All posts by phnseo

Roger Federer out of Miami Open, will train to ‘work his way back’

Roger Federer is withdrawing from this month’s Miami Open so he can spend extra time preparing to “work his way back out on tour,” his agent told The Associated Press on Monday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not competed in more than a year after having two operations on his right knee during last campaign.

Federer, who turns 40 in August, is booked to make his return to the tour next week in a hard-court tournament at Doha, Qatar. He posted a photo of himself on Twitter this past Friday with the caption: “The countdown to Doha begins.”

That will be his first event since he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in February 2020.

As of now, he also is slated to participate in the hard-court tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that starts March 14.

Federer also had been on the entry list for the Masters 1000 stop in Miami, where play begins on March 24.

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But his agent, Tony Godsick, wrote Monday in an email to the AP that Federer will not play there.

“After Doha and maybe Dubai, (Federer) will go back and do a training block to continue to slowly work his way back out on tour,” Godsick wrote.

Miami Open tournament director James Blake said he hopes Federer will return in 2021 to an event he has won four times, including two years ago.

“We certainly would have loved Roger to return to Miami to defend his title. However, as a former player, I understand that you need to tailor your travel and playing schedule to properly work your way back to 100 percent fitness when coming off an injury,” Blake said. “Roger is an incredible ambassador for the sport, so the longer he is able to play on tour, the better it is for all of tennis.”

Federer beat John Isner 6-1, 6-4 in the final to win the Miami Open in 2019, the last time it was held. The tournament was one of dozens that were called off last year when the professional tennis tours went on hiatus for several months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That was Federer’s fourth title at the hard-court event, following trophies he collected there in 2005, 2006 and 2017.

Federer is currently No. 5 in the ATP rankings. He has spent 310 weeks total at No. 1, an ATP record tied by Novak Djokovic on Monday. Federer’s tally of 103 tour-level titles is the second most in the professional era of men’s tennis, trailing only Jimmy Connors, who won 109.

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J.J. Watt agrees to two-year contract with Arizona Cardinals

Free-agent pass-rusher J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the team revealed Monday.

Terms were not disclosed, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the deal is worth $31 million and includes $23 million guaranteed.

“I’m excited to get started,” Watt said on the tarmac after the plane landed. “Very excited to get started, get to work, get to know the people of Arizona.”

Watt, 31, was released by the Houston Texans, who granted his request on Feb. 12, ending his 10-year run with the franchise.

Four days later, Watt’s former Texans teammate and current Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins posted a photo of himself and Watt photoshopped in a Cardinals uniform on Instagram with the caption: “Let’s finish what we started…” Hopkins reacted to Monday’s news by tweeting: “Life is good in Arizona!”

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Watt will reunite with Vance Joseph, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, who was the Texans’ defensive backs coach during Watt’s first three campaigns in Houston.

In Arizona, Watt will be paired with fellow pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks since he was drafted in the first round in 2012 with 97. Second during that span is Watt with 95.5.

Watt’s addition meant minimal variations to the Cardinals’ odds for the 2021 season from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Their odds to win the Super Bowl stays 40-1 and to win the NFC remain 20-1. Arizona’s odds to win the NFC West moved from 7-1 to 6-1, still the longest odds of the four teams in the division.

“The one thing I can promise you is I’m going to work my ass off every single day to make you proud,” Watt said. “Very proud to be a part of the ‘Bird Gang’ and the ‘Red Sea.'”

In 2020, Watt ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He concluded the season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown. He has been plagued with injuries recently, having played 16 games in a season only twice since 2015.

After the Texans drafted Watt with the No. 11 pick in 2011, he became the face of the franchise, winning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2012 to ’15. Watt is one of three players to collect that award three times. A five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro, Watt was by far the most productive pass-rusher in Texans history with 101 career sacks.

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Canelo Alvarez dominates Avni Yildirim by third-round TKO as corner throws in towel

From the opening bell, Canelo Alvarez appeared destined for a knockout win versus mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim. Alvarez didn’t have to wait long for it.

Yildirim’s corner threw in the towel at the end of the third round, and Alvarez picked up a TKO victory to retain his WBC and WBA super middleweight belts Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

After the fight, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn confirmed that Alvarez will face WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders in a unification bout on May 8 at a location to be determined.

