All posts by phnseo

Paul has triple-double, NBA-leading Suns top Clippers 106-89

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have turned into some of the league’s best closers. It’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 victories before any other team in the NBA this season.

Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 when leading after three quarters by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.

As usual, the 36-year-old Paul was the maestro making big plays in the final minutes to close out the Clippers. He hit a crucial 3-pointer and had five assists in the fourth quarter.

“Some teams’ biggest issue is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch,” Paul said. “I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are.”

The Suns moved a game ahead of Golden State for the best record in the league. They’ve won three consecutive and four of five. That’s despite several players missing considerable time this season, including All-Star guard Devin Booker.

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“I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We have unreal guard play, which really helps.”

Paul continues to look 26 years old instead of 36, doing a little of everything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite.

His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

Cam Johnson added a career-high 24 points, and Jalen Smith — the second-year forward whose playing time has drastically increased recently because of the Suns’ COVID-19 issues — had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

“We’re having a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”

Those performances helped offset a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Williams stated center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee have all cleared the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but were held out of the game as they work their way back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in the protocol.

The Clippers dropped below .500 at 19-20 despite a season-high 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers were missing guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, along with center Ivica Zubac, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We scraped and competed,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game.”

The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers cut it to 73-66 in the next few minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead into the final quarter.

The Clippers pulled to 79-76 with 8:36 left when Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the next six points and slowly pulled away.

The Suns jumped out to a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.

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Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to interview with Jacksonville Jaguars

Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett stated he plans to interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars about their head-coaching vacancy next week.

The Packers (13-3) have clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed and lone first-round playoff bye, so they won’t be playing when the postseason starts next week.

“I owed it to this organization, all these players, we wanted to wrap up that No. 1 seed,” Hackett said Thursday.

“That was so important to do. And it’s absolutely an honor to be even considered for something like this. So we’re going to do it during the bye because we wrapped up that No. 1 seed. We’re really excited about that opportunity. I mean, it’s a dream for any football coach to even have an opportunity to potentially become a head coach.”

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Hackett, 42, was the Jaguars’ quarterbacks coach from 2015 to 2016 and offensive coordinator from 2016 to 2018 before getting fired in the middle of the 2018 season. The Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.

The Jaguars (2-14) fired Urban Meyer on Dec. 16 and have been searching for his successor while interim coach Darrell Bevell finishes up the season.

They interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday and former Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is also anticipated to interview for the Jaguars head coaching job as early as Friday, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Jaguars requested permission to talk with Leftwich during the regular season window.

Jacksonville has also requested interviews with Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving shows early rust, finishes with 22 in debut vs. Pacers

Kyrie Irving provided the emotional lift the Brooklyn Nets were hoping to see in his season debut Wednesday night in a 129-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Not only did Irving show flashes of his old form, posting 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes, he offered a reminder of just how dangerous the Nets can be when he shares the floor with Kevin Durant and James Harden.

With Irving hitting several crucial baskets down the stretch, the Nets erased what was a 19-point Pacers lead on their way to the victory.

After it was over, Irving admitted having some nerves in his return but said he was just happy to be on the floor after missing the first three months of the year.

“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season we got to start now.”

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Irving, who isn’t vaccinated against COVID-19, making him ineligible to play in home matches because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, wasn’t on the floor to start the season because the Nets decided before the season that they didn’t want to have a part-time player. However, after a COVID-19 outbreak decimated the Nets’ roster, the decision was made to let Irving to rejoin the team as a player who could participate only in road games.

Before getting up from the podium, Irvin smiled when asked if that meant getting vaccinated was still a possibility.

“Oh come on, man,” Irving said. “Don’t hang onto me.”

With Irving back on the court Wednesday night, the Nets’ offense looked dynamic at times again with so many All-Stars on the floor.

Durant, who scored a game-high 39 points, said it was “incredible” to have Irving back.

Irving showed a little early rust in the first quarter, going 0-for-3 from the field with two turnovers, but he settled in and started to find a rhythm.

Harden said he knows it’s going to take a little more time for the Nets to come together with Irving back in the fold, but the sense of belief Irving brought back to the floor was palpable.

“It’s special,” Harden said. “It felt like he’s been playing all season. He looked comfortable as usual, his pace, his rhythm. It looked like Kyrie.”

