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January 21

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid scoffs at Marcus Smart's claim he 'flails' for calls

After Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wore out a path to the free throw line in a 117-109 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, Celtics guard Marcus Smart expressed his displeasure with the way the game was officiated. Embiid made and took more free throws than the Celtics did as a team, going 17-of-21 from the line compared with 13-of-20 for Boston. The Sixers finished 36-of-45 as a team. "Can't beat that," Smart said. "Hard to win that way." It's hard to win, period, when Embiid -- who finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals -- plays like he did against Boston, as he continued to make his case to be firmly in the running for the league's MVP award through the first month of the season. Regardless of which defender was thrown at him -- be it Tristan Thompson, who started, or Daniel Theis, who closed -- Embiid had his way, scoring in double figures in each of the first three quarters...
January 21
January 20

Henry To'o To'o among 4 Tennessee football players to enter portal after Jeremy Pruitt firing

Linebacker Henry To'o To'o, a former SEC All-Freshman selection who started 22 games over the past two seasons, and three other Tennessee football players entered the transfer portal on Wednesday. Running back Eric Gray, linebacker Quavaris Crouch and offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson also entered the portal. This comes two days after head coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired amid an investigation into what UT chancellor Donde Plowman said were "serious NCAA rules violations." Assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton also were fired, along with four members of the on-campus football recruiting staff, the director and assistant director of football player personnel and a football analyst/quality control coach. Kevin Steele, who was hired as an assistant coach on Jan. 12, was named interim head coach after Pruitt's firing. To'o To'o, a sophomore, started all 10 games this past season and led the team with 76 tackles and 10 tackles for...
January 20
January 20

NBA postpones sixth consecutive game for the Washington Wizards

The NBA postponed Friday's Washington Wizards- Milwaukee Bucks game not long after a concerned Bradley Beal said the Wizards were "fighting the league" on playing the game with only eight players available and six others sidelined by the league's health and safety protocol. It's the 17th NBA game postponed this season because of the league's health and safety protocols and the sixth consecutive Wizards game to be called off. On Wednesday, the league cited the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing for other players on Washington's roster and the lack of practice time the team had before the scheduled game. After a nine-day pause because of a coronavirus outbreak within the team, the Wizards were cleared to return to practice Wednesday evening. But the team had only eight players available and basically did light shooting, according to coach Scott Brooks. The Wizards were extremely concerned about playing in a game with not...
January 20
January 20

Bradley Beal says short-handed Washington Wizards 'fighting the league' on playing Friday

Bradley Beal said the Washington Wizards are "fighting the league" on playing Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks with only eight players available and six Wizards sidelined by the NBA's health and safety protocol. After a nine-day pause because of a coronavirus outbreak within the team that led to the postponement of five games, the Wizards were finally cleared to return to practice Wednesday evening. But the team had only eight players available and basically did light shooting, according to coach Scott Brooks. "We weren't able to get into a gym for a week," said Beal, whose team hasn't played since Jan. 11 against the Phoenix Suns. "That alters guys' rhythm, shape -- that is just like a recipe for injury, honestly. I think we are fighting the league on it." With a lack of healthy bodies and little conditioning, Beal said that he and Russell Westbrook planned to talk to Michele Roberts, the National Basketball Players Association executive...
January 20
January 20

Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving returns, scores 37 points in double-overtime loss to Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- Two quarters of disjointed play, the grind of double overtime and a shooting barrage from Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton proved to be too much for even the Brooklyn Nets' Big Three to overcome. On Wednesday -- in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving's first game together, and Irving's first game in over two weeks -- the Nets lost to the Cavaliers 147-135. Durant scored a team-high 38 points, and Irving added 37. Harden finished with 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. "It felt right," Durant said of playing with Harden and Irving. "Felt perfect, felt like we belong together. It felt like just joining together is going to be fun. It was a tough start, especially it was an up-and-down game for us." A win, Durant admitted, would have been more ideal. Brooklyn's issues weren't on the offensive end, but the Nets had visible kinks to work through on defense. They didn't have an answer for Sexton...
January 20
January 20

Larry Scott's 11-year run as Pac-12 commissioner to end in June

Larry Scott's 11-year run as Pac-12 commissioner will end in June, the conference announced Wednesday night. In a statement, the conference said Scott will remain on the job until June 30 and assist in the transition. His current contract was set to expire in June 2022. "We appreciate Larry's pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences," said University of Oregon president Michael Schill, the chair of Pac-12 CEO Group. "At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation, and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to U.S. and global markets on traditional and digital platforms. "That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn't remain static, and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy." An executive committee that includes...
January 20
January 20

Sources: Larry Scott out as Pac-12 commissioner

Larry Scott is out as the Pac-12 commissioner, with the sides reaching the decision Wednesday night, sources confirmed to ESPN. Sports Business Journal first reported the decision. 
January 20
January 20

