Category Archives: Sports

Tatum lifts Celtics past Pistons for weekend split

Jayson Tatum hit a fallaway as Blake Griffin stumbled with 2.9 seconds left, then tied up the Detroit veteran on the other end to help the Boston Celtics defeat the Pistons 122-120 on Sunday for a weekend split.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 31 points. He hit a late 3-pointer and was 13 of 16 from the field, two nights after his late miss sealed a loss in the opener in Detroit.

“We haven’t been good, especially down the stretch, executing-wise,” said Marcus Smart, who added 17 points and eight assists. “We got to our spots, we got the ball where we wanted it, and those two players made great shots and great reads. They won us the game.”

Tatum had 24 points and 12 assists for Boston. The Celtics shot a season-best 57%.

“It seems like they made every shot, especially Brown,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “I want to see how many teams do a good job on Jaylen Brown and Tatum. They’re probably two of the most dynamic players I’ve seen in a while.”

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Jerami Grant scored 22 points for the Pistons, his career-best fifth consecutive game with at least 20. 

Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points despite not entering the game until under four minutes left in the third quarter.

Semi Ojeleye hit three 3-pointers in less than five minutes to open the fourth quarter for Boston. Sekou Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk responded with back-to-back 3s to give Detroit a 108-106 lead with 6:01 left.

Mykhailiuk scored eight straight Detroit points, and the Pistons took a 118-117 lead on Mason Plumlee’s free throws with 42.2 seconds left. That set up Brown’s 3-pointer with 34.0 seconds to go, and Grant made two free throws 12 seconds later to tie it at 120.

On Friday night, Detroit defeated Boston 96-93 for its only win of the season, with the Celtics missing their final 10 shots and going scoreless for the final 4:15.

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Emotional Yu Darvish caught off guard by Chicago Cubs trade, excited about San Diego Padres

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As he was announced by his new team Thursday, Yu Darvish said he was shocked by his trade to the San Diego Padres and grew emotional talking about his time with the Cubs and the bonds he created in Chicago.

“With what’s happening with the coronavirus, and the money the Cubs have, I wasn’t thinking about being traded,” Darvish said Thursday through an interpreter. “And also, they are a winning team and I thought we would be able to compete.”

Darvish, however, is excited about joining a “strong” Padres team that should challenge for the National League pennant.

“I’ve been having my kids watch highlights of the Padres’ lineup on YouTube,” the right-hander said. “They’re a strong team, and I’m really excited to watch batting practice.”

Darvish stated he has pitched better over the past 18 months than at any time in his career. He ended second in Cy Young voting this past season after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA, and he credited his improvement to a decision to work slow and “be himself.”

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“The Cubs were telling me to prepare however I wanted to prepare,” Darvish said. “The Cubs let me be myself. That helped me back to form.”

He was traded along with Victor Caratini, his personal catcher, to San Diego for starter Zach Davies and four prospects earlier this week. The move came one day after the Padres acquired lefty Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Darvish’s mom once told him that she thought he would play for the Padres, but he said he didn’t think that would materialize after signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.

With Chicago in cost-cutting mode, however, that premonition came true.

Darvish hopes to find the same chemistry with his teammates in San Diego as he did in Chicago.

“A lot of [Cubs] people reached out to me and everyone was pretty shocked and felt bad,” Darvish said. “So this reality is great. I’m excited to play for the Padres.”

The 34-year-old Darvish said he found out about the trade on Twitter, though his representatives knew there was a possibility he could be moved that day.

“My first year with the Padres, going into spring training, I really want to be open and meet everybody,” said Darvish, who already has a relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller from their days with the Texas Rangers.

Darvish was asked what his trade might mean for Japanese baseball fans who live in San Diego. “With coronavirus and everyone being a little down with what’s going on in the world, I just hope to build excitement and help build happiness to the Japanese people around me,” Darvish said.

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Masters Tournament delays ticketing process for 2021

The Masters Tournament has delayed its ticketing process for the 2021 championship as it seeks a way to let some spectators to return for the first major of the year.

Dustin Johnson won the 2020 Masters, which was postponed from April to November because of the coronavirus pandemic, before just a smattering of Augusta National members, as the tournament had made the decision to play without spectators.

With just 100 days until the first round of the 2021 Masters arranged for April 8, the club has to make decisions quickly.

“As planning continues on how to stage the 2021 Masters Tournament safely and responsibly, we would like to inform you that Augusta National is delaying the ticket process for Patron Series Badges, which traditionally begins Jan. 1,” the club said in an email to ticket holders.

“Our intention is to communicate our decisions for the 2021 Masters to all patrons of record by the end of January. No further action is needed with your account at this time.”

