is a curse.

Hopes, dreams, expectations and demands for him would never be reasonable—and they never were. People never would and never will ever say he overachieved in his field.

That's what O'Neal accepted to make enough peace with his potential to accomplish what he did. He was different from the typical nose-to-the-grindstone success story, and he was OK with that. In fact…

In mind, he was basketball imperfection.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

He could've used that mind to expand his game, take better care of his body, be a better teammate. He could've tried harder, obviously, to make a few more of the 6,466 (!) free throws he missed in NBA games.

That stuff is grounds for criticism when we want our athletic heroes to be worthy of idolizing and imitating. Yet in his own way, that was the right path for O'Neal to find the balance that every life coach or mountaintop guru preaches for us.

O'Neal was one of the greatest players of all time, better than almost everyone he's joining in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Not the best, but one of them because he concentrated on his strengths more than his weaknesses.

The drawbacks of being a perfectionist are real. That may be a shrewd way to characterize yourself when asked what about your flaws in a job interview. But the truth, many believe, is that being a perfectionist is linked with heightened anxiety and lowered self-esteem.

O'Neal was not a perfectionist, and that worked for him. With that mentality came a type of freedom that few athletes enjoy.

And he sure enjoyed his career on his terms.

He had a nameplate above his Los Angeles Lakers locker at The Forum and Staples Center that read "IDGAF" rather than "O'NEAL." He wanted a reminder to be himself rather than what others wanted for him. (He would tell the kids it was an acronym for "I Dominate Games Forever" instead of the alternate truth: "I Don't Give a F--k.")

He carved out an attainable definition of greatness that he could easily achieve: being the "most dominant" player rather than the "best." It was an ideal fit so he could feel good about himself even when not really trying his hardest.

 

 
PAUL BUCK/Getty Images
Shaquille O'Neal ranks among the top eight all time in scoring, field-goal percentage, blocks and offensive rebounds.

 

He truly believed in and would willingly explain that approach, which jibed with his idea of taking it slowly through the regular season and building gradually toward a playoff payoff. Of course, the way he explained it was with an R-rated undertone and a sparkle in his eye.

He had a lot of fun off the court. The Lakers scheduled practice times with O'Neal's road-city party hangovers in mind. His bold declarations and creative word play were regular entertainment (when he wasn't glumly muttering: "Write what you see" after Kobe Bryant would hijack the offense).

He would spice up any random moment in time by putting someone up against a wall and frisking him for his police training or by picking someone up in his arms or over his head or any other way he could imagine. (Weird confession: I actually felt more secure in Shaq's bear-hug in front of his locker as he hopped us up and down as if we were on some tandem pogo stick than when he had my face up against the wall and I was blind to what scheme he might be hatching behind me besides the expected faux-handcuffing. This was even though the Shaq pogo stick happened when he was wearing only underwear.)

He set an unattainable bar for everyone else with his unique ability to "flip the switch" when he wanted to play better. The reasons he would get fired up might be that Michael Doleac looked at him the wrong way or Luc Longley had three rings or Dikembe Mutombo was whining about elbows—and the beast would be unleashed.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

It wasn't until Yao Ming had some success against him—and got public recognition for it—that O'Neal tried half as hard as Yao did going head-to-head. O'Neal wasn't a natural born killer and didn't aspire to become one.

As such, he lived his career with a freedom that killer competitors never find.

O'Neal was never trapped by single-mindedness or imprisoned by the gym.

He played to his strengths.

The problem with that is no one's self-awareness is perfect. O'Neal valued his strengths as a rapper or entertainer more than his strengths as a rebounder or shot-blocker. It was only because Phil Jackson set specific goals for O'Neal to attain in those areas to go with his scoring thirst that O'Neal put it all together for his one NBA MVP award in 1999-2000.

And it wasn't clear in the locker room moments after beating the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals that year whether O'Neal was more excited about his first championship or that he could finally reveal to some of us his latest nickname for himself.

 

 
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Shaq celebrates his first NBA title, after dispatching the Pacers in 2000.

 

"The Big Deporter," O'Neal announced, beaming with pride.

It was beyond clever: He had eliminated foreign-born centers Rik Smits, Arvydas Sabonis, Longley and Vlade Divac during the Lakers' playoff run.

Around the same time, amid the champagne and streamers at Staples Center, Bryant was talking up his plan to go on to win 10 NBA titles.

Each approach has its merits, for sure. But it's fair to say that one mindset worked for Bryant while another worked for O'Neal.

Of course, we imagine the incomparable greatness that would've been O'Neal with greater work ethic and determination. It might have made for the ultimate confluence of basketball forces—beyond a powerhouse.

An absolute machine.

Except then he wouldn't have been a human being at all.

Therein lies the deal-breaker for O'Neal, who wanted above all to bring joy and light into his life and others'.

Fellow inductees Allen Iverson and Yao inspired in their ways, too; Iverson with his pound-for-pound presence and Yao with his global imprint. They were true to themselves, but no one was more so than O'Neal.

That is the crux of the "IDAGF" spirit.

 

 
Barry Gossage/Getty Images
O'Neal helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 1995 before leaving for the Lakers after the '95-96 season.

 

Being a perfectionist is for the uptight, overstressed people who aren't having as much fun as he is. Being a terrible free-throw shooter made him relatable to the world in exactly the way he wanted—outstanding in his field but not without a touch of human frailty.

He embraced the Superman comparison…but only because of the Kryptonite.

As long as Superman wasn't perfect, Shaq didn't have to be either.

Being super came easily enough.

Source:CNN.com

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08/Sep/2016

Colin Kaepernick Talks National Anthem Protest, President Obama, Role on 49ers

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is focused on making the biggest possible impact both on the football field and off it in the coming months as he continues to embrace the cause behind his national anthem protest during the NFL preseason.

The 28-year-old 49ers backup spoke with reporters about a wide range of topics Wednesday, including sitting behind Blaine Gabbert on the depth chart. He understands things can change in the blink of an eye, so he's staying ready.

"I have to wait my time and work," Kaepernick said. "I've been in this position before. Last time I was in this position, I ended up in the Super Bowl, so I continue to work and prepare for when that next opportunity comes."

He added: "That's ultimately Chip [Kelly's] decision. All I can do is focus on myself at this point and make sure I'm getting better."

Of course, the headlines Kaepernick has made so far this season haven't had much to do with his role as a quarterback. His decision to sit or kneel during the United States national anthem has led to a wide-ranging national debate about the issue.

He explained to Steve Wyche of NFL.com last month that he knew there were risks involved with the choice, but he moved forward with the protest anyway.

"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," Kaepernick said. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

On Wednesday, he talked about the next step in the process now that the initial wave of outrage and support is passing.

"I've had a lot of conversations with [activists and leaders] about how to address your issues practically and what reasonable solutions that we feel can be implemented, whether it's legislation or in the community, and make sure these changes are happening," Kaepernick said.

He also admitted that getting support from President Barack Obama, who stated Monday the quarterback "cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about," was helpful in his efforts to fight racial injustice:

He's someone that also realizes there are many issues that need to be addressed and need changing in this country. The initial shock of what the protest was about and the significance of that was lost in the action and the message wasn't really addressed. I think that was great that he came out and supported the message that we do need to make changes in these areas.

Now the focus shifts to Monday night, when the 49ers are scheduled to open their season with a nationally televised clash against the Los Angeles Rams.

ESPN originally did not plan to show the game's national anthem. The ESPN Public Editor reported that outlook has changed, however, with the network likely airing the moment live on ESPN2 and addressing it during the earlier game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.

Source:CNN.com

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08/Sep/2016

Tim Tebow to Mets: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

It appears Tim Tebow will get the last laugh when it comes to his nascent baseball career. The former NFL quarterback and the New York Mets agreed to a minor league contract Thursday.

The Mets announced the deal, noting that Tebow will participate in the instructional league. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the agreement. 

"This decision was strictly driven by baseball," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters after the announcement. "This was not driven by marketing considerations."

Alderson called Tebow "a classic player development opportunity for us," comparing him to Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, adding that "the idea that any one player has no chance to make it to MLB, I reject."

Tebow will start in the instructional league on Sept. 18, per Marc Carig of Newsday, with Alderson noting that Tebow "won't be available every day" due to his commitments with ESPN.

"This is something I don’t take for granted and I am excited about," Tebow said at the press conference. "I'm looking forward to getting to work."

When asked about his expectations for success, Tebow said he "would consider success giving it everything I have.”

Tebow, 29, held an open tryout Aug. 30 in front of scouts from 28 of the 30 MLB teams. Playing in a simulated game, Tebow flashed raw power and left some scouts impressed—though, in Tebowian fashion, opinions were split.

"It was a complete waste of time," an American League scout told USA Today's Josh Peter. "It was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player. He tried. He tried. That's the best I can say. He is crazy strong, and could run well in one direction, but that's it. He only had one good throw of all his throws."

"That was big power," another scout, who had a more positive outlook, told Peter. "He was mishitting the ball out of the park."

While few walked out of the tryout thinking they were stumbling on a potential superstar, one thing became clear: Tebow was getting signed.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that eight teams were trying to bring in Tebow. The Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays emerged as the likeliest potential suitors. Atlanta was particularly aggressive, even courting Tebow publicly.

Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reported that the "Tebow field was narrowed to five teams" before he signed with the Mets, adding that "interest was significant."

"He has demonstrated more than rudimentary baseball skills." Alderson said of Tebow. "We think he can be a baseball player."

"Whatever Tim decides, the fact that he wants to play baseball is good for the game," Braves general manager John Coppolella said, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com. "It's similar to when Michael Jordan or others have wanted to play. It's positive to draw this kind of interest to the game and make it a story because it's good for baseball."

Of course, this isn't quite on M.J.'s level. Jordan was coming off a three-peat, was the best player in basketball and the most famous athlete on the planet. There will never be a comparable moment to when Jordan left the Bulls.

Tebow, by contrast, wasn't able to stick on an NFL roster after his run with the New York Jets in 2012. He had seemingly settled into a broadcasting role, which included well-received turns on the SEC Network and even a stint on Good Morning America.

Tebow said the following of baseball, per Peter:

This is something I love to do, and I think when you have that mindset, it lets you be free to just go out there and compete. It lets you be free to do what a lot of people think you can't do. When you don't have that (fear), it lets you be able to be free to pursue life and what you're passionate about, not what other people think you should do.

Tebow hasn't played competitive baseball since high school, but we've learned we can never count him out.

Source:CNN.com

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08/Sep/2016

Current and former drivers, fans stand by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

ARLINGTON, S.C. — The Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt is faded and ripped across the bottom but still worn proudly by Tommy Carlson of Columbia, S.C.

Earnhardt Jr., still recovering from concussion issues and, as announced Friday, absent from Sprint Cup racing for the rest of the season, won’t race at Darlington in Sunday’s iconic Southern 500. His fans, however, still make up a significant slice of the speedway population.

They refuse to make the final turn into the garage.

“We were hoping he would be back by now,” Carlson said. “But we’re still here for the 88 car and those guys. It would be great to see it in victory lane again. It will be again, for sure, when Junior is back.”

For the first time since 1979, the Southern 500 field will take the green flag without Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the lineup. Earnhardt Sr. raced in the 500 for the first time in 1978 but missed the ’79 race after being injured in a crash at Pocono Raceway (David Pearson replaced Earnhardt in that race and won it).

Earnhardt Jr. has not missed a Darlington race since his first full-time season in 2000.

Earnhardt's long-term future has been a topic of discussion in NASCAR circles since he revealed his latest concussion-related issues this summer. He hasn’t raced since July 9, and Hendrick Motorsports revealed Friday that he will sit out the rest of this season with a plan to return to driving in February 2017.

I want to see him back as soon as possible, but health comes first and they feel like this is the right thing for him to do and that is what he needs to do to try to get better. and we will hope to see him back in Daytona in February,” said Chase Elliott, Earnhardt's teammate. “I think that is a good goal to shoot for, and being 110 percent for something like that there is no need in taking a big risk.”

Doctors have not released Earnhardt to drive. He has said he continues to have vision and balance problems.

“We want to see him back, but we want him back full-bore,” said Earnhardt fan Brian Hawkins of Charleston, S.C., as he set up a campsite in the Darlington infield. “It’s tough to see him go through all this. I know he wants to be back in the car, and that’s where we want him. But his health is the most important thing.”

Retired NASCAR driver Ricky Craven, now an ESPN racing analyst, battled concussion-related issues during his driving career and has been in communication with Earnhardt during his recovery.

“I didn’t expect him back until at least October, but I was relieved to hear that he’ll stay out a while,” Craven told USA Today Sports Saturday. “I feel like it’s the right decision on many levels. I understand to some degree the challenges he’s facing.”

Craven said his conversations with Earnhardt have been “very, very candid and revealing. He’s been brutally honest.”

Craven stepped out of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 1998 after wrestling with concussion issues. He returned to driving to win a pair of Sprint Cup races.

“Within a few weeks of stepping out of the 25 [Hendrick] car, I sold my airplane,” Craven said. “An airplane means a lot to people in racing. I sold it because I was extremely insecure and was willing to acknowledge that I might never race again. Thank God I did.”

Craven said he hasn’t discussed that possibility with Earnhardt, “but I know he’s thought about it. It’s part of this.”

Jeff Gordon, a seven-time winner at Darlington, is scheduled to replace Earnhardt in Sunday’s race. Gordon and Alex Bowman will share Earnhardt's ride for the rest of the season.

Earnhardt has shared much of his recovery with fans through social media and press conferences. He, team owner Rick Hendrick and Dr. Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program, which is treating Earnhardt, are scheduled to participate in a press conference at the track before Sunday’s race.

“I have a lot of respect for him and what he has gone through and being able to stand up and be honest about everything,” Elliott said. “That is tough. I don’t care who you are, that is a hard thing to do when you are going through something like that. He stood up and has been just really, really honest, which I think is awesome. It shows the kind of person that he is and how can you not support that and pull for him to get back as soon as possible.”

Source:USA.Today.com

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04/Sep/2016

Mark Sanchez signs with Cowboys after being cut by Broncos

Mark Sanchez has found his landing spot after being released by the Denver Broncos on Saturday.

Sanchez signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, the team announced.

The Cowboys were in the market for a quarterback after Tony Romo suffered a broken bone in his back, leaving rookie Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers as the only options at quarterback. Sanchez is expected to be Prescott's backup while Romo is out.

Sanchez became expendable in Denver after the Broncos named Trevor Siemian the team's starting quarterback on Monday.

When Sanchez was traded to the defending Super Bowl champions in March, the veteran appeared to be the prohibitive favorite to become Peyton Manning's successor. But Siemian, the second-year pro who has not thrown a pass in the regular season, had more experience in Broncos coach Gary Kubiak's system, and his steady play in preseason helped him seal the starting job.

After releasing Sanchez, the Broncos signed Austin Davis as a backup to join Siemian and first-round pick Paxton Lynch on the roster.

Source:USA Today.com

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04/Sep/2016

Houston quickly becomes Playoff contender that can't be ignored

The hashtag — and if you didn’t already know it, it’s time — is #HTowntakeover. The Houston football program began using it shortly after Tom Herman arrived. At the time, it referenced the goal of owning their market.

But after a 33-23 ambush of Oklahoma, it might signal a whole lot more. Could Houston take over the entire system, crashing the College Football Playoff from the Group of Five?

That remains a long shot. But after notching a signature victory on a huge stage — and the Cougars’ second in a row, if we count that Peach Bowl victory against Florida State (the Playoff selection committee isn’t supposed to think about last year, but they’re humans, too) — they’ve forced their way into the initial conversation.

The Cougars must remain perfect, which would mean running the table in the American Athletic Conference and beating Louisville in November. They probably need help, with some chaos in Power Five conferences. And they probably need the Sooners to bounce back in a big way.

The Cougars won with a combination of good defense, big plays, some good fortune and some magic — a Kick Six, anyone? But however it happened, they left no doubt they belong. If they can keep going, well, Herman isn’t going to talk much about this, and for good reason. But last spring he laid out the theory. Or maybe laid down the gantlet.

“Hypothetically,” he told USA TODAY Sports, “in a situation (like Houston going unbeaten), if that team does not get invited to the four-team Playoff then the system is broken. Now, how that applies to us, I don’t know.”

We might find out. And could there be even larger implications, like an #HTowntakeover right into the Big 12.

Houston’s win is unlikely to hold much sway in the conference’s expansion consideration — but you figure it can’t hurt (unless, of course, you take the opposite view, that it shows how the Cougars as a Big 12 brand might hurt the league’s current members). It certainly won’t hurt Herman’s status with potential suitors, either, including the folks just up the road in College Station and Austin. As the Cougars keep winning, the pressure only grows on Kevin Sumlin and Charlie Strong to do the same.

As for Oklahoma, let’s stay away, at least for now, from the hot takes. The Sooners’ Playoff hopes were dented, yes. But if we’ve learned anything in the first two years of the format, it’s that one loss, especially early, doesn’t knock Power Five teams out (see Ohio State and Virginia Tech in 2014 or more inexplicably, Oklahoma and Texas last season).

The Sooners could rehab their image in two weeks, when Ohio State rolls into Norman, though they’ll need to play a whole lot better. As much as Houston made plays to win, the Sooners did plenty of things to lose. That doesn’t bode well for future success, but teams routinely morph into something better after season openers.

After Week 1, though, Oklahoma now has zero margin for error. That remains the same for Houston, which cannot afford a loss at any point.

But it’s time to start talking seriously about what the #HTowntakeover might really mean.

Source:USA today.com

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04/Sep/2016

Serena Williams Sails Past Match Record in Grand Slam Tournament

Serena Williams had an image in mind when she designed her current tennis outfit. The fluorescent pink sleeves, she said, make her think of the superhero characters Wonder Woman and Superwoman.

It is an appropriate image for one of the greatest tennis players of all time, a player seemingly without peer as she topples one record after another.

Williams explained that the design of her sleeves — she wears black ones for night matches — was intended to evoke a character of power and strength who is also unafraid to exhibit a softer side.

There was little question of who she had in mind, although she acknowledged, with a satisfied nod, “It is me.”

With her 6-2, 6-1 victory Saturday over Johanna Larsson in the third round of the United States Open, Williams earned her 307th victory in Grand Slam singles events. That carries her past Martina Navratilova for most by a woman, and ties her with Roger Federer for the most by any player.

Seeded No. 1, Williams is one trophy away from winning her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, which would break a tie with Steffi Graf for the most championships in the Open era. (Margaret Court won 24 in a career that spanned both the amateur and Open eras.) If Williams wins this tournament, she will break a tie with Chris Evert for the most U.S. Open titles by claiming her seventh.

Williams said she had first learned at Wimbledon that she was close to passing Navratilova, and it had given her a new goal.

“It is actually a really good feeling,” she said Saturday. “To be up there with both men and women is something that’s super rare.”

Her next victory, which would push her past Federer’s total, would most likely generate more discussion about whether Williams is one of the best athletes, male or female, of all time. She welcomes the debate.

On Saturday, Williams expended almost as much energy playing advocate as she did in her hourlong win over Larsson. Williams argued that disparities persisted between the way male and female athletes were perceived and paid.

“I definitely think there is a difference between the way male and female athletes are treated,” she said. “I also believe that as a woman, we have still a lot to do and a lot to be going forward.”

Williams noted that female tennis players had been at the forefront of trying to achieve equality in their sport, and she said it was important for them to push for similar conditions for other female athletes.

“Tennis players were really fortunate to have pioneers like Billie Jean King and really take a stance for women in tennis,” Williams said. “I feel like we got really, really fortunate to have that. So now we’re able to benefit and still preach the message and have an easier time. Hopefully, that can work out for other females, as well.”

With her superhero sleeves and dominating performances, Williams may not be helpful to the other women in her draw when she is on court. In the fourth round, Williams will play the 52nd-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, who beat Shuai Zhang, 6-2, 7-5.

A victory by Williams in the next round could set up a quarterfinal match against the No. 5 seed Simona Halep, who faced a stern challenge Saturday from the No. 31 seed Timea Babos. Halep held on to win an emotional match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, and she will play the No. 11 seed Carla Suárez Navarro in the fourth round. The two have evenly split their 10 previous matches.

Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 4 seed, beat Caroline Garcia, 6-2, 6-3, and could be headed for a quarterfinal matchup with the No. 6 seed Venus Williams, who defeated Laura Siegemund, 6-1, 6-2, in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night.

All of them have aspirations to win the tournament, but with Serena Williams blazing through the draw almost effortlessly so far (she has lost only 15 games in three matches), the others have a considerable challenge to overcome.

Coming into the tournament, Serena Williams had some concerns about a sore right shoulder. But she says it is improving every day. Her fastest serve Saturday was fired at 121 miles per hour, and she faced only one break point against Larsson. She saved it.

Still, Serena Williams said she was not quite at her best.

“I don’t feel like I’m Serena out there yet,” she said. “But hopefully she’ll come around the second week.”

She might come wearing a cape.

Source:NY Times.com

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04/Sep/2016

Report: Sacramento Kings reach one-year deal with Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson said that wherever he signed, “they’re going to get me for cheaper than I feel I’m worth … I feel like I’m overlooked in free agency.”

That lucky team — at least in Lawson’s mind — is the Sacramento Kings.

They have reached a one-year deal with him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Lawson bounced between Houston and Indiana last season, and struggled at both stops — he shot 39.3 percent last season with a far wbelow replacement lever PER of 9.7. He was better in Indiana than Houston.

Lawson also brings the baggage of a couple of DUIs in recent years and a reputation as a partier — including showing up to practice with alcohol on his breath. That hurt is free agent prospects, and is something Lawson denied to The Undefeated.

But I’m not a person out here like everyone thinks that I’m drunk all day. No, I don’t do that. A lot of my friends, we go out and celebrate. But I’m not that person in the morning getting drunk before practice. I think there is a big misconception about what everybody thinks. That’s what I basically tell them. I keep it honest.

The Kings will start Darren Collison at the point, but Lawson should get a decent run as a backup. Lawson is a solid playmaker and has a spot up shot, when he is right.

What the 28-year-old Lawson also will get is another chance — he hasn’t impressed in his past few stops and if that doesn’t change his NBA career could end soon.

Source:ESPN.com

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30/Aug/2016

49ers OC “would anticipate” Kaepernick on roster in Week One

On Sunday, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that quarterback Colin Kaepernick “has a very, very big uphill battle to make” the 49ers for reasons outside of his choice not to stand for the playing of the national anthem.

Glazer reported the 49ers believe Kaepernick is “regressing as a player” and he said he would be “shocked” if Kaepernick was on the team through the entire season. On Monday, 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins was asked about Kaepernick’s chances of making the 53-man roster to start the year.

“I would anticipate that, but it’s not, you know, that’s not where we’re at right now,” Modkins said, via the Sacramento Bee. “We’re getting ready for the Chargers right now and he’ll be there. So I don’t anticipate that not being the case.”

The 49ers haven’t made any announcement about who their starting quarterback will be in Week One and coach Chip Kelly said that the Niners “plan on playing him this week” in San Diego, which could make for an interesting scene given how many current and former members of the armed services are in and around the city.

Kaepernick will be making $11.9 million this year whether he makes the 49ers or not, which gives the 49ers reason to want to keep him around unless they think there’s no way he can help the football team. Given Glazer’s report, it would seem at least some in the organization are ready to make that call but it remains to be seen if the team goes that route or not.

ESPN.com

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30/Aug/2016

Carmelo Anthony’s latest gold medal means more this time around

RIO DE JANEIRO – When it comes to the always-divided discussion about Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Colangelo is quite the weather vane.

Every few years, as his Team USA men’s basketball program ramps up and starts building a roster worthy of Olympic gold, he reconnects with the New York Knicks star who has been analyzed from every angle for so many years. Anthony has put on the USA jersey an unprecedented for times for the Games, and he helped the Americans win gold three times.

But this one, which culminated with a 96-66 win over Serbia in the Rio finale and tears afterward for the 32-year-old who made this go-round bigger than basketball, was unlike any that came before.

“I think this was a coming-out party in terms of leadership for him,” Colangelo, Team USA's managing director, said. “I think that’s going to bode well for the Knicks, and for Carmelo going forward, and I want to just thank him for his great service to USA Basketball.”

So what was different?

“More mature,” Colangelo said. “I mean he was just – ‘Melo was a different kind of a guy. He had been around the track a few times. He wasn’t sure he was going to do it, and I think in retrospect he’s happy he did.”

No matter what happens with Anthony next, no one can take away what he did these past few months. He spoke up when there were sensitive racial issues to be discussed. It started with a passionate post on Instagram in the wake of the Dallas shootings in early July and continued with a townhall meeting in Los Angeles where he made it clear that action – not just words – were needed to try and spark change. He saw the ripple effect from there, with other NBA stars following suit in a productive, meaningful way.

But the basketball part of it all mattered, too. As Anthony explained in his NBC interview afterward, that’s why this gold medal meant so much. Silly as it might sound in the grand scheme of things, this was no time for some of the Americans’ most high-profile athletes to stumble on the worldwide stage. And with his contemporaries such as LeBron James, Chris Paul, and so many others having bowed out of these Games, it fell on Anthony to help see that part through, too.

“Despite everything that’s going on right now in our country, we’ve got to be united,” Anthony said on the telecast. “I’m glad I did what I did. I stepped up to the challenge. But this is what it’s about, representing our country on the biggest stage that you can be on.

“America will be great again. I believe that. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s one step at a time, and I’m glad we represented in the fashion that we did.”

It didn’t hurt that the old man in the group played pretty well, too.

Anthony, whose gold medals mean as much to him as the NBA title he will keep chasing, saved the day in a 98-88 win over Australia in group play. The Aussies were the first of many teams to push this 2016 version of Team USA, but Anthony’s 31 points (including nine three-pointers) ensured their winning streak (now at 53 games in FIBA play) would continue. Considering he scored a combined 36 points in subsequent wins over Serbia, France, Argentina and Spain, the Australia performance was his one shining moment on the floor.

But his value went beyond the box score. He was the only one who had been there when the Americans took bronze in the 2004 Athens Games, a result that still haunts them . He was the only one there when they took bronze again at the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Japan, too, the final failure before it all turned around under Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski. On this team that was lacking continuity, with only him and Kevin Durant part of the 2012 Olympics among the roster of 12, Anthony was a crucial aberration. And, as Colangelo sees it, a changed man.

“He has given a lot of service to USA Basketball,” Colangelo said. “Think about it. Four times? And to be able to win three times? It just says a lot about his character, and the fact that he had the success that he had with our program makes it even that much better… He’s been terrific. I can’t say enough about what he’s done for USA Basketball.”

Source:USA Today

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23/Aug/2016

USA TODAY Sports investigation raises questions about Rio cops, Lochte incident

RIO DE JANEIRO – Seven days after an incident that will in part define the Rio Olympics, details are becoming clearer about what happened during a gas station encounter between four U.S. swimmers and security guards, and not everyone has concluded Ryan Lochte and his teammates are entirely in the wrong or that the account offered by Rio authorities is entirely accurate.

Lochte has admitted he exaggerated his initial description of how the four men were stopped in their taxi and robbed by men who flashed badges, as well as his sensational allegation of a gun being held to his forehead.

But a narrative of the night’s events – constructed by USA TODAY Sports from witness statements, official investigations, surveillance videos and media reports – supports Lochte’s later account in which he said he thought the swimmers were being robbed when they were approached at a gas station by armed men who flashed badges, pointed guns at them and demanded money.