Henry To'o To'o among 4 Tennessee players to enter portal after Jeremy Pruitt firing

Linebacker Henry To'o To'o, a former SEC All-Freshman selection who started 22 games the past two seasons, and three other Tennessee players entered the transfer portal on Wednesday. Running back Eric Gray, linebacker Quavaris Crouch and offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson also entered the portal. This comes two days after head coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired amid an investigation into what UT chancellor Donde Plowman said were "serious NCAA rules violations." Assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer and Shelton Felton also were fired, along with four members of the on-campus football recruiting staff, the director and assistant director of football player personnel and a football analyst/quality control coach. Kevin Steele, who was hired as an assistant coach on Jan. 12, was named interim coach after Pruitt's firing. To'o To'o, a sophomore, started all 10 games this past season and led the team with 76 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. A former...
January 20
January 20

Alex Ovechkin, 3 others on COVID-19 absence list as NHL fines Washington Capitals $100K for violations of protocols

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin and three teammates were placed on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absences list on Wednesday, as the league fined the team $100,000 for a violation of health and safety protocols. Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov were all added to the daily list of players who are "unavailable to play or practice, in accordance with the league's COVID protocols." This doesn't mean they've all tested positive for COVID-19, as players can end up on the list for reasons ranging from a positive test to "required quarantine as a high-risk close contact." The NHL fined the Capitals for "social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings." The players were in violation of NHL safety protocols for grouping together in a hotel room. "Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players...
January 20
January 20

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not feeling extra pressure, says his future is 'beautiful mystery'

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Everyone else might be wondering how many chances Aaron Rodgers will get at a Super Bowl, but the Packers quarterback says he's not one of them. Just days away from his fifth NFC Championship Game -- and his fourth since his lone Super Bowl appearance 10 years ago -- Rodgers insisted that he's not looking at Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a best last-chance scenario. Not even at age 37 and with his possible eventual replacement now on the roster. "I'm always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments," Rodgers said Wednesday. "I hope there's more opportunities, but I don't know. I mean, I really don't. That stuff is out of my control. My future is a beautiful mystery I think. The present is such a gift to be able to stay in the moment and to have gratitude for being in this situation again, and being with the guys and having fans in our stadium and maybe snow in an NFC...
January 20
January 20

Sources: J.A. Happ, Minnesota Twins agree to deal

Veteran left-hander J.A. Happ and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a one-year deal, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan.  The deal, which is pending a physical, is worth $8 million, according to multiple reports.  Happ, a free agent, will remain in the American League after spending the past two-and-a-half seasons with the New York Yankees. He will join a Minnesota rotation that includes Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda, a group that will look to help the Twins to a third straight AL Central title this season. Minnesota finished third in the AL last season with a team ERA of 3.58. Happ will be just the second offseason addition by the Twins, who also added relief pitcher Hansel Robles. Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill became free agents. A 12-year veteran, he was acquired by the Yankees from the Toronto Blue Jays in July 2018, went 7-0 in 11 starts and was rewarded with a $34 million, two-year...
January 20
January 20

Michael Brantley, Houston Astros agree to 2-year, $32M deal, sources say

Veteran outfielder Michael Brantley will be returning to the Houston Astros after the free agent agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal, sources confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday. Brantley, 33, continues to boast a high contact rate, low strikeout ratio and polish at the plate. In 46 games with the Astros in 2020, alternating between left field and DH, Brantley hit. 300, with five homers, 22 RBIs and an OPS of .840. He has hit at least .300 in five seasons since 2014, tied with four others for the most such seasons in baseball in that time span. He also has struck out in just 10.1% of his plate appearances since 2014, third best in baseball in that time span, with a minimum of 2,000 plate appearances. Fox 26 in Houston was first to report that Brantley and the Astros had agreed to the deal. Brantley also signed a two-year, $32 million contract when he joined the Astros before the 2019 season. Injuries have troubled Brantley over his 12-year career with  ...
January 20
January 20

Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes practices in limited capacity, remains in concussion protocol

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs quarterback  Patrick Mahomes practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday, taking another step to possibly clearing the concussion protocol in time for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. "He's done well up to this point,'' coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes, who remains in the NFL's concussion protocol after being knocked out of last week's divisional-round win over the Cleveland Browns. "Today [Mahomes was allowed to do] limited work and no contact. That's kind of what we're doing on Wednesday, so this fit in well." Mahomes was listed as a full participant when the Chiefs initially released their practice report on Wednesday. The team later revised his status to limited, however, saying it is not allowed to list him as full because he remains in the concussion protocol. Reid didn't say what phase Mahomes is in of the five-step process to be cleared to play. Mahomes was replaced in the third quarter of...
January 20
January 20

Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes practices fully, remains in concussion protocol