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Patron Series Badges are good for the four tournament rounds only and do not include practice rounds. The cost of a badge for 2020 was to be $375, and when the Masters announced in August that it would play in November without spectators, it offered to defer those badges to 2021.

Practice rounds are another matter. Those tickets are distributed for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday via a lottery conducted the previous spring. Those tickets were also deferred to 2021.

Because all of these tickets and badges have been pre-sold, Augusta National Golf Club has a difficult problem in figuring out how to proceed with presumably a smaller number of spectators permitted on site. In the email, the club thanked its patrons for “continued patience” as it looks to communicate a definitive answer.

Crowd sizes are not revealed, but it is generally believed that around 30,000 series badges are sold.

Whittling that number to even half would require some ingenuity, possibly allowing admittance for a limited number of days or again deferring attendance a year.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley said in November that he hopes the “tournament in April will be more normal than it is now,” but offered no assurances that it will be any different, given the current uncertainty with the pandemic.

“We would need to see objective data that would give us a high level of confidence that we could bring large numbers of people onto the grounds for April,” Ridley said on Nov 11. “I think the vaccine — I don’t want to get into medical prognostications — but just logically as a lay person, the vaccine, while it will be wonderful when it happens, there are all kinds of issues that point to beyond April [for the vaccine] as the silver bullet.

“As it relates to [COVID-19] testing, there are some real opportunities there. Our staff has been exploring those very deeply. We have a number of people who are very interested in helping us. It is something we will be looking very hard at. It’ll be a wonderful circumstance if we could test large numbers of people.”

In November, the Masters required all who would be on the grounds to produce a negative COVID-19 test before being admitted. It administered rapid-response tests through a local pharmacy. But those were administered to a relatively small number of people, perhaps fewer than 2,000.

To have significant numbers of spectators who have to undergo testing would require a huge effort, although Augusta National has the financial resources — plus acres upon acres of parking facilities — to make it possible.

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Green Bay Packers claim Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison off waivers

Another run-stopper is on the way to the Green Bay Packers to perhaps help them evade getting run out of the playoffs like last campaign.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst claimed Damon “Snacks” Harrison off waivers on Wednesday, according to the NFL transaction wire.

The Packers did not informed the move.

The Seahawks waived the 32-year-old defensive tackle on Monday after Harrison requested his release. All players waived at this point in the season are subject to waivers, and Harrison said in a tweet after his release that he was not interested in getting claimed.

However, in response to a tweet that suggested he might actually play for the Packers given that they’re a Super Bowl team and one that was on his list of teams he planned to meet with before he signed with Seattle earlier this season, Harrison responded with a one-word tweet that read: “Bingo.”

A source told ESPN that Harrison assured the Packers he would report to and play for Green Bay.

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The Packers rank 14th in rushing yards permitted but 24th in yards per carry — a slight improvement over last season. But their run defense let them down in the NFC Championship Game, when the San Francisco 49ers rushed for 285 yards en route to the Super Bowl.

If the Packers (12-3) triumph Sunday’s regular-season finale versus the Chicago Bears, they would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC and have a first-round playoff bye. Even if they have to play on wild-card weekend, they could get Harrison through the COVID-19 protocols and ready for that weekend.

They were granted a roster exemption for Harrison.

The Seahawks signed Harrison to the practice squad Oct. 7 and he made his first appearance in a game on Nov. 15 versus the Los Angeles Rams. He played 138 total snaps in six games before he requested his release.

At the time, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was under the impression that Harrison no longer wanted to play. “He’s decided to stop playing,” Carroll said Monday during an appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle.

“He’s done playing. I talked to him this morning. He’s in good spirits and all of that. He’s really grateful for the opportunity in playing here, and he did really well by us, but he just … he’s done.”

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Catalan government gives go-ahead for 2021 Spanish GP

The government of Catalonia has given the go-ahead for Spanish Grand Prix organizers to agree a contract extension with Formula One for 2021.

The May 9 race at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya is listed as subject to contract on the sport’s record 23-round provisional calendar.

The regional government said in a statement it had authorized Circuits de Catalunya SL to sign the renewal. “The signature guarantees the celebration of the 31st consecutive edition of this event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya,” it said.

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“The F1 Grand Prix is ​​an asset that contributes to Catalonia’s position in the world in the fields of tourism and automotive.”

The circuit agreed last year an extension to cover this year’s race, which was held in August and without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after fears it would drop off the agenda.

Spain will have two drivers on the starting grid next season

With Carlos Sainz moving from McLaren to Ferrari while double world champion Fernando Alonso makes a comeback after two years out.