A Brazilian judge says police might have been hasty in determining the security guards, by how they dealt with the swimmers, did not commit a robbery. A lawyer who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years says she does not think the actions of Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen constitute the filing of a false police report as defined under Brazilian law.

An extensive review of surveillance footage by a USA TODAY Sports videographer who also visited the gas station supports swimmer Gunnar Bentz’s claim that he did not see anyone vandalize the restroom, an allegation that in particular heightened media portrayals of the four as obnoxious Americans behaving recklessly in a foreign country. Meanwhile, Rio authorities have declined to identify the guards or offer any details beyond confirming they are members of law enforcement who were working a private security detail.

As the Rio Games closing ceremony was held Sunday night, all four swimmers had left Brazil. Two of them, Bentz and Jack Conger, face no charges. Feigen paid a settlement to avoid charges and returned home.

The case against Lochte, who has been pilloried around the world for his embellished initial account and blamed for offending an entire country as it proudly hosted the Summer Olympics, has yet to proceed.

It is clear from all accounts that a Portuguese-English language barrier played a major role in the incident and that a bilingual Brazilian witness who stepped forward at the scene was critical in preventing a tense situation from escalating.

The witness, Fernando Deluz, says he got involved after one of the guards pulled a gun on the men.

"As soon as they drew their weapon, that's when I got worried,” Deluz, a disc jockey, told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday.

“It was also so fast, and what I wanted was to resolve the situation,” says Deluz, who days later talked to police. “If it hadn't been for wanting to resolve that, if I hadn't involved myself, I thought – the police chief told me, ‘Man, if you hadn't gone there in that moment, a tragedy could have occurred.’ ”

Lochte was contrite about his erroneous original account in an interview that aired Saturday on NBC.

“That’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it, because I overexaggerated that story,” Lochte told Matt Lauer. “And if I’d never done that, we wouldn’t be in this mess. … None of this would have happened, and it was my immature behavior.’’

In a statement released Friday, Bentz confirmed police accounts that indicated Lochte damaged a sign during the incident and got into a “heated exchange” with the guards. But Bentz, who said authorities viewed him as a witness and never a suspect in the case, offered a narrative that closely matches Lochte’s revised account that he gave to Lauer three days after the incident. Bentz said his recollection was that money was demanded from the Americans by armed men in order for the swimmers to be allowed to leave.

While bystander Deluz and the police said the amount paid was for property vandalized, it is unclear whether the swimmers understood the situation.

Bentz, 20, is emphatic that his account is accurate: “I never made a false statement to anyone at any time,” he said.

A sign in Portuguese announcing the restroom is out

A sign in Portuguese announcing the restroom is out of order is taped to the door of a restroom at a Shell gasoline station where US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte claimed to have been robbed. (Photo: Glenn Andrews, USA TODAY Sports)

 

ALCOHOL INVOLVED

The swimmers, who were returning to the Olympic Village from a party and stopped at the gas station to use the restroom, acknowledge they had been drinking. Using a Portuguese word that broadly refers to someone under the influence of a substance, Deluz describes them as “very altered. I can't tell you if it was drinking or drugs.” He describes Lochte as “the very blond one. He was the one who was most altered."

The statement from Bentz and the narrative offered by Brazilian authorities agree that the swimmers entered a narrow walkway and urinated behind the gas station. The accounts also agree that, at some point, Lochte pulled what Bentz described as a “loosely attached” advertising sign from a wall. Deluz described it as a framed canvas that was torn as Lochte pulled it to the ground.

At a news conference Thursday, Rio police chief Fernando Veloso characterized the athletes' actions at the gas station as vandalism. He said they also had broken a soap dispenser and mirror inside the restroom. Reports quickly grew that the Americans had trashed the restroom.

A USA TODAY Sports videographer who visited the bathroom Thursday found no damage to soap dispensers and mirrors and said none of those items appeared to be new. Some media accounts suggested the men had broken down a door, which USA TODAY Sports also did not observe.

Bentz said in his statement that he believes there are surveillance videos shot from different angles that have not been released. He also said he did not see anyone damage the bathroom or even enter it.

Of the videos available, including footage from a camera trained on the restroom doors, a review by USA TODAY Sports does not find any showing the swimmers going near the bathrooms. They are not seen entering or coming out of them on those recordings.

Deluz said it never came up that night: In the negotiations he brokered between the swimmers and the guards, the only damage mentioned was the sign Lochte tore down.

There is no indication in the videos released to date or in the statements that the other three swimmers did anything beyond urinate behind the building.

ROBBERY OR ‘PAYMENT’?

Deluz said the main point of contention was the swimmers trying to "flee" after Lochte damaged the sign.

"What happened really – it's not even the issue of knocking down and breaking the sign," Deluz said. "It was the attitude of the guys of messing up the place and then wanting to leave without a satisfactory resolution." He said if the men had even said they had no money to pay for the damages but had apologized, he thinks all parties involved would have been understanding.

That does not match the account of Bentz, who said the swimmers were held at gunpoint until they paid.

“I gave them what I had in my wallet, which was a $20 bill, and Jimmy gave them 100 reais, which is about $50 in total. They lowered the guns, and I used hand gestures to ask if it was OK to leave, and they said yes,” he said in his statement.

In the NBC interview that aired Saturday, Lochte said, “It’s how you want to make it look like. Whether you call it a robbery, whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages. Like, we don’t know. All we know is there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money.’’

Some local observers following the drama have begun to question the police's quick characterization of the story as a false police report lodged by the swimmers to cover up acts of vandalism or possibly calm a female romantic interest who would be angry about their night of partying.

João Batista Damasceno, a Rio judge, does not discard the possibility that the guards' actions could be rightly interpreted as a robbery.

A general view of a restroom door at a Shell gasoline

A general view of a restroom door at a Shell gasoline station where US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte claimed to have been robbed. Rio de Janeiro police say that Lochte and three other swimmers lied about the incident and instead vandalized this restroom. (Photo: Glenn Andrews, USA TODAY Sports)

 

"If they only asked for the amount of the damage, it may not be a robbery," Damasceno said in a message to USA TODAY Sports. "But if the amount taken is higher than the value of the damages, with the use of a weapon by the 'security,' this is robbery."

Damasceno added that even if someone has the right to receive compensation, that does not mean they can determine the amount on their own and take actions such as drawing guns to collect. Brazilian law rarely allows for a person to obtain such a payment through the use of their own force – such disputes should be mediated by the state, he said.

Deluz said a station employee had established the cost of the damage at 100 reais, but the swimmers paid about 160 reais,  – 100 reais plus a $20 bill.

Jeffrey Ostrow, Lochte’s attorney, steadfastly maintains the men were robbed.

“That part of the story will never change,'' Ostrow told USA TODAY Sports in a telephone interview. "We stand behind that."

Lochte initially claimed that he was robbed of $400 and has yet to say if that was another embellishment.

Deluz thinks the men understood they were detained because of the damaged sign, as the broken advertisement was shown to them. An athlete even asked him how much he needed to pay, Deluz says. The disc jockey said he conferred with an employee and responded, "One hundred money." When one swimmer finally opened his wallet, it had plenty of cash in it beyond that amount. Had the armed men been robbers, Deluz reasoned, they would have taken all the money.

Conger, in his statement, acknowledged Deluz tied the payment to the damaged poster.

"Eventually, a man appeared who was able to translate for us, helping to defuse the situation," Conger said. "We paid some money to compensate them for the torn poster, and returned to the Village in a different taxi."

After the payment was made, Deluz said, everyone calmed down and understood the meaning of the transaction. Deluz said to the athletes, according to his signed testimony to police, “Bye bye friends! That’s OK?” and they responded to him, “Thank you!”

A BADGE  FLASHED

Lochte has asserted that one of the guards flashed a police badge at the swimmers. In the surveillance videos, the swimmers initially attempt to leave after they relieved themselves, but a man approaches and stops the cabbie. He appeared to have something in his hand as he briefly reached inside the cab.

Deluz said he thought one of the guards did flash a badge when he “first approached them.”

Lochte is correct that the men, who were working a private security detail, are members of law enforcement.  Veloso admitted during a Thursday news conference the men are state agents – it is common for Brazilian law enforcement to carry out private security on their off hours, though in some instances it is illegal.

Veloso declined to identify the guards or give more details, saying they feared retaliation for their role in the incident. Local news outlets that claim to have spoken with the security guards have identified them as prison guards from the neighboring state of Minas Gerais.

Police have not accounted for why the guards allegedly showed their law enforcement badges while they were working private security. But Veloso defended the guards drawing their weapons.

"Right now we have the testimony of the security guards about the extreme action of four young men with strong physiques and an attitude that is, at least, inappropriate," Veloso said.

Video also supports Lochte’s contention that one of the guards prevented the cabbie from driving off.

What happened next could be attributed to cultural and linguistic clumsiness or to the swimmers allegedly being inebriated.

"Two men, whom I believe to have been security guards, then instructed us to exit the vehicle. No guns were drawn during this exchange, but we did see a gun tucked into one of the guard's waistband,” Bentz said. “As Jimmy (Feigen) and Jack (Conger) were walking away from the vehicle, the first security guard held up a badge to me and drew his handgun. I yelled to them to come back toward us, and they complied. Then the second guard drew his weapon and both guards pointed their guns at us and yelled at us to sit on a nearby sidewalk.”

Bystander Deluz described the drawing of the weapons by the two guards as a reaction to the athletes' attempt to leave the scene.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

When approached on Tuesday by a USA TODAY Sports reporter who asked to see witness testimony  related to the incident, the Rio de Janeiro civil police declined to give any information, saying the investigation was confidential.

By Thursday, after police had pulled Bentz and Conger off their U.S.-bound flight and detained them for questioning, police welcomed dozens of camera crews that squeezed into the station to film the men as they were escorted by cops into the office. Immediately after their interviews, police called a news conference – in a nearby theater – to announce the official version of events.

Shortly afterward the police released their reports of testimony given by Conger and Bentz that included statements casting doubt on Lochte's version of events. However, that testimony was missing a portion of the men's story – their interactions with armed security guards.

Rio's civil police declined to provide the testimony in its entirety when requested by USA TODAY Sports. By late Friday, even the partial testimony had been removed from the police's social media site.

Police accused Lochte and Feigen of filing a false police report, a crime punishable by a fine and up to six months in prison. Feigen paid $11,000 to be  donated to a charity in order to not face charges.

Deborah Srour, an attorney who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years, said the two swimmers’ actions do not constitute a crime based on a strict reading of the Brazilian penal code.

“This crime only happens when you go to the police and you make a report, you file a report,’’ said Srour, who added that she has represented Americans arrested in Brazil. “This did not happen.’’

She said any case against Lochte could very well be dismissed with the help of a local attorney. But she also said Brazilian courts are notorious for pursuing cases such as Lochte’s if charges are filed and that authorities could use Interpol and other international organizations to complicate his overseas travel.

“I’m not saying his travel is going to be hindered right now or anything,’’ she said. “But it’s just going to be a nuisance for him. So he should just apologize and pay the fine and that’s it.’’

Source:USA Today.com

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23/Aug/2016

NFL Preseason Week 1: Takeaways from Friday's Action

Football is finally here.

Well, sort of.

It's the first week of the preseason, which means a few things. The starters who do play will be on the field for a brief time. Many of the men who play significant snaps are rookies donning an NFL uniform for the first time, so jitters and mistakes are common.

It might not be good football, but it's football nonetheless.

And most importantly, fans across America will pack stadiums and gather around the TV anyway.

Preseason football might not be the truest barometer of regular-season success. But whether it's injured stars making their return, big-name rookies making their NFL debut or a former No. 2 overall pick trying to start over, there's plenty going on—even in games that don't count.

And here are the biggest happenings from Friday night.

Friday's first game featured the Detroit Lions against what's left of the Pittsburgh Steelers—if none of their offensive stars bother to take the field. But just because the Steelers chose to hold back doesn't mean the Lions didn't want to prove a few things.

Offensively, the first performance by the team's passing game sans Calvin Johnson was a mixed bag. They had some success moving the ball, only to turn it over when quarterback Matthew Stafford was strip-sacked by the ageless James Harrison.

Defensively, however, it was a young pass-rusher for Detroit who stood out in the early going.

After posting seven sacks in part-time duty last year, third-year defensive end Devin Taylor will start opposite Ezekiel Ansah in 2016. Taylor recently told Tim Twentyman of the team's website that he had a goal in mind when he took the field for the first time this season.

“For me, just to really perfect when I get into game scenario situations to be successful,” Taylor said.

Well, he didn't waste any time. Taylor had two tackles in the first quarter, including a sack of Landry Jones on the first play of Pittsburgh's second series.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers had a glaring weakness last year, it was a pass defense that ranked 30th in the NFL.

The Steelers spent two of their first three picks in the 2016 draft on the secondary. One of the team's biggest priorities in camp and the preseason is sorting out both who will start at cornerback opposite veteran William Gay and who will be the team's nickelback.

Earlier this week, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote the Steelers were looking at ways to get second-year pro Doran Grant on the field:

You have heard me say a number of times that I liked Doran Grant as a boundary corner who is more fitted to zone coverage. I have been told the Steelers will take a look at him at safety very soon here in camp. Either way, I'm not saying he will be a starter but I think he has a chance to be a solid backup.

Grant made the most of his playing time Friday against the Lions. In addition to the seven tackles he tallied (which led the team), he also snagged a Dan Orlovsky duck from the air and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown in a 30-17 loss.

Friday's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals featured two playoff teams from last year and two of the NFL's better defenses.

The Bengals looked to be in midseason form, at least up front.

On the Vikings' first offensive series, Teddy Bridgewater took a pair of shots. First he was sacked by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who reached the quarterback 11 times last year. Then as he released the ball, Bridgewater was whacked by Carlos Dunlap (13.5 sacks in 2015).

It was also no doubt a welcome sign for the Bengals that Atkins split his sack with veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby, who will be counted on to anchor the LB corps while Vontaze Burfict serves a three-game suspension to start the year.

One of the biggest questions facing the Vikings in 2016 is an offensive line that Football Outsiders ranked 29th in the NFL in pass protection last year.

Bridgewater pulling dirt out of his earhole isn't the answer the Vikings were looking for.

Friday's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals featured two playoff teams from last year and two of the NFL's better defenses.

The Bengals looked to be in midseason form, at least up front.

On the Vikings' first offensive series, Teddy Bridgewater took a pair of shots. First he was sacked by defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who reached the quarterback 11 times last year. Then as he released the ball, Bridgewater was whacked by Carlos Dunlap (13.5 sacks in 2015).

It was also no doubt a welcome sign for the Bengals that Atkins split his sack with veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby, who will be counted on to anchor the LB corps while Vontaze Burfict serves a three-game suspension to start the year.

One of the biggest questions facing the Vikings in 2016 is an offensive line that Football Outsiders ranked 29th in the NFL in pass protection last year.

Bridgewater pulling dirt out of his earhole isn't the answer the Vikings were looking for.

Source:CNN.com

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13/Aug/2016

Rio 2016 Day 7: Ledecky crushes rivals; Phelps ties for silver

(CNN)As much as the swimming portion of the Olympics has been about saying goodbye to the legendary Michael Phelps, it has also been about introducing Katie Ledecky to non-swimming fans.

The 19-year-old American is building a legend of her own, capping her Rio Olympics with a stunning win in the women's 800-meter freestyle Friday night. Stunning not for the fact that she won, but in how she did it.
Toward the end of the eight-lap race the television cameras had to pull back so viewers could see Ledecky's competitors. Ledecky broke her own world record with a time of 8:04.79 and finished a staggering 11 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Jazmin Carlin from Great Britain.
"I hit all my goals right on the nose this week, and I couldn't be happier with how this week has gone," she said, according to the Washington Post.
Ledecky has five gold medals, having added a quartet this year in addition to a gold in London in the 800 free. And if the IOC let women swim the 1,500 meters like the men do, she'd have one more gold.
She'll leave Rio having set two world records.
One more impressive fact about Ledecky -- she is 14 for 14 in individual events at major international competitions.

Phelps final individual race

It just seemed weird. There was Michael Phelps trailing in his last individual race in the Olympics.
It became apparent with about 25 meters to go he wasn't going to win. Whether he would medal was in doubt. And he almost didn't.
One day after two swimmers tied for gold, three swimmers, including Phelps, tied for silver. One more hundredth of a second and any of them would have been fourth.
Joseph Schooling won the race, earning the first ever gold for Singapore.
Phelps won the 27th medal of his Olympics career, touching with the same time as South Africa's Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary.
He has one more race left, a relay leg on Saturday.
The other two medal races Friday were won by Americans. Anthony Ervin became the oldest Olympic swimming champion with gold in the men's 50-meter freestyle and Maya Dirado earned her first gold of the Rio Games in the women's 200-meter breaststroke.
Source:CNN.com
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13/Aug/2016

Led by Michael Phelps, U.S. men win gold in 400 freestyle relay

RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Phelps' eyes glistened, but no tears came. Not like his younger teammates, who had never won a medal like this before.

No, Phelps smiled and laughed, and he raised his fists in triumph. He'd done this 18 times before, let a gold medal fall against his chest as The Star-Spangled Banner played.

But even so, this 19th gold medal felt different. And special. It was the first one his son, Boomer, got to see, even though the 3-month-old most certainly won't remember it.

Phelps, 31, turned in a terrific second leg of the Americans' 4x100 freestyle relay, giving his teammates a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Fellow Olympic veteran Nathan Adrian held off the furious French to anchor the U.S. and clinch the Americans' first gold medal in this event in a major international meet since 2009.

In a most exhilarating fashion, in front of a raucous crowd that had already witnessed three broken world records earlier Sunday night, the U.S. men earned an unexpected gold in their first Olympic relay of these Rio Games with a time of 3 minutes, 9.92 seconds. Caeleb Dressel led off with a strong 48.10-second leg, before the greatest Olympian of all time gave America its lead.

Ryan Held contributed the third leg, and a strong close by anchor Adrian in 46.97 secured victory. France took silver, and Australia came from behind to pass Russia for bronze.

“It felt good to get, after my last 400 free relay of my career, this thing around my neck,” Phelps said, glancing down and touching his gold medal. “It feels good to get it back.”

The U.S. men have medaled in every relay event in every Olympics in which they’ve competed. But, due to a rather embarrassing performance a year ago at the world championships in Kazan, Russia — in which a Phelps-less lineup did not even qualify for the final — that relay streak was in real jeopardy.

The world had done more than simply catch up to the American sprinters; it had surpassed them. The Aussies. The Russians. The French.

Yet the U.S. swim team would not give up one of its greatest sources of pride, its relay prowess, without a fight.

“It’s been tough,” Adrian said. “We’re a country that’s so deep in the sprints. We can send 16 guys that are 49-lows up all day every day, but it takes something special to have four guys who are going to be splitting under 48, or 48 low as leadoff.

“We’ve had the depth, but we haven’t had those four guys together at the same time in the same place.”

The first piece to the puzzle was adding Phelps to the mix. He didn't swim the 100 free at the Olympic trials six weeks ago, so he felt he had to prove his worth to his teammates and not just get hand-picked by the head U.S. men’s coach who just happens to be his longtime personal coach. He wanted to earn the spot — by swimming a time trial last week.

“He proved that he belonged there,” Adrian said. “He obviously proved that he definitely belonged there. He’s the first to say that if he wasn’t in a place to step up and throw an amazing leg down, he would be the first to step down. He’s 100% a team player.

“Seeing what he did throughout training camp — his freestyle was on fire. We knew. We knew.”

Phelps said his 47.12 split was the fastest relay split he’d ever swam in his career, and that he’s happy that he’s starting to close out the final Olympics of his career the way he wants, with gold. Not silver. Not bronze.

It’s fitting that’s the case, Adrian said, considering that's part of the reason Phelps was selected to be the U.S. Olympic team’s flag bearer at the Games’ opening ceremony to begin with. Adrian, one of the swim team’s captains, was the representative sent to the flag bearer nomination meeting.

“I remember saying, ‘Michael Phelps has set a precedent. Every time we walk on the pool deck, we’re expected to win gold. That’s what he’s done to the Olympic movement,’ ” Adrian said. “We couldn’t be more proud to get up there and do it. That’s what every young American sprinter dreams of doing, winning gold in that 4x100 meter freestyle relay.”

Source:USA Today.com

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09/Aug/2016

Second Olympic boxer arrested after sexual assault accusations

RIO DE JANEIRO — A second Olympic boxer has been accused by a housekeeper in the athletes' village of sexual assault.

Jonas Junis, a 22-year-old boxer from Namibia who was the country's flag bearer during the opening ceremony, was accused by a maid of grabbing her, kissing her forcefully, and then offering her money to have sexual relations with him, according to a report from O Globo. Brazilian police arrested him after the maid reported the alleged incident to the police. He is expected to be transferred to the sprawling Bangu prison complex in Rio's far west zone, where Brazilian suspects accused of petty and violent crimes await trials and carry out their sentences.

Olympic officials confirmed on Monday that Junis was arrested, but said they could not comment on the specific charges he's facing or the investigation by local police. Rio's civil police confirmed in a statement he was arrested on rape charges. Brazilian law considers any non-consensual sexual act as rape. 

If convicted, Junis could face six to 10 years in prison.

"Brazilian law needs to be respected and this is something that we have to agree on," said Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. "What we need to do is make sure that all the legal procedures are being followed and we understand that they have."

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said security has been paramount at the Olympic Village, a collection of high-rise apartments near the main Olympic Park where most of the 11,000 athletes competing in the Games are staying.

"Security is very tight at the village, in terms of entry and exit," Adams said. "Security is being tightened all the way through."

Female maids interviewed by USA TODAY Sports as they left work expressed skepticism about the security offered to women who work inside, as maids often enter into athletes' rooms with the guests present and  are unable to communicate in their languages.

"We have no security. We go into the room and the guest could be there. And people generally fetishize women from Rio," said Maria Lucia, an employee of the Olympic Village's cleaning staff, as she left the premises to catch a ride home. She said that the locals hired to work as cleaning staff, often women and from working-class backgrounds, feel sensitive about speaking up and that they can be "easier to take advantage of."

Jessyk, who works on the cleaning staff and asked to only use her first name for fear of reprisal, said she had "nothing to complain about" in the sector where she works, but that she also thought women should not be required to go into guests' rooms alone without a superior looking on or security in the hallway. Two other maids told USA Today said they were prohibited by their employer from speaking with the press.

Junis' arrest follows a similar incident last week, when boxer Hassan Saada from Morocco was accused of sexual assault by two maids in the athletes' village. The female employees accused the athlete of thrusting his body against one of them, attempting to kiss her and groping a maid's breasts. Saada is also being detained in the Bangu prison complex.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA)  released a statement that said it has confidence that Brazilian authorities will handle the case of the Namibian boxer appropriately and would not comment further.

Source:USA Today.com

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09/Aug/2016

Tim Tebow set to pursue pro baseball career

Tim Tebow is serious about his professional sports rebirth as a baseball player and his representatives said the former NFL quarterback's workout for major league scouts won't be a sideshow.

Tebow has trained for the last several months in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Los Angeles at a sport he hasn't played regularly for more than a decade. Tebow has served an ESPN broadcaster since his three-season NFL career ended with the New York Jets at the conclusion of 2012 season.

"This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth," Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports and other outlets. "I have seen Tim’s workouts and people inside and outside the industry – scouts, executives, players and fans – will be impressed by his talent. As an agent, I have a genuine respect for how hard it is to succeed at the game of baseball and a true admiration for those who possess the talent to play it at the Major League level. Tim's tool set is real."

Former major league catcher Chad Moeller has trained Tebow at this baseball school in Scottsdale and said in a statement that Tebow "has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the major leagues."

“I am beyond impressed with Tim’s athleticism and swing and it goes without saying that he has shown a high level of discipline and strong work ethic," Moeller said. "I see bat speed and power and real baseball talent. I truly believe Tim has the skill set and potential to achieve his goal of playing in the Major Leagues, and based on what I have seen over the past two months, it could happen relatively quickly."

Tebow will hold a workout where all 30 major league teams will be invited to observe within the next month, according to a person with knowledge of the session who is not authorized to speak publicly.

Tebow hasn’t played baseball on a regular basis since 2004 as a junior in high school, where he  hit .494 at Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Some scouts noticed Tebow’s baseball talents more than a decade ago.

Boston Red Sox area scout Tom Kotchman was with the Los Angeles Angels when he attempted to get Tebow to choose baseball over football.

“We wanted to draft him, but he never sent back his information card,” Kotchman told WEEI-AM. “Who knows if it got to him, and if it did we just never got it back. Otherwise we were going to take him.”

Red Sox scout Stephen Hargett told the radio station that Tebow’s decision not play baseball as a senior made it clear football was the focus. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and two national titles at Florida.

"He had a strong arm and had a lot of power. If he would have been there his senior year he definitely would have had a good chance to be drafted," Hargett, said "œHe had leverage to his swing. He had some natural loft. He had some good power. He was a good athlete. He had had enough arm for that position. He was a left-handed hitter with strength and some size."

Source: USA today.com

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09/Aug/2016

Russian Yulia Efimova breaks down in tears after losing to Lilly King

RIO DE JANEIRO — Russian drug cheat Yulia Efimova had an extraordinary tearful meltdown minutes after she finished behind fierce rival Lilly King of the USA in a dramatic 100-meter breaststroke final.

Efimova initially held her emotions in check after King beat her to the line and celebrated wildly alongside her. But after completing a round of television interviews the Russian wept uncontrollably when she saw agent Anna Mitkova across a barrier in the media interview area.

 USA TODAY Sports. "It is not fair. She is not a criminal and she competed because she was allowed to compete."

Said Efimova: “All the stuff that happened with me was unbelievable. I am happy to be here and racing finally. That is what is best. Try to understand me if you switch your and my side.

“I have once made mistakes and been banned for six months. The second time it was not my mistake.

"For me it is very hard to swim. These few weeks have been crazy."

Source:USA Today.com

 

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09/Aug/2016

China vs. USA Basketball: Live Score, Highlights for Summer Olympics 2016

China scored the first basket of the game against the United States, taking a 2-0 lead.

That was the high mark of its evening.

Behind 25 points from Kevin Durant, Team USA dismantled China, 119-62, in Olympic Group Play in Brazil on Saturday night.

The United States used a swarming defense to force China into 24 turnovers. As a matter of fact, China had more turnovers than made shots (20).

Durant was one of four American players in double figures.

DeMarcus Cousins added 17 points, and Paul George and Kyrie Irving followed with 15 and 12, respectively.

The U.S. shot 51.4 percent from the floor, knocking down 10 three-pointers and going 33-of-45 from the free-throw line.

They also outrebounded China, 51-30.

Former NBA player Yi Jianlian led China with 25 points. No other Chinese player reached double figures.

.Source: CNN.com

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07/Aug/2016

In Staying with OKC, Russell Westbrook Reveals More Than His Words Ever Have

or years we've debated and argued and probed the relationship between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, trying to decipher what they thought of each other and, more importantly, what they think of themselves.

Now we know.

What was downright unnatural and unseen in NBA history is now in the past: two MVP-caliber players coexisting happily in their overlapping primes, melding their egos, sharing the ball and avoiding killing each other…all while not winning a title.

After eight years of that unfulfilling stability, we have Durant going to that side and Westbrook staying on this side.

It makes sense in an NBA way.

If the results aren't there, stars usually opt to realign in order to shine brighter.

We expect and understand it, and the truth is that it does help us to see stars for who and what they are.

Westbrook agrees.