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs quarterback  Patrick Mahomes practiced fully Wednesday, taking another step to possibly clearing the concussion protocol in time for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. "He's done well up to this point,'' coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes, who remains in the NFL's concussion protocol after being knocked out of last week's divisional-round win over the Cleveland Browns. "Today [Mahomes was allowed to do] limited work and no contact. That's kind of what we're doing on Wednesday, so this fit in well." Mahomes was listed as a full participant when the Chiefs released their practice report Wednesday. Reid didn't say what phase Mahomes is in of the five-step process to be cleared to play. Mahomes was replaced in the third quarter of Sunday's 22-17 victory over the Browns by veteran Chad Henne, who would start against the Bills if Mahomes is unable to play. Pro Bowl Bills cornerback ...
January 20
January 20

NBA to enforce rules forbidding hugs, handshakes with midcourt security

After witnessing some opposing players disregarding new league rules against unnecessary contact on game nights, the NBA is moving team security into the midcourt area to dissuade violations that include hugging and handshakes, according to a league memo obtained by ESPN on Wednesday. As coronavirus infections increased amid a darkening pandemic, the NBA recently tightened regulations on players and staffs, including several meant to lessen the possibility of on-court transmissions. Despite those changes, there were still instances of traditional player contact in postgame scenarios, which led the NBA to issue a memo Wednesday reaffirming the rules that require teams to remain on their half of the court in pregame and halftime warm-ups, and limits physical contact to include only elbow or fist bumps. High-fives, hugs and handshakes aren't allowed, nor are extended postgame conversations. The NBA for the week of Jan. 13-19, had 11 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 502 players,...
January 20
January 20

Sources: Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim boxing match set for Feb. 27 in Miami

Boxing's biggest star, Canelo Alvarez, will return to the ring Feb. 27 versus mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium, per sources. The fight will be broadcast on DAZN and other PPV cable platforms everywhere except Mexico. It will be a stay-busy title defense for Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs), who is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated champion Callum Smith on Dec. 19 to win the WBA, WBC and the Ring magazine super middleweight titles. The Athletic was the first to report the Alvarez fight date on Wednesday. "Canelo is in the gym, and he has been working and training, waiting for the date," Alvarez's trainer, Eddy Reynoso, said. "And to take advantage of the preparation we had for most of last year without fighting." After a deal with Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, Alvarez is on track to fight again on May 8, the weekend following Cinco De Mayo, against WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe...
January 20
January 20

Sources: Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim set for Feb. 27 in Miami

Boxing's biggest star Canelo Alvarez will return to the ring February 27 versus his mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium, per sources. The fight will be broadcasted on DAZN and other PPV cable platforms everywhere except Mexico. It will be a stay-busy title defense for Alvarez (54-1-2, 36 KOs), who is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated champion Callum Smith on December 19 to win the WBA, WBC and the Ring magazine super middleweight titles. The Athletic was the first to report the Alvarez fight date. "Canelo is in the gym, and he has been working and training, waiting for the date," Alvarez's trainer Eddy Reynoso said. "And to take advantage of the preparation we had for most of last year without fighting." After a deal with Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, Alvarez is on track to fight again on May 8, the weekend following Cinco De Mayo, against WBO super middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. That...
January 20
January 20

John Harbaugh defends Baltimore Ravens' run-heavy offense

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh offered a defiant rebuttal Wednesday to the criticism about his offense, saying he is "not apologizing" for Lamar Jackson's style of play or the team's run-oriented game plan. Harbaugh's forceful support came four days after the Ravens tied a franchise postseason record for fewest points scored in a 17-3 divisional playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills. Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman received heavy flak for what many saw as a simplistic passing attack. "The reason why I'm strong on this is because it goes back to the same criticism we've heard the last three years about not being the type of an offense or the type of a quarterback that some people want to see," Harbaugh said during his 45-minute, end-of-season news conference. "They're just going to have to live with it because Lamar Jackson has won a lot of football games here and our offense has won us a lot of football games here and...
January 20
January 20

Toronto Blue Jays don't have free-agent deal with Michael Brantley, source says

While the Toronto Blue Jays remain among the teams interested in free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley, they have not reached an agreement on a contract, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN. Earlier, ESPN had reported that the Blue Jays and Brantley had struck a deal for him to join former Houston Astros teammate George Springer, who Tuesday agreed to a six-year, $150 million contract with Toronto, sources confirmed. The demand for Brantley, 33, remains strong because of his high contact rate, low strikeout ratio and polish at the plate. In 46 games with the Astros in 2020, alternating between left field and DH, Brantley hit. 300, with five homers, 22 RBIs and an OPS of .840. He has hit at least .300 in five seasons since 2014, tied with four others for the most such seasons in baseball in that time span. He also has struck out in just 10.1% of his plate appearances since 2014, third best in baseball in that time span, with a...
January 20
January 20