Several players and coaches echoed that sentiment after watching Irving go back to work. Irving’s next game will be next Monday in Portland, in a game that was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 23 but had to be postponed because the Nets were dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nets coach Steve Nash stated he is hopeful he can keep ramping up Irving’s minutes as the Nets look to maintain the momentum they found in the fourth quarter, when Irving had 10 points and helped the Nets outscore the Pacers 35-20.

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Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner hopes he plays Sunday, optimistic he stays with team next season

A week after acknowledging his unclear future with the Seahawks, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner struck a more hopeful tune Wednesday, saying he has “a lot of optimism” that he’ll be back in 2022 for an 11th season in Seattle.

Wagner stated he hasn’t given up on the chance of playing in the team’s season finale either, saying he’s going to get “as much treatment as I possibly can” on his sprained knee in the hopes of suiting up Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

“I’m going to take it one day at a time,” said Wagner, who hurt his knee on the opening play of the Seahawks’ blowout win last week over the Detroit Lions and didn’t return. “I have a lot of days before Sunday and we’re going to see what happens.”

Last week, Wagner answered in the affirmative when asked if he has wondered whether he’ll be back with the Seahawks next season given his huge cap number.

The Seahawks’ defensive captain and longest-tenured player (along with quarterback Russell Wilson) said there’s “obviously” going to be some changes on the heels of Seattle suffering double-digit losses for the first time since 2009 and added, “Whether or not I’m part of those changes, I don’t know.”

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On Wednesday, Wagner was asked if that insecurity has given him any more incentive to play Sunday.

“Not really, because in my mind I don’t feel like this is my last time,” he said. “I don’t feel like this is my last time putting on a Seahawks uniform. I don’t feel like this is my last time doing that. I understand there is a business side to this, but there is a lot of optimism on my end that I’ll be back. So I’m not worried about it. Obviously, I can’t control everything. I can only control my part. And my part on this is I feel like I love this city. I love this team. I love the Seahawks. So I always wanted to be a part of a franchise’s good times and bad times and every time. So this is a team that I would love to be able to be a part of for a very, very long time.

“So on my end, that’s where I’m at, that I’m a Seahawk until they tell me I’m not. So that’s my mindset. So I don’t see it as that was my last game or this next game could be my next game.”

Wagner, 31, serves as his own agent and negotiated his three-year, $54 million extension in 2019, then a record for off-the-ball linebackers in terms of annual average.

He’s arranged to count $20.35 million against the salary cap next season — second on the team to Wilson’s $37 million cap hit for 2022 — in what’s scheduled to be the final year of that deal. None of the $16.6 million Wagner could earn next season is guaranteed.

Wagner was asked what gives him optimism that he’ll be back next year.

“I would like to say that I’m a pretty good businessman and I would like to say I have a lot of respect here,” Wagner said. “So I’m just going to go into my businessman mentality and work some stuff out.”

Asked whether that means he’d be amenable to working out a different contract with Seattle, Wagner said with a smile: “I didn’t say that. … I said I’m a businessman. That’s all I said. Put my business cap on. I did not say I’m doing all that.”

Wagner was named to the Pro Bowl for an eight consecutive season last month, and he could be a first-team All-Pro for the seventh time.

Wagner is the Seahawks’ all-time tackles leader and broke his own franchise record for tackles in a season two weeks ago. His 170 tackles were leading the league until last week, when he was overtaken by the Atlanta Falcons’ Foyesade Oluokun (179).

Wagner hadn’t missed a snap this season until he was hurt versus Detroit when his foot slipped as he tried to plant on the wet turf at Lumen Field. He tried to return for the next snap following the injury timeout but had to miss at least one play per NFL rules. That’s when the Seahawks decided to take him to the locker room for evaluation and ultimately kept him there for the remainder of the game.

Coach Pete Carroll called it a sprained knee capsule and said the injury wouldn’t require surgery. He said the team is keeping its fingers crossed that he can play Sunday.

As expected, Wagner didn’t practice Wednesday.

“I just want to thank everybody that reached out,” he said. “I’m good. Ain’t got to worry about nothing. It’s not serious. I’m grateful that I do yoga. I just learned that I can do the splits if I want to.”

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Claressa Shields’ anticipated bout with Ema Kozin moved to Feb. 5

The middleweight fight between Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Williams as well as the latest middleweight title defense for Claressa Shields are on the move again.

