Tagged in: debut

Klay Thompson makes season debut for Golden State Warriors

Klay Thompson is back.

And it didn’t take long for Thompson to prove he should be back to his All-Star self in no time.

The Golden State guard made his season debut Sunday in the Warriors’ 96-82 victory versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was Thompson’s first game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals – a span covering 941 days following a torn ACL and Achilles tendon.

“Very special moment,” Thompson said.

“I’ll never forget this night. I’ll never forget the reception Warriors fans gave us, especially myself. Gosh, it was fun. It was worth every single day of being away. All the conditioning days, it was worth every single moment. I’m so grateful to just compete again. It’s been a long time. I’m also proud of myself for just persevering. I’m not going to say it was equivalent to winning a championship, but man, it was pretty freaking close.”

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Thompson, who was in the starting lineup alongside longtime teammates Steph Curry and Draymond Green, had 17 points, including seven quick points at the start of the third quarter, on 7-for-18 shooting and 3-for-8 on 3-pointers in 20 minutes.

“Wasn’t shy was he? Not that we would ever expect Klay to be shy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated. “I was amazed at his poise out there and his confidence after being out for so long. … A beautiful night.”

Of the 18 shots in 20 minutes, Curry said, “That is so Klay Thompson.”

Thompson dropped in a runner in the paint with 11:20 left in the first quarter on the Warriors’ first possession, but Golden State coach Steve Kerr stated he didn’t call the play for Thompson who missed his first three 3-point attempts and checked out with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

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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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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash says ‘good chance’ Kevin Durant exits COVID-19 protocol this week

While Kevin Durant could be rejoining the Brooklyn Nets later this week when they are back in New York, Steve Nash says Kyrie Irving will need between a week and two weeks to ramp up before making his season debut.

Durant and Irving stay in health and safety protocols and are not with the team in Los Angeles, where the Nets play the Clippers on Monday night. But the team returns to New York after the match, and the Nets could have Durant and center LaMarcus Aldridge out of protocols and back with the team when they play Philadelphia on Thursday.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be,” Nash stated after the team’s shootaround about whether Durant will be back with the team when it gets back home. “With Kyrie, I’m not so sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been [in protocols since Dec. 18]. … He’s got to be getting close.”

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Aldridge entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 along with five other Nets. The other five — James Harden, James Johnson, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter — were all cleared and played in the Nets’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.

Durant and Irving went into protocols on Dec. 18. The day before, the Nets announced Irving would be returning to the team to play on a part-time basis. Because of New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is not allowed to play in home games at Barclays Center or at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks.

Since the point guard has not practiced on a regular basis with the team since early October in training camp, Nash says it will take Irving time to ramp up. The Nets have yet to see Irving on a court since deciding to bring him back into the fold because he went into health and safety protocols.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said of the ramp-up. “He’s obviously been isolating so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out so probably I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll just have to see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint and a basketball standpoint as well.”

After concluding this two-game trip in Los Angeles, the Nets only have two road games in their following nine games after Monday’s game at the Clippers. They play at Indiana on Jan. 5 and then at Chicago on Jan. 12.

If Irving doesn’t play in those games, the Nets could have him at Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 17 for the start of a four-game road swing.

Harden stated on Saturday that having Irving back, even on a part-time basis, “will be huge for us.”

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time,” center Nic Claxton said. “But it’s definitely gonna be scary hours [with Irving back]. I think he’s gonna break the game for us, and make things easier for everybody on the court. And I’m just, I’m ready to get my brother back.”

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Emma Raducanu caps debut season with exhibition win

US Open champion Emma Raducanu capped her remarkable debut season with a 6-3, 7-6(3) triumph over Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse in a light-hearted exhibition match at the Champions Tennis event at the famed Royal Albert Hall on Sunday.

Britain’s Raducanu, who turned 19 years old earlier this month, was playing at the season-ending event after some stunning debut months on the Tour.

It started with a first-round defeat in Nottingham in June 2021, but was followed by a remarkable run at Wimbledon that saw he win her first three matches before retiring versus Ajla Tomljanovic and peaked with a spell-bounding win at the US Open, where she did not drop a set on her way to becoming the first British woman to win the tournament in 53 years.

She has since competed in three events, the most recent in Linz, Austria, where she was beaten in the first round against China’s Xinyu Wang.

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The world No. 19, playing on Sunday against her friend Ruse, held her serve in the opening game and then forced Ruse into a long service game, saving two game points before hitting a winner into the corner and then driving her opponent into an error to take a 2-0 lead. The pair held their serves in the following two games before Radacanu broke again to ease into a 5-1 lead.

Ruse briefly broke back, but the Brit followed up by holding her serve two games later to claim the first set.

The Romanian often resorted to drop shots as Raducanu repeatedly fired from behind the baseline as both players held serve to start the second set. But Raducanu broke the deadlock in the fifth game, this time pouncing on a poorly weighted drop shot from Ruse to force an error. Ruse soon recovered though and forced a tiebreak for the set, which Raducanu eased 7-3.

“It was amazing to play at home in front of everyone here. I felt it straight from the minute I walked out — it was an incredible atmosphere — and I really enjoyed playing here,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview.