Toronto Blue Jays don't have deal with Michael Brantley, source says

While the Toronto Blue Jays remain among the teams interested in free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley, they have not reached an agreement on a contract, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN. Earlier, ESPN had reported that the Blue Jays and Brantley had struck a deal for him to join former Houston Astros teammate George Springer, who Tuesday agreed to a six-year, $150 million contract with Toronto, sources confirmed. The demand for Brantley, 33, remains strong because of his high contact rate, low strikeout ratio and polish at the plate. In 46 games with the Astros in 2020, alternating between left field and DH, Brantley hit. 300, with five homers, 22 RBIs and an OPS of .840. He has hit at least .300 in five seasons since 2014, tied with four others for the most such seasons in baseball in that time span. He also has struck out in just 10.1% of his plate appearances since 2014, third best in baseball in that time span, with a...
January 20
January 20

Novak Djokovic: Australian Open demands were 'misconstrued'

Novak Djokovic attempted to clarify his heavily scrutinized letter to Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley in a social media post Tuesday, insisting his "good intentions" were misconstrued. Following positive COVID-19 tests on three charter flights to Melbourne, 72 players are currently in a hard quarantine period resulting in 14 days of self-isolation in their hotel rooms. Djokovic had suggested easing quarantine restrictions in his initial comments to Tiley and was promptly criticized for his lack of awareness by many in Australia, including Nick Kyrgios and Sam Groth. Djokovic had reportedly asked for a shortened isolation period and private housing options with tennis courts for those affected. "My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult, and ungrateful," Djokovic wrote. "This couldn't be farther from the truth. "Not every act is taken at its face value and at times when I see...
January 20
January 20

Busy Toronto Blue Jays add Michael Brantley after George Springer deal, source says

The Toronto Blue Jays have added their second former Houston Astros slugger in as many days, agreeing to a three-year contract with outfielder/designated hitter Michael Brantley on Wednesday, a source confirmed to ESPN. The Jays reached agreement on a six-year, $150 million contract with former Astros center fielder George Springer on Tuesday night, sources confirmed to ESPN's Jeff Passan. The news of Brantley's agreement was first reported by sportscaster Hazel Mae. Brantley, 33, has been troubled with injuries for much of his career -- this past season it was a quad that caused him to spend time on the injured list. While those injuries have brought his power numbers down, he remains a dangerous hitter with a high contact rate and low strikeout ratio. In 46 games with the Astros in 2020, alternating between left field and DH, Brantley hit. 300, with five homers, 22 RBIs and an OPS of .840. He has hit at least .300 in five seasons since...
January 20
January 20

Philip Rivers retires from NFL, ending 17-year career spent with Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts

Philip Rivers is retiring from football, ending his 17-year career as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history. Rivers, who spent this past season with the Indianapolis Colts after 16 years with the Los Angeles Chargers, said in a statement Wednesday that playing quarterback in the NFL was his "childhood dream." While Rivers, 39, never played in a Super Bowl, it was one of the few glaring omissions on an otherwise remarkable resume. He ranks fifth in NFL history with 63,440 passing yards, behind only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. The eight-time Pro Bowler also is fifth in league history with 421 touchdown passes -- again behind only Brady, Brees, Manning and Favre. Rivers said in his statement that he wanted to announce his retirement on Jan. 20, which is the Roman Catholic Church's feast day for St. Sebastian -- often referred to as the patron saint for athletes. The announcement also came exactly 13 years to...
January 20
January 20

New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell agrees to six-year contract, source says

New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell received a six-year contract from the team, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. The Lions announced Campbell's hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms. The team will introduce him with a news conference on Thursday. "With more than 20 years of experience as both a coach and player in the National Football League, Dan knows the rigors of professional football and what it takes to be successful. He will help promote the culture we want to establish across our organization, while also bringing with him high energy, a respect for the game and an identity with which everyone can align themselves," Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. Campbell, the New Orleans Saints' assistant head coach/tight ends coach, replaces Matt Patricia, who was fired in November after less than three seasons with the Lions and a 13-29-1 record. The Lions will now try to reset after finishing last in the NFC North the past three...
January 20
January 20

Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr. plan to rehab from ACL tears together

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are in similar spots. Both are rehabbing torn ACLs and are using each other as resources in the process. The former Giants teammates speak regularly, and they plan to get together to rehab and train this offseason. "Only thing I do know that I have planned for sure, I'm definitely going to link up with [Odell]," Barkley told ESPN during an interview he did while promoting Campbell's Chunky Million Meals Challenge, which is raising money to provide over 100 million meals to children. "Obviously Odell tore his knee a little too. I think we both need just being there. We're really good friends. Competing with each other and pushing each other will also be good too. That's the only thing I know for certain I will do. Everything else is up in the air." Barkley had surgery on his right knee Oct. 30 in Los Angeles. Beckham needed his left knee repaired Nov. 10 in...
January 20
January 20