For all the breathless conclusions that Durant abandoned Westbrook and the automatic speculation that Westbrook wouldn't be able to deal with it, he is flat-out declaring his intention to win on his own by agreeing to a new contract with the Thunder, according to NBA sources.

It's something Thunder general manager Sam Presti trusted would happen, and Westbrook's boundless confidence made him duty-bound to try.

Don't be simplistic and think only of how much ball usage and stat production Westbrook will get out of this. He is a far more sophisticated thinker than most people believe, and he truly wants to see what he can do—for himself and for a franchise that has done right by him.

 

 
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

While Durant chose to play new-school ball on easy street with the nearly-sure-thing Golden State Warriors, Westbrook wants the colossal challenge of being an old-school main man saddled with the outsized responsibility to will an underdog team someplace no one expects it can go.

See how much we've learned about them already?

Separating them clarifies them.

Although he's averse to sharing his deeper truths and strongest convictions with the media, Westbrook has a voice on the basketball court, where he lets loose—and even in the locker room, where he is a funny, even sweet, influence. But if we accept that he doesn't care to open the window to his soul for strangers, we begin to understand what he is actually doing.

He is a person for whom actions speak louder than words.

Westbrook's public silence since Durant's July 4 decision to go to the Warriors was interpreted as a sign of anger or abandonment, because most don't envision Westbrook as a deep thinker who wanted to sort through his options and refrain from any emotional decisions.

Well, he didn't drive blindly and angrily right toward the basket. He also didn't take his ball and go home.

He collected his thoughts, appreciated how well-run the Thunder organization is and grew excited about guiding a young crew of Steven Adams (23), Victor Oladipo (24), Enes Kanter (24), Andre Roberson (24), Cameron Payne (21) and Domantas Sabonis (20).

 

 
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

 

And there is no stronger statement he could make than agreeing to stay in Oklahoma City at least through the next two seasons, giving him and the team a fair shot at seeing how formidable Adams and Oladipo can become with his help.

Even before Westbrook is forced to offer some explanation for himself in a news conference about his contract, we know more about him.   

His decision to stay speaks for itself. And his actions off the court already indicated he's not just some boiling-over pot of chili. He's a family guy, a low-key guy, the kind of guy who prefers to visit fashion and fame rather than be completely bound to that life.

Westbrook's choice just paints a clearer picture of his priorities.

It's not necessarily wrong given what he can accomplish by leaving, but Durant prioritized opportunity over loyalty. By staying, Westbrook is focused on his own sort of opportunity based on loyalty.

Westbrook has never been the clear leader of the Thunder, given that Durant was already with the franchise when Westbrook arrived in 2008.

The closest he got was in 2014-15, when Durant missed most of the season with injury. Westbrook went nuts—triple-doubles everywhere, his efficiency increasing rather than decreasing, even defensive improvement.

There are valid questions about how Westbrook is going to make the most of this now with Durant gone. Is Westbrook, deep down, a little scared he's going to get hurt taking this attack mentality to its fullest tilt?

Since Westbrook isn't apt to outline his plans through spoken word, we'll have to settle for seeing him in action. It's worth noting, though, that he has been preparing for this greater challenge in more ways than one his entire career.

 

 
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

 

Let's flash back to 2013, when Westbrook underwent the first of three surgeries in an eight-month span related to the repair of a torn meniscus in his right knee. He and the Thunder could have chosen to simply remove the meniscus, which would have had Westbrook back on the court sooner, but they decided to be painstakingly careful and preserve the cartilage for long-term effect, even though it made for a disjointed season.

And with Westbrook missing almost half the games, Durant turned it into his MVP season.

See how much we learn when they're apart?

Nothing will ever change how admirable their efforts to work together and keep the peace were, even if the results were not there.

Now that they've chosen real change, it makes sense—and it will be fascinating to watch at both ends.

Durant might be part of something legendary, while Westbrook finally gets to test his limits.

Source:Bleacher report.com

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05/Aug/2016

Brett Favre and Ken Stabler Linked by Toughness That Led Them to Canton

Toughness is etched in Ken Stabler's genetic code. He comes from a long line of soldiers and explorers stretching back centuries. If you want to understand his greatness, and why on Saturday he will enter the Hall of Fame, look at his past. 

On Stabler's mother's side, family members served in almost every military conflict in American history. They settled parts of the country, traveling by wagon train. Stabler's father earned a Bronze and Silver Star in Italy while fighting Nazis during World War II.

Stabler had a well-earned reputation as a partier, but beneath all of that, on the football field, was a pulse that rarely rose above the temperature of an ice cube. The more violent the encounter, the tighter the game, the more Stabler rose to the occasion. No one was cooler under pressure. Not Joe Montana. Not John Unitas. No one.

Toughness is etched in Brett Favre's genetic code, too. He didn't come from a long line of soldiers or explorers like Stabler. But he was carved from granite nonetheless. Like Stabler, Favre demonstrated an almost superhuman toughness, even for the violent sport of professional football.

Favre and Stabler will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and the irony that both men are entering the same year is undeniable. Favre and Stabler were, to me, the toughest men to ever play the position. Stabler was first and Favre second. (Terry Bradshaw is third.)

Stabler played in arguably the toughest era of all, the 1970s. Players were starting to get bigger and faster, steroids were creeping into the sport and there were few tangible player safety rules. It was the Wild West. Stabler was often brutalized. More than a few times, he was thrown on his head, flipped wrestling style. Or punched in the face. Or kicked. Or hit five seconds after the ball was thrown. Sometimes a flag was tossed. Sometimes it wasn't.

 

 
Associated Press

 

He'd get back up, refusing to stay on the ground. The violence took a toll on Stabler's body, but he always ignored the pain. He always just...played.

I've written a book on Stabler that will be published this fall, so I'm admittedly biased. But I've felt, for decades, that NFL history cannot be written without Stabler. Few players better illustrated the grit essential to play the sport. When hit, Stabler refused to stay on the ground; he only missed games when his body was truly broken.

We now know the true price Stabler paid. We also know this is a price many, if not all, NFL players will pay. That cost for greatness shouldn't be forgotten. But for now—right now—it's OK to focus solely on his place in football history.

Favre may be as close as we'll get to a modern-era Stabler. Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, one of the best defensive players I ever covered, said Favre was nearly impossible to rattle. Hit him, and Favre would pat you on the helmet.

Hit Favre really hard, and Favre would ask about the family. Good hit, he'd say, how are the kids?

Standing up to a pass rush wasn't the only thing that made Stabler and Favre unique. There are their smarts, their foibles, their raw abilities. But for me, their ability to play through pain and stay on the field was the greatest asset of both men.

Many will focus on Favre's gaudy statistics. The most important number, however, is this one: 321—the most consecutive starts in NFL history. The league has never seen anything like that. And it never will again.

The closest active player to Favre is Eli Manning at 194 consecutive starts. He'll never catch Favre. Matt Ryan is 10th at 103. Think about that for a second. Favre's consecutive start streak is three times as long as Ryan's and is over 100 more than Manning's.

 

 
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

 

No one will come close.

The increasing violence of the sport makes it impossible. But the determination to play through pain is what truly set Favre and his Hall of Fame predecessor apart.

"The biggest thing about Stabler," Hall of Famer Joe Greene once told me, "is that he never gave up.

"You'd hit him as hard as you could and he'd pop right back up," Greene explained.

Greene remembered once when he hit Stabler "and I thought for sure I broke him in half. He was on the ground for a minute and then looked at me and said, 'Nice hit, Joe.' That's the kind of competitor he was."

In one game during the Raiders' 1977 season, Cleveland defensive end Joe "Turkey" Jones, the brother of Ed "Too Tall" Jones, hit Stabler hard in the back of the neck after Stabler completed a deep pass downfield. Stabler never saw the hit coming. Those are the worst hits of all.

"Usually, when you're around people and think you might get hit," Snake said after the game, "you stay tensed up. But in this case, I'd already relaxed and was watching the flight of the ball when I got hit from behind."

Stabler was knocked unconscious for a few seconds because of the cheap shot.

"Told you we were going to get him," one of the Browns said. "Told you."

In one of many signs of the closeness of the Raiders, and the affection players had for Stabler, Hall of Fame guard Gene Upshaw decided he was going to get revenge on behalf of his quarterback. The next play after the hit on Stabler, Upshaw tracked Jones. Upshaw rammed his helmet into Jones' back. Jones had to be helped off the field. This was 1970s football. This was the era Stabler dominated.

 

 
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

 

In the locker room after the game, Stabler thanked Upshaw. "No one does that to you and gets away with it," Upshaw said.

The Raiders players knew that Stabler always gave everything, no matter the beating, and they in turn gave everything back to him.

It's perfect that Favre and Stabler enter together. No quarterbacks were tougher. None ever will be.

Source:Bleacher report.com

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05/Aug/2016

Nigeria's stranded football team rushing to Brazil

CNN)With just hours to spare, the Nigerian Olympic football team will travel to Brazil on Thursday to make its match against Japan in Manaus.

Thanks to a tab temporarily picked up by Delta Air Lines for the charter flight, the stranded team is expected to land in Brazil at 2 p.m. local time. This gives the team just enough time to clear customs and stretch before kickoff at 9 p.m.
Originally, the team was supposed to fly out July 29, manager Samson Siasia said. But an unpaid charter flight bill kept the team grounded in Atlanta, according to CNN Atlanta affiliate CBS 46.
"[The Nigerian Olympic football team] were stranded at the airport and almost not going to make their match against Japan," said Reese McCranie, director of policy and communications for Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The airport decided to work with Delta to make sure the team made its match on time, he said.
Delta has not only footed the check for a private charter flight for the team from Atlanta to Manaus, but the airline also has put the team up in a hotel for the night in Atlanta.
All this came down to a moment's notice, according to Delta.
"This is a special occasion, not only because it's the Olympics," Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. "Exactly 20 years ago, on this day, the Nigerian football team needed a miracle to beat Argentina to win the gold medal in Atlanta at the Olympics. Today, we are happy to help them with another miracle."
The Nigerian Football Federation posted a video of the historic moment in Atlanta on August 3, 1996, captioning the video: "Our Dream Team won gold in the football event of the Atlanta Olympic games #20YearsAgoInAtlanta.
The team told Delta it chose to train in Atlanta because of that gold win 20 years ago. In an interview with CNN when team members arrived to train in Atlanta, Siasia expressed his happiness at being in Atlanta and foreshadowed the team's difficulty in getting on a flight: "Well, we are here [Atlanta], that's a good thing ... we are having struggles here and there like every federation but the [Nigerian Football] Federation is behind us to make sure we are prepared well to the Olympics."
The Nigerian team is flying down on a charter that takes sports teams to their destinations. This makes the players happy, Siasia said. "The players will have more leg room and they will be able to sleep on their way to Manaus."
After the team rushes to get to their match on time Thursday, all bills will be paid back by the Nigerian Football Federation.
Source:CNN.com
 
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05/Aug/2016

Chad Johnson left Browns camp after three days because coaching is 'tough'

Former NFL receiver Chad Johnson lobbied his way on Twitter to an unofficial NFL coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns. It appears that Johnson may have already called it quits. Turns out that coaching isn’t easy. According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, Johnson left camp on Monday to take care of some business. Head coach Hue Jax revealed that Johnson seemed surprised at how difficult coaching was — even from an unofficial capacity. Cleveland started its training camp on Friday. Jax is unsure if Johnson will return to the team. Johnson was at camp to informally work with a group of draft picks. He tweeted on Saturday that coaching brings the best 14-hour work days.

Source: Yahoo.com

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02/Aug/2016

NL West a two-team race again as Giants, Dodgers load up at trade deadline

The emotion in the voice of San Francisco Giants general manager Bobby Evans was palpable as he spoke of the players the club had moved in two deadline-beating deals Monday that brought in left-handed pitchers Matt Moore and Will Smith.

An organization that prides itself in taking care of its own had traded away homegrown third baseman Matt Duffy, 2015 No. 1 draft pick Phil Bickford and infielder Lucius Fox, an international free agent signed a year ago for a $6 million bonus.

“I still think this is more of a game than a business,’’ Evans said somberly, “but today it feels a lot more like a business.’’

Still, after the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off a major swap with the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Josh Reddick and lefty starter Rich Hill earlier in the day, there was no way the Giants were going to sit still, not with their lead in the NL West having shrunk from 6½ games to two.

So they swung a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for Moore, who bolsters a rotation that had wobbled with a 5.72 ERA during a 2-11 stretch after the All-Star Game, and sent Bickford and minor-league catcher Andrew Susac to the Milwaukee Brewers for Smith.

Even with the Colorado Rockies’ recent surge, the Giants and Dodgers have reasserted themselves as the class of the NL West, two longtime rivals with deep pockets and a fierce competitiveness. No other club has won the NL West since the Arizona Diamondbacks claimed the crown in 2011, and Monday’s moves confirm this as a two-team race once again.

Under the stewardship of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who arrived in October 2014, the Dodgers have been stockpiling prospects and building what some in the industry regard as the top farm system in the game.

With an injury-wracked roster and a fan base clamoring for the franchise’s first championship since 1988, they turned three of those youngsters – minor-league right-handers Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton – into two veterans who should make an immediate impact.

Reddick is sporting a career-high .816 on-base plus slugging percentage and will dislodge Yasiel Puig from right field, while Hill will join a rotation devastated by injuries as soon as the blister in his left middle finger has healed, probably later this week.

There were conflicting news media reports about why Puig did not join the Dodgers on their Monday flight to Denver, but indications are he will be optioned to the minors. As of press time, Dodgers officials had not commented on his whereabouts.

Reddick, who averaged 19 homers over the previous four seasons despite battling injuries, is seen as an offensive upgrade over Puig, whose production has diminished every year since his smashing debut season in 2013. Puig has never matched the 19 home runs he hit that year and his OPS has dwindled from .925 to his current .706.

Despite Puig’s offensive decline and the absence of staff ace Clayton Kershaw and fellow lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, Los Angeles has more than held its own in the NL West race, going 15-9 in July to trim four games from the Giants’ lead.

But while San Francisco is starting to get some of its own injured mainstays back, most notably Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, the Dodgers continue to hemorrhage players. The latest to get hurt is right-hander Bud Norris, who left Sunday’s start with an upper-back injury, leaving the rotation with three healthy starters.

That’s why the addition of Hill was critical, especially in light of the uncertainty regarding Kershaw’s return from a herniated disk in his back. In between missing time with a groin strain and the blister, Hill was sensational with the A’s, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and holding batters to a .201 average.

The Dodgers managed to fortify themselves with two rentals – both Hill and Reddick are eligible for free agency after the season – while retaining top prospects like Julio Urias, Jose De Leon and Alex Verdugo.

The Giants, on the other hand, gave up two top-five prospects from a system that is not as deep in exchange for major leaguers with three more years of team control each. Smith should strengthen a bullpen that has been under fire because of its NL-high 18 blown saves, although it performed admirably in two weekend wins over the Washington Nationals.

Moore is the bigger catch, an experienced but still young (27) starter who is in his first full season following Tommy John elbow surgery and has fared particularly well in recent weeks, registering a 2.39 ERA and holding batters to a .199 average over his last nine outings.

He joins a rotation headed by All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto that could present matchup problems for any contenders, and especially the Dodgers, who have a lefty-heavy lineup. The Giants and Dodgers have nine games left this season, including six in the final two weeks of the season.

“You certainly don’t make a move at the deadline focused necessarily on one club, but it’s just the nature of the game that there’s so many good left-handed hitters out there,’’ Evans said of picking up the two lefties. “We have to make sure our bullpen’s prepared to face them.’’

Source:USA Today.com

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02/Aug/2016

With rules suspended, intersex athlete to take center stage at Rio Olympics

Caster Semenya is a South African runner who could emerge as one of the most compelling figures of the Rio Olympic Games. She is favored to win gold at 800 meters while perhaps breaking track’s longest-standing world record, even as her stunning speed is leading to uncomfortable controversy at the uncertain intersection of gender and athletics — and of human rights and athletic fairness.

Semenya has never said she is intersex — a word preferred to the stigmatizing hermaphrodite — but speculation follows her around the globe, her private parts a mortifying matter of public debate. (Intersex is an umbrella term for people who are born with sex characteristics “that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies,” according to a definition by the human rights arm of the United Nations.)

Track observers believe Semenya is hyperandrogenous, meaning her body naturally produces high amounts of testosterone, the hormone that helps build muscle, endurance and speed. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), track and field’s governing body, has rules limiting the amount of naturally occurring functional testosterone allowed for female athletes. But today those limits are in limbo.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) suspended them last summer, citing insufficient evidence that high levels give female athletes a boost in performance. The IAAF has until next summer to make a case for its regulations or the court will abolish them. The Rio Games, meantime, fall during an interregnum where the rules don’t apply.

“This is a huge human rights victory,” intersex studies expert Joanna Harper tells USA TODAY Sports, “but sports, not so much.”

Harper, chief medical physicist of radiation oncology at Providence Portland (Ore.) Medical Center, means that some intersex athletes may have hormone-fueled advantages over other female competitors in Rio.

Maria José Martínez-Patiño refers to it as a “free-for-all.” She was the world’s most famous intersex athlete in the mid-1980s when, as an elite hurdler for Spain, so-called gender testing found that she had XY chromosomes. She soon learned that her outwardly female form hid internal testes. She lost her place on the national team, her scholarship, her fiancé, her privacy, her sense of self.

“Everything taken away,” Martínez-Patiño says in Spanish, “as if I never existed.”

Maria José Martínez-Patiño sees gender testing from

Maria José Martínez-Patiño sees gender testing from two different lenses, one as a former athlete who fought major adversity and now as a professor and advisor to the International Olympic Committee. (Photo: Courtesy of Maria José Martínez-Patiño)

 

Today she is a professor of science education and sport at Spain’s University of Vigo and an advisor to the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission. And she is strongly in favor of the since-suspended limits on testosterone.

“The reality of sports is someone will always have an advantage,” she says. “It’s very difficult to establish who has it and who does not. We need to have a rule that applies to everybody.”

Martínez-Patiño testified in favor of the IAAF’s upper limits before the arbitration court. That case was brought by Dutee Chand, India’s first female sprinter in 36 years to qualify for the Olympics 100 meters. She was suspended for high levels of testosterone in 2014 — echoes of Martínez-Patiño, who won an appeal of her own decades ago.

Martínez-Patiño was dismissed from the Spanish team ahead of the 1988 Seoul Games because of her sex chromatin test. She appealed based on a condition called complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, which prevents her body from responding to testosterone, negating any advantage. She won her appeal and regained her status. But she failed to make the 1992 Spanish Olympic team; her moment had passed.

Indian athlete Dutee Chand qualified for the Olympics

Indian athlete Dutee Chand qualified for the Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued a landmark ruling that challenged her suspension for hyperandrogenism. (Photo: Rafiq Maqbool, AP)

“It’d be easy to believe because of the difficulties of that past that I would be opposed to any rules,” Martínez-Patiño says. “That’s not the case. That would not be fair, not be ethical. I understand the positions of other people. I am in favor of rules.”

The difficulty, she says, is balancing the human rights of intersex athletes with the competitive rights of other athletes.

British marathoner Paula Radcliffe made news this month when she said on the BBC that if Semenya is guaranteed to win the 800 “then it’s no longer sport.” She later said in a statement that audio snippets did not capture the complexity of her overall point: “I tried to get across how difficult and complicated the situation is and how finding a solution where nobody gets hurt is pretty much impossible.”

The IAAF said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports that it does not comment on individual athletes: “On Hyperandrogenism Regulations the IAAF has publically confirmed that its regulations were suspended for two years by CAS in 2015 until more evidence is provided as to the precise degree of performance advantage that hyperandrogenic female athletes enjoy over athletes with normal testosterone levels.”

South African track officials did not respond to attempts for comment.

Chance to break world record

Semenya won the 800 meters at the 2009 world championships when she was 18. Her time of 1:55.45 was among the fastest in history. Competitors raised questions. One called her a man. Word leaked that she had elevated levels of testosterone. She was subjected to unfair and unseemly comments.

The IAAF’s and IOC’s vague policies on gender verification at the time considered testosterone levels, though that was only part of it. After Semenya’s case, the IAAF developed a rule that specified female athletes could not compete with functional testosterone levels above 10 nanomoles per liter, an upper limit determined to be three times higher than 99% of the women who had competed at recent world championships.

The IOC adopted the IAAF rule in time for the London Games, where Semenya won silver at 800 meters, behind Russia’s Mariya Savinova, since caught in her nation’s state-sponsored doping scandal. Semenya was performing at an elite level, but well shy of the promise of her astonishing performances in 2009. Harper says short of surgery that medication — typically Spironolactone and external estrogen — is the most likely way to reduce naturally high testosterone levels.

South Africa's Caster Semenya has been subjected to

South Africa's Caster Semenya has been subjected to invasive and embarrassing gender tests because of her muscular build and blazing speed. (Photo: Anja Niedringhaus, AP)

 

Last year, Semenya failed to advance past the semifinals in the 800 at the world championships. This year Semenya is improving markedly. She won the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter runs — all on the same day — at the South African championships. Her time of 1:55.33 in the 800 this month is the world’s best since 2008.

That’s why Harper believes Semenya is now competing with elevated levels of testosterone, calling her “untouchable” and suggesting her 200 splits and lordly demeanor on the track make her a near-certain bet to win the Olympic 800, with a chance to break the world record of 1:53.28 set in 1983 by Jarmila Kratochvilova of what was then Czechoslovakia. (Allegations of doping against Kratochvilova were never proven.)

Eric Vilain, human genetics professor and chief of medical genetics at UCLA, says biological testing can differentiate between natural testosterone produced by an intersex athlete and injected testosterone from doping

“It was clear the IOC was shocked by the ruling of the CAS,” says Vilain, who attended an IOC-hosted meeting on the issue in May. “It was an absolutely unexpected outcome.”

Harper watched in person as attorneys argued Chand’s CAS case in Switzerland. “We were all shocked,” Harper says, at the outcome.

Unfair to transgender athletes?

If intersex athletes produce testosterone naturally, how is that different from other genetic advantages in sports — height in basketball, for instance, or long arms in swimming?

“We allow certain amounts of advantage” in sports, Harper says, “but not overwhelming advantage. For instance, left-handed baseball players against right-handed baseball players. But we don’t let 200-pound boxers get in the ring with 100-pound boxers. At some point, advantages become too great and we need two categories.”

Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and intersex studies

Joanna Harper, a transgender woman and intersex studies expert, believes intersex athletes will be a "huge" story at the Rio Olympic Games. (Photo: Getty Images)

That’s why sports are divided into men’s and women’s.

“The reason why women can’t excel against men is a testosterone-based advantage,” Harper says. “The essence of dividing sport is largely based on the testosterone advantage. Using a testosterone-based divide (for women’s sports) is the best that we can do. It’s a compromise of trying to protect female athletes and also giving intersex and transgender athletes the chance to compete. There’s no perfect solution. It’s very difficult. It’s absolutely not the same case as being a very tall or very fast athlete.”

Harper, who identifies as a transgender woman, became interested in intersex and transgender studies after starting hormone replacement therapy — a testosterone blocker and estrogen — that caused her running times to dwindle. She says as a transgender woman she has taken the same medications that an intersex athlete would take to lower testosterone levels.

Transgender athletes who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the Rio Games without gender reassignment surgery. However, they are required to maintain certain testosterone levels, while intersex athletes do not have such restrictions.

“If you were born female, then any natural advantage is perfectly legal,” Harper says of Rio. “There’s no testing, no regulations.”

UCLA’s Vilain sees that as an unfair contradiction. “I’d fully expect a transgender athlete to challenge the rule,” he says.

If the CAS reinstates the IAAF rule next year, intersex athletes will once again face surgery or medication to alter their bodies in order to compete. That’s what Chand’s attorneys and gender activists argue is fundamentally unfair.

'A good mistake'

Martínez-Patiño’s gender test came at the 1985 World University Games. Three decades later, sports officials find themselves still struggling to define gender and detect advantage. Martínez-Patiño says her experiences as an athlete, trainer, TV commentator, scientist and professor give her a unique perspective on all this.

“I had everything taken from me, but now I have regained everything and more,” she says. “I see this through the passage of time, as someone who can see both sides — both as a scientist and someone who was affected by (gender testing). … I think this is why I’m on the medical commission, because I have such a wide perspective, perhaps way more than people who have (only a) medical point of view. I believe my opinion has a heavier weight.”

Maria José Martínez-Patiño, left, says she feels a

Maria José Martínez-Patiño, left, says she feels a connection to Olympians Caster Semenya, middle, and Dutee Chand, right. (Photo: Courtesy of Maria José Martínez-Patiño/AP/USA TODAY Sports)

 

The arc of her life’s story is remarkable. “I’ve gained everything back with my position on the medical commission,” she says, voice choking with emotion. “If I had been an American, they would have made a movie about me.”

She feels a bond with Semenya and Chand. “We are three different women, at different times in history, with three different perspectives,” she says. “All three of us have been stigmatized.”

Martínez-Patiño expects an “astonishing” performance from Semenya in Rio — and controversy to match it. She sees a silver lining in all this. Instead of trial by error — which is how Harper characterizes the IAAF’s and IOC’s efforts over the past three decades — Martínez-Patiño sees Rio as “trial by fire.”

She expects these Games to provide a roadmap on how to determine rules and regulations on hyperandrongenism — by showing the world how it works without regulation.

“I have a double perspective,” Martínez-Patiño says. “The rules have basically been removed. This also provides a marvelous test. It gives us a chance to leave theory aside and focus on the practical, based on what happens in Rio. There are women from more than 200 countries and it’s very difficult to establish rules that satisfy everybody. We get to see what happens when the rules are suspended. Human beings learn from good and bad mistakes.

“This is a good mistake.”

Source:USA Today

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02/Aug/2016

Jordan Spieth narrowly avoids penalty over tricky rule at PGA Championship

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Jordan Spieth spent a portion of his Friday morning holed up in a tent near the 10th tee at Baltusrol Golf Club during a 45-minute rain delay with Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia and the players’ caddies.

His day at the 98th PGA Championship nearly ended in a rules snafu.

Spieth broke well when the skies finally cleared as he birdied the first two holes starting at the 10th. He offset a bogey on the 12th with birdies on the 13th, 17th and 18th. Pars filled his scorecard until he reached the seventh tee box.

That’s when things got interesting — and complicated.

Spieth’s tee shot ended up in a puddle on a cart path. For nearly 10 minutes — and with no less than four drops to find relief — Spieth spoke with a rules official concerning all his options. He finally was given the go ahead after his last drop settled three feet from the original resting place of the tee shot.

The world No. 3 altered his stance to make sure he wasn’t standing in casual water — because you have to take complete relief when taking a free drop from casual water — and then hit the ball over the green and made bogey.

But it appeared Spieth’s left foot was in casual water when he hit the shot, which would have resulted in a two-shot penalty. But after the round, Spieth said his toe was hovering over the water but not touching the water.

It wouldn’t have mattered even if his foot was in the water. In explaining the decision, the PGA of America said in a statement: “In this case, Jordan was entitled to either play the ball as it lay, even if his stance was still in the casual water or, he could have elected to take relief again from the casual water under this different type of stroke that he then elected to play.”

Thus, while he was peppered with question from the media, there was no danger of being assessed a penalty by the rules committee following the round.