Alonso has returned to Renault, the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006 and which is changing name to compete under the French manufacturer’s Alpine sportscar brand.

The 2021 campaign is due to start in Australia on March 21, although how that unfolds will depend on the state of the pandemic. There is also still a slot, vacated by Vietnam, to be filled on April 25.

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Kansas City Chiefs clinch No. 1 seed in AFC as Travis Kelce sets records

Earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC hasn’t resulted in Super Bowl success for the Kansas City Chiefs in the past, but they hope it puts them on the path to a championship this time around.

The Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 17-14 at Arrowhead Stadium. The 14-1 Chiefs, who have won 10 consecutive games, will receive the AFC’s only first-round playoff bye and will play their divisional-round game at Arrowhead.

“It’s one of your goals when you go into the season,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 left to rally the Chiefs to a surprisingly difficult win over the 4-11 Falcons. “If you look at the history of that bye week, usually it’s a good thing for teams trying to make a championship run.”

In the victory, Travis Kelce became the first tight end to have two 100-catch seasons. Kelce caught seven passes, giving him 105. Kelce also set the single-season yardage record for a tight end. He had 98 yards, giving him 1,467. The San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle held the previous record with 1,377 yards, set in 2018.

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“To get a week of preparation, a week of really locking in and getting the body right that late in the season is so key, and it’s much needed if you want to make that playoff push,” Kelce said. “That’s what you work your tail off for all season. I’m just proud to be a part of this team and be able to do it again this year.”

The AFC’s No. 1 seed hasn’t represented the conference in the Super Bowl in either of the past two campaigns.

The Chiefs have been the AFC’s top playoff seed three times but failed to reach the Super Bowl in any of those seasons. In 1995 and 1997, they lost their divisional-round playoff game at home. In 2018, they lost the AFC Championship Game at home in overtime to the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs were the No. 2 seed last year on their way to a Super Bowl LIV championship. The Chiefs concluded the regular season next Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead. Since the game will be meaningless with regard to the standings and their playoff seed, they are likely to rest some of their top players, including Mahomes and Kelce.

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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James says he’s ‘ready to go’ on Christmas Day after rolling ankle

LeBron James says he will be “ready to go” for the Los Angeles Lakers’ game versus the Dallas Mavericks on Friday despite rolling his left ankle in the season opener.

“I’ll be ready to go tomorrow on Christmas Day,” James told reporters Thursday. “I’ve never missed a Christmas Day match, and I don’t plan on missing one tomorrow.”

James sat out the final eight minutes of the Lakers’ 116-109 opening night loss to the LA Clippers on Tuesday after rolling his ankle but indicated after the game that he planned to play versus Dallas.

His ankle buckled when his sneaker appeared to catch on the court when he and Markieff Morris converged on Clippers center Ivica Zubac to defend the big man in the paint.

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James exited with 7:51 left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers trailing 99-92. He ended with 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 turnovers in 28 minutes.

He elaborated on the experience of playing in Christmas Day games.

“People have opened their gifts. Everyone is excited. It’s a day of giving for a lot of us,” James said. “And then being at Staples Center, I’ve gotten the opportunity to play here on Christmas as a Laker and also as an opponent. It’s just a beautiful feeling being here.

“But it’s not the same without the Laker faithful, without the fans, without celebrity row, without the bright lights. It’s just a totally different feeling. It’s just strictly basketball, which is fine. But our game is entertainment as well. And when you’re out there, you hope to entertain some people live as well. But we have to do it. Hopefully we know we’re making a mark while they’re watching the game.”

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New Orleans Saints’ Tre’Quan Smith is latest wide receiver to land on injured reserve

The New Orleans Saints are even thinner at wide receiver after placing Tre’Quan Smith on injured reserve with an ankle injury he sustained in Sunday’s 32-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith, who is a standout blocker in addition to his pass-catching role, will have to miss at least three matches, including the Saints’ playoff opener.

Saints receivers Michael Thomas (ankle) and Deonte Harris (neck) are already on IR for the remainder of the regular season — though coach Sean Payton stated the goal is for Thomas to be as close to 100% as possible for the start of the playoffs.

“I just felt with Mike it was real clear,” Payton said. “Man, he was grinding and productive and catching eight balls, nine balls. But it wasn’t gonna get better until football stopped, just by the nature of the ankle sprain. And so look, if it was ‘win this one, you get in or not,’ then I think our approach would have been much different. But we’ve got a pretty good feel that he can be closer to his 100% — and I don’t know if it’s exactly his 100% — but closer to full speed. And that’s a tremendous asset for us. And in fairness to him right now, we’ve got a little bit of that luxury.”

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The Saints (10-4) have clinched a playoff spot.