Shields tweeted Monday that her fight versus Ema Kozin will now take place on Feb. 5, a week after it was supposed to on Jan. 29.

This comes after Great Britain’s boxing commission suspended the sport for the month of January. On Saturday, the British Boxing Board of Control stated it was suspending boxing in the country based on advice from the organization’s medical panel.

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“Following advice from the British Boxing Board of Control Medical Panel, Boxing tournaments under the jurisdiction of the BBBofC will be suspended for the month of January,” a statement from Robert W. Smith, the BBBofC’s general secretary, said.

“A further review by the Medical Panel and Stewards will take place prior to the planned recommencement of Boxing in February.”

The Eubank-Williams fight was the highest-profile card affected in the country.

It’s also the second time the card has been moved because of the main event.

An injury to Williams (23-3-1, 18 KO) pushed back the fight versus Eubank (31-2, 23 KO) from its initial date on Dec. 11 to Jan. 29, taking Shields’ defense of her IBF, WBA and WBC titles against Kozin (21-0-1, 11 KO) with it.

Now the United Kingdom debut for Shields (11-0, 2 KO) — and her return to boxing after two consecutive fights in mixed martial arts — will have to wait another week.

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield to have shoulder surgery ASAP, won’t play Sunday

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield won’t play Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals, so that he can move forward with surgery to repair the torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Mayfield’s surgery could happen as soon as this week. A league source told ESPN that Mayfield could be back in time to participate in OTAs, which typically take place in May or June around the league.

Mayfield, who has been playing with the shoulder injury since Week 2, admitted following Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that he was “pretty damn beat up.” Mayfield was sacked nine times in the game.

“I’ve continued to lay it out on the line when I haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys,” said Mayfield, who’s been playing with a harness on the shoulder to prevent it from popping out of place. “Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s in the best interest of me and my health.”

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The Browns (7-9) were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday when the Bengals clinched the AFC North Division title.

Mayfield, who quarterbacked Cleveland to its first playoff triumph in 26 years last season, has struggled since suffering the shoulder injury, ranking 26th in the league in QBR (35.2).

On Monday, he also became the first NFL quarterback since 2019 to throw 10 consecutive incompletions, and the first since 2017 to be sacked at least five times and have five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the same game.

On Tuesday, Stefanski acknowledged that the shoulder injury and harness had affected Mayfield’s performance this season, but had no regrets about not giving him an extended rest to recover at any point.

“Throughout this whole thing, we have tried to make the right decision based on all the information available to us,” Stefanski said. “Constant dialogue with our medical staff, with Baker, and throughout have really felt comfortable based on all that information that he was able to play.”

Mayfield is under contract with Cleveland through the 2022 season, with the Browns having already exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

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Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by revealing on Tuesday that he would compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No. 1, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram. Organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

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The organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be permitted to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia stated last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

Applicants who pass an initial stage are subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunization Register.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to “blackmail.”

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain, over the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield confirms he’ll have shoulder surgery

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed Monday night he will be having offseason surgery to repair the torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder, an injury he has played through since Week 2.

With the Browns already eliminated from playoff contention, Mayfield also didn’t rule out sitting for Cleveland’s final match on Sunday versus the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, but he said he would be conferring with his agent and family before making that decision.

“I’m an extremely competitive guy,” Mayfield said following Cleveland’s 26-14 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. “Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s in the best interest of me and my health.”

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In another rough outing, Mayfield was sacked nine times by the Steelers, who also intercepted him twice. At one point in the first half, Mayfield failed to complete a pass on 10 consecutive throws, the NFL’s longest incompletion streak since 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Mayfield also became the league’s first quarterback since 2017 to be sacked at least five times and have five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the same game.

“It’s not gonna always be pretty or smooth, but I’m a fighter,” he said. “If anybody ever questions how much I want it, just turn on this tape. It wasn’t pretty, but I kept going, kept swinging; that’s who I am, and that’s what I will continue to be.”

In addition to the torn labrum, Mayfield has battled left foot soreness and a right knee contusion this campaign. He also has had to wear a harness on the left shoulder to prevent it from popping out of place again.

“I’ve continued to lay it out on the line when I haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys,” Mayfield said. “Right now, I’m pretty damn beat up, to be honest with you. There’s no way around it. I gave it everything I had tonight.”

Mayfield is under contract with Cleveland through the 2022 season, after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract last offseason for $18.86 million.