“It was as complicated as I've ever really had it. Took about as much time as I've ever taken on a free drop,” Spieth said. “ … I would have never hit if I was not told it was OK by a rules official. He told me it was fine. Really don't know why we were talking about to be honest. It was a casual water relief drop that took a little extra time. I guess obviously people are talking to you thinking it should be a problem, but it was no problem.”

Spieth didn’t think twice about the situation after he hit the shot.

“I don't think there's any problem with it. If there happens to be then that's not on me. I literally asked every question I could ask and I got every answer I could be to be content,” Spieth said. “That's first and foremost what you are trying to do is obviously abide by the rules. If I had to go over any more, if he told me I did then I would have. He said it was just fine, so it was just fine.”

As for his round – he said it was a tale of two nines – Spieth said his ball-striking is plenty fine but his putting stroke still needs attention. Spieth shot a 3-under-par 67 to move on to the first page of the leaderboard.

“On the greens they were a wicked two feet faster on the Stimpmeter at least, even after all that rain. They were so smooth, they were pure and they were really nice to putt on. But, man, I hit almost every midrange putt I had a good two- to four-feet past the hole,” Spieth said. “Luckily I hit quite a few in there close enough to be able to knock in relatively straight putts for birdie on the front nine. It was an adjustment on speed control on the greens for sure.

“I'm hitting the ball fantastic. I just can't get a putt to go in outside 10 feet. And from 10 to 20 feet, the amount of opportunities I've had that aren't that difficult, up to my putting standards I would be 5, 6, 7 strokes better right now. It feels like it's a bit of a struggle adapting line and speed control on the greens. … I just need to find a nice rhythm with my putting stroke. That's what's next.”

Source:USA Today.com

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30/Jul/2016

Dwyane Wade: The Bulls are 'Jimmy Butler's team'

Dwyane Wade — a 13-year NBA veteran, three-time champion and 12-time All-Star — is the most experienced and the most decorated player on the Chicago Bulls roster.

By far.

But make no mistake ... he's not headed to Chicago expecting to take over as the go-to guy. As far as he's concerned, the Bulls belong to Jimmy Butler — a two-time All-Star who has spent all five of his NBA seasons in Chicago and is now the team's longest-tenured player behind power forward Taj Gibson.

"We're not going to go through this all year," Wade told reporters at his introductory press conference on Friday. "This is Jimmy Butler's team. Myself and (Rajon) Rondo are here to bring what we bring, as athletes to this team and to this city. He's a young bull on this team. He's a 26-year-old that can play 40 minutes if coach wants him to, and maybe more. I ain't trying to do all that. And we're going to depend on him a lot."

"He is a guy who I've known since Marquette University, that I have a tremendous amount of respect for," Wade continued. "This wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler called me and told me he wanted me (in Chicago), and that was huge. Because at the time, I didn't know."

Wade's comments mirror those that Rondo — who also referred to the Bulls as "Jimmy's team" — made at his introductory press conference earlier this month.

"It won't be a tug and pull of whose team it is," Wade said. "We're all playing together. We all have one common goal, and that's to win."

Source:Cnn.com

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30/Jul/2016

This is how much loss of NBA All-Star Game will cost Charlotte

The NBA's decision to pull its All-Star Game out of Charlotte means an estimated loss of $100 million to the city's economy.

The city's visitors authority said tourists were expected to spend as much as $60 million and rent hotel rooms for a total of 27,000 nights during the All-Star weekend.

 

The influx of cash would have also triggered a $40 million spending spree by Charlotte businesses and the employees of its hotels and restaurants, the authority figured.

The NBA yanked the game from Charlotte because of the state's so-called bathroom law.

The controversial law prevents cities from creating non-discrimination policies based on gender identity and mandates that students in state schools use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. A number of performers, including Bruce Springsteen, Maroon 5 and Pearl Jam, have canceled concerts in North Carolina as a result of the legislation.

The NBA initially declined to move the game, but announced the decision to relocate on Thursday. It said it would consider the city for future All-Star Games if the law is reversed or changed.

"While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by [the law]," said the league's statement. The 2017 games will be played in New Orleans instead.

PayPal and Deutche Bank have dropped plans to add hundreds of jobs in Charlotte due to the legislation. Business groups in the city, which have also opposed the law, said they would continue to work to change it.

"Charlotte has been and will continue to be a city that embraces and promotes diversity, inclusiveness and equality. We oppose discrimination in all forms," said a statement from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. "We are disappointed that the NBA All-Star game is being moved elsewhere, but appreciate of the league's willingness to continue to consider Charlotte for the 2019 game."

Source: CNN.com

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23/Jul/2016

Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad can sway perceptions leading up to Rio Olympics

When sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad steps under the lights on the fencing strip, her competitive instincts kick in.

She focuses only on her opponent and the weapon in her hand, momentarily forgetting the challenges she overcame as a Muslim athlete and the discrimination she faces based on her beliefs and skin color.

Ranked second in the USA and No. 8 in the world by the International Fencing Federation, the 31-year-old medal contender will carry that tunnel vision to Rio de Janeiro this summer as the first American to compete for Team USA at the Olympics while wearing a hijab.

“I’m very competitive, and this is the space where I felt most comfortable,” said Muhammad, an African American who embraced fencing because she could respect her religion by remaining fully covered in uniform without looking different from teammates or competitors. “I wasn’t going to allow other people’s misconceptions to change my journey.”

In April, Muhammad was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people. She was surprised to be recognized for having a global impact.

Though she welcomes the opportunity to be a role model for female athletes — particularly encouraging Muslim girls to participate in sports — the Maplewood, N.J., native said she struggles to remain outspoken against bigotry and hate. But feeling a responsibility to help her community fuels her fight.

Training in New York City, Muhammad — who started fencing at age 13 — mentors kids on Saturdays at the Peter Westbrook Foundation. She also advocates for tolerance on social media and recently has been documenting the challenges of preparing for the Olympics during Ramadan.

Because Ramadan is “such a spiritual moment,” Muhammad said she fasts from sunrise to sunset but works with a nutritionist to help her get enough water and nutrients early to sustain her throughout the day. However, she said she has always trained while observing the holy month.

After graduating in 2007 from Duke, the three-time NCAA All-American said she noticed the U.S. women’s sabre squad lacked diversity and became determined to change that.

She qualified for the national team in 2010 — making her the first Muslim woman to fence for the USA — and enters the Olympics as a five-time senior world team medalist.

“You really get a very deep look into someone’s personality when you see them compete in their sport,” Olympic-qualified épée fencer Jason Pryor said. “Once you see Ibti compete, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, this is who she is deep down in her core. Fight or flight, this woman’s going to fight.’ It’s just how she fences. Her aggression and her ability to come back and how hard she’s driving in to get that touch, it suits her.”

In January, Muhammad finished third in the Athens World Cup, which helped her secure enough points for a place on the Olympic team. The U.S. women’s sabre team also qualified for Rio, so she will compete individually and in the team event.

During the qualification period — April 2015 to April 2016 — she said she worried about having trouble traveling internationally, often hearing of Muslims being profiled and kicked off flights. Although it hasn’t been a problem for her, she said it’s still a concern.

Frustrated by negative portrayals of Muslims, she hopes her success will offer a different image. She wants to go beyond the burqa stereotype and popularize the idea of Muslim athletes by capitalizing on her Olympic platform with Team USA.

“She’s doing something special,” Rio-bound wrestler Adeline Gray said. “She’s breaking ground, and she’s inspiring that next generation of girls that never would have considered sports. That’s what (we) want to reach out to all young girls — not just Muslim women but also young girls that are in all religions and across social and economic levels.”

Source:USA Today

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19/Jul/2016

Henrik Stenson Beats Phil Mickelson in British Open Duel

TROON, Scotland — Phil Mickelson has a documented history of runner-up finishes in major championships, having often endured memorable heartbreak on the final day of tournaments. But during the fourth round of this year’s British Open, after a surprising surge during its first three days, Mickelson did not make a bogey and shot a six-under-par 65, the lowest score he has ever posted in the final round of a major.

 

It was not enough because his playing partner, Henrik Stenson, had a record-setting Sunday, becoming only the second golfer to win a major championship with a final round of 63 in beating Mickelson by three strokes. Stenson’s score of 20 under par for the tournament tied Jason Day’s record for the lowest winning score relative to par in a major. Stenson’s aggregate four-day score of 264 was also a record for a major championship.

 

With pluck, precision and a steely putting stroke under pressure, Stenson, 40, made 10 birdies on Sunday, to go along with two bogeys, in becoming the first Swede to win a men’s major championship.

 

J. B. Holmes finished a distant third at six under.

“I felt, and I believed, like it was my time to do this,” Stenson said afterward. “I just had to stay focused on the moment, and I did not waver doing that.”

Photo

 

Phil Mickelson reacted to missing his eagle putt on No. 16. Credit Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Stenson, the world’s sixth-ranked golfer, had been in something of a slump until recently, with one win on the PGA and European Tours combined since 2014.
It was a pattern that mirrored Stenson’s major championship record. At the British Open, he had finished tied for third twice and second once — behind Mickelson in 2013.

Sunday did not start auspiciously for Stenson, who badly missed an 8-foot par putt and bogeyed the first hole. When Mickelson birdied the hole, he eclipsed the one-shot advantage Stenson had held overnight and vaulted into the lead.

But Stenson showed what would be the strength of his game Sunday on the next green.

Stenson has always been known as a great ball striker, especially with his irons. If he has had a weakness, it has been putting, and specifically putting under pressure. But in Sunday’s final round, Stenson put on an exhibition on the greens.

He sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hole to tie Mickelson and drained a 15-foot putt for birdie on the third to take the lead as Mickelson missed his 4-foot birdie putt.

Mickelson’s eagled the fourth hole, but Stenson kept pace with his third birdie on the first four holes.

Mickelson said afterward, “I threw as much as I could at him, and he just kept making birdies.”

The two remained tied until the dicey par-3 eighth hole — known as the Postage Stamp — when Mickelson’s tee shot was considerably inside Stenson’s. But it was Stenson who made his birdie putt; Mickelson missed his.

Stenson held the one-shot advantage for only a few holes, missing a 5-foot par putt on the 11th hole. Mickelson made a spectacular par save after rescuing his ball from the fescue rough twice on the 12th hole, but Stenson surged ahead yet again on the 14th hole with his seventh birdie, converting a 20-foot putt.

The pivotal hole of the final round turned out to be the 15th. Stenson’s approach shot missed the green. But from the fringe, Stenson rolled in a 51-foot birdie putt that gave him a two-shot lead he never surrendered.

“I mean, Henrik made 10 birdies,” Mickelson said. “That’s impressive. I’m really happy for him, even if I’m disappointed with the outcome.”

Source:NYtimes.com

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17/Jul/2016

Questions loom over Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s absence

LOUDON, N.H. – This weekend’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway souvenir program features Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the cover along with a headline asking, “Is This The Year?”

The reference is to the possibility that Earnhardt might finally seriously contend for what would be his first Sprint Cup championship.

Ironically, on a warm, sunny Friday in New England, there were much bigger questions floating around Earnhardt, Hendrick Motorsports and, indeed, the future of NASCAR.

Earnhardt is sitting out Sunday’s race here as he battles concussion-like symptoms, and there is the possibility he could miss more races. Looming over the sport is the possibility that Earnhardt could decide to retire because of health concerns.

There was no confirmation Friday that Earnhardt had been diagnosed with a concussion. The Hendrick team said he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms and that doctors recommended that he not drive.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that retired driver Jeff Gordon would return to racing next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt remains sidelined. Alex Bowman is filling in this weekend.

Earnhardt sat out two races in 2012 because of concussions and has admitted to racing with a concussion in the past.

At 41, Earnhardt has had an accomplished career but has fallen short of scoring the Cup championship that his late father won seven times.

No one with the Hendrick team would speculate Friday on his long-term future.

“The most important thing is for this process to play out for him to feel better,” Duchardt said. “At the end of that, the right thing to do will become clear as to how he’s feeling.”

If Earnhardt returns to the No. 88 cockpit next week, he would remain in contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but missing a second race would seriously damage those hopes.

NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said Friday that Earnhardt can’t return to competition until the sanctioning body receives notification from a neurologist that he is able to participate.

“Dale has become more aware over the years,” Duchardt said. “That’s to his credit, and this is important. The only person who knows how you feel is yourself. You have to be self-aware of how your body responds.”

 

Retired driver and ESPN racing analyst Ricky Craven said Friday Earnhardt faces some tough decisions.

“Not everybody will admit this, but you’re making a ridiculous amount of money, and it’s hard to walk away from it,” Craven told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s crazy money. I walked away with a year on my contract, but I was done.”

Craven, who returned to driving after being sidelined by a concussion, said leaving competition is a hard road for every driver to travel.

“I can’t speak for Dale Jr. or anyone else, but he’s got a pretty good life,” Craven said. “He’s obviously found the love of his life (he is engaged to Amy Reimann). He’s traveled to Germany a few times. He’d still be happy (if he quit driving). You always miss competing. It’s part of our DNA.”

Bowman, 23, races part-time for Earnhardt’s Xfinity Series team. He has the opportunity of a lifetime this weekend but said he’s approaching the race with the idea of “plugging into” the 88 team.

“I’m not here to try to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” Bowman said. “I’m my own person. I need to plug into the team and give them the best feedback I can. I just want to do my job. Obviously, I’d like to impress people but not do anything crazy.”

Source:USA Today

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15/Jul/2016

Tom Brady announces he won't fight Deflategate suspension further in court

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced on his Facebook page that he is no longer going to fight his four-game suspension stemming from Deflategate in the legal system.

He will serve the suspension to start the season.

“I'm very grateful for the overwhelming support I've received from Mr. Kraft, the Kraft family, coach Belichick, my coaches and teammates, the NFLPA, my agents, my loving family and most of all, our fans,” Brady wrote in the post Friday afternoon. “It has been a challenging 18 months and I have made the difficult decision to no longer proceed with the legal process. I'm going to work hard to be the best player I can be for the New England Patriots and I look forward to having the opportunity to return to the field this fall.”

On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied his request for an en banc rehearing after a three-judge panel reversed a decision from a lower court to affirm Brady’s suspension.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman had vacated Brady’s suspension.

Now, Brady will be forced to miss games against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo will start in his place, but Brady will be eligible to return Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns.

Source; USA Today

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15/Jul/2016

U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas’s spot on the Olympic roster may be in jeopardy

This was not supposed to be part of the story reigning Olympic champion Gabby Douglas had in mind when she set her sights on Rio.

A revelation in London four years ago, Douglas figured her bid for another shot at glory would be easy. Hard to blame her considering the way she so effortlessly reached the top of the podium in 2012, a soaring victory that made her a crossover star.

Watch Sunday 8:30pm on NBC and NBC Sports Live online

“I came back and said, ‘Yes, this is going to be cake,'” Douglas said.

For a stretch last fall and this spring, it was. A silver medal in the all-around at the 2015 world championships showed her return was hardly just vanity run amok. Her professional effort while capturing events in New Jersey and Italy in March stirred inevitable comparisons to her sprint to Olympic gold.

Yet sometime over the last month, the momentum stalled. The Douglas that hopped off the beam in frustration during the first night of Olympic Trials on Friday hardly looked like she was having a good time. Her all-around total of 58.550 puts her seventh heading into Sunday’s finale, when the five-woman team expected to dominate the Summer Games will be announced.

Douglas described her effort as “just OK” when she knows much more is required. While the Olympic spot that once seemed automatic is still well within reach, the 20-year-old acknowledges the pressure has gotten to her. She figured she would have no trouble handling it when she returned to competition in March 2015.

“I think there’s more expectations now than there were before,” she said. “I’ve just got to go out there and just do it, not just shy away and test the water. I’ve got to dive in.”

That wasn’t a problem earlier in her career, when her fearlessness made her seem impervious to the stage. But after a so-so effort at national championships in St. Louis two weeks ago — when her fourth-place finish was well behind Simone BilesLaurie Hernandez and Aly Raisman — Douglas decided to tweak her coaching situation. She made Christian Gallardo her primary coach, a role Kittia Carpenter had been filling since Douglas began training at Buckeye Gymnastics in Columbus, Ohio, two years ago.

Douglas emphasized the decision was pragmatic, not personal. Gymnasts are allowed one coach on the event floor at the Olympics, and Gallardo — who had been splitting the duties with Carpenter — seemed a more natural fit to handle various responsibilities like spotting her during routines.

Many of Douglas’ peers on the national team, though, are still training with coaches they’ve been with since turning their first back handspring. Douglas has become a bit of a nomad over the last six years, moving from Virginia Beach to Iowa to California then back to Iowa before starting fresh in Columbus. The fact she’s prospered despite near constant change is a testament to her talent, which seems to thrive when the stakes are raised.

That’s what happened in 2012. It’s what happened last October, when she shook off lethargic training to finish a strong second to Biles at worlds. Douglas thought it would happen at nationals and trials too. And it hasn’t. At least not yet.

“I would be, ‘No, I’m fine. I can do this. When competition rolls around, I got it,'” she said. “The performances were OK. I was too relaxed. I got too far behind.”

Douglas believes she’s spent too much time focusing on “the wrong thing,” unable to completely block out the noise that seems to follow her wherever she goes. When she appeared too serious during national championships, social media lit up with criticism. In some ways, the detractors weren’t wrong.

“I lost the joy,” she said. “I forgot what it means to go out and have fun, and it’s catching up.”

Douglas presents a complex challenge for national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who seems intent on giving Douglas every opportunity to get right. Two weeks after saying it’s how athletes are doing now — and not their gaudy resumes — that matters most in picking the team, Karolyi clarified her standards when pressed about Douglas’ lingering sluggishness.

“We look for the potential and you look for the fact of what you see what the girls were able to do in the past also,” Karolyi said.

Karolyi gave Douglas a brief pep talk as they walked off the floor Friday, one Douglas needed badly.

“I was kind of crushed after, and when she came over, she was like, ‘OK, everything’s good,'” Douglas said. “I’m just going to go on to Sunday and bang it out.”

Probably a good idea if she wants to erase any lingering doubt in Karolyi’s mind.

The sloppy ending to her otherwise steady performance Friday, when she wobbled near the end of her beam routine and was unable to save it before jumping to the floor in frustration, left her visibly shaken. The girl whose life has literally become a reality show — “Douglas Family Gold” just wrapped its first season on the Oxygen Network — is hoping for one more dash of the magic that once came so naturally.

“I don’t want to finish like this,” Douglas said. “I don’t want to finish with St. Louis being not good and trials being OK. I really want to finish on a high note and not let myself go down.”

Source:Yahoo.com

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11/Jul/2016

Euro 2016: Portugal crowned champions after Cristiano Ronaldo goes off injured

Stade de France, Paris (CNN)Portugal gatecrashed France's Euro 2016 party to win the European Championship for the first time in its history -- and all this without leading star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid forward was forced out of the game with a knee injury in the first half, but Portugal regrouped and thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Rui Patricio took the game into extra time before Eder struck with 11 minutes to go.
Portugal's 1-0 win was all the more remarkable given in their previous 10 meetings, France had won all of them.
"Simple as doves and as wise as serpents," is how Portugal coach Fernando Santos characterized his team's success at Euro 2016.
France hit the post late on in normal time, but so too did Portugal just before Eder's goal when Raphael Guerreiro's exquisite free kick came back off the crossbar.
The win was testament to a remarkable group ethic after Ronaldo was taken off on a stretcher following a robust tackle by Dimitri Payet on eight minutes.
 
Twice Ronaldo tried to hobble back on the pitch before he collapsed, distraught and in tears as he conceded his tournament had come to a premature end.
The huge ovation he was given by the Stade de France crowd -- French and Portuguese fans alike -- must have been scant consolation given the pivotal role he has played in this side for over a decade since making his international debut as an 18-year-old.
"Terrible to see Cris come off like that," tweeted Ronaldo's Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale and no wonder given many had billed this as the crowning moment of Ronaldo's career as an international player.
 
Twelve years ago he was also left in tears after Euro 2004 host Portugal was surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Greece.
True France might have been favorites to win this final given its home advantage, but this was a real opportunity for Ronaldo to showcase his talents in an international final and add to the countless starring roles he has produced for Real Madrid.
In the end given the prodigious efforts of his teammates it didn't matter and Ronaldo, despite his injury, was well enough to jump up off the bench to join in the celebrations when Eder scored.
Portugal's fans certainly hadn't forgotten their talisman and as the clock ticked down they chanted his name again and again.
With Ronaldo out of the picture, Patricio was consistently on hand to thwart France, notably in saving a couple of fierce shots from Moussa Sissoko, who had an outstanding game.
Central defenders Pepe -- named man of the match -- and Jose Ponte were also key to Portugal's defensive obdurateness.
Pepe described Portugal's win as a victory of the "humble," while France coach Didier Deschamps paid tribute to the victors' organization.
"The winner always deserves it," said France coach Didier Deschamps. "You can analyze things but they didn't get to the final by chance.
"This is the first time I think that a team finished third in their group and ended up as champions."
Portugal coach Santos added: "I always said we were a team. I told them we have a lot of quality and talent. But first we have to run and fight."

Invasion of moths

Since Euro 2016 kicked off on June 10, the French authorities have had plenty on their hands given a state of emergency is still in place after France was targeted during the November terror attacks.
 
Sunday saw 3,400 police and gendarmes mobilized on the Champs-Elysees, with 1,400 deployed at the Stade de France and a further 1,900 keeping order at the 90,000 capacity Eiffel Tower fan zone.
Ahead of kick off the competition's organizers had yet another worry to contend with -- an invasion of moths, which visibly distracted referee Mark Clattenburg as he went about his final preparations before the start of the game.
Earlier Paris had been bathed in blistering sunshine and on a warm summer's evening thousands of French supporters -- young and old -- had made their way to the Stade de France in northern Paris in the hope that host France would deliver the nation's third European Championship triumph.

La Marseillaise

Some were daubed with blue, white and red face paint, others donned the French national team's replica shirts, many wore crazy wigs and hats, while Tricolor flags were waved with gusto.
They belted out the French national anthem -- La Marseillaise -- singing "To arms, citizens!" and "Form your battalions," in a bid to rouse their team ahead of the kickoff.
It seemed to work as France came out bristling with intent, notably when Payet clattered into Ronaldo, who was left writhing in agony. In fairness, Payet won the ball with his tackle, but in the follow through collided with the Portugal captain's left knee.
Amid the intensity there was skill as well from France, notably when Payet delicately chipped the ball to Griezmann, whose header was superbly tipped over the bar by Patricio.
Just past the quarter hour mark, Ronaldo needed more treatment on his left leg with the captain only returning to the action after the Portuguese medical team applied plenty of strapping to his left knee.
But on 23 minutes Ronaldo went down again and this time referee Clattenburg signaled for a stretcher, with the Portuguese captain distraught and in tears as he was ferried away.
Ricardo Quaresma replaced Ronaldo, but Portugal soon had others things to worry about when Sissoko created some space before blasting a shot that Patricio pushed away.
Soon after Cedric Soares was yellow carded for kneeing Payet in the back.
 
European governing body UEFA had predicted a global audience of 300 million people would be watching this final, but with Ronaldo off and Portugal concentrating on their defensive duties this showpiece at times was less show and more attrition.
Just before the hour, France coach Deschamps withdrew Payet, replacing him with Kingsley Coman in a bid to break the deadlock.
Payet had been key to France's progress to the final, but the French forward wasn't quite on his game and Deschamps didn't rule out tiredness playing a part in the rather subdued performance he gave.
It was Coman who teed up another chance for Griezmann, with the Atletico Madrid forward going agonizingly close with a header.
Amid the impasse, Sissoko continued to have a barnstorming game, notably tracking a dangerous run from Renato Sanches.
France was soon back on the attack but Patricio again came to his side's rescue, conjuring up a brilliant one-handed save to deny Oliver Giroud.
That was Giroud's final part in the proceedings as Deschamps introduced Gignac.
In contrast to Patricio, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had relatively little to do, but as the game edged towards extra time he had to tip away a dangerous cross from Nani and then deal with Quaresma's hooked shot.
Patricio was soon back in action and once more it was Sissoko providing the threat, launching a shot that the Portuguese goalkeeper flung himself to his right before pushing the ball away.
In stoppage time substitute André-Pierre Gignac came desperately close to snatching the win for France when he bedazzled Pepe, leaving the Portuguese defender on the floor, only to then hit his shot against the post.
During extra time, Portugal began to threaten Lloris' goal more often and the French goalkeeper was mightily relieved when Guerreiro's beautifully taken free kick hit the bar.
And then substitute Eder broke free and from just outside the French penalty area he struck a low shot that beat Lloris' despairing dive.
Portugal had to hold on for another 11 minutes, but it did so to deprive France of a third European Championship triumph.
Cue more tears from Ronaldo -- and who can blame him.
Source:USA Today

 
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11/Jul/2016

Joakim Noah: It's a 'dream' to play for the Knicks

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Joakim Noah grew up in New York, rooting for the New York Knicks.

So once the club acquired Derrick Rose, Noah said he jumped at the opportunity to sign with the team.

“I get to play with my brother [again],” Noah said on Friday. “That’s very special.”

Noah talked about Rose, the 1990s Knicks and several other subjects during his introductory media conference on Friday. Below is an edited version of the questions and answers:

Q: Is this a welcome home for you?

A: “Yeah. I look at this as a very special opportunity. I’m not taking this opportunity for granted. This has been a dream of mine since I’m 5 years old. I was a fan of a lot of people who wore this jersey: Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Chris Childs, Latrell Sprewell, Marcus Camby, Larry Johnson. I was in the Garden for all these guys. I was in the Garden when LJ hit the shot. I was in the Garden when Michael Jordan came back and gave us 55. This means everything to me. I’m going to do everything to make this special.”

Q: Can you be like a Charles Oakley for this team?

A: “I just want to be myself. I’m not trying to follow anybody’s footsteps, but these are the people that shaped me, these are the people I looked up to. I had their jerseys. I had those guys' pictures on my wall. To me, even though none of those guys won a championship, I know what they mean to the city because I’m from here. I know the love Latrell Sprewell gets when he walks around this city because he represents what this city is all about.”

Q: What's your history with Phil Jackson?

A: “It’s a pretty crazy story. My father used to make me read his books when I was a kid. I hate reading books but I read his books. My best friend, who is my agent now, has a relationship with Phil’s best friend. … This was before he took the job with the Knicks [about four years ago], so he was completely off basketball and I had an opportunity to go to Montana and meet him. So I took the plane, went to Montana, I knock on his door and we start talking. He goes, ‘Why are you here?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ It was a great couple of days. I got an opportunity to meet one of the legends and spend time with him. It was great. Life works in mysterious ways. Now we’re here.”

Q: Would you have been here if Derrick Rose hadn’t been acquired via trade?

A: “No, I probably wouldn’t have. You don’t really hear too many situations where a center gets traded for a point guard, especially a point guard like Derrick Rose, who was a hometown favorite. I would have never thought that he would have left Chicago. It’s pretty amazing that he was the hometown guy showing me around and now he’s on my turf. I get to play with my brother. That’s very special.”

Q: How good can this team be?

A: “To be honest with you I have no idea. I love the makeup, the characters that Phil put together. Now it’s on us to jell. That’s a real thing. Chemistry is everything. Everybody has to put their egos and what they think it should look like to the side and make the right sacrifices to be the best team possible. That doesn’t always happen. Time will tell. There’s no other place I’d rather find out.”

Q: Is it fair to question your health? (Noah was limited to 29 games last season due to left shoulder injuries and surgery.)