“I wanted to have a great fight here,” Alvarez, speaking through an interpreter, told the crowd, which was capped at 15,000 because of COVID-19 restrictions. “I needed to knock [him] out, and that’s what I did. That’s what I had to do.” Alvarez (55-1-2) was the lone fighter in the ring pressing the action in the first three rounds. Early in the fight, Alvarez threw looping hooks around Yildirim’s high guard and pelted the Turkish fighter’s body.

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And even in a fight against someone of Yildirim’s caliber, Alvarez displayed the ring acumen that has cemented his status as one of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters. Instead of a hook, Alvarez floored Yildirim with a straight right hand with more than two minutes to go in the third round.

Yildirim (21-3, 12 KOs) survived the round, and even while he sat in his corner before the fourth round, he appeared to be game for at least three more minutes.

Trainer Joel Diaz pleaded with Yildirim to show more after a lackluster three rounds.

“I’m going to give you one more f—ing round,” Diaz told Yildirim in the corner during the DAZN telecast.

However, even that was too much to ask. Another member of Yildirim’s corner went up to the apron and asked for the fight to be stopped, a request that was obliged.

Alvarez picked up his second triumph in three months and retained two of the four belts in the 168-pound division. He won’t have to wait much longer to have a shot at the third title. The fight versus Saunders gives Alvarez a chance to move one step closer to being an undisputed champion and bolster his case to be the greatest Mexican fighter of all time.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that discussion with the team regarding his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is planned to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this season. The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary-cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

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Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had stated late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a regular football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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Deshaun Watson met with Houston Texans coach David Culley, still wants to be traded

Quarterback Deshaun Watson met with new Houston Texans coach David Culley last Friday, according to sources, and informed Culley that he has no plan of suiting up for the team again.

Upset over the way the organization has operated in recent years, Watson has asked the Texans to trade him and has had very little contact with the team since the season ended.

The conversation with Culley is believed to have been the first between the two. Culley said in his introductory news conference that he expected Watson to be on the team in 2021.

But according to the sources, Watson’s message to Culley in Friday’s meeting was that nothing has changed on his end and he still would like to be traded. So far, the Texans have told interested teams that they don’t intend to trade Watson, who just last summer signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that runs through 2025.

Trading Watson would cost the Texans $21.6 million in dead money against this year’s salary cap — a significant hit since his cap number if he’s on the team is just $15.94 million.

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Any team acquiring the young superstar would get a tremendous bargain in 2021, as Watson is arranged to earn just $10.54 million in salary this year before that number jumps to $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023 and $32 million each in 2024 and 2025.

If the Texans choose not to trade Watson, he could opt not to report to mandatory team activities or training camp, but at a cost.

Houston can fine Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp and can fine him $50,000 per day for each day of training camp missed, plus one week’s salary — $620,000 — for each preseason game missed. In the unlikely scenario that Watson chooses to retire, the Texans can collect $21.6 million.

Watson’s trade request came after he was reportedly unhappy with the process used by the team to hire new general manager Nick Caserio in early January.

Watson set career highs in the 2020 season in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He also threw a career-low seven interceptions. His 33 touchdowns and 4,823 passing yards were single-season franchise records.

He is the NFL’s career leader in completion percentage at 67.8%, ahead of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In 2020, Watson became just the 11th player in NFL history to complete at least 70% of his passes in a season.

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Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman ‘nowhere close’ to retirement after 2020 opt-out

Back with the Washington Nationals after sitting out last campaign because of COVID-19 concerns, Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday the time away made him realize he is nowhere close to being ready to retire at age 36.

“I missed the game a lot,” Zimmerman said during a video call. “I missed what it takes to prepare every day. As you get older, there’s more and more you have to do to get ready, but I missed all of that, as well.”

The two-time NL All-Star was one of the first players to opt out in 2020. The father of a newborn son, and the son of a mother with multiple sclerosis, Zimmerman decided the safest course of action would be to not play amid a pandemic. There were other factors he contemplated, including whether he would need to change his pregame and postgame routines.

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“Was it really worth it for me to risk injury to myself, the health of my family, at the time, for a season that was 60 games? Who knows if people really thought it was going to make it through? If people thought it was going to count as a real season?” Zimmerman stated.

“I don’t really second-guess or wish I would’ve played.”

Arriving in Florida this time around — he brought his wife and three children — raised new questions.

“You just didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to be the weird guy wearing a mask in the grocery store,” Zimmerman said. “… I think a lot more people are more aware now — obviously of themselves, but I think of other people, as well.