The Champions Tennis exhibition event, which has taken place since 1997, invites players who have once held the world No. 1 ranking, reached a Grand Slam final or been achieved success in the Davis Cup. This year’s edition will be the last at the Royal Albert Hall as it searches for a new venue next year.

Raducanu will next play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in December as she begins preseason heading into her first full season on the WTA Tour. She will also compete at the Australian Open in January, her first Grand Slam since claiming the US Open title and the third major of her career.

She recently went on a vacaction, which she said in an Instagram post was her first in seven years, as she prepares for the 2022 season.

“For six days I just completely switched off and I started my preseason this week on Tuesday,” Raducanu added. “I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, not so much tennis, so I was a bit nervous coming out to play in front of everyone here.

“Right now, I’m doing preseason and working hard on my fitness, as you can tell I need to work on my sprints to the net when I was getting dropshotted. Then I’m heading out to the Middle East to finish my preseason, and then Christmas out there then flying to Australia on Dec. 26.”

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Odell Beckham Jr. may return punts in Los Angeles Rams debut on MNF

The Los Angeles Rams have discussed using Odell Beckham Jr. as an occasional punt returner Monday night as part of a package of plays designed for the star wide receiver, sources told ESPN.

Beckham, who joined Los Angeles on an incentive-laden deal this past Thursday, is expected to make his Rams debut Monday night versus the division-rival 49ers.

Beckham was used as a punt returner early in his career with the Giants, but he has returned only one punt since 2019 in his two-plus seasons with the Browns. Star receiver Cooper Kupp sometimes has been the Rams’ “safe” punt returner, fielding punts deep in their own territory.

Beckham could be used there, as well as in other spots, and Monday night will be the first glimpse of whether the Rams decide to deploy the idea.

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The chances of returning punts is one of the ideas the Rams have pondered since signing Beckham to a one-year, $4.5 million deal that is heavy on team-driven postseason incentives.

The Rams joined the free-agent bidding for Beckham this past Tuesday once he cleared waivers after being released by the Browns.

The Rams felt they had a strong chance to land Beckham after head coach Sean McVay had a long and direct conversation with the receiver about how he would be used in Los Angeles.

Beckham made it clear that he was looking for three things: a good coach, a good quarterback and a team that would win this season.

The Packers, Chiefs, Saints and Seahawks showed varying levels of interest, but the Rams fit all the criteria and also could offer Beckham something no other franchise could — Los Angeles as a location.

The conversation between McVay and Beckham was the first of several that the three-time Pro Bowler had with members of the Rams organization over the next two days. He also spoke with his friends Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey, with each player pitching to Beckham the merits of playing in Los Angeles.

The Rams plan to attempt to re-sign both Beckham and Miller, who is in the final year of his contract, in the offseason, sources told ESPN. Although they added Beckham and Miller to make a Super Bowl run this season, the Rams see their relationships with both players potentially lasting beyond 2021.

Los Angeles also would receive compensatory draft picks if either player leaves in free agency.

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Broncos are expecting same old Raiders even without Gruden

Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller still sees the Las Vegas Raiders as Jon Gruden’s team even after their rival’s iconic coach resigned in disgrace.

While acknowledging “how they call the game will definitely change because they have a new play caller,” Miller insisted, “what they do is what they do.”

“They’re not going to come out here and be an option team. They’re not just going to come out here and change their whole identity because Gruden’s gone,” Miller argued. “They’re still going to do some of the things that they do well. We just don’t know when they will do it.

“To be honest, that’s really every week that we go out there,” Miller added. “We really don’t know what the other team is going to present.”

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Longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia makes his debut as the Raiders’ interim head coach Sunday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking over play-calling duties in a matchup pitting 3-2 teams who are seeking their first victory in October.

“No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation, no one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances,” said Bisaccia, whose first NFL job was under Gruden in 2002, when he was hired as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“But it’s an incredible opportunity, not only for me but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge.”

Olson’s voice isn’t an unfamiliar one to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“My rookie year he called plays,” Carr said. “I’ve heard his voice through the headset. I know how he calls the game and I know how he thinks. We’re in the same room. Every conversation I had with coach Gruden, I had with Oly this whole time.

“It’s not going to be anything crazy new but there are philosophies that some people have. So, I don’t want to give Oly’s secrets away, but could things be different? Yes. Could things be similar? Yes, absolutely.”

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Broncos DE Bradley Chubb (ankle) will undergo surgery

Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb’s 2021 debut lasted less than an entire match. Now, he’s hoping his 2021 season will last longer than his brief showing in Week 2.

Having re-injured his ankle on Sunday versus the Jaguars, Chubb will undergo an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday on his ankle and hopes to return this season, he announced through the team on Tuesday.

“I’m going to push everything I can to get back to these games and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. My mindset is just going to be attack it 100 %every day,” Chubb stated.

Chubb said he’s been dealing with a bone spur in his ankle and the procedure will be to “clean it up” and “scope it out.”

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Chubb’s timetable will depend on how the surgery goes, though a surgery such as this generally takes six to eight weeks of recovery time.

Chubb is likely headed to injured reserve.

The initial hope was that Chubb’s ankle would respond to treatment and that surgery could be avoided, but it didn’t work out that way, NFL Network’