A: “I understand completely. I’ve been injured the last couple of years, and it sucks. As an athlete, trust me there’s nothing more I want than to be on the court. It doesn’t matter what anybody writes or anybody says, at the end of the day nobody cares about this [stuff] more than me. I’m the one putting in the work every day. I’m very passionate about this. I always have been and I always will. This is where I want to end my career until the wheels fall off. I’m scarred up from the game -- knees, ankles, shoulders -- but this is my path and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Q: You seem hungry. Do you get that sense with other players on this team?

A: “Yeah. Redemption is a powerful emotion. It’s a powerful thing. We can talk about these things all day. There’s no lie. Everybody knows there’s something special in that building, in that Garden. I’m just really proud to be able to … that jersey means everything to me and to be able to play in that building in front of my people means everything to me.”

Source: ESPN

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09/Jul/2016

The Warriors new 'Death Lineup' is going to terrorize the NBA

Signing Kevin Durant is just the first step in building the 2016-17 Warriors. Golden State’s front office will have a lot of work to do filling out the roster with little cap space to do so. But as things stand, the Warriors have the potential to put out some of the most devastating lineups the league has ever seen.

Let’s begin with the starting five.

It’s unlikely we see Andrew Bogut with Golden State next season. The Warriors will need to shed his $12.68 million cap hit in order to fit Durant’s contract and sign free agents to complete the roster. But if the Warriors were somehow able to make things work with Bogut on the books, the starting lineup would be a monster.

warriors_bogut

Bogut is the perfect defensive anchor for a team with four capable perimeter jump-shooters. And it’s not as if teams can just go big to take advantage of this lineup. Draymond Green can hold his own against power forwards and centers, and Durant has enough length and agility to guard multiple positions.

That’s the dream starting five, but not a realistic one. Golden State will have around $5.5 million in the form of a trade exception to sign Bogut’s replacement. With all of the offense they already have on the court, the Warriors will be content with a big body who protects the rim and finishes easy opportunities.

Reports suggest they are interested in Magic center Dewayne Dedmon, who is no longer needed in Orlando after the team’s acquisitions of Bismack Biyombo and Serge Iabaka. While a lineup with Dedmon replacing Bogut isn’t nearly as intimidating, it’s still easily the most potent starting group in the NBA.

warriors_dedmon

And now we get to the main event: The Warriors’ new and improved “Death Lineup.” Move Green over to center, where he’ll be just fine defensively, and Durant to the four with Andre Iguodala replacing him at small forward. Just look at this group:

warriors_death_lineup

Is this the greatest lineup in the history of the league? I think it is. You have three elite defenders in Iguodala, Green and Thompson. Three elite shooters in Thompson, Durant and, of course, Steph Curry. And you have four players who have averaged at least five assists in a season.

These five can pass, shoot and defend at an elite level.

Golden State’s 2015-16 ‘Death Lineup’ of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Green outscored teams by a ridiculous 47 points per 100 possessions, but struggled in the playoffs, which led some to say the ‘Death Lineup’ was officially figured out.

Well now the Warriors are replacing the weak link in the lineup, Barnes, with Kevin freaking Durant. Good luck figuring that one out.

There’s no such thing as the perfect lineup, but this is the closest we’ll ever get to it.

Source:USA Today

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06/Jul/2016

Paul Pogba would be the perfect signing for Jose Mourinho's Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s first months in charge of Manchester United has seen him do what he always does: He quickly signed a defender (Eric Bailly), some experienced first teamers (34 year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic and 27 year-old Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with 29 year-old Blaise Matuidi looking to be on his way, too), and will soon start clearing out the dead wood.

One name that has been repeatedly linked with in recent weeks is Paul Pogba, the 23 year-old French phenomenon who might be, outside of Messi, the best player in world soccer at the moment.

Pogba’s game is dynamic, powerful, athletic, and technically brilliant. In many ways he’s the perfect signing for Mourinho, for a number of reasons. Assuming no other transfer activity, here’s how a Pogba-Mourinho Manchester United side would look. There really is so much to like about it.

manu2

Mourinho sets up his teams to sit back and counter; he keeps his back four tight and stationary, protected by two strong, defense-minded midfielders with a top class goalkeeper behind. With Bailly arriving Blind will probably slot-in more comfortably into midfield, and while Darmian might be a considered a weak spot, it’s not a pressing concern.

So with the back seven checking all those boxes, it’ll act as a springboard for Mourinho’s signature counter attacks. After winning the ball back the team will play directly to the powerful striker up front as the dynamic trio of Martial, Pogba and Mkhitaryan flood around him.

Pogba is the key to all this. Mourinho has said that he prefers  4-2-3-1 formation with a dynamic, two-way player acting as a traditional number 10, a role Pogba would fulfill beautifully. He’s strong and powerful enough to contribute defensively in his own end, but has the stamina and technical ability to wreck havoc offensively.

Manchester United's new Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho poses with a scarf on the pitch during a photocall at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, northern England, on July 5, 2016. Jose Mourinho officially started work as Manchester United manager at the club's Carrington training base yesterday. The 53-year-old was appointed as United boss in May after the sacking of Dutchman Louis van Gaal. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: 553725582(AFP)

There’s no one else in this team who play that role. Rooney’s not there athletically anymore. Fellaini’s not skilled enough. He needs to buy someone to plug that hole in the team, and there’s no better option than Paul Pogba. Put him into this system and Manchester United, quite simply, become the scariest team in the Premier League once again.

Source:USA TODAY

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06/Jul/2016

Wimbledon is setting up perfectly for the dream Serena-Venus final

It could happen. The match of our dreams. The face-off between the world No. 1 and a former world No. 1, between two of the greatest female tennis players of all time. In other words: Serena and Venus Williams could face each other in the Wimbledon finals.

The sisters — and arguably the patron saints of women’s tennis for the past two decades — are on opposite halves of the bracket, and each have made it through to the semi-finals. Venus, who’s currently ranked No. 9 in the world, has been playing incredible tennis at the age of 36, beating player after player, some of whom are almost half her age.

On Tuesday, Venus continued the roll she’s on, beating Russia’s Yaroslava Shvedova in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2. It’s Venus’ first time in a Grand Slam semi-final since the U.S. Open in 2010. With this win, she has become only the third woman to reach a semi-final after turning 36, joining the legendary ranks of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Jul 5, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Venus Williams (USA) celebrates match point during her match against Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) on day nine of the 2016 The Championships Wimbledon. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-265026 ORIG FILE ID: 20160705_jla_au2_335.jpg

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

And then there’s Serena, the world No. 1 player in women’s tennis, who is also through to the semi-finals. A force to be reckoned with, she beat Russian player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday 6-4, 6-4. Serena has such complete control over the ball that when, for example, she hit the most perfect drop shot during the second set, it was hard not to laugh. It’s what I imagine watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel must’ve been like. A true master at work.

Serena is one title away from tying Steffi Graf’s record-setting 22 Grand Slam wins. She hasn’t won a major since Wimbledon last year, but has made it to the finals of the Australian Open and French Open in 2016, losing first to Angelique Kerber and then to Garbiñe Muguruza.

Muguruza is out of Wimbledon, though Kerber could pose a problem — in order to get to the finals, Venus will have to beat her. Serena will face Elena Vesnina, who won against Dominika Cibulková on Tuesday in straight sets.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 05: Serena Williams of The United States plays a backhand during the Ladies Singles Quarter Finals match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 5, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 596729061 ORIG FILE ID: 545079114

Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

The competition is stiff, but there’s no reason to believe that Venus and Serena can’t both win their upcoming matches given how well they’ve both been playing. And yet, it feels almost dangerous to dare to dream that they’ll meet in the finals.

Because what an incredible narrative, right? To think that we could get to watch the two sisters who’ve dominated women’s tennis since they stepped onto the court about 20 years ago face off in the Wimbledon finals? Two American sisters, at that? Both well into their 30s, when most players still involved in the sport are either falling in the rankings or coaching the next generation? It’s the stuff of movies. It feels too good to be true.

Serena Williams, right, and her sister Venus of the U.S speak during a change of ends in their women's doubles match against Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia on day four of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Thursday, June 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) ORG XMIT: WIM361

AP Photo/Tim Ireland

After Venus won her match on Tuesday, she said, “You can’t always have big moments…I mean if you’re Serena Williams I guess it happens a lot.”

If the Williams sisters meet at the finals, it will be arguably the biggest moment of either of their careers. If Serena wins, she will have tied Graf’s Grand Slam record and beat her own record of being the oldest woman to win a major, which she set last year when she won Wimbledon at 33. If Venus can win, she will add an eighth Grand Slam trophy to her collection and break her own sister’s record by becoming the oldest woman to ever win a major at 36.

“It would be great,” Serena said, when asked about facing Venus after both of their quarter-final wins on Tuesday. “Obviously she’s such a tough opponent, but obviously I want her to win so bad. Well, not in the final if I’m there. But if I’m not there, I desperately want her to win.”

She then had to leave the interview, because she and Venus were about to take the court as doubles partners.

Source:USA Today

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06/Jul/2016

NBA world reacts to news that David West is also joining the Warriors

David West famously turned down a $12.6 million option with the Pacers to join the Spurs last season for the veteran minimum. His search for an NBA title didn’t work out last season, but West has upped his ring-seeking game for 2016.

West reportedly reached an agreement to join the Golden State Warriors for the veteran minimum. TNT’s David Aldridge first reported the signing.

Source: USA Today

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06/Jul/2016

Stephen A. Smith rips Kevin Durant ditching Oklahoma City

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was characteristically fiery when asked how he views Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Smith wastes no time telling us how he really feels (shocking, I know): “Well, I’m viewing it as the weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar.”

Smith goes on to say that he doesn’t fault Durant for leaving the Thunder, and that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow as a player. But he thinks there’s a key difference here between Durant’s leaving and any other player on any other team wanting to stretch his wings (or massive wingspan, as the case may be). And that’s that Durant came so close to making the NBA Finals with Oklahoma City, and decided to go join the team that beat him.

“I think it’s incredibly weak,” Smith says. “I don’t want to hear any comparison to that of LeBron.”

Why? Because Smith thinks that LeBron’s cast of supporting characters when he left Cleveland for Miami was far weaker than the great players — Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams — that Durant’s played alongside.

Smith ends his tirade with this:

“Kevin Durant is one of the top three players in the world. And he ran away from the challenge that he faces in order to jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s a little bit better.”

In other news, wasn’t it nice of America to give us a day off in honor of Kevin Durant’s decision?

Source: USA Today

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06/Jul/2016

BtBS Roundtable: Why won't MLB pay its minor leaguers?

Ryan Romano: Low pay for minor league players has been an issue for a while now — the players don't like it, obviously, and a growing amount of fans have voiced their discontent. Unperturbed, two U.S. representatives decided on Wednesday to put forth a bill that would preempt any attempts at increased minor-league salaries.

 

Minor League Baseball came out in favor of the bill, which responded to a pending lawsuit in California that would make minor leaguers eligible for overtime. MiLB said the suit "would jeopardize the skill-enhancement role of the minor leagues and the existence of Minor League Baseball itself."

Henry Druschel: It’s a preemptive strike, of sorts; there’s a good chance MiLB prevails in the suit, and minor leaguers would continue to make below-minimum wages (when calculated on an hourly basis).

Amusingly, one of the sponsors has already withdrawn her support after the vociferous and mostly negative response, so it’s possible the bill will not have any practical impact at all, and only bring the abysmally low pay of minor leaguers back to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Ryan: It's also worth noting (as Mike Bates did in that column) that both of the representatives sponsoring the bill have received campaign donations from MLB's political action committee. According to Open Secrets, Steve Guthrie and Cheri Bustos got $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, during the 2014 election cycle, and they've each received at least $1,000 this cycle as well.

As Henry said, Bustos withdrew her support after people justifiably excoriated her over it. Still, that doesn't make the bill go away, and while this doesn't seem like a quid pro quo thing, it's not as though the bill came out of nowhere.

Jen Mac Ramos: Agreed with Henry — it’s a preemptive strike of sorts. And, also agreed with Henry, this might not even have a large, general impact at all if one of the sponsors has withdrawn her support for the bill. That being said, the fact that it was introduced will still have some ramifications on wages in minor league ball, I think.

I’ve been covering minor league baseball in California for four seasons now and honestly, this legislation is not surprising, especially with the timing. The MiLB wage suit is undergoing a motion to classify case on Jul. 8, so anything they can do to derail that from being a class action suit.

 

Henry: Right. It does legitimize the position that being a minor league ballplayer is a sort of leisurely, recreational pursuit, and not truly an occupation deserving of fair compensation.

Jen: Which, in turn, invalidates — at least mentally, maybe — the fact that ballplayers have chosen a profession in which they’re not considered to be serious pursuits. Baseball is a serious pursuit to these guys. They wouldn’t be putting in, like, 60 hours a week if they weren’t dedicated to the game. Just as a person does at their job if they need to work overtime hours. The difference is that these minor leaguers aren’t paid for those overtime hours, if they’re even fairly compensated for 40 hours a week.

Henry: I think that’s true, and I also don’t think it matters that much. The bill is trying to say this is just a fun thing for them to do, and therefore they shouldn’t be paid fairly, but regardless of how much they’re enjoying themselves, they’re also generating colossal revenues for the parent clubs.

By keeping a huge stable of underpaid minor leaguers, MLB essentially gets a ton of free lottery tickets, since they only pay the players who actually make it to the majors. A guy stuck in AA until he’s 30 doesn’t directly contribute, but in the aggregate, these minor leaguers form MLB’s entire talent pipeline.

So to me, it’s not really a question of how arduous their labor is. Their labor is creating huge amounts of value; the only question is how it gets distributed between the teams (employers) and the players (the workers).

Jen: I think that’s a fair point and a good one at that, Henry.

Nick Stellini: There's also a ton of older guys who stick around in the minors purely as filler players and near player-coaches. There's an older catcher on almost every single team who serves as a second pitching coach. Those older guys, along with guys like Mike Hessman or Guilder Rodriguez who spend nearly their entire careers in MiLB, aren't exactly getting paid a ton of money.

And they're pretty firmly not big leaguers. Hessman was up for a little bit so he gets that pension, but Rodriguez had to wait 14 years for a courtesy callup before he got his pension and first big league hit.

Eddy Rodriguez is another guy like that. I think he's been in maybe two big league games and he's still kicking around in the minors as a backup catcher.

Henry: When the teams are part of a unified front that can hide behind the anti-trust exemption, it’s not a surprise that the distribution is unbalanced.

Ryan: And this is where yesterday's statement from MLB itself comes in:

With this statement, MLB is basically playing poor. Even though they're earning nearly $9.5 billion in revenues this year, per Forbes, they apparently don't have enough money to pass a little down to the guys at the bottom of the food chain.

Jen: The fact that they’re calling this a "short-term seasonal apprenticeship" is laughable. Short-term seasonal could be like, one year, two years at most. Spanning six seasons or more even? That’s absurd.

Nick: Oh absolutely. It's a direct reference to feudalistic society, basically.

Henry: Agreed Jen, I found some of the language in the statement pretty telling. Traditionally, apprenticeships were a big way for craftsmen to use unpaid labor, somewhat like indentured servitude, and lots of apprentices would never "graduate" to their own independent businesses. The parallels seem obvious, and ugly.

The comparison to artists and musicians is also ridiculous. There’s no government-sanctioned monopoly in the recording business, and no bosses telling artists when and how to work.

Jen: Agreed with Nick about it being a direct reference to feudalistic society. MLB is a business, yes, true, but the business involves human beings. Human beings cannot and should not be treated as if they're another item on the manufacturing line. But alas, that’s the nature of the beast at the moment.

Nick: That's why broadcasters using the phrase "former [team] property" in regards to a player's history bothers me a lot.

Henry: It’s also a very short-sighted sentiment for MLB to have. Like Ryan said, they’re playing poor, but why? The league is swimming in cash; doubling the salaries of every minor leaguer is completely doable for them.

Nick: They're actively telling the minor leaguers to screw off. Imagine getting drafted in the 34th round and then seeing that statement come out.

You don't even have to be drafted that late to have a joke of a signing bonus. College seniors have nearly no leverage in their bonus negotiations. There are guys who go in the top ten rounds who get relative peanuts for their bonuses.

Think of guys like Jarrod Dyson who went really, really late in the draft and climbed out of obscurity. These are usually guys who wind up on top prospect lists who weren't big draft prospects at all and got tiny signing bonuses. Then all of a sudden they're subjects of national attention and scrutiny, so they have to deal with that in addition to bad living conditions and the pressures of the organization/coaching staff.

Then they get shipped off to the Futures Game and paraded around on national television. That's a big payday for the league. But they don't get much at all in terms of salary.

Ryan: Good point, Nick. It's kind of like college athletes with the NCAA, albeit not nearly on the same scale.

Jen: Also, in regards to signing bonuses: I did some research on this for my master’s thesis. Average signing bonuses get skewed due to the bonus babies, but most don’t get above four or five figures.

Henry: Right. There are certainly some minor leaguers who do strike it big almost immediately, but they’re not the norm.

Ryan: Income inequality is a growing problem in the major leagues as well. The Trouts and Cabreras of the world make nine figures on long-term deals, while the rookie minimum still isn't that much.

I think this is pretty stark, from SABR:

 

Quintiles

 

The guys in the bottom (of the majors, that is) have gotten a raw deal for decades; the guys in the middle are getting squeezed now too.

That isn't to say that the blame for this rests on the great players. They've earned every penny — they're not overpaid. Their colleagues are, however, underpaid, pretty much across the spectrum.

 

Henry: I actually do think some of the blame rests on the great players, Ryan. The MLBPA is an immensely powerful union, and has secured a lot of gains for major league players. None of that trickles down to the minor leagues.

I imagine it’s easy for a successful major leaguer to think he’s categorically different from the struggling minor leaguer, but he was there once too, and I think they do have a responsibility to advocate for their under-compensated peers.

I’d love to see some solidarity develop between minor leaguers and major leaguers, and for the MLBPA to take on some responsibility for the minors. It’s a lot to ask the 7,500 minor leaguers to develop their own union from scratch; getting the MLBPA on board would be a huge help. Labor agitation in the big leagues (including strikes and stoppages) have lead to some of the most dramatic gains for major leaguers; unless this suit succeeds, which seems unlikely, I can’t imagine any way other than organized advocacy for minor leaguers to make similar gains, and that basically requires a strong union.

In the past, they’ve directly taken advantage of minor leaguers, by giving the owners team-friendly rules around the draft and presumably getting something else in exchange. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to take some responsibility as well.

Nick: That's to say nothing of the kids who get signed out of Latin America as teenagers with no real marketable skills beyond baseball. If they wash out of the minors, they're monumentally screwed.

At least if you get drafted out of high school or college, you could theoretically pursue some sort of degree. At least you speak the language.

Ryan: And this doesn't even get into the awful shit that goes on in Latin America itself. For every player who ends up signing a (woefully small) deal with a team, several more will drop out of school and devote everything to baseball, then have nothing left when they come up short.

Nick: Between that and the buscons* taking a ton of the signing bonus as a kickback, it's awful.

*Latin American scouts who search for amateur players.

Jen: Also, with regards to the awful shit going on in Latin America — I’m surprised no one’s really reported on the fact that there’s a second MiLB wage lawsuit that involves 20 plaintiffs, with those who are player representatives for the lawsuit being mainly from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

This lawsuit is being consolidated into the big one (Senne et. al. v. MLB et. al.), but still. The fact that it exists is huge.

Henry: I didn’t know that Jen! The lawsuit is exciting, but as has been reported elsewhere, its odds of success seem slim, as there’s an exception in the Fair Labor Standards Act for seasonal "amusement or recreational establishments."

I think the best hope for all these players lies in organizing, and I’m hopeful this conversation pushes that process along.

Nick: Does the league feel the same way, though? They seem to be trying to cut the lawsuit off at the pass with this bill.

Ryan: I think, as Henry said earlier, this is really a preemptive thing. They don't even want to risk losing the racket they have going. If the bill fails, things don't get better, at least not yet. It just ensures things won't immediately get worse.

Henry: Notably, unlike some other recent suits around minor league wages, this doesn’t threaten the league’s antitrust exception. Even if it did get to trial, the worst that could happen to MLB would be higher wages, which as we said, wouldn’t really cost them that much.

Nick: But Henry! The poor, poor billionaires! They'd have to spend money! We can't have any of that!

We have to keep Kris Bryant down to work on his defense so that he doesn't have an extra year of arbitration! We have to have taxpayers foot the bill for unnecessary new stadiums! We have to make sure that minor leaguers have awful living conditions and then force them to do what we want in the offseason, all at their expense! And then we have to attack them in the press!

Henry: I believe you’re joking, but you (indirectly) brings up a good point. As fans, we’re taught to side with our team on everything, but there’s no reason that has to extend past on-field performance. I want my team to win; I don’t care how much money they make or spend.

Nick: And this is an entirely different issue, but then there are times where you're forced to deal with the question of "I like winning but it involves Arolids Chapman or Jose Reyes."

Or, you know, the Yankees routinely bashing poor people at press conferences, because money.

Henry: Or any number of other questionable or downright immoral acts that nonetheless boost the team’s chances of winning.

Nick: Or, to bring this back to the minors and money...

Ryan: Yeah, and beyond the moral and legal problems with giving your minor leaguers pennies, it seems like it would put you at a disadvantage. Without getting too capitalistic about it, I feel like the next market inefficiency will be minor league pay, or quality of facilities, or benefits, or something along those lines.

Nick: The Mets starting Jose Reyes off in Brooklyn instead of at St. Lucie or whatever because they were able to draw in a huge local crowd for ticket sales, and then get the media to listen to Reyes say he's sorry for 20 minutes.

Henry: Russell Carleton has done some research on this topic, showing how cheap and beneficial it would be for teams to simply feed their minor leaguers better.

Nick: I feel like it would be good to have minor leaguers eat stuff besides protein shakes, PB&J, the spread after the game and the occasional run to Chipotle, yes.

Ryan: Or to have them not have to worry about eating/where their next meal will come from, and focus instead on their baseball performance.

Nick: Minor leaguers are obsessed with Chipotle, btw. Is it because of cost-portion size efficiency or something?

Jen: One minor leaguer told me Chipotle is mostly because of cost-portion size efficiency and protein/calorie intake.

Nick: That's what I figured. Cripes.

Ryan: It seems like more MLB players than before come from upper-class backgrounds, and I have to imagine the low minor-league pay has a hand in that.

Henry: What that Hardball Times article and the Russell Carleton article show is that just because all the teams want to pay their minor leaguers pennies, that doesn’t mean it’s "efficient" or the best way forward.

MLB is a short-sighted, conservative organization, and I suspect it’ll take an exogenous shock to get them to change their behavior in this area.

Jen: If anything, both the bill and the lawsuit are points in which the conversation can keep going, and I don’t doubt that it will stop anytime soon.

And people will keep writing about it, regardless of the outcome, until something changes.

Nick: There's also an underlying sentiment of "Nobody's forcing you to play baseball, kids," in the statement. Which, well, tell that to the kid who took up baseball to play his way out of poverty in the DR, and to hopefully one day send money back to his family.

It also goes back to the fact that these guys give up a certain level of education/diplomas or whatever when they sign and it impacts their marketable skills that they'll have to fall back on if they wash out. Which is, you know, fairly common.

Jen: At least the Diamondbacks have a program in which players from the DR continue their high school education and get their diploma within the team’s org.

Nick: Well that's something.

Ryan: Funny that the organization widely seen as the most stubborn and regressive in MLB has been the most progressive in this area of player development.

Jen: Still, this doesn’t replace the fact that so many players don’t make it to the major leagues.

It’s a good start, but there’s so much more that can be done. I don’t know where to start, but there is a starting point.

Source: CNN

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02/Jul/2016

LeBron James will get less than elsewhere with 1-year Cavs deal

LeBron James stands to make less money on a one-year contract re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers than he could get going to the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks or Miami Heat.

It's an example of the "unintended consequences" commissioner Adam Silver has talked about of the salary cap explosion coming to the NBA.

James removed doubt about his intentions on Wednesday when he told ESPN's Dave McMenamin: "I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving. There are some technicalities to take care of I'll leave up to my agent. That's right from the horse's mouth."

Those technicalities include perhaps leaving $3 million on the table if he wants what is his now customary one-year contract plus a player option with the Cavs as he's signed the last two summers.

It is expected James will not pick up his player option next season, which is for $24 million.

If James were to take another one-year contract from the Cavs he would be able to make $27.5 million for next season. This is because the Cavs don't have salary cap space and don't have James' full "Bird" rights, which limits the size of the raise he can get.

Another team with cap space -- and there are more than 20 of them -- could give James $30.8 million for next season.

The reason for this is complicated in contract language and math. Summarized, the salary cap is leaping so much that the increase in the max contract parameters exceeds the 20 percent raise the Cavs are able to offer James.

As is the case with almost everything else involving NBA numbers this summer, this is a never before seen situation.

The only way James could get $30.8 million next year from the Cavs is if he took a two-year deal under league rules. In this case, he could sign for two years and $64 million.

James has been planning to take one-year contracts until the summer of 2017, when an even higher salary cap and potential new collective barraging agreement rules would enable him to sign one of the largest deals in professional sports history if he wanted to.

In the meantime, if James sticks to his plan of taking one-year deals he could get passed in salary by a veteran player like Al Horford, who is expected to get max contract offers from several teams.

Source: ESPN.com

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23/Jun/2016

Hometown Bulls send Derrick Rose to Knicks in multiplayer swap

The Knicks acquired Derrick Rose from the Bulls on Wednesday, hoping the former NBA MVP can be their answer at point guard.

New York traded center Robin Lopez, guard Jose Calderon and guard Jerian Grant to Chicago, which shipped guard Justin Holiday, Rose and a 2017 second-round pick back to the Knicks.

A Chicago native, Rose was drafted by the Bulls with the No. 1 overall pick out of Memphis in 2008. A source close to Rose said he was very emotional about leaving Chicago because of all his great memories there but that he wanted the big stage of New York.

Once Rose got word the Bulls were looking to trade him, the source said, he hoped it would be to the Knicks.

"His first choice was New York," the source said. "He wants the spotlight."

Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called the trade a "hard one" to make.

"Everyone knows him as the local kid who became MVP for his hometown team, but not everyone got to know him like I did," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "While he is a terrific basketball player, he is an even better person with a tremendous heart."

ESPN reported last week that the Knicks had internal discussions recently about trading for Rose. Both Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek and general manager Steve Mills had said that the team was interested in upgrading its point-guard position in the offseason.

Rose has battled injuries since he was named NBA MVP in the 2010-11 season. However, he did show improvement in 2016, averaging 17.7 points (including 8.4 in the paint), 45.3 percent shooting from the field and 55.3 percent shooting on drives to the basket during the new year. That should help the Knicks, whose starting point guards averaged a league-low 7.6 points per game in 2015-16 and shot just 44.7 percent on drives to the hoop.

"This is an exciting day for New York and our fans," Hornacek said in a statement. "Derrick is one of the top point guards in the NBA who is playoff-battle-tested. He adds a whole new dynamic to our roster and immediately elevates our backcourt."

Rose, 27, is owed $21.3 million in the final year of his contract. He will be a free agent after the 2016-17 season.

A six-year veteran, Rose seemed like the perfect fit for Chicago after it drafted him.

He led the Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference in the 2010-11 regular season, leading the franchise to success it hadn't enjoyed since the Michael Jordan era. But he wrecked his knee for the first time in the playoffs the following year, and since then, he hasn't had the speed that once made him one of the league's most dazzling young stars and a seemingly perennial All-Star.