Hopefully if anything positive can come out of this, maybe we’ll start caring about other people more, which would be nice. But as far as being down here now for two weeks, I feel a lot more confident than I did flying down here.”

Zimmerman, the first amateur draft pick in Nationals history in 2005, is expected to be the backup to free-agent addition Josh Bell at first base.

“He’s faced all the guys I’m going to face this year,” Bell said. “He knows all the umpires, he knows all the zones, he knows the division more than anyone else on this squad.”

Washington’s first exhibition match is Sunday versus St. Louis, and Zimmerman hopes to appear in more Grapefruit League games, but fewer innings. “He’s the face of this organization — and he will be for a long time. He really will be,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “To have him back here, have him in that clubhouse, talking to the young players, it’s awesome.”

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Butler leads Heat to 4th straight win, 116-108 over Raptors

Jimmy Butler went to the foul line in the final moments of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, talking and smiling the entire time.

There’s a lot for Butler and the Miami Heat to be happy about right now.

Butler scored 27 points, 14 of them in the final quarter, and the Heat won their fourth straight game by topping the Toronto Raptors 116-108 on Wednesday night.

Butler also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Heat, plus a season-high three 3-pointers — two of them in the final minutes. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, Duncan Robinson added 17 points and Goran Dragic scored 15 in his return from an ankle injury.

“We’re just out there having fun,” Adebayo said.

It was the eighth win in the last 11 matches for the Heat, who started the season 7-14.

“Everybody that played really contributed at different points in the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then Jimmy’s game was the quintessential, all-around winning basketball game.”

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Kyle Lowry, returning from a thumb injury, scored 24 for Toronto. 

Fred VanVleet also had 24 for the Raptors, Norman Powell scored 17 and OG Anunoby had 14 for Toronto.

“I thought we outplayed them,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse stated. “I thought we outplayed them in almost all facets. … The ball just bounced their way a lot.”

Powell made a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to get Toronto within 100-98 before Butler had the game’s next three plays of any significance — a 3-pointer, a steal on the ensuing possession and a layup to push Miami’s lead back to seven.

Another 3-pointer by Butler with 3:23 left restored the seven-point edge, and Miami kept the lead the rest of the way.

“He’s our leader and we need him,” Dragic said.

Lowry scored 12 of Toronto’s first 20 points in the opening 6½ minutes, and he made a 31-footer over Miami’s zone midway through the second quarter to tie it at 48.

The next 2:51 belonged to Miami.

The Heat went on a 17-2 spurt in that time, six players scoring during the run, to open a 15-point lead and took a 66-56 edge into halftime.

Toronto scored the first 10 points of the second half, erasing the deficit, but a 17-6 answer by the Heat helped them take a 92-85 lead into the fourth. And the Raptors never led at any point in the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“It was fun to be back out there with the fellas,” said Lowry, who acknowledged that his thumb was hurting at times after contact Wednesday. “We gave it a tough fight, but we didn’t pull it out at the end.”

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Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz has back surgery, eyes healthy 2021 season

Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is starting his offseason with a procedure.

Schwartz is undergoing surgery Wednesday after a back injury stripped him of 10 regular-season matches and the entire postseason. The ailment is the only one to hold Schwartz out of any games over his nine-year NFL career, offering an indication as to its severity.

In a social media post Wednesday before the operation, Schwartz said he anticipates returning for 2021, which could provide the first important step toward the Chiefs solving the offensive line woes that played a significant factor in the Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.

“I was hoping to recover enough to get back for the playoffs/Super Bowl, but that didn’t happen,” Schwartz wrote in his Tweet. “It’s time to address the issue. The recovery process isn’t too long, which is nice. Looking forward to a healthy 2021!” Schwartz, 31, has one year left on a contract that will pay him nearly $10 million.

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When healthy, he has been one of the game’s best right tackles — and before this season was one of its most reliable. In 2019, Schwartz did not allow a sack all season, according to Pro Football Focus.

He missed a snap during the 2019 season for the first time in his career but returned in the same game.

He attempted to play through this back injury in the 2020 season, starting in Buffalo before removing himself from the Week 6 contest. He never returned over the remainder of the season but put off surgery in hopes of a potential Super Bowl appearance.

The Chiefs could have used him. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks and scrambled 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage in an effort to buy more time. The Chiefs were on their third-string right tackle in the game.

Mike Remmers had filled in for Schwartz most of the season — and done so admirably — but when Eric Fisher injured his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game, Remmers moved to left tackle and guard Andrew Wylie kicked out to right tackle.