Big bets come in on Conor McGregor for Dustin Poirier bout

A few big bets have already shown up on Conor McGregor, and his odds are on the move ahead of Saturday's UFC 257 main event that's expected to draw significant betting interest at sportsbooks. McGregor is a consensus -315 favorite over Dustin Poirier and is attracting the bulk of the action, including a pair of six-figure bets placed in recent days. On Tuesday, FanDuel reported taking a $188,800 bet on McGregor from a customer in New Jersey at -290 odds to win a net $65,103. On Friday, sportsbook operator PointsBet took a $100,000 bet on McGregor at -277 odds. Bookmakers say it's only the beginning. "Saturday is trending to be our biggest UFC event ever, surpassing UFC 246, when McGregor took out Donald Cerrone," Patrick Eichner, communications director for sportsbook PointsBet, told ESPN. In the fall, as the buzz about the matchup with Poirier grew, sportsbooks installed McGregor as a -180 favorite. By late December, when the fight was made...
January 20
January 19

UConn's Geno Auriemma passes Pat Summitt for 2nd on Division I women's basketball wins list

UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma got his 1,099th career victory Tuesday as the Huskies defeated Butler 103-35 in Storrs, Connecticut. It moved him past the late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who was 1,098-208 from 1974 to 2012, and into second place for wins in Division I women's basketball. Leading the victory list is Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, who has 1,105 wins. "I wish she was still with us coaching," Auriemma said of Summitt, the winner of eight NCAA titles. She died in 2016 from the effects of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. "And I wish I had to work a lot harder to catch her. I didn't think I would be coaching long enough to be in this position. That certainly wasn't my goal. There have been times when I have felt like it doesn't matter to me. "It still doesn't, whether I get to a certain number or don't. But having accomplished a milestone like this, it's more of an opportunity to reflect on almost four decades of coming here every day and doing the...
January 19
January 19

George Springer, Toronto Blue Jays agree to 6-year, $150M deal, sources say

Outfielder George Springer and the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a six-year, $150 million contract, sources confirmed to ESPN's Jeff Passan on Tuesday. Springer is headed to the Blue Jays' spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, for a physical. If all goes according to plan, Toronto will get the star it has been looking for all winter. The contract would be the largest given out by the Blue Jays in franchise history. Their only other contract that topped $100 million was a $126 million extension given to Vernon Wells in 2006. Springer, the spark plug for the Houston Astros' offense in the leadoff spot for the past four seasons, was one of the most coveted free agents on the market this offseason. He hit a team-high 14 home runs last season and added another four in the postseason, as the Astros lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series.  While several of his teammates struggled offensively this past season...
January 19
January 19

Atlanta Dream close to being sold; Kelly Loeffler to have no association with team, sources say

The Atlanta Dream are close to being sold, a WNBA spokesperson confirmed to ESPN. "As it relates to the Atlanta Dream, we understand a sale of the franchise is close to being finalized," the league said in a statement. "Once the sale negotiation is concluded, additional information will be provided." Sources told ESPN on Tuesday that up to five bidders have expressed interest in buying the team, with Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), currently a co-owner, expected to have no association with the franchise after the sale. The franchise has been at the center of turmoil since Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert objecting to the league's embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement during the 2020 season. Players around the league initially called on Loeffler to sell her share of the team (49%) but when she refused, they instead publicly endorsed her opponent in her senatorial race, the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Warnock defeated Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoff and will...
January 19
January 19

Caris LeVert says trade to Indiana Pacers 'could've possibly saved me' after mass found on kidney

New Indiana Pacers wing Caris LeVert roamed the practice facility sidelines on Tuesday for the first time as a member of the squad -- and after a recent MRI revealed a small mass on his left kidney. Though LeVert is out indefinitely, he sees the situation as something bigger than basketball. "I didn't have any symptoms. I was playing in games. I hadn't missed any games this season yet. I was feeling 100 percent healthy," LeVert said. "So, in a way, this trade definitely showed and revealed what was going on in my body; so I'm definitely looking at it from that side and definitely humbled to know that this trade could've possibly saved me in the long run." LeVert, 26, was included in the four-team deal that also sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and former Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets. Before it was finalized Saturday, however, a team physical and medical tests revealed the mass. "To me, the most...
January 19
January 19

New York Mets' Sandy Alderson says Jared Porter hiring 'a wake-up call,' vows to do better in vetting process