Rose hasn't been back to the All-Star Game since 2012 and has often had trouble just playing in the real games. He sat out all of the 2012-13 season, made it back for 10 games in 2013-14 and appeared in a little more than half the Bulls' games in 2014-15.

But he did play in 66 games last season, his most in five years, and averaged 16.4 points.

A source said Knicks star Carmelo Anthony reached out to Rose's camp in the days leading up to the trade but the sides were unable to connect.

Lopez, an eight-year veteran, started all 82 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.57 blocks.

Calderon, another NBA veteran, started 72 games in 2015-16, posting averages of 7.6 points and 4.2 assists.

Grant was selected 19th overall out of Notre Dame in the 2015 NBA draft. He played in 76 games as a rookie, averaging 5.6 points and 2.3 assists, which ranked eighth among first-year players.

Lopez ($13.5 million), Calderon ($7.7M) and Grant ($1.6M) are owed a total of $22.8 million next season. Trading all three players cleared up more than $13 million in guaranteed money from the Knicks' books for the summer of 2017.

The Knicks will need to replace Lopez this offseason, and some members of the organization would like to target Bulls center Joakim Noah, sources say. Noah is close with Rose and also has a good relationship with Anthony.

Another potential option for New York is free-agent center Dwight Howard. The Knicks are one of several teams that Howard would consider in free agency, league sources say, but their interest in Howard is unclear at this point.

The club will have at least $30 million to spend in free agency.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman said the club was eager to add Lopez, who he said adds "toughness" to Chicago's roster.

"As we said at the end of last season, we are committed to exploring every option to improve this team," Forman said. "This trade is a significant step in that process. Our goal is to get younger and more athletic, and this trade moves us in that direction and allows us to start changing the structure of our team. In Robin Lopez, we are acquiring a starting center who is a good defender, good rebounder, and brings a toughness to our team. Jose Calderon is a proven veteran who can run an offense and knock down threes. Jerian Grant was high on our draft board last year as someone with a great skill set and positional size. All three players are great teammates and have tremendous work ethic, and we are excited to welcome them to the Chicago Bulls organization."

The Knicks will have a news conference Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

The Chicago Tribune first reported the deal.

Source: ESPN

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23/Jun/2016

Jurgen Klinsmann Fails USMNT in Biggest Match Since World Cup

Welcome back to the place we've revisited all too often during the Jurgen Klinsmann era. 

Just as the United States men's national team appeared to take a step ahead in the Copa America Centenario, they regressed in their 4-0 semifinal loss to Argentina. In all honesty, the game was more lopsided than the result suggests. 

After preaching an aggressive style for most of the competition, Klinsmann aligned his side in the most conservative setup possible. By trotting out an ineffective starting XI set to defend and nothing else, Klinsmann failed the USMNT in their biggest match since the 2014 FIFA World Cup. 

With three regular starters missing from the lineup due to disciplinary suspensions, Klinsmann brought in three veterans of the squad to try and find a way past the No. 1-ranked international side in the world. 

However, the changes backfired immediately, as the Yanks were left to defend for their lives from the first minute on. With no outlet to play to up top, the USMNT aimlessly launched the ball forward on the opening kick-off and instantly allowed Argentina to build up their attack through the back. 

Argentina took the wind out of the American sails in the fourth minute, when Ezequiel Lavezzi broke into open space on the left side of the penalty area to head a Lionel Messi pass over the body of Brad Guzan. Klinsmann admitted after the match that his side lost the mental battle once Lavezzi scored, per Goal.com's Thomas Floyd:

The Yanks were unable to set up camp in the Argentina end of the pitch partly due to Chris Wondolowski's inability to do anything productive when he was on the ball. The San Jose Earthquakes man displayed a poor first touch for his entire 45-minute shift, and Klinsmann rightfully took him out of the match at half-time. However, Wondolowski shouldn't have been on the pitch in the first place. 

The only excuse you can make for Wondolowski starting is that he has a high motor and can drop back to midfield to gain possession. The 33-year-old did run a decent amount on the green surface at NRG Stadium, but nothing significant came out of what should be his final contest in red, white and blue.

In addition to failing to contribute anything up top, Wondolowski made a careless tackle on Lionel Messi 25 yards from goal with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Messi punished the USMNT forward for his foul by sending a magnificent free-kick into the top-right corner of the goal. Up until that point, the Yanks displayed a decent response to the opener. If they went into the locker room only down by one goal, the belief in the squad would've come back a little as a lone score would've gotten them back in the game. 

Although they put together a decent defensive showing in between the first two Argentina tallies, the Yanks were too focused on defending to make an attempt to move forward. Klinsmann inserted both Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi into the lineup for their defensive qualities, not to push the limits of the Argentina back four, who had a casual walk in the park compared to the quarterfinal test Venezuela handed them on Saturday. 

playing too far behind the ball, the Yanks were unable to create pressure on the flanks through their full-backs. The only successful overlap that DeAndre Yedlin produced came in the 36th minute, but after he made a solid run, he gave up the ball in the box on a bad pass. It is unacceptable for a player of Yedlin's pace to make one nice run into the final third over 90 minutes. 

While the players deserve plenty of blame for their lack of intensity, Klinsmann must be held accountable as well. The manager is responsible for instilling a positive mindset into his squad even if they fall behind early. The fighting spirit the Yanks displayed in big matches under Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena did not appear with Klinsmann in charge on Tuesday. Five years into his reign, that's a major concern.

 

 
FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

 

For those ready to break out the pitchforks and call for Klinsmann's firing once more, remember that the end goal for the USMNT manager is the 2018 FIFA World Cup. As long as the Yanks are on track to qualify for Russia in two years, he will be in charge.

The only way Klinsmann can get his squad to rebound from a difficult loss to Argentina is to bring fresh ideas into the team. The USMNT boss appeared ready to do that during the Copa by including Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic in the 23-man squad, but neither saw enough playing time. Both creative midfielders only took the pitch as substitutes on two occasions. Instead of building up their in-game experience throughout the tournament, Klinsmann relied too much veterans such as Beckerman, Zusi and Wondolowski to close out games.

 

 
FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

 

At some point, the changing of the guard has to occur in the USMNT lineup. If that means losing a friendly or two, or even Saturday's third-place game, it's worth the cost. Nagbe, Pulisic, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood and John Brooks are going to be a part of the USMNT core for a while, and Saturday is a perfect opportunity to see what they can do as a unit. Based on Klinsmann's stubborn reliance on older players, however, there's no guarantee he will give them that chance.

If you put the tournament as a whole into perspective, the USMNT deserve credit for achieving the stated goal of reaching the semifinals. What leaves a bad taste in the mouths of USMNT fans is how much the Yanks regressed in a short amount of time, even if the lackluster performance came against the one of the best players of all time and the top-ranked side in the world. 

Fans should expect the USMNT to challenge for a berth in the final at a major tournament. Klinsmann has lifted expectations to an extent by producing results on the road in friendlies and at the start of big competitions, but the final piece to the puzzle is still missing. 

 

 
MARK RALSTON/Getty Images

 

Klinsmann failed to lead the USMNT to the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, came up short with a berth in the FIFA Confederations Cup on the line in October and reduced his side to a feeble representation of itself on Tuesday. 

Change is not coming from the outside, at least not for two more years, so now is the time for Klinsmann to re-evaluate how he manages in top-tier matches and the personnel selections he makes in them. If the USMNT boss can find a way to alter that strategy, the Yanks can reach new heights by the time the next World Cup rolls around.

For now, however, we're left asking more questions about Klinsmann after a match in which the USMNT were supposed to take another step forward in their march toward Russia. 

Source:ESPN.com

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22/Jun/2016

Dwight Howard Opts Out of Rockets Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

fter three up-and-down seasons with the Houston Rockets, center Dwight Howard opted out of his contract Tuesday, making him an unrestricted free agent, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania.     

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle confirmed the news and added that Howard has "not ruled out" a return to the Rockets. 

According to Spotrac, the 30-year-old big man left a salary of over $23 million on the table for 2016-17 in favor of testing the free-agent market.

Howard signed with the Rockets in 2013 and enjoyed a strong debut season with them, averaging 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, but the past two campaigns have been a struggle. He missed half of the 2014-15 season due to a balky right knee and experienced his worst offensive output since his rookie year last season with 13.7 points per contest.

bove all else, there were constant reports regarding turmoil in the Rockets' locker room, particularly between Howard and superstar guard James Harden. A team source described the chemistry between Howard and Harden as "cordially bad," per ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins.

Despite that, Harden suggested after the Rockets' first-round playoff exit against the Golden State Warriors that he wanted Howard back in the fold, according to Feigen: "Ultimately, he makes the decision. But obviously, we love Big Fella here. He has to go back with his family and figure it out."

Howard's opting in seemed unlikely considering how poorly the 2015-16 season went for him and the Rockets as a whole. As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders pointed out, the organization didn't roll out the red carpet for him to return based on its choice of a new head coach: 

Howard and Mike D'Antoni didn't mesh whatsoever during the eight-time All Star's one-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, which was presumably a deciding factor in his departure from L.A., per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin.

Howard now appears to be on track to join his fourth team in six years. He has struggled to regain the form he showed during his eight-year stint with the Orlando Magic, and it is fair to say he is no longer viewed as elite after missing out on the All-Star Game in consecutive seasons.

Howard can still be a productive player, however, as evidenced by his 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this past season to go with his career-best shooting percentage of 62 percent.

The biggest issue with Howard may be intangible, as he has struggled to mesh with alpha dogs such as Kobe Bryant and Harden since leaving a Magic team on which he was the clear No. 1 option.

He was never going to ascend to that level in Houston with Harden on the roster. While he figures to garner plenty of interest on the open market, he may be hard-pressed to find a team willing to make him its face of the franchise.

Source:ESPN.com

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22/Jun/2016

Season full of history ends in misery for Golden State

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In a game for everything, the Golden State Warriors couldn't stay even-keeled enough to win, losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers 93-89. Perhaps they would be holding another trophy if Stephen Curry was in top form, but he wasn't (17 points on 19 shots) and ultimately couldn't compensate for the Warriors' shaky stretches.

Steve Kerr appeared to have wasted his $25K in ref complaints, as Curry, again, picked up three first-half touch fouls. The beginning was concerning for Golden State; they were getting outplayed, save for 3-pointers. Eventually, it cost them.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In a game for everything, the Golden State Warriors couldn't stay even-keeled enough to win, losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers 93-89. Perhaps they would be holding another trophy if Stephen Curry was in top form, but he wasn't (17 points on 19 shots) and ultimately couldn't compensate for the Warriors' shaky stretches.

Steve Kerr appeared to have wasted his $25K in ref complaints, as Curry, again, picked up three first-half touch fouls. The beginning was concerning for Golden State; they were getting outplayed, save for 3-pointers. Eventually, it cost them.

Today that dream ended. Nobody, or at least extremely few, will describe the 2015-16 Warriors as the best team ever. Fair or unfair, they needed a title to validate that sentiment to the greater public.

Maybe the Warriors were already on borrowed time by Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They faced elimination three times against Oklahoma City and narrowly escaped. In theory, that bolstered their resolve.

But their initial stumble also showcased eventual issues. The start of that series featured Green on tilt, Curry rarely finishing at the rim and a slew of careless turnovers. It was tempting to think that what didn't end the Warriors' season just made them stronger, but instead, it was foreshadowing.

Beyond the brilliance of LeBron James (who became just the third player to notch a Finals Game 7 triple-double), the 2016 Warriors were felled by their tragic flaw: recklessness. Steve Kerr has been saying it for two years now: His team walks the line between explosive and reckless. Golden State seemingly had this Finals wrapped up before Green tried something from the latter category.

As James stepped over Green in the waning moments of an already-decided Game 4, Green could have done nothing. He could have, but that isn't him. That's not indicative of the burning, furious pride that has allowed a wing-sized man to excel as a part-time center. And so, Green reached out and swatted -- and the NBA swatted back.

Today that dream ended. Nobody, or at least extremely few, will describe the 2015-16 Warriors as the best team ever. Fair or unfair, they needed a title to validate that sentiment to the greater public.

Maybe the Warriors were already on borrowed time by Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They faced elimination three times against Oklahoma City and narrowly escaped. In theory, that bolstered their resolve.

But their initial stumble also showcased eventual issues. The start of that series featured Green on tilt, Curry rarely finishing at the rim and a slew of careless turnovers. It was tempting to think that what didn't end the Warriors' season just made them stronger, but instead, it was foreshadowing.

Beyond the brilliance of LeBron James (who became just the third player to notch a Finals Game 7 triple-double), the 2016 Warriors were felled by their tragic flaw: recklessness. Steve Kerr has been saying it for two years now: His team walks the line between explosive and reckless. Golden State seemingly had this Finals wrapped up before Green tried something from the latter category.

As James stepped over Green in the waning moments of an already-decided Game 4, Green could have done nothing. He could have, but that isn't him. That's not indicative of the burning, furious pride that has allowed a wing-sized man to excel as a part-time center. And so, Green reached out and swatted -- and the NBA swatted back.

Source: ESPN.com

 

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20/Jun/2016

Spain seem to be Euro 2016 favourites as contenders struggle for form

Now that we're roughly halfway through Euro 2016, a fuller picture has emerged regarding the quality of the top teams in the competition. Months of discussion around their main issues have finally given away to some hard evidence -- and results.

While the history of the European Championship, and the fact it's an open knock-out, means there could yet be a surprise, there still look to be a group of sides above the rest.

So, from what we've seen so far, who will be celebrating on July 10? Based on the games so far, the defending champions look to have the best chance of winning it all again.

Spain

They are the team to put in by far the most convincing performance so far, and have the best performing player in Andres Iniesta, who has been so glorious as the orchestrator. The cohesion he brings is lifting Spain to another level; they look like a different team compared to the state they were in during the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. This is a reborn Spain, one that might also have a new cutting edge.

In scoring twice against Turkey, Alvaro Morata has really stood out in this tournament as a striker who actually strikes. That, combined with their cohesion and Iniesta's brilliance, could well mean they retain this trophy again. No-one has yet put in a performance to match theirs against Turkey.

France

They have so many brilliant players capable of creating an instant difference. They can lean upon home advantage and the emotional energy of so many late goals, too, but the wonder remains whether that can all add up to a title-winning team.

France haven't yet touched the level of Spain -- or perhaps even Italy against Belgium -- and Didier Deschamps still has tactical issues to solve, though France do have clear potential to grow. Could they eventually peak at the right time?

Germany

They're the world champions and probably the best team in the competition when actually at their best, but the oddity is how rarely that seems to happen. There often seems to be a confusing complacency surrounding Germany and they tend to give teams a chance. Their opening 2-0 win over Ukraine summed it up. There were portions of the game when they were playing supremely and looked unbeatable, but also extended spells when they were under real pressure and so unconvincing.

That has been the case since winning the World Cup and hasn't been helped by the lack of a striker, as Mario Gotze in the false nine role hasn't really worked out so far. Germany becoming double champions depends on them finding what should be their true level or they could be caught out.

Italy

They might have one of the weakest Italian squads for some time but still retain the best defence in the tournament and, most importantly, the best manager in Antonio Conte.

That also means Italy are one of the few teams with anything like a modern cutting-edge system, which gives them a significant advantage over many more talented sides, as Belgium found out. Can Conte maintain their intensity of application long enough for weaknesses not to tell? The slightly patchier 1-0 win over Sweden suggested that is the balance he has to strike.

Belgium

Against Ireland, manager Marc Wilmots overcame a week of controversy following the defeat to Italy and finally, after three years of trying, found a formation that worked and actually maximised his players' quality. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard burst into life, while Romelu Lukaku showed a killer instinct in an impressive 3-0 win.

If Belgium can keep that up, they can beat anybody, but it remains to be seen whether they can maintain this balance. Wilmots was in bullish form after the Irish game as if this had been a grand plan all along. That is stretching things. It might be a stretch to expect him to maintain this fragile balance in the side.

 

Croatia

They looked like they might be potential champions in the first 170 minutes of their tournament until controversy erupted at the end of their match with Czech Republic, followed by a collapse that saw them draw 2-2.

All the problems around that, however, are not the only issues around this team. They already seemed like they were lacking a striker and the brilliant Luke Modric is now out of the final group game with Spain. If Croatia do not win that match, their potential route to the final will be Italy, Germany, France.

Poland

They boast one of the most balanced teams in the tournament, with a lot of promising but still-ready young talent like Grzegorz Kyrchowiak boosted by a peak world-class star in Robert Lewandowski.

They showed their ability to compete with the elite by drawing 0-0 with Germany, having also beaten the world champions 2-0 in qualifying, and look like they could be strong candidates to reach a semifinal. From there, they have enough about them for anything to happen.

England

Before they even think about winning it, they have to think about how to finally get beyond the quarterfinals. Roy Hodgson now believes he has found a system that works, although the only testing ground has been a moderate Wales team.

England's problem has never been failing to beat weaker teams than them. The issue has repeatedly been losing to the first good side they face.

Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo isn't firing, so neither are Portugal. It is not a coincidence that they haven't won a game and he hasn't scored. If that doesn't change, they have no chance in this tournament.

Source: ESPN.com

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20/Jun/2016

At last! Cleveland's fans rejoice in first Cavaliers title

CLEVELAND -- They laughed. They hugged. They cried.

This was unfamiliar territory for Cleveland sports fans.

Celebrating a real-life championship team. But after over four decades of heartbreak, they were finally rewarded for their undying loyalty.

Behind Akron's own LeBron James and his sidekick Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers snapped Cleveland's 52-year championship drought by becoming the first team in NBA history to rally back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to capture the title.

On Sunday night, Cleveland defeated defending champion Golden State 93-89 in Game 7 at Oracle Arena with Irving delivering the game-winning 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining. The final buzzer sounded a short time later and a euphoric celebration began.

"I can't wait to get back home," said James, who delivered on his promise to get one for supporters in Northeast Ohio two seasons after returning to Cleveland.

So, about all that anger ... all seems forgiven now.

More than 20,000 Cavs fans gathered inside and outside Quicken Loans Arena to watch it on the Jumbotron.

This is their forever moment.

"This is a miracle," said John Polance, 70, of Mogadore, Ohio. "For LeBron to come back and deliver us this championship, he deserves everything he gets."

Polance was in college at Bowling Green when the Cleveland Browns won it all in 1964. He listened to that game on the radio. This, he said, was better.

"Dear God, thank you so much," Ann Domeck said.

"I have tears in my eyes," said Kevin Hodge, a 34-year-old barber from Cleveland Heights.

Tickets for the watch party were sold out in a couple of minutes.

Alec Wilson, 18, received a pair from his mother, who got them from the secondary market, where they were fetching a couple hundred dollars each, and went with his father. The two had a Father's Day they'll never forget.

"I'm in disbelief," said Wilson, of Youngstown. "LeBron should be on Mount Rushmore."

As fans hit the streets after the title game, rumors swirled that a fire truck had been stolen in Cleveland. The police department dispelled that.

Source: ESPN.com

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20/Jun/2016

Liverpool Transfer News: Latest Sadio Mane and Joao Teixeira Rumours

Liverpool are reportedly ready to offer winger Jordon Ibe as bait in their bid to tempt Southampton into selling Sadio Mane this summer. Elsewhere, Joao Teixeira looks set for a permanent switch to FC Porto.

According to the Daily Star, the Reds will looking to include Ibe as part of a deal that would see Mane move to Merseyside in return, with the Saints said to value their man at £30 million (h/t Liverpool Echo's Chris Beesley).

 

 
Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Mane scored 11 Premier League goals last season.

 

Ibe was expected to become a more prominent member of the Liverpool lineup last season following Raheem Sterling's £49 million move to Manchester City, but he managed just 12 Premier League starts in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, Mane excelled at Southampton and scored 11 goals in 37 league appearances, but he could become the latest Saint to make the move north to Merseyside from St. Mary's Stadium.

Ibe sparked speculation of a move away from Anfield in April, when he removed any reference of his allegiance to Liverpool from his official Twitter account, as reported by the Independent's Mark Critchley.

Manager Jurgen Klopp would be getting his hands on a more experienced star in Mane, 24, but as BBC Sport's Oluwashina Okeleji recently pointed out, 20-year-old Ibe is also a hugely valuable asset:

t's worth noting any inclusion of Ibe wouldn't come close to financing Liverpool's move for Senegal's Mane, but would instead merely soften the blow of paying for his £30 million valuation.

Bleacher Report's Jack Lusby recently showed Mane has been an important attacking figure for his clubs in recent years, although his goal involvement has declined as the past few seasons have rolled by:

Meanwhile, Portuguese youngster Teixeira is expected to reject the new terms he's been offered at Liverpool and will instead move back to his native land with Porto, according to Portuguese daily O Jogo (h/t Liverpool Echo's Beesley).

The Merseysiders will reportedly nab £250,000 in compensation if the 23-year-old does leave on a free transfer this summer, and Liverpool podcaster Jack Sear has sympathised with the youngster:

Teixeira has made just eight senior appearances for the Reds since joining their academy from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of £830,000 in 2012, and his frustrations have seemingly grown beyond his control.

A return to his native Portugal may provide the springboard into first-team football Teixeira has long desired, and Primeira Liga giants Porto will look to prove Liverpool should have had more faith in their playmaker.

Source: CNN.com

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13/Jun/2016

Draymond Green Suspended, LeBron James Given Technical Foul for Game 4 Incident

The NBA announced it has suspended Draymond Green and assessed LeBron James with a technical foul for an incident that occurred in the fourth quarter of the Golden State Warriors' 108-97 win in Game 4 on Friday.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the incident was under review on Saturday.

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com reported the Cavaliers were "pushing hard to see to it [Green is] punished appropriately" for the incident, and the league was receiving pressure from both teams.

As the Warriors created separation down the stretch Friday night, tempers flared when James attempted to blow up a screen Green was setting for point guard Stephen Curry. The two then exchanged words after Green fell to the floor and appeared to make contact with James' groin area.

"[James] stepped over me and I felt like that was disrespectful," Green told Spears. "I don't disrespect you on the court. Don't disrespect me. There's no love lost. It is what it is. It's a battle out there. I'm going to battle with whoever it is."

However, James didn't appear to be concerned with the physicality of the altercation. Rather, he said he wasn't pleased with Green's words, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst

Draymond just said something that I don't agree with. I'm all cool with the competition. I'm all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard. Being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature, some things just go overboard, and that's where he took it, and that was it.

Citing a source, ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin (via Windhorst) reported that James grew frustrated when Green called him a "b---h." 

Green was one flagrant foul or two technical fouls away from receiving an automatic one-game suspension.

"I don't know what should happen," James said of punishment prior to the league's announcement, per Windhorst. "It's not my call. That's the league office. They'll take a look at it. We all saw it in the locker room. You know, like I said, as a competitor, I love going against Draymond, and I'm all about going out there and leaving it out on the floor."

Based on recent precedent, it is a bit of a surprise that the league slapped Green with a flagrant foul and prevented him from suiting up for a potential closeout game.

Although Green's flagrant-1 foul for kicking Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in the groin was upgraded to a flagrant-2 by the league, that play involved more conclusive contact and was considered an offense that could have garnered a suspension on its own.

However, Green's status as a repeat offender in physical altercations may have played a role in the NBA's decision

Source: CNN.com

 

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13/Jun/2016

Penguins vs. Sharks: Game 6 Live Score, Highlights for 2016 Stanley Cup Final

Penguins 3, Sharks 1—Final

The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final and won the series, 4-2.

Brian Domoulin gave Pittsburgh a first-period lead before Logan Couture notched the equalizer in the second frame. However, Kris Letang responded just 79 seconds later, scoring what ultimately was the game-winning goal.

Patric Hornqvist's empty-net tally pushed the Penguins to a 3-1 lead with 1:02 remaining in regulation. San Jose—which managed two shots on goal during the third period—couldn't close the gap.

Matt Murray stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced, finishing the playoffs with a 6-0 record following a loss.

Bleacher Report provided scoring updates and highlights. Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Source: Yahoo.com

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13/Jun/2016

LeBron James Shows Frustration on Bench During Game 1 Loss to Warriors

his year was supposed to be different for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After the Golden State Warriors beat them in six in the 2015 NBA Finals, Cleveland sans Kyrie Irving for all but one game and Kevin Love for the whole series, this season's healthy Cavs figured to have a better shot.

Thursday's Game 1 didn't provide much hope.

Golden State won 104-89 despite Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combining for just 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting.

James did what he could—23 points, 12 boards and nine assists—but it wasn't enough. The King's frustration was noticeable heading into the fourth quarter:

Source: CNN

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04/Jun/2016

French Open: Garbine Muguruza upsets Serena Williams for women's title

Paris (CNN)A Spaniard was crowned champion at the French Open -- but it wasn't Rafael Nadal.

Garbine Muguruza upset Serena Williams 7-5 6-4 on Saturday to win the first grand slam of her career, while also depriving the American of tying Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 majors.
While Nadal is considered the greatest clay-court player of all time -- he owns a record nine titles at Roland Garros but had to withdraw with a wrist injury last week -- Spain hadn't produced a women's champion at the French Open since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998.
"We were so sad when Rafa had to pull out," Conchita Martinez, Spain's Fed Cup and Davis Cup captain, told reporters. "If you know Rafa you know how much he wanted to play here.
"It was a sad day but the way Garbine was playing, you could see that she would have a chance to win this tournament, so Spain is very lucky to have these unbelievable tennis players," added the 2000 French Open finalist.
Sanchez-Vicario, part of the crowd on Philippe Chatrier court, earned the nickname "Barcelona bumblebee" from late tennis writer and historian Bud Collins. She was one of tennis' top movers, relying on counter-punching to frustrate and wear down rivals.
Muguruza tallies victories in dissimilar fashion, crushing balls from the back of the court. Her serve, when working, is a weapon. It came to the 22-year-old's aid more than once in the final, particularly when facing break points in the first set, although she also double faulted nine times.

Mind you, Muguruza clinched the trophy with a stunning backhand lob that Williams applauded.

Her ability to change direction in rallies and hit down the lines troubled Williams, who had downed Muguruza in the Wimbledon final last July but lost to her at the French Open in 2014.
They are sure to be celebrating in Venezuela, too. Muguruza was born in Caracas and only made the decision to represent Spain in team competitions two years ago.
If Nadal's wrist heals in time, he is expected to partner Muguruza in mixed doubles at the Olympics in August.
Williams, for the third consecutive major, didn't win the title. Roberta Vinci stunned Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals and in the Australian Open final, Angelique Kerber outlasted her.
That is, for the 34-year-old, a source of concern.
The aura of invincibility is fading, if only a little.
Williams kept the press waiting for two hours Thursday. On Saturday it was the opposite. Williams, unusually, went virtually straight from the court to the interview room. She didn't want to hang around.
Williams felt the pressure when attempting to reach 18 majors -- to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova -- and is now struggling to match Graf.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was convinced it's a matter of when, not if.
"You can't play a grand slam final for history like any other, even though one grand slam final is a lot," he told reporters. "So it's going to take the time it's going to take. But we're going to do it.
"The good thing is we'll have many (chances) because she's in finals almost every time."
Questions surrounded Williams' health ahead of the finale, with an adductor injury the issue. The world No. 1 appeared sluggish in the first set of her semifinal against Kiki Bertens on Friday and in the quarterfinals Thursday against Yulia Putintseva, when Williams was two games away from defeat in the second set.
She seemed to be moving better, though, against Muguruza but was outdone by the fourth seed.
"I'm not one to ever make excuses and say, 'Oh my adductor was hurting or whatever,'" said Williams. "At the end of the day I didn't play the game I needed to play to win and she did.
"I think she has a bright future, obviously. She knows how to play on the big stage and she knows how to ... clearly she knows how to win grand slams."
Source: CNN
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04/Jun/2016

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Jordan Spieth has a win at home in the Lone Star State. Spieth won at Colonial after birdieing the last three holes Sunday for a 5-under 65, including a chip-in from behind the 17th green following a fortunate bounce off a marshal. He punctuated his first PGA Tour victory in Texas with a closing 34-foot putt when needing only a bogey to win. It was the eighth career win for Spieth, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, and came in only his third tournament since blowing a five-stroke lead on the back nine last month when trying to win the Masters for the second year in a row. He will try to defend his U.S. Open title in three weeks at Oakmont. At 17-under 263, Spieth finished three strokes ahead of Harris English (66) at the Dean & Deluca Invitational. Colonial member Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson tied for third, both shooting 68 while in the final group with Spieth to finish at 13 under.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Jordan Spieth has a win at home in the Lone Star State.