Both players struggled at their new spots versus the Buccaneers. Schwartz joined the Chiefs in 2016 in free agency, signing a five-year contract that made him one of the most-compensated right tackles at the time. He spent his first four seasons in Cleveland.

The Chiefs have won the AFC West division title every season Schwartz has been on the team.

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Curry leads Warriors past Knicks as fans return to MSG

Stephen Curry welcomed fans back to Madison Square Garden with another big night in the building, scoring 37 points and leading the Golden State Warriors to a 114-106 triumph over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Curry, who owns a 50-point game and a triple-double in the arena, returned from a one-game absence to make the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:38 left. He scored 26 points in the second half and added six rebounds and six assists.

This performance came in the first NBA game at Madison Square Garden with fans since the Knicks defeated Detroit last March 8, days before the season was suspended as the coronavirus was about to start pummeling New York.

Julius Randle went from the high of his first All-Star selection to the low of getting thrown out in the final seconds after picking up his second technical foul. He had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo permitted New York’s arenas to open to fans at 10% capacity, which meant roughly 2,000 at Madison Square Garden.

They greeted the Knicks with loud cheers early on, but there were the familiar noticeable groans after a turnover during a dismal stretch of the third quarter, when the Warriors opened a 13-point lead.

New York recovered from that and had the game tied at 97 before Curry’s 3-pointer. He converted a three-point play about two minutes later to make it 105-100 and helped finish it off at the foul line.

Kelly Oubre Jr. added 19 points and Andrew Wiggins had 16 for the Warriors, who got centers James Wiseman and Kevon Looney back from injuries and won for the first time after two rough losses on their four-game trip.

They blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost by four in Orlando, then fell 102-100 in Charlotte when Draymond Green got two technical fouls and was ejected in the closing seconds before Terry Rozier made a jumper at the buzzer.

Randle was the first Knicks player selected to the All-Star Game since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018. Randle addressed the crowd before the game, but the start of his remarks were drowned out by fans chanting “MVP! MVP!”

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Dez Bryant plans to play two more years, but it won’t be with Ravens after his six-game stint in Baltimore

Dez Bryant wants to play two more seasons, but it apparently won’t be with the Baltimore Ravens.

In a series of tweets Tuesday night, the wide receiver explained why he never broke out of a limited role with the Ravens last season.

“I realized quick Baltimore wasn’t the place for me,” Bryant wrote. “No bad blood. That’s their way of doing things so you gotta respect it.”

Bryant, 32, returned after sitting out two campaigns and totaled six catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns in six matches with Baltimore.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant lacked explosiveness with Baltimore and never got consistently open.

He ended as the No. 4 wide receiver for the league’s worst passing attack, ranking below Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV on the depth chart. Bryant managed a total of 129 snaps, or 21.5 per game.

Responding to a fan’s comment that he should’ve been given a better opportunity, Bryant wrote: “It’s hard. I’ve been off almost three years. I flashed my abilities to the point [Ravens coach John] Harbaugh asked was I ready to play because he thought I was ready …You have to learn the playbook … chemistry with the QB have to be on point.”

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Asked if his chemistry was off with quarterback Lamar Jackson, Bryant wrote: “Our chemistry was good on and off the field. But it was guys there before me who understood the offensive concepts better than me. You can’t jeopardize that.”

Bryant became the second Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Josh Gordon was the first.

The Ravens first worked out Bryant in August, but he left without a contract because he was told to improve his conditioning.

Baltimore brought him back and signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 28.

After being elevated off the practice squad twice, Bryant was signed to the 53-man roster on Nov. 28. He never eclipsed more than 28 yards receiving in a game and was held without a catch in the Ravens’ two playoff games.

“I wasn’t bothered about playing time,” Bryant wrote. “I enjoyed myself. I met some great teammates, guys I feel like I will be keeping in contact for a long time. I’m thankful for the opportunity Baltimore gave me.”

The Ravens weren’t expected to bring back Bryant. Upgrading the wide receiver group in free agency and the draft was considered one of Baltimore’s priorities.

Bryant, the No. 24 overall pick of the 2010 draft, played eight campaigns for the Cowboys. In 113 games, he caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards and a Cowboys-record 73 touchdown catches before his release after the 2017 season. When asked if he plans to play in 2021, Bryant wrote: “I plan on playing two more years and that’s it for me.”

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