New York Mets president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson said Tuesday he will look for ways to ensure the team does a better job vetting potential hires in the wake of the firing of general manager Jared Porter for explicit, unsolicited texts and images he sent to a reporter in 2016. The text history between Porter, then with the  Chicago Cubs, and the female foreign correspondent, was reported by ESPN's Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan on Monday night. The Mets fired Porter on Tuesday morning after just a month on the job. "This is a wake-up call," Alderson said later Tuesday. "It clearly suggests something like this can be out there in connection with almost anyone. We have do to our best to make sure we know about that information, but there are limits to what we can actually get. "I don't think this reflects a fundamental flaw in the process. I think this is a very unfortunate circumstance that we wish we knew about, but didn't." ESPN's report...
January 19
January 19

NHL pulling faulty pucks with tracking tech

The NHL announced that it will stop using pucks with imbedded tracking technology for the foreseeable future due to complaints about their performance during the start of the 2021 season. The change is effective beginning with Tuesday night's games. The NHL reviewed the first supply of tracking pucks that it has been using and determined that they did not receive "the same precise finishing treatments during the offseason manufacturing process as were used during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs." One NHL player told ESPN on Tuesday that the pucks were "terrible" and "don't slide," adding that players had voiced their displeasure with them. The league said a new supply of the pucks will be available soon and will "undergo appropriate quality control testing" before being used in games. In the interim, the league said it will use official game pucks from the 2019-20 season. It will also continue to use optical player tracking, which is the other half of the two-pronged tracking...
January 19
January 19

Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton dies at 75

Don Sutton, the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander who won over 300 games in his Hall of Fame career, died Monday night, his son Daron  announced on social media. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, said Don Sutton died of cancer at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 75. "Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night," Daron Sutton wrote on Twitter. "He worked as hard as anyone I've ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect...and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful. Rest In Peace." Sutton's career began and ended with the Dodgers, with whom he spent 16 of his 23 seasons -- spanning from 1966 to 1980 and returning for a final tour in 1988. He was a four-time All-Star with a career 324-256 mark and a 3.26 ERA. His 324 wins rank 14th in major league history. "Today we lost a great ballplayer, a great broadcaster and, most importantly, a great person,"...
January 19
January 19

Tiger Woods has procedure to alleviate nerve pain in lower back, to miss 2 events

Tiger Woods has undergone a microdiscectomy to alleviate nerve pain in his lower back and will not compete in next week's Farmers Insurance Open or the Genesis Invitational next month. An announcement came via Woods' Twitter account that he had "recently undergone a microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching his nerve after experiencing discomfort following the PNC Championship." The statement did not say when the procedure took place, but Woods' friend Notah Begay said Tuesday night on Golf Channel that the golfer was hitting balls earlier. "I just exchanged text messages with him 15 minutes ago,'' Begay said. "And he was hitting golf balls.'' Begay went on to say that Woods wasn't "ripping drivers'' but that he was taking easy swings. Rory McIlroy, speaking Wednesday at a news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship, said that the procedure took place Dec. 23. "Obviously pretty close with him. So yeah, I think in his...
January 19
January 19

Sarah Thomas to become first woman to officiate at Super Bowl

Sarah Thomas will next month become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl, the NFL announced Tuesday. Thomas will serve as a down judge on referee Carl Cheffers' crew at Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida. Thomas joined the NFL in 2015 as its first female on-field official. The league assembles its Super Bowl officiating crew based on eligibility -- a minimum of five years of experience is required -- as well as in-season performance. She has worked a total of four postseason games in six seasons with the league. In a statement, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said: "Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official. Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor." Cheffers will be working his second Super Bowl in five seasons, having also served as crew chief for Super Bowl LI. Four other members of the...
January 19
January 19

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes clears steps, still in protocol, sources say

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains in the NFL's concussion protocol, and it's too early to say that he definitely will play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Mahomes cleared certain steps Monday, "some big steps," sources told Schefter, but the reigning Super Bowl MVP still must go through other steps to clear the concussion protocol in the coming days. There is hope and optimism, considering he is expected to practice Wednesday, a source told Schefter. Players are allowed to practice in a limited fashion while still in the protocol, which includes five steps players need to clear before being removed. Additionally, Mahomes is dealing with a toe issue. However, coach Andy Reid said Monday that he doesn't think that injury will be a problem. "Yeah, I think he'll be OK there for right now with the toe part," Reid told reporters Monday. "I think we'll be all right there." Reid said...
January 19
January 19

Kyrie Irving rejoins Brooklyn Nets, says he 'just needed a pause'

NEW YORK -- Kyrie Irving rejoined the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday after two weeks away from the team. "I'm back, I'm happy to be back," Irving told reporters. "And we got some great pieces and we just move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing. Just needed a pause." Irving practiced with the team Tuesday and coach Steve Nash said that he "expects" Irving will play on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving had missed the team's past seven games -- five for personal reasons and two while conditioning. Irving said that he "had a lot of family and personal stuff going on. So, just want to leave it at that." During the time away for personal reasons, the league fined Irving $50,000 for violating health and safety protocols and attending what appeared to be a family birthday party. He also lost more than $800,000 in salary for the two games he missed while in quarantine. Irving declined to answer whether or not he...
January 19
January 19