Spieth won at Colonial after birdieing the last three holes Sunday for a 5-under 65, including a chip-in from behind the 17th green following a fortunate bounce off a marshal. He punctuated his first PGA Tour victory in Texas with a closing 34-foot putt when needing only a bogey to win.

It was the eighth career win for Spieth, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, and came in only his third tournament since blowing a five-stroke lead on the back nine last month when trying to win the Masters for the second year in a row. He will try to defend his U.S. Open title in three weeks at Oakmont.

At 17-under 263, Spieth finished three strokes ahead of Harris English (66) at the Dean & Deluca Invitational. Colonial member Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson tied for third, both shooting 68 while in the final group with Spieth to finish at 13 under.

Spieth started the back nine with three consecutive birdies before his only bogey, which could have been much worse after going into a bunker well left of the par-3 13th and then blasting a shot over the green. Then at 14, after hitting his drive into a fairway bunker and shouting after his shot short of the green, he saved par with a 14-footer that rolled just to the right edge before falling into the cup.

After a 20-foot birdie at the par-3 16th, Spieth hit a wayward tee shot at the 17th. The ball ricocheted off the lower leg of a marshal and into the first cut of rough instead of much heavier stuff. Spieth signed a glove “Thanks” to the marshal, but his approach from 173 yards sailed over the green before he chipped in after relief from a temporary structure.

Nearly two months before his 23rd birthday, Spieth broke a tie with Tiger Woods for wins at age 22 or younger. The only player with more that young was Horton Smith with 14 from 1928-30.

With the first-prize check of $1.2 million, Spieth has earned more than $24 million on the PGA Tour.

Colonial was Spieth’s third consecutive tournament since his month-long break after the Masters seven weeks ago. He missed the cut at The Players Championship before tying for 18th last week at the Byron Nelson, when he went into the final round alone in second place at the tournament where six years ago as a 16-year-old amateur he finished tied for 16th in his first PGA Tour start.

Spieth started Sunday with nine consecutive pars, including a 32-footer at the par-3 No. 8 after hitting his first shot into heavy rough.

His first curling 20-foot birdie at the 10th started his back nine before a pair of short birdies.

Spieth hit a wayward tee shot at the 192-yard 13th, almost immediately pointing his 7-iron to the left and shouting “Fore!” He then yanked his ball out of the bunker over the green before a chip to inside 3 feet for a bogey.

When the final group was introduced before teeing off at No. 1, in the shadow of the Wall of Champions, the applause and cheers for Palmer were as loud as those for Spieth.

Palmer opened with consecutive birdies to go a stroke ahead of Spieth for the lead. He got to 14-under after a 12-foot birdie at No. 7, which he followed by reaching back for a hand slap with caddie James Edmondson, the four-time Colonial club champion.

But Palmer had two bogeys and not another birdie until the last hole, after Spieth had already made his final putt.

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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30/May/2016

Joseph Yobo conferred with chieftaincy title in Ogoniland

Former Nigeria defender Joseph Yobo has been conferred with a chieftaincy title in Ogoniland.

The honour was bestowed on him a day after he was given a grand exit from professional football by a stellar collection of football stars like Samuel Eto’o,Austin Okocha, Sulley Muntari, Stephen Appiah, Lomana Lualua and Laryea Kingston during his testimonial in Port Harcourt.

Yobo was conferred with the title of Mene Aborlo 1 of Ogoniland by King GNK Gininwa, with his wife Adaeze given the Waamene Aborlo 1 of Ogoni land.

"Honored to be conferred the title Mene Aborlo 1 of Ogoniland by my King, HRH GNK Gininwa and people #chiefyobo," he tweeted.

The former Nigeria international defender made his Super Eagles debut against Zambia in a 2002 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on 24 March, 2001 in Chingola, Zambia.

He went on to amass 101 international caps, scoring seven goals in a career that spanned 13 years where he featured at three Fifa World Cups and six Afcon tournaments, leading Nigeria to victory in his last outing in South Africa.

At club level, he turned out for Standard Liège, Marseille, Everton, Fenerbahce and Norwich City between 1998 and 2014.

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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30/May/2016

AP Source: Rockets, D'Antoni agree on 4-year deal

Mike D'Antoni is taking his ''Seven Seconds or Less'' offense to Houston, where James Harden is waiting to give his new coach the kind of weapon that could be a perfect fit for his system.

In some ways, both D'Antoni and the Rockets are looking for redemption.

The 65-year-old D'Antoni has long been thought of as one of the most innovative offensive minds in basketball. He led the Phoenix Suns to two Western Conference finals appearances in five seasons, with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire spearheading a break-neck scoring machine that put the entire league on its heels.

He wasn't as successful in ensuing stints with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, going a combined 188-255 in six seasons and 0-8 in two trips to the playoffs.

He returned to the bench as an associate head coach in Philadelphia this season in hopes of getting another chance to run the show.

D'Antoni inherits a team in turmoil with the Rockets. They were one of the NBA's biggest disappointments this season, with discord in the locker room leaking on to the court and making the talented roster an incredibly frustrating team to watch.

With his ability to shoot from the outside, score in transition and get to the free throw line, Harden puts as much pressure on an opposing defense as any player in the league. But his ball-dominant approach and an inability to fully mesh with center Dwight Howard added a level of tension to the attack that was palpable.

After making the Western Conference finals in 2015, the Rockets barely made the playoffs this year and were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Coach Kevin McHale was fired early in the season as GM Daryl Morey desperately tried to find the right buttons to push to get the team going. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff went 37-34 in McHale's place.

The Rockets conducted an exhaustive coaching search. Charlotte assistant Stephen Silas, Orlando assistant Adrian Griffin, San Antonio assistant James Borrego and TNT analyst Kenny Smith were among the candidates interviewed by Morey and owner Leslie Alexander.

D'Antoni is 455-426 in 12 seasons as a head coach, including a 50-game stint with the Denver Nuggets in 1998-99. He has led his team to the playoffs six times.

His offensive expertise should align well with Harden, the bearded face of the franchise known for his scoring and volume shooting. Like D'Antoni, Harden is occasionally chided for a perceived aversion to defense, but he remains so much more than a shot hunter. He averaged 7.5 assists this season to go with his 29.0 points and has served as the Rockets' primary ball-handler and playmaker ever since he was acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City in 2012.

There is also a familiarity between the two stemming from their time together with the U.S. Olympic team in 2012.

Howard is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. It will be up to D'Antoni and Morey to find the right mix of players to surround Harden with, and D'Antoni is expected to bring in a coaching staff with experience on the defensive end to help balance his acumen on the offensive side.

Source: Yahoo Sports

 

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30/May/2016

Do he think he looks better with the beard? “Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty. In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it. “We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said. Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best. “It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.” We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example. If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.

BERLIN (AP) -- A top member of a rising German nationalist party drew sharp criticism Sunday for reportedly saying that many people wouldn't want Jerome Boateng, a key player on Germany's national soccer team whose father was born in Ghana, as their neighbor.

 

Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of Alternative for Germany, was quoted as telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper: ''People find him good as a footballer. But they don't want to have a Boateng as their neighbor.'' The newspaper's front-page headline was ''Gauland insults Boateng.''

Germany's national team has long reflected varied ethnic backgrounds. Berlin-born Bayern Munich defender Boateng, who played his 58th game for Germany against Slovakia later Sunday, was a mainstay of the 2014 World Cup-winning team. Boateng is on Germany's squad for the 2016 European Championship, which kicks off June 10 in France.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the comment ''unacceptable.'' He wrote on Twitter: ''Anyone who talks like this unmasks himself, and not just as a bad neighbor.''

Anti-immigration talk has helped Alternative for Germany, or AfD, to surge in polls over recent months as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Germany. Other parties have struggled to find ways to counter its appeal to protest voters.

In a statement, Gauland said he ''never insulted Mr. Boateng.'' He said that, in a confidential background conversation, he ''described some people's attitudes'' but did not himself comment on Boateng.

''Of course we can be proud of our national team,'' he added. The newspaper rejected Gauland's account of the conversation.

AfD leader Frauke Petry told the Bild daily that Gauland couldn't remember whether he had made the comment.

''Independently of that, I apologize to Mr. Boateng for the impression that has arisen,'' she said.

Julia Kloeckner, a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, brushed aside Gauland's explanation and said it fits a pattern of AfD behavior. ''Provoke first, then qualify. The AfD model,'' she said on Twitter.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Bild that Gauland's reported comment ''shows that Gauland is not just against foreigners but against the good things about Germany: modernity, openness and liberality.'' He called AfD ''anti-German.''

Fans at Sunday's match in Augsburg unfurled a banner reading ''Jerome be our neighbor!''

Fellow Germany defender Benedikt Hoewedes posted pictures of himself with Boateng on Twitter and wrote: ''If you want to win titles for Germany, you need neighbors like him.''

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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30/May/2016

Joe Thornton explains the mysteries of his Stanley Cup beard

PITTSBURGH – Like the other natural wonders of the modern world, Joe Thornton’s beard has to be witnessed in person to truly appreciate its grandeur. 

The sheer mass of it. The waterfall of gray that streaks down the center, making it appear as though he attempted to sing with a mouth full of milk. The way it frays off on the edges, sweeping off in various directions like the tidal tail of a galaxy.

Somewhere behind it lurks the San Jose Sharks star.

Somewhere.

“My brother John always has a huge beard. So I kinda follow in his and Burnsie’s footsteps,” said Thornton of his epically bearded teammate, Brent Burns. “I got two mentors that have a bigger one than me.”

Burns said that in the last couple of years, his beard has “taken off a little bit,” having not shaved for 10 months.

“Jumbo’s got a good one too,” he said. “The ‘ol Dodge racing stripe.”

Burns said he has a collection of items that have allowed him to keep the beard looking good and free of, say, vermin. Like a Jedi to his apprentice, he’s passed on that knowledge to Thornton.

“Burnsie helps me. He gets me all the oils, the combs. In the morning you get up and oil it and comb it. And then at night, you have to oil it a little bit and comb it,” said Thornton. “It looks pretty. But it’s hard work.”

It’s been quite a transformation for Thornton, considering how he looked in his younger years:

Do he think he looks better with the beard?

“Um … no,” said Thornton, with some certainty.

In fact, there’s really only one individual in his life these days that seems to appreciate it.

“We got a new cat recently and she keeps putting her paws in it. Other than that I don’t think it’s very nice, personally,” he said.

Thornton was asked if he’d keep the beard after the playoffs, and he said its existence is tenuous at best.

“It’s day to day,” he said. “I could come tomorrow and it’s gone. Or you could see me 10 years from now and I’ll still have it.”

We’re going with the latter, unless someone has the kind of industrial strength clippers that would be necessary to trim it. Perhaps he can borrow one of the mowers they use on the outfield at Giants games, for example.

If nothing else, it makes one interested in seeing the Sharks win the Stanley Cup, only to see it consumed by Thornton's beard like a chipmunk running into an overgrown forest.

Source: Yahoo Sports.com

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30/May/2016

Warriors know Game 7 back home for Finals trip won't be easy

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

''I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough,'' Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. ''I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game.''

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered ''We ain't going home!'' - and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

''We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse,'' Kerr said. ''One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out.''

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

''It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher,'' Curry said. ''Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win.''

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

''Lot of people probably counted us out,'' Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

''This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it,'' Durant said Sunday. ''Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it.''

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

''We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game,'' Donovan said. ''We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group.''

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

''I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going,'' he said. ''I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7.''

Source: Yahoo Sports

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30/May/2016

Larry Fitzgerald fulfills promise to mom by graduating from college

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald added another honor to his already prolific resume on Saturday.

College graduate.

The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver graduated Saturday from the University of Phoenix, majoring in communications and minoring in marketing. It was the end of an educational odyssey that has taken more than a decade since he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 2002.

“I’m glad I can finally shake the 15-year college student stigma,” Fitzgerald joked to ESPN.

Fitzgerald left Pitt after his sophomore season and was drafted third overall in 2004 by the Cardinals. While he put college on hold to pursue his NFL career, Fitzgerald never forgot the promise he made to his mother, Carol.

Before Carol died in 2003 from breast cancer, she told Larry: “Education is one thing nobody can ever take from you. I know you have a passion to play ball, but education is something you can carry for the rest of your life.”

Larry told his mother he would get his college degree and spent the past 13 years working toward it.

He worked on classes year-round, including during the season, and logged in around the world, he said, during his international trips that ranged from Ethiopia to Brazil.

“I wanted to make sure I was doing what I promised her I’d do,” Fitzgerald said.

He chose communications and marketing because Fitzgerald believes they give him a foundation for a wide range of potential careers -- including joining the media.

“They’re skills I think are essential for life,” he said.

While the Hall of Fame is still a handful of years away, Fitzgerald joined another elite club by graduating on Saturday.

“I was the only one in my family who hadn’t graduated,” Fitzgerald said. “So now, finally being able to graduate, I’m part of the family now, for real.”

Source: SportsCenter.com

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14/May/2016

Alexander Povetkin tests positive for meldonium; fight vs. Deontay Wilder in question

Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin has tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, putting his mandatory shot at world titleholder Deontay Wilder in jeopardy.

Russia's Povetkin, who is supposed to challenge Wilder in a much-anticipated bout on May 21 at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, tested positive for the substance in a urine test conducted by the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on April 27, according to the agency's report, which was issued Friday and first obtained by ESPN.com.

VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman sent a letter Friday informing both camps as well as the WBC, whose title Wilder holds, of the positive test.

"This letter is to advise you that the 'A' sample urine specimen number 3969608 collected from Alexander Povetkin on April 27, 2016 in Chekhov, Russia through his participation in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) program has been analyzed for anabolic agents, diuretics, beta-2 agonists, stimulants and drugs of abuse," Goodman wrote. "The results of the analysis are as follows: Adverse. Urine specimen contains meldonium."

The report also included a copy of the laboratory report.

"Mr. Povetkin has the right to promptly request analysis of the 'B' sample at his expense," Goodman wrote. "Please be aware that VADA does not adjudicate results nor determine whether sanctions are appropriate. As with all results, adverse findings are reported to the relevant commission(s) who may make such determinations."

Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin, who has tested positive for meldonium, is scheduled to fight Deontay Wilder on May 21 at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow. Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images

Meldonium, the same drug for which tennis star Maria Sharapova recently tested positive, was approved to be added to the banned substance list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in September and the ban went into effect Jan. 1. Meldonium is used because it is said to increase blood flow and allow more oxygen to be carried to the muscles and, therefore, enhance stamina, a trait boxers would want in a long fight.

Povetkin's levels were said to be very low, but it remains to be seen if the fight will be canceled.

"Traces of extremely low concentration of meldonium have been found in his blood. He consumed it in September last year," Povetkin promoter Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing said, according to the Russian TASS news agency. "He has not taken it since Jan. 1. The situation is ambiguous. The blood sample was taken in April this year. We have been in contact with the World Boxing Council, which is to decide if Povetkin's boxing bout against Deontay Wilder will take place or not."

Promoter Lou DiBella, representing Wilder, told ESPN that he and the Wilder team were still gathering information on the situation.

"We literally have received this in the last hour and have not even had a chance to discuss this with our team," DiBella said. "We're in the process of doing this right now. But it's extremely upsetting and disappointing and while I am angry, I am certainly not shocked. We'll make a more detailed statement and figure things out when we discuss this among ourselves and with the WBC. We haven't had enough time to digest this. We'll have more to say later."

The fight nearly fell apart because of Ryabinsky insisted on delaying the beginning of the drug testing protocol. DiBella groused about it and threatened to pull Wilder out of the fight if testing did not begin. It only began when the WBC guaranteed that VADA would be paid for the testing.

So instead of beginning about 10 weeks before the fight, which was what was agreed to, testing began about seven weeks ahead of the fight.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman issued a statement after learning of Povetkin's positive test.

"The WBC's priority is and will always be safety, fair play and justice," Sulaiman said. "In order to continue to strive for the absolute safety of the boxers and for a just and fair outcome for all parties involved, the WBC is conducting an in-depth investigation of this matter. The WBC will make a public announcement in the very near future concerning the results of its investigation and any appropriate steps that it will take."

Earlier this week on a media teleconference to discuss the fight, DiBella was asked about the testing.

"Deontay's always said, a million times, he's never been hesitant to get involved in testing," DiBella said. "And we wanted testing to begin, frankly, before it did. But it began with what we believe is plenty of time to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. There's been already a number of random tests of both athletes that have turned out negative. So we're not concerned about that as an issue. And the testing is being done by VADA and they've been very buttoned up and everything's been handled appropriately.

"In a perfect world, we might have liked it to start a little bit earlier, but that's not an issue. ... It's in the hands of VADA, and we're very comfortable with it in the hands of VADA."

VADA has tested for several major fights and caught several fighters doping. Most recently, heavyweight titlist Lucas Browne tested positive for clenbuterol after his 10th-round knockout win to claim a secondary world title against Ruslan Chagaev on March 5 in Grozny, Russia. Browne's A and B samples were both positive, and on Thursday he was stripped of the title, suspended and had the result changed to a no contest. The title was returned to Chagaev.

Wilder-Povetkin is one of the most significant fights in the division because many view Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), 36 -- a 2004 Russian Olympic gold medalist and former secondary titleholder -- as by far the toughest test of Wilder's career, especially with the fight taking place in Moscow.

 

Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), 30 -- a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who has made three title defenses -- was expected to face Povetkin on May 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but when the camps could not make a deal, the fight was put up for a purse bid, which Ryabinsky won with an offer of $7.15 million. That beat DiBella's offer of $5.1 million.

If the fight is canceled, it will cost Wilder the biggest purse of his career. Under the purse bid, he is due $4,504,500 to Povetkin's $1,930,500. Ten percent of the winning bid, $715,000, is supposed to go into escrow and go to the winner of the fight.

Wilder, who is in Europe already trying to acclimate to the time change before he is scheduled to go to Russia this weekend, expressed enthusiasm about going to Russia earlier this week on the media conference call.

"I'm going to tell you right now I am super-excited about going to Moscow, Russia, defending my title," Wilder said. "You know it seems like every time I turn around -- when I have the big stage and the cameras -- it's always a moment for me. And this moment right here's putting me down in history as the first American ever to defend his title in Russia. And I'm looking to do it in great fashion and to represent my country."

That is, of course, is the fight doesn't get canceled.

Source: SportsCenter.com

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14/May/2016

Goran Dragic's drives deliver Heat Game 6 victory over Raptors

MIAMI -- Point guard Goran Dragic was in attack mode early and often Friday night, and he carried the Miami Heat into another do-or-die Game 7 as a result.

Dragic penetrated to the basket with ease, finishing with a playoff career-high 30 points, and the Heat survived elimination, beating the Toronto Raptors 103-91 in Game 6 at American Airlines Arena.

The Eastern Conference second-round series is now tied, 3-3. Game 7 is in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

"I was just aggressive," said Dragic, whose plus-minus was a game-high plus-25 in 38 minutes. "I didn't want to go home to Europe. I still want to be here. It was an important game for us, and of course we came out from the first minute with aggressiveness, tried to attack the paint and space the floor, and I think we did an amazing job tonight."

Dragic came into Game 6 having an up-and-down playoffs in which he was averaging 15.4 points on 43.5 percent shooting.

The difference in Friday night's 30-point, 12-for-21 performance was his ability to get downhill and drive to the rim.

After averaging 6.6 points as a team on Dragic's 9.6 drives to the rim in Games 1-5 of the series, the Heat exploded for 26 points on Dragic's postseason-high 21 drives to the rim in Game 6, according to ESPN Stats & Info research.

It was tied for the second-most points created by a team off a player's drives in the playoffs, next to Boston's 28 points created off of point guard Isaiah Thomas' drives against Atlanta on April 24.

"What [Goran] shows is great emotional stability," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Tonight was his night, and he was aggressive. The only person that feels worse than him when he doesn't look like Goran is his head coach, because usually it's foul trouble or me that's the reason he can't look like himself. But he looked like himself tonight and it came at the right time."

Spoelstra pulled out all the stops in Game 6, using a small starting lineup that included rookie Justise Winslow and no player taller than 6-foot-9. Spoelstra later inserted a lineup that featured three guards, with Dragic, Tyler Johnson and rookie Josh Richardson.

The goal in trying to overcome the absence of 7-footer Hassan Whiteside was to provide Dragic and franchise player Dwyane Wade (22 points) with quality floor spacing and lanes to attack the basket. Meanwhile, the Raptors won the rebounding battle 43-41.

"Sometimes unconventional works," Wade said.

Toronto's All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry (36) and DeMar DeRozan (23) combined for 59 points for a second consecutive game, but this time, they received little help from their supporting cast. Plus, their perimeter defense allowed far too much penetration.

Simply put, the Raptors can't handle prosperity. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, they are 0-7 when leading a playoff series.

Both teams played a first-round series that went seven games. So of course, this one will, too.

The Heat have won four straight Game 7s, and the Raptors are 5-0 after losses this postseason.

Something has to give.

"It's different than a normal game," Wade said of Game 7. "It's not a Game 1, where you have a Game 2 the next day. You have to give a little more. You have to do a little more. You have to give everything you have. There's no tomorrow."

For the Heat, tomorrow exists because Dragic, for all his highs and lows, played like the best player on the floor.

"It's great. It's awesome. Even when you have a bad game, you want to be in this position because last time I played in the playoffs was six years ago and it's awesome for me," Dragic said. "I enjoy the competitiveness, I enjoy every game. You know sometimes you're going to have bad games and sometimes you're going to have good games, but I always try to look at the positive and try to respond. Nobody said it's going to be easy, and I'll be going to Toronto for the seventh game."

As Wade joined Dragic at the podium for their postgame news conference, the pair exchanged friendly shoulder nudges.

"I knew this guy to my left was going to have an amazing performance tonight," Wade said of Dragic. "You could just tell he was on the brink of having one, and it was a great game to get."

Source: ESPN.com

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13/May/2016

Stephen Curry has NBA's best-selling jersey for second straight season

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry not only won back-to-back league MVP awards, but he also can lay claim to the NBA's best-selling jersey for the second straight season.

Curry's jersey sold more than any other player's during the 2015-16 regular season, according to sales on the NBA's official online website.

Curry's was also the best-selling jersey in every U.S. state except Ohio and Oklahoma, according to Fanatics, the largest licensed sports retailer in the country.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, in his final season, finished second in jersey sales, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis finished fourth, the highest season-ending spot on the jersey list for a rookie since James and Carmelo Anthony finished atop the jersey rankings at the end of the 2003-04 season.

Two players on the list jumped to career highs: Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was sixth, one spot behind teammate Kevin Durant, and Warriors forward Draymond Green finished 13th.

The Warriors finished first among team merchandising for the second straight year. The Chicago Bulls, Lakers, Cavaliers and Knicks rounded out the top five.

ESPN.com

 

 

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13/May/2016

That's rich: ACC joins the $4 million coach club

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- For years, ACC coaches could only watch as their counterparts in other conferences cashed paychecks that grew bigger after every championship. Or every 10-win season for that matter.

Not anymore. Four ACC coaches are now in the $4 million club. Last year, that club belonged exclusively to Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney recently has joined, more than quadrupling the $800,000 salary he got when he was first hired in 2008. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino got a raise to over $4 million too. Miami coach Mark Richt? Well, he already was making $4 million at Georgia, in a conference that set a benchmark nobody else has been able to reach.

Dabo Swinney has more than quadrupled the $800,000 salary he got when he was first hired by Clemson in 2008. AP Photo/Richard Shiro

As it stands, nine SEC coaches make $4 million or more. But the four $4 million coaches in the ACC puts the conference in line with the Big Ten, which also has four. Though the gap remains large, it has closed significantly. And that is a necessary step for a league that has really placed an emphasis on improving its football brand.

“Schools are continuing to make an investment in football,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “They see that’s where the revenue is and want to make sure that we’re continuing to be competitive in the marketplace.”

ACC athletic directors are well aware of what is happening in the marketplace. Radakovich said he wanted to be sure the school was giving Swinney his “market worth.” The raise Swinney got in 2014 put him at $3.15 million, which still ranked him among the highest paid coaches in the country. But in just two years’ time, that dropped him outside the top 25. So following a trip to the national championship game, Clemson realized Swinney was deserving of another raise.

So Radakovich said the school did comparisons with other high-paying schools to figure out what they could afford to pay.

“We just wanted to make sure that in our circumstance and where he is nationally and within our conference, that we’re giving Dabo his market worth and making sure that he’s comfortable at Clemson and Clemson’s certainly comfortable with him,” Radakovich said. “We don’t have the same resources as some of the other schools. We did some comparisons as a percentage of our football budget allocation, and personnel as it relates to our whole budget. We were very comfortable that percentage of expense is well in line from a ratio perspective of the revenue we’re bringing in.”

Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox has done the same with Fisher, who got a raise to an ACC-leading $5.15 million last year. In 2013, Fisher made $2.75 million. He has received two raises since, after winning the 2013 national championship and making the 2014 College Football Playoff.

“Every year we do benchmarking,” Wilcox said. “We basically look at major institutions in the Power 5 conferences, where they pay, where’s the market.

“You have to stay on top of what the trends are. You want to keep all your coaches happy. You don’t like to have coaching turnover because you’re starting a whole new program whenever you do that. By making sure you’re staying on top of and understanding what the current market is and what the rates are out there, you make adjustments as you deem fit based upon the success of the program each year.”

 

It is undeniable the ACC has brought high-profile coaches into the mix, with Petrino joining Louisville in 2014 and Richt now joining Miami. High-profile coaches certainly add to the credibility of a league. So does the recent string of success, between Florida State and Clemson. So do coaching salaries, which often serve as a benchmark for the relative “strength” of a league.

Add in the close proximity to SEC schools (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all have SEC rivals), and the ACC had to do something to catch up.

“The market bears what people make, and if whoever’s in charge of deciding how much to pay a guy thinks he’s worth it, then that’s just the way it is,” Richt said. “I think it’s a matter of: Do they believe this person is worth this much to the program?”

Then there is the recruiting factor. Because recruiting is always a factor.

“You want to go out on the recruiting trail and be able to say, ‘I’ll be your coach when you’re here for your career,’” Petrino said. “It’s just a competitiveness you see throughout college football in general.”

Competitiveness on the field leads to competitiveness with salaries. No conference wants to say it cannot pay what the market dictates. That leads coaches to leave.