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Spain, Poland win second consecutive matches at ATP Cup to remain perfect

Spain and Poland remained perfect at the ATP Cup, securing winning 2-0 leads in their games Monday for their second consecutive triumphs in the team event.

Roberto Bautista Agut clinched the match for Spain by beating Casper Ruud of Norway 6-4, 7-6 (4) after Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-3.

Bautista Agut improved to 9-2 in singles at the team event.

“Casper is playing unbelievable tennis, (he did) an unbelievable performance last year, and today I played very good,” Bautista Agut said in his on-court interview. “I returned very well, I made very few unforced errors and I played aggressively. “

Kamil Majchrzak gave Poland the early lead over Georgia with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Aleksandre Bakshi before Hubert Hurkacz clinched it ahead of the doubles with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1 win over Aleksandre Metreveli.

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“He [Metreveli] played well in the first set and things were not going my way. But I got better with each set and am happy to get the win,” Hurkacz said.

Spain and Poland later both won their doubles matches to make it 3-0 scorelines.

Poland can book a place in the semifinals if it defeats Argentina on Wednesday in its next group match.

Majchrzak needed only 53 minutes to beat Bakshi.

“I was trying to move [Bakshi] around and I think that was the key to the match,” said Majchrzak, who is coached by former world seventh-ranked Joakim Nystrom.

“He brings me a lot of confidence and a lot of calm in my tennis so I can feel that I am improving,” Majchrzak said of Nystrom on the ATP Tour’s website. “We are working on (developing an all-court game) but in a way that doesn’t interrupt my baseline game. We will take it from the practice to the matches but it takes time.”

Greece plays Argentina and Serbia takes on Chile in night matches Monday.

The four group winners in the 16-team tournament advance to the semifinals on Friday and Saturday, with the winners meeting in the final on Sunday.

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Green Bay Packers clinch No. 1 seed with one week to spare

Matt LaFleur has this regular-season thing all figured out.

Three years with LaFleur as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, three times they’ve had a first-round bye in the playoffs — including the No. 1 seed each of the past two campaigns.

But he has never done this before: His team wrapped it up with a match still left in the regular season.

Before the Packers (13-3) even stepped on Lambeau Field on Sunday night, they knew that a victory would make next week’s regular-season finale at Detroit meaningless in terms of their playoff position.

They had the Arizona Cardinals, who beat the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day, to thank for that.

They took care of the rest themselves with a 37-10 triumph over the Kirk Cousins-less Minnesota Vikings. Before LaFleur & Co. start to think about that, they’ll have to decide how to handle Week 18 versus the Lions. The past two years, they needed the final weekend of the season to secure their playoff seed.

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Now, LaFleur faces the age-old NFL debate: Play the starters in the finale to keep them sharp or give them the weekend off to preserve their health. After the Packers watch wild-card weekend, their first playoff game will be either Jan. 22 or 23 in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers’ fractured pinkie toe on his left foot no doubt will factor into LaFleur’s decision.

The toe didn’t seem to bother Rodgers on Sunday night even in the bitter cold. It was 11 degrees at kickoff and got colder as the night went on.

“This is a first game that my toe got through the game without any issues,” Rodgers said. “No pregame painkiller shot. I’m feeling good. I’m happy about it.

There was definitely a time a few weeks ago when I started to project out and think if we can get the 1-seed, it could be two-plus weeks of rest. I’m going to play next week, and I expect Davante to play and our guys to play. So, we’re looking forward to finishing off the season on a high note and then getting the bye.”

Rodgers, who stated this week that he likes it “the colder, the better,” threw for 211 yards in the first half, 118 of them to Davante Adams. It was Rodgers’ highest first-half total since Week 4 of last season and Adams’ highest in a first half since Week 4 of 2019.

The Packers’ halftime lead of 20-3 should have been even bigger but for three failed red zone trips (two field goals and a turnover on downs).

They even ran the ball well, with their second-highest first-half total (88 yards) of the season, thanks in large part to Aaron Jones’ runs of 27 and 28 yards — the first time in his career he has had multiple 25-plus-yard carries in the same game.

Rodgers concluded 29-of-38 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his sixth straight game with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Don Meredith for the second-longest streak in NFL history. And Adams ended with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.

He’s 21 yards away from Jordy Nelson’s single-season record and half-jokingly offered that as a reason to play next week.

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