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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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