Adam Silver says NBA is discussing COVID-19 vaccination of players as PSA

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league has discussed having players receive COVID-19 vaccines to educate and influence the public regarding their safety and effectiveness. "There have been discussions. It's something we're particularly focused on," Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico. "In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons. ... If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated." Some public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health, have said that leaders with large platforms such as ministers, entertainers and athletes can set an example by getting the vaccine. "Several public health...
January 19
January 19

NBA talking about using COVID-19 vaccination of players as PSA

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday the league has discussed having players receive COVID-19 vaccines to educate and influence the public regarding their safety and effectiveness. "There have been discussions. It's something we're particularly focused on," Silver said at a virtual conference hosted by Sportico. "In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons. ... If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated." Some public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health, have said that leaders with large platforms such as ministers, entertainers and athletes can set an example by getting the vaccine. "Several public health...
January 19
January 19

Delonte West working at drug rehab center he attended, source says

Delonte West is now working at the drug rehabilitation center in Florida that he attended after  Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban helped the former homeless NBA player get his life back on track, a source confirmed to ESPN. West was treated at the Rebound therapy center in Florida. Cuban picked West up at a gas station last September after pictures circulated of him panhandling at an intersection in Dallas. Cuban also helped West to reconnect with his mother. Cuban is among several people involved in the NBA who in recent years have been attempting to help West, who publicly discussed his diagnosis of bipolar disorder during his NBA career.  West, 37, averaged 9.7 points and 3.6 assists per game over eight NBA seasons while playing for Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Mavericks. He last played in 2011-12, with Dallas. The news of West's employment was first reported by The Athletic. ESPN's Tim MacMahon contributed to...
January 19
January 19

New York Mets GM Jared Porter fired for sending explicit texts, images to reporter

The New York Mets fired general manager Jared Porter on Tuesday, a day after ESPN reported that he sent explicit unsolicited texts and images to a female reporter in 2016 while working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office. Owner Steve Cohen tweeted Tuesday that the Mets "have terminated Jared Porter this morning," less than 12 hours after ESPN's Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported that Porter sent graphic uninvited text messages and images to the reporter. "In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it," Cohen tweeted. "There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior." Mets president Sandy Alderson, who hired Porter last month, confirmed Porter's firing in a statement. "The New York Mets have terminated General Manager Jared Porter, effective immediately," Alderson said. "Jared's actions, as reflected by events disclosed last night, failed to meet the Mets' standards for professionalism and personal...
January 19
January 19

New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas likely to have multiple surgeries on ankle

METAIRIE, La. --  New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas is likely to have surgeries on the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle that plagued him all season, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday. The expectation is that Thomas would be recovered in time for summer OTAs under a normal offseason calendar, the source said. Thomas first suffered the high ankle injury in the final minutes of Week 1 and missed a total of nine games in the regular season. But the source said he knew it was likely Drew Brees' last season and didn't want to miss out on trying to win a Super Bowl with him. Thomas often wouldn't practice all week, yet would still play in games, at much less than 100% and with pain medication, the source said. The coaches told him that, even as injured as he was, they were much better off with him than without him. Thomas went on injured reserve from Weeks 15-17 to try to get as healthy as he could for the playoffs. He...
January 19
January 19

Sources: Washington Football Team expected to make Marty Hurney GM

The Washington Football Team is expected to make Marty Hurney its new general manager, sources confirmed to ESPN. The move, which was first reported by the NFL Network, provides another familiar face for coach Ron Rivera. Hurney spent parts of five seasons with Rivera in Carolina, having been fired twice. He hired Rivera in 2011 and spent one more year there before being ousted. He returned in 2017 as an interim general manager and remained in that job until he was fired in December, in part because his "old-school" methods clashed with owner David Tepper's desire to find someone more aligned with an analytics- and data-driven approach. Rivera will still have power on the football side in the organization, having been hired to provide a "coach-centric" model, according to owner Dan Snyder. But Washington wanted to add a person to its front office to take some of the administrative burden off Rivera. Hurney handled the salary cap in Carolina, among other duties....
January 19
January 19

Portland Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum to miss at least four weeks with small fracture in left foot

Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum will miss at least the next four weeks after additional testing revealed a small fracture in his left foot and a midfoot sprain, the team announced Monday night. McCollum left the Blazers' 112-106 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at halftime with what the team called a left foot sprain. It was unclear when he was hurt, but it appeared the Hawks' Clint Capela stepped on McCollum's foot following a layup in the opening quarter. After that game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said X-rays ruled out a more serious injury. Earlier Monday, Stotts had told reporters that McCollum's sprained left foot would be reevaluated in a week. But the Blazers, in a statement late Monday night, said further imaging showed "a small hairline fracture to the lateral cuneiform" in McCollum's left foot. The team said McCollum will wear a walking boot and be reevaluated in four weeks. McCollum is averaging a career-best 26.7...
January 19
January 19