And they can clinch their fourth straight NFC South title with one more win or a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) over the final two weeks. The Saints still have an outside shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but they need help from other teams.

New Orleans has lost two consecutive games, and the lack of receiver depth was noticeable in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City. Drew Brees started 0-for-6 passing for the first time in his career before he tried to rally the Saints back with three touchdown passes.

On a positive note, the Saints activated undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway off the IR list in time for Friday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings. Callaway caught eight passes for 75 yards in a game earlier this season when the Saints’ receiver position was similarly thinned out. New Orleans’ active receivers for Friday will be Emmanuel Sanders, Callaway, Austin Carr, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Juwan Johnson.

Smith, a third-round draft pick from Central Florida, set career highs in his third NFL season with 34 catches and 448 yards before sustaining the ankle injury Sunday. He had four touchdown catches — one shy of the five he had in each of his first two seasons.

The Saints also ruled out starting free safety Marcus Williams (ankle) and part-time starting guard Nick Easton (concussion). Guard Andrus Peat (ankle), defensive end Trey Hendrickson (neck) and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (calf) are questionable.

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New York Jets DT Quinnen Williams’ breakout season ends with injury

New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who has established himself as one of the NFL’s top young linemen, is done for the season with a concussion and a neck injury.

Williams, 23, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after clearing the league’s concussion protocol.

The concussion happened late in the third quarter of last Sunday’s stunning upset of the Los Angeles Rams, which likely cost the Jets the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Williams, caught on camera as he walked to the locker room for an evaluation, was seen vomiting on the sideline. Williams, drafted third overall in 2019, was one of the few bright spots this campaign for the Jets (1-13).

After a lackluster rookie year, he became a disruptive presence on the defensive line. He leads the team in sacks (seven) and quarterback hits (14) and ranks among the league leaders in the major run-stopping metrics, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

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“On Sunday, you saw what kind of impact he had — a ton of TFLs [tackles for loss], was in their backfield and created pressure,” Gase stated.

Gase said Williams “kind of disappeared” in some games, “but it didn’t happen a lot this year.

Last year, I felt like there would be a couple of games in a row where you didn’t really feel him. But this year, I felt like the high majority of the game you felt him. If you were on the other team, you felt him whether you were playing quarterback or in the running game.”

Without Williams, the Jets’ run defense will be vulnerable Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns (10-4), whose third-ranked rushing attack is led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The Jets also placed inside linebacker Harvey Langi (neck) on IR. Between injuries, in-season trades and one opt-out, the Jets are down seven defensive starters from the unit that was projected at the start of training camp.

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San Francisco 49ers signing Josh Rosen to back up C.J. Beathard

Whether or not he wanted to make a modification at quarterback, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has no choice but to turn to third-stringer C.J. Beathard for Saturday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s because Beathard is the only healthy quarterback on the active roster. Desperate for a quarterback to back him up, the 49ers are signing Josh Rosen off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates.

Beathard’s return to the starting lineup comes almost a year to the day after his brother Clayton was stabbed to death outside a bar in Nashville, Tennessee.

“To go through what he did last year and then to go right into quarantine and to come right to us with the season, I know it’s been a huge challenge for him,” Shanahan said. “And I’m excited he’s going to get an opportunity this week. I have got as much respect for C.J. as anyone I’ve ever been with as a person and as a player, and it’s going to be fun working with him this week.”

Shanahan stated Tuesday that quarterback Nick Mullens is dealing with a right elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery and will cost him the final two games of the campaign. Team doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down in Mullens’ elbow before determining the severity of the injury and what surgery will be required.

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Complicating matters was Tuesday’s news that practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with a source telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he tested positive for the virus.

That means he can’t be activated in time for Saturday’s game.

And while the Niners opened the 21-day practice window for starter Jimmy Garoppolo to return from the high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve, it’s unlikely that Garoppolo will play in either of the final two matches.

“Right now, he’s safe to go out to practice, which we’re only having a walk-through today, but it will be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit,” Shanahan said. “But we’re going to be very safe with him this week. We’ll see next week, but I’d be very surprised if that changes.”

Because of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols that require players to go through a six-day testing period before they can be activated, the Niners can’t sign a quarterback off the street, leaving them with just the option of signing a quarterback off another team’s practice squad.

Rosen was taken by the Cardinals with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft and traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 as Arizona selected Kyler Murray No. 1 overall.

The Dolphins released Rosen in September and he was later signed by the Bucs for their practice squad. Rosen has made 16 career starts and appeared in 20 regular-season games overall, throwing for 2,845 yards with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while completing 54.8% of his pass attempts.

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