While nobody in the ACC is ready to dish out $7 million, the ACC is way ahead of where it used to be. More schools are seen as destinations, not stepping stones. That’s progress.

Source: ESPN.com

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13/May/2016

Kamara could make Revs debut; Crew SC moves on; battle atop the East

As another weekend of Major League Soccer action gets set to kick off, Jason Davis looks around the league to preview matches and storylines you should be following.

Kamara could be set for Revs debut

The biggest story of the season to this point takes center stage Saturday with Kei Kamara's potential debut as a member of the New England Revolution when they face the Chicago Fire. The Revs' blockbuster trade for the former Columbus Crew SC striker cost them a pretty penny (in MLS terms), and they won't want to wait to get Kamara into their lineup. The club says there's a chance he will be available, which might just be a hedge against the small chance he won't be in New England and settled by the time the game kicks off Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Even if Kamara doesn't play, his arrival will be the story. New England has a pair of forwards -- Juan Agudelo and the banged-up Charlie Davies -- who can't be too happy to hear the news that their club thought it necessarily to trade for reinforcements. Further, there's the matter of how Kamara's presence at the center-forward position will or won't change the way that the team plays. Kamara seems made for crosses coming from Chris Tierney, Kelyn Rowe, et al, but it would be presumptuous to think chemistry will happen immediately.

New England still needs to work out some defensive issues, which Kamara doesn't address. But trading for an MLS elite-level forward will help them put the ball in the net more often, perhaps giving them the benefit of positive scorelines. Playing from the front is not something the Revs have done much of this season, and it could help Jay Heaps' team get on track in 2016.

Kamara-less Crew SC faces Rapids

Jermaine Jones v Seattle

Jermaine Jones and the red-hot Colorado Rapids won't take any pity on Columbus when they visit the Rockies on Saturday.

The flipside of Kamara's potential debut for New England is Crew SC on the road in Colorado playing without him. Considering how dependent Columbus had been on the striker before trading him, it will be a strange to see them lining up minus his significant presence. Crew SC was built around the idea of getting Ethan Finley and Justin Meram up the wings to serve balls into Kamara. Look no further than the progression of Columbus from pre-Kamara 2014 to the 2015 side that hosted an MLS Cup final to understand why the trade is so momentous.

Crew SC wouldn't have traded its leading scorer if there wasn't something very wrong in the locker room at MAPFRE Stadium. Assigning blame in this situation is a fool's errand without knowledge of the behind-the-scenes dynamics, but it's hard to believe that Federico Higuain didn't exacerbate any discord through his actions and lack of accountability this week. What matters in the short term -- at least until Columbus can use some of the reported $500,000 in allocation money they collected from New England to find a replacement -- is how the team gets on without a center forward.

And it had to be Colorado, a team that is riding high on a wave of confidence and can beat teams down with the best in MLS. Jermaine Jones won't be taking pity on Crew SC. The Rapids' defense has been solid even against in-form teams this year, putting ample pressure on Gregg Berhalter's side to figure things out on the fly. Life without Kei begins now.

Source: ESPN.com

 

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13/May/2016

Manny Machado's stats put him in discussion for best young player

"He's just polished. I see all the guys that are compared in baseball, and his name is never really mentioned in there and I like that. Just let him continue to fly under the radar and do what he does. The kid is special." -- Adam Jones, to media members this season

Since Manny Machado's major league debut on Aug. 9, 2012, the Baltimore Orioles have won more games than any other team in the American League. He's 11 months younger than Mike Trout and three months older than Bryce Harper, but is often left out of conversations about the game's best young player.

If the season ended today, the American League MVP would almost surely go to Machado, who plays for a first-place team that ranks first or second in the league in hits, doubles, extra-base hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Machado, 23, is the 10th player in the last 100 years to record 25 extra-base hits in his team's first 31 games. Of the previous nine, four went on to win the MVP: Lou Gehrig in 1927, Stan Musial in 1948, Willie Mays in 1965 and Kevin Mitchell in 1989. Six of those nine players are in the Hall of Fame (Gehrig, Musial, Mays, Hank Aaron, Paul Waner and Earl Averill).

Machado's approach at the plate hasn't changed drastically from a year ago, when his walk and strikeout rates were the best of his career. He's still swinging at about the same number of pitches both in and out of the strike zone (28 percent).

Perhaps the largest difference from 2015 to 2016 is that he's hitting everything, and hitting it hard -- regardless of where he's being pitched.

Though his current .368 BABIP (54 points above his career mark) might give some reason to believe he's bound for regression, his hard-hit rate gives the impression that his numbers are legit. He ranks third in the majors in hard-hit rate this season (27 percent).

On defense, Machado has 62 career defensive runs saved, second-most in the AL since his debut (Alex Gordon, 69). He won the AL's Platinum Glove in 2013 but broke out offensively in 2015, joining Alex Rodriguez (1998) as the only players in MLB history to hit 35 home runs and steal 20 bases in their age-22 season.

Machado's combination of power and defensive ability at this age is rare; according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the sixth player to hit 75 home runs and win two Gold Gloves before his 24th birthday. The others are Al Kaline, Johnny Bench, Cesar Cedeño, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones, making Machado the only infielder to do it.

Of the players above, only four also had a top-five MVP finish to their names before turning 24: Machado and Hall of Famers Griffey, Bench and Kaline.

Couple all of this with the fact he is now playing shortstop in place of injured J.J. Hardy, and Machado won't be able to stay out of the spotlight for much longer.

Looking ahead

The Orioles will face the Tigers on Friday night in the second game of a seven-game homestand, and that bodes well for Machado. In 19 games at Camden Yards this season, he's hitting .423/.471/.833 -- all the best in the AL at a batter's home park -- with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 19 RBIs.

Source: ESPN.com

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13/May/2016

Whatever Duncan decides, fans should celebrate his greatness

The Duncan-ites of this world are pretty down right now.

We've been mopey this whole month, frankly, watching the previously age-defying ‎Tim Duncan -- our modern-day Bill Russell -- reduced to filling such a minuscule role for the San Antonio Spurs in these playoffs.

The NBA's corner of the Twitterverse predictably bathed in such sadness late Thursday night, once it started to sink in, before they even got to halftime in Oklahoma City, that we might be watching the final game ‎of Duncan's Hall of Fame career.

ou really shouldn't stay sad when we (A) don't yet truly know if it's the end, and (B) we've been treated to nearly two decades of Duncan's excellence.

 

He just turned 40, after all. Now -- or soon -- we're going to be powerless to stop him from hanging up that horrendously huge and clunky knee brace which, as longtime Spurs owner Peter Holt told us in 2014, forced Duncan "to change the way he runs."

Don't worry, though. This is not how we're going to remember him.

The Spurs' six-game collapse to their longtime understudies from Oklahoma City is fresh in the mind at the moment, so you probably can recite depressing stats such as how Duncan's 19 points in Thursday's season-ender trumped the 17 points he managed in the first five games of the series. Or how he played only two measly seconds of the fourth quarter in Game 3, inserted just long enough to launch an ambitious cross-court inbounds pass to Kawhi Leonard, as if he were merely a long-throw specialist out of English soccer's Premier League like we used to see from Rory Delap.

Yet downbeat factoids like those will fade from memory soon enough. You inevitably will remember Duncan as we all should.

As the closest thing to Russell that we've ever seen.

I remember in February when our #NBARank folks asked me to add some context to Duncan's placement as the eighth-best player in league history. I said it then, too: Argue all you want about whether to call him the greatest power forward who ever lived -- or concede, as Gregg Popovich finally did a few springs back, that he would be starting Duncan at center in a playoff series against Utah "like we have for the past 15 years" -- as long as you note that he was the ultimate franchise player.

The most dependable dude to build an NBA title contender around since Michael Jordan.

Yet he's really more reminiscent of Russell, given how he has stayed in one place for 19 seasons and bonded in sustained success with his coach to such a degree that Pop is right up there now with Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and, yes, Red Auerbach in pro basketball's bench pantheon.

I'm prepared to be realistic here. I understand we'll all need some time to grieve if Duncan indeed decides it's time to walk away. It has been a tough year for the nostalgic souls among us, with Kobe Bryant having said goodbye and Manu Ginobili surely contemplating retirement as seriously as Duncan must now.

So I suspect lots of us felt like Duncan's former Spurs teammate Stephen Jackson late Thursday, staring at the screen and wishing we had a Timmy Cam showing nothing but No. 21's every twitch.

"He didn't ask Pop to take him out at the end but he'll be cool with riding off into the sunset with no applause."

 

Stephen Jackson

"I wish you could have seen me," Jackson, now one of my ESPN teammates, said over the phone. "I was [pressed] right up against the TV, like, 'Dang, my boy, this could be it.' I'm just standing there trying to look at Timmy's face.

"I hate to see him go ... if he goes. Dave [David Robinson] went out with a championship and I think Tim deserved the same. But how much better can you be? How much more can you give to the game? He's the best power forward to ever play this game.

"I'm not sure if it's over, but if it is ... he didn't ask Pop to take him out at the end but he'll be cool with riding off into the sunset with no applause. I'm pretty sure he has no regrets."

 

Duncan could have walked away Admiral Robinson-style after the Spurs' fifth championship in 2014, but I understood why he resisted the fairy-tale farewell. He loves to play. He loves to be on the team even more than that. He loves to be in that locker room, right there with his on-court brothers, which is why Jackson was by no means the only former teammate or rival we've spoken with this week who said they wouldn't be surprised if Timmy decided to play on and return for season No. 20.

Tim Duncan Postseason Career

TD's numbers and all-time ranking

Games 251 2nd
Points 5,172 6th
Rebounds 2,859 3rd
Double-doubles 164 1st
Wins 157 2nd
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

Yet if he doesn't?

How can anyone complain?

"DEATH/TAXES/SPURS" is indeed a clever slogan for fan signage, but not even Duncan can go on forever.

 

How could someone as lucky as me ask for more? I moved to Texas a month before the Spurs won the May 1997 lottery that enabled them to draft Duncan and have had the privilege to cover him from reasonably close range ever since, which led to this historical opus on the Pop-and-Timmy era heading into the 2014 Finals. I started out as an NBA writer in February 1994, so there were a handful of trips to the Alamo City before he even blipped onto my radar, but I don't remember much of them. It's hard to imagine going to San Antonio to see a Spurs team that doesn't revolve around TD -- to see Duncovich uncoupled -- but, again, how greedy can we be?

When he does decide time is up, I'll miss that unerring bank shot, of course, as well as how he was the same even-keeled, ultra-loyal Timmy every time I saw him. I'll likewise miss our traditional co-congratulatory handshake at some stage in the first round of the playoffs every year when I'd remind him that I too was a member of the April 25th Birthday Club ... along with Duncan, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and legendary NBA photographer Andy Bernstein.

But seriously.

Don't let yourself get swallowed up by the sadness.

The prospect of Holt, Ginobili and Duncan all exiting Spursdom at the same time is an undeniable shock to the system, but The Big Fundamental's legacy is secure, whether or not you think five championships in 19 seasons were enough to qualify as dynastic. Starry heirs Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, meanwhile, are in place to keep San Antonio among the elite irrespective of market size.

So ...

As Timmy steps away now to go "figure out life" before making any definitive pronouncements about the future, this is our plan:

Celebrate.

Celebrate with appreciative, unreserved gusto how wonderfully long Timothy Theodore Duncan has made it look like he has had this whole basketball thing absolutely wired.

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13/May/2016

Physical series against undermanned Grizzlies should sharpen Spurs

MEMPHIS -- The lights flickered, and officials at the FedEx Forum announced play would be suspended as workers scrambled to remedy the drop in voltage that affected all of Shelby County and knocked out the lights in the arena for 20 minutes.

LaMarcus Aldridge stared at the scoreboard. “I was like, ‘I just hope we can get this game started soon.’ I didn’t want to have to wait until tomorrow.”

Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs won’t have to wait after completing a four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies with a 116-95 triumph on Sunday. While Aldridge wanted to avoid waiting "until tomorrow" to complete the game, he and the Spurs know the physicality of this series against Memphis actually strengthened the club’s prospects for tomorrow.

“The good thing for us, I think, about the series is the Grizzlies were fantastic; their drive, their passion, their physicality for 48 minutes every game," coach Gregg Popovich said. "We found a quarter here or there in each game where we spread ourselves, but that was it. Other than that, they played us even. Dave [Joerger] and his staff and those players deserve a lot of credit. It’s not just false praise. They really do because it wasn’t a fair fight, and they didn’t care. From our part, that physicality will help us I think in the next round.”

It’s no secret: The Spurs whipped up on a wounded Memphis squad that used an NBA-record 28 players during the regular season. But San Antonio believes Memphis’ brand of physical defense will serve it well once it reaches the second round, where the Spurs will likely take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oklahoma City holds a 3-1 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in their best-of-seven series, and there’s a 99 percent chance the Spurs will meet the Thunder in the next round, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. BPI gives San Antonio a 73 percent chance to win a series against Oklahoma City.

“I haven’t watched too much of that series, but I can imagine it was rough,” reserve guard Patty Mills said. “I think it comes back to Memphis being the top of the pack in terms of that kind of stuff. Not being out to hurt anybody, but that’s how they play defense.”

Does a physical series like this help to prepare San Antonio for Round 2?

“For sure, especially on offense,” Mills said. “Our defense, no matter who we play, can be solid. In terms of offense, it was good to go through these guys to sharpen things, for sure.”

The Spurs wrapped up Round 1 with the third-best scoring differential in any four-game series (+88) and the third-best differential in an opening-round series, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But they entered the postseason out of sync offensively, after an odd combination of rest for the regulars, new additions (Kevin Martin and Andre Miller) and injuries to Aldridge and Boris Diaw late in the season affected some of the on-court chemistry while preventing the club from operating at its peak at the start of the first round.

Despite Memphis’ injury situation, the Grizzlies provided San Antonio with the perfect whetstone to sharpen its offensive weaponry. That became clear in Game 3, when Kawhi Leonard pushed the Spurs past the Grizzlies by scoring 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, in addition to blocking five shots while not committing a turnover.

Then, in Game 4, the Spurs blasted off with a 15-2 run in the third quarter to outscore the Grizzlies 37-21 while hitting 14 of 22 shots. Leonard poured in a game-high 21 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks. Leonard averaged 21.5 points in this series, which registers as his best average in any playoff series of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“I guess you could say that,” Leonard said when asked whether the Spurs are starting to find the rhythm that has eluded them since the end of the regular season. Guard Manu Ginobili believes the Spurs have “sort of” found it.

“We were not as sharp as we wanted to be, but for moments we were,” Ginobili said. “They are a tough matchup because they are very aggressive. They grab, they hold. That’s the type of game they try to play. Sometimes that makes it hard.”

The easy part now is resting and waiting for their second-round opponent, as the Spurs hope to tweak a few things offensively while healing up a few nicks here and there.

 

At minimum, the Spurs will have five days off before their next game, with a chance to get up to seven days off. Leonard was the only Spur to average 30 minutes per game in this series. San Antonio’s starters averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game. That’s the fewest minutes per game the starters have ever averaged in a first-round series under Popovich, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That makes the Spurs the most well-rested team Popovich has taken into the second round.

The Big Three -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili -- all played fewer than 27 minutes in all four games this series.

“This was a tough one,” Ginobili said of the series. “Kawhi played 42 minutes on Friday, but we got to rest him a little bit today. I think we’re due a couple days off, then we’ll have a couple good practices to get a rhythm back. I think it’s very important … we need it.”

They’ve found it, finally. Now they’ve got to keep it.

Souce NBA.com

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25/Apr/2016

Yasiel Puig surprises attendees of a prom at Denver hotel

DENVER -- Yasiel Puig crashed a party Saturday night, but nobody seemed to mind.

Returning to his downtown Denver hotel after the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies, he surprised attendees at the Chatfield Senior High School prom. He took photos with party goers and posted some to his Twitter account, @YasielPuig.

So did he actually dance?

Somebody asked Puig before he went out for conditioning drills Sunday morning, and he said, "Yes," with a crooked smile.

Puig has had an amusing presence on Twitter this season, one that seems to coincide with his free-and-easy approach to the year so far. His posts have been both humorous and self-deprecating, mentioning multiple times his issue with hitting the cutoff man.

After his eye-opening throw from right field Friday to nail the Rockies' Trevor Story at third base, Puig hit the sarcasm button the following day.

Souce: ESPN

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25/Apr/2016

Carl Edwards bumps past Kyle Busch on final lap for Richmond win

RICHMOND, Va. -- Carl Edwards had been grinding for 30 laps, doing everything he could to catch Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in a two-way breakaway from the pack at Richmond International Raceway.

When he finally caught him on the last lap Sunday, and in the final turn, he had no time to think about what would be the prudent thing to do. Instead, Edwards focused on the reason they are racing: to win.

Edwards bumped his sometimes-volatile teammate off his racing line in the last turn and passed him to win his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and the fourth in a row for the Gibbs racing stable.

NASCAR said it was the first last-lap pass for a victory in the history of the premier series at the track, a span of 120 races.

"I wish it was anybody but my teammate that we had to race like that with, but big picture to me is we've both got some wins, we're in the Chase, and it's fun to have to race your teammate for the win," Edwards said. "If the roles were reversed, I would have expected him to bump me the same way."

Then in a bid to throw a bone to Busch, whose car was sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital, he said: "If my cat ever gets sick, I don't care how much it costs, I will take it to the Banfield Pet Hospital, if that helps."

Gibbs said there's no game plan for how to handle the next team meeting.

"What you do is you just start out and work your way through it, and that's what we'll do," he said.

Edwards, who had fallen nearly 1.5 seconds behind after a restart with 36 laps to go, gradually ran him down, catching him on the final lap. Then he slipped underneath Busch, a master blocker in late-race situations, and nudged him just enough to allow Edwards to get inside him for his second consecutive victory. It was also the fourth in a row for the Gibbs stable, and fifth in nine races.

"Kyle's an amazing teammate and it's like he got really slow there at the end," Edwards said. "Something happened that last lap, it's like his rear tires went off or something, and he went down into (Turn) one and I dove it in and I got to him, and I thought, `Man, I've got something here.' Then he went to get down to the bottom to park it in three and four and I'd already decided to go down there, so I thought, `Man, I'm going to give him a little nudge.'

"We've both got wins. We're racing for fun and getting these trophies. Just an awesome day."

After falling so far behind, Edwards was surprised to find himself in position to challenge for the victory.

"Man, I didn't think we had anything. Kyle was just so good for that run. I was just doing everything I could. He never spun his tires," he said. "If Dave (crew chief Rogers) hadn't screamed at me to just go get him, I don't know if I would have dove it in there that hard."

Busch seemed less than amused after being denied his third victory in the last four races.

"We just kind of gave it up a little bit there on the last lap, but I guess that's racing and we move on," he said. "... We had a really great car. ... We were fast, maybe not as good as Carl was on the long runs, but we did everything right, everything we were supposed to do."

Jimmie Johnson finished third, follow by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Kevin Harvick. Gibbs placed all four of its drivers in the top seven, with Denny Hamlin sixth and Matt Kenseth seventh.

The race was the first scheduled for during the day at Richmond since 1997, and the racing made a huge fan of Johnson.

"We had multiple lanes that laid the rubber in the race track and we didn't have all those marbles built up on the outside, where it really limited your opportunities up high," he said. "It was fun. The cars were slipping and sliding; there was a ton of fall-off. I enjoyed the long runs. I really like sizing-up guys that I'm racing with and seeing how that works out. And then, at the end we had a bunch of short runs."

 

Kahne was trying to hang on to a good finish at the end and missed the drama ahead of him.

"I didn't watch. I wish I would have. It sounded like a great battle," he said.

Edwards dominated the first half of the race, leading 120 of the first 200 laps, and he continued to lead until Kevin Harvick slipped underneath him with 170 laps to go. Edwards faded for a time, but wound up leading seven times for a race-high 151 laps. The race featured 23 lead changes, the most here since 2007.

Seven other drivers also led, with Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson also leading for at least 44 laps.

Game notes
Johnson has three career victories at Richmond, but none since September 2008. ... Gibbs cars have won five of the first nine races. ... The race went green for the first 157 laps, the longest green-flag run to start a race at Richmond since 1979, and only the fourth time in the last 47 races in the premier series on the 0.75-mile oval that the first 100 laps were run caution-free.

Souce: ESPN

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25/Apr/2016

Warriors prevail despite losing Curry to knee injury

HOUSTON -- Stephen Curry, who returned to action Sunday after missing the past two games because of a sprained right ankle, will undergo an MRI on Monday after spraining his knee midway through Golden State's 121-94 Game 4 win over Houston.

Curry slipped while guarding Houston's Trevor Ariza at the first-half buzzer and banged his right knee on the floor. The reigning league MVP grabbed the knee and limped off to the locker room.

Curry returned to the court after halftime and moved laterally in a test of the joint, but he stopped and shook his head toward the bench. Shortly thereafter, he headed back to the locker room and was ruled out just after the second half began, with Shaun Livingston taking his spot in the starting lineup.

"He was standing there crying, you know, and like, 'Dog, just get out of here. We'll hold you down.' We gotta support him, you know, and be there for him," Warriors forward Draymond Green told ESPN Radio's Kevin Calabro and Jon Barry postgame. "I mean, he came out and obviously gave it a go, wasn't 100 percent, and he gave it a go, and it's unfortunate that that happened.

"But at the end of the day, one thing we've always talked about is our depth, and we've gotta use that to win games, and so we used that tonight."

Added teammate Klay Thompson: "We knew as soon as Steph went down, we were going to have to do it ourselves. The ball was swinging around, Draymond got hot, I made a couple, and the floor opened up and we were just patient and having good shots. That's why we were successful."

Curry had six points on 2-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-7 from the 3-point line.

Curry appeared to slip on a wet spot, started when Houston's Donatas Motiejunas slid across the court for a few yards near the 3-point circle.

"His conditioning was better than I expected," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "And then he slips on the wet spot, unfortunately, and back to square one. We'll see what happens with the MRI tomorrow."

Asked about pundits' picking against the Warriors without Curry, Green told ESPN Radio, "If Steph Curry's out, I'd probably write us off too. That's human nature [because] the guy's the MVP of the league, but we've got a team full of competitors.

"We're not gonna bow down or lay down against anyone. We're gonna continue to play our game, continue to try to win basketball games, no matter who's out there."

Green said the same of the Rockets, citing last season's Western Conference semifinal series between Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers.

"If I'm not mistaken, the Clippers were up 3-1 [on the Rockets before Houston rallied to win three straight]. They ain't laying down," he said. "It's not going to be easy. We know they are a very talented ballclub when they get it going. They get hot from the 3, they can do anything on the floor. We have to come out and take the game, knowing that it's not going to be easy, knowing Steph probably won't be playing."

The Rockets had their own issues at point guard. Patrick Beverley strained his right leg, and the team announced before the start of the second half that he would not return.

Source; ESPN

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25/Apr/2016

Broncos outlast Panthers, claim third Super Bowl title

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Denver Broncos authored one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl 50, helping Peyton Manning write one of the game's most improbable stories in the process.

The Broncos are Super Bowl champions for a third time after dismantling the Panthers 24-10 inside a raucous Levi's Stadium. It was only fitting that the game's decisive moment was made by Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Miller was named Super Bowl 50 MVP.

Late in the fourth quarter in a one score game, Miller fought off Panthers tackle Mike Remmer's initial block, dipped his shoulder, kept his balance and reach his long left arm at Cam Newton. The ensuing fumble was Carolina's fourth of the day and fourth turnover overall. Like the high-powered Steelers and Patriots offense before them, the Panthers offense had no answers for this incredible Broncos group.

Around The NFL will have more on this shortly.

Source: nfl.com

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07/Feb/2016

Late Costa strike denies Man Utd win

Diego Costa scored a late equaliser to preserve Chelsea's unbeaten record under interim boss Guus Hiddink and deny Manchester United a win.

United dominated early on, Thibaut Courtois producing a fine one-handed save to keep out Anthony Martial.

David de Gea saved well from Nemanja Matic's header before Jesse Lingard's fine turn and shot put United ahead.

Costa rescued a point in the 91st minute after rounding De Gea following Cesc Fabregas' pass.

United were moments away from moving to within four points of the top four when Costa scored his seventh goal in eight games.

Chelsea, who lost defender Kurt Zouma to a serious injury, remain 13th in the table.

Relive all the drama from Stamford Bridge

A United performance to offer encouragement

This will feel like a defeat for United after a bright start and a wonderful goal to give them the lead in what was an entertaining draw between two teams struggling for form.

Apart from the late equaliser, Louis van Gaal's side produced a display full of positives after recent criticism about the team's style and reports linking former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho with the United job.

They started well and offered more zip and energy than their cumbersome hosts.

Courtois' flying save to keep out Martial's curling attempt was excellent, while United forced 10 corners before the end of the first half.

The visitors looked set for a rare win over Chelsea when Lingard displayed terrific balance and agility to break the deadlock with a sublime spin and shot inside the area.

However, United backed off after scoring and invited pressure, Costa pouncing from close range after a terrific Fabregas pass.

Instead of closing the gap on fourth place to four points, they now find themselves six points adrift.

Chelsea leave it late again

De Gea was at his magnificent best to keep out a thunderous attempt by Branislav Ivanovic and then Fabregas as Chelsea surged forward in the final quarter in search of an equaliser.

When Costa blazed over the bar after a free-kick it looked all up for the hosts.

Yet for the second league home game in a row, they rescued a point in stoppage time.

Hiddink's sixth draw in eight league games in charge leaves the defending champions seven points above the relegation zone with 13 games remaining.

Will Terry stay?

This was Chelsea's first game back at Stamford Bridge since captain John Terry announced he was set to leave at the end of the season.

There was no mention of Terry leaving in the captain's programme notes and Blues fans will still be hoping he may yet extend his stay.

They chanted his name throughout as Terry produced an assured performance at the heart of the defence, while he was denied a penalty when his goal-bound shot at the end of the first half struck the arm of Daley Blind.

Terry's importance to the team was underlined by Zouma's nasty-looking injury, the France international landing awkwardly on his right knee after volleying the ball away.

What the managers said

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink:

"I am happy with the reaction of the team. Manchester United did a good job in the first half and in the beginning of the second, they are not an easy team to beat.

"But we deserved a point. We dropped too far back after the first 20 minutes when they dominated us but later on we closed a little more.

"They made a beautiful goal - without good marking from our side - but after I think the team reacted very well."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal:

"I feel we didn't reward ourselves with a victory because we were the better team. Until the last quarter we played very well and could have scored more goals. But you have to control the game better and we did not do that.

"It isn't a lack of concentration it is not being composed when you are defending. When we have the ball we have to keep the ball.

"You need to give the right pass at the right moment and we did not do that [before Chelsea scored]. Chelsea are a very good team and you play like we played and don't reward yourself, it is frustrating."

The stats you need to know

  • Despite still being unbeaten under Guus Hiddink this season, Chelsea are winless in four consecutive Premier League home games for the first time since November 2012.
  • Indeed, it is the first time they have ever drawn four consecutive home games in the Premier League.
  • Jesse Lingard has scored three goals from his last four shots on target in the Premier League.

Up next?

Both teams are in Premier League action on Saturday at different times of the day. While Chelsea entertain struggling Newcastle United (17:30 GMT), Manchester United travel to Wearside to face relegation-threatened Sunderland (12:45 GMT).

Source: bbc.com

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07/Feb/2016