Portland Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum to miss at least 4 weeks with small fracture in left foot

Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum will miss at least the next four weeks after additional testing revealed a small fracture in his left foot and a midfoot sprain, the team announced Monday night. McCollum left the Blazers' 112-106 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at halftime with what the team called a left foot sprain. It was unclear when he was hurt, but it appeared the Hawks' Clint Capela stepped on McCollum's foot following a layup in the opening quarter. After that game, coach Terry Stotts said X-rays ruled out a more serious injury. Earlier Monday, Stotts had told reporters that McCollum's sprained left foot would be reevaluated in a week But the Blazers, in a statement late Monday night, said further imaging showed "a small hairline fracture to the lateral cuneiform" in McCollum's left foot. The team said McCollum will wear a walking boot and be reevaluated in four weeks. McCollum is averaging a career-best 26.7 points...
January 19
January 19

New York Mets GM Jared Porter acknowledges sending explicit images to female reporter when he worked for Chicago Cubs

New York Mets general manager Jared Porter sent explicit, unsolicited texts and images to a female reporter in 2016, culminating with a picture of an erect, naked penis, according to a copy of the text history obtained by ESPN. The woman, a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball, said at one point she ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the final lewd photo. The text relationship started casually before Porter, then the  Chicago Cubs director of professional scouting, began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him. And the texts show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area. Porter continued texting her anyway, sending dozens of messages despite the lack of a response. On Aug. 11, 2016, a day after asking her to meet him at a hotel in Los Angeles, Porter sent the woman 17...
January 19
January 19

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden cites maturity as reason he, Kevin Durant off to historic start

NEW YORK --  Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden are jelling at an impressive pace -- and the history books back that up. On Monday night, they became the first duo to score 30-plus points in each of their first two games with a franchise as the Nets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 125-123. Durant had 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, while Harden put up 34 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists.  That came on the heels of Harden's 30-point triple-double performance on Saturday against the visiting  Orlando Magic in his Nets debut, a game in which Durant scored 42.  Since Harden's arrival in Brooklyn, Nets coaches and management have repeatedly said they would lean on the previous chemistry that Harden and Durant had built during their tenure with the  Oklahoma City Thunder. After all, Harden hasn't yet had a single practice session with Brooklyn.  Harden said their maturity has further aided their on-court...
January 19
January 19

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden cites maturity as reason for early chemistry with Kevin Durant

NEW YORK --  Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant and James Harden are jelling at an impressive pace -- and the history books back that up. On Monday, they became the first duo to score 30-plus points in each of their first two games with a franchise as the Nets defeated the Bucks 125-123. Durant had 30 points, 9 rebounds and six assists in Monday's game, while Harden put up 34 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists.  That comes on the heels of Harden's 30-point triple-double performance on Saturday night in his Nets debut against the Magic. Since Harden's arrival in Brooklyn, Nets coaches and management have repeatedly said that they would lean on the previous chemistry that Harden and Durant had built during their tenure in Oklahoma City together. After all, Harden hasn't yet had a single practice session with the team. Harden said that their maturity has further aided their on-court synergy. "We were young in Oklahoma City," Harden said. "We are grown men now....
January 19
January 19

Victor Oladipo debuts for Houston Rockets, says 'better days are ahead' for team

Guard Victor Oladipo exuded optimism about the Houston Rockets after his franchise debut, presenting quite a contrast to James Harden's final comments as a member of the franchise. "I know that better days are ahead for the Houston Rockets, and I'm looking forward to being a part of those special days," Oladipo said after his 32-point, nine-assist performance in a 125-120 road loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. It was the second-highest-scoring debut in franchise history, behind Harden's 37-point performance in the 2012-13 season opener. Oladipo, a two-time All-Star for the Indiana Pacers whose career was interrupted by a ruptured quadriceps tendon suffered in January 2019, was acquired by the Rockets in last week's four-team blockbuster trade that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. Harden was aware that a deal was likely near when he declared that the Rockets "just aren't good enough" and could not be "fixed"...
January 19
January 18

NY Mets GM acknowledges sending unsolicited, explicit images while working for Cubs

New York Mets general manager Jared Porter sent explicit, unsolicited texts and images to a female reporter in 2016, culminating with a picture of an erect, naked penis, according to a copy of the text history obtained by ESPN. The woman, a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball, said at one point she ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent the final lewd photo. The text relationship started casually before Porter, then the Chicago Cubs director of professional scouting, began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him. And the texts show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area. Porter continued texting her anyway, sending dozens of messages despite the lack of a response. On Aug. 11, 2016, a day after asking her to meet him at a hotel in Los Angeles, Porter sent the woman 17 pictures....
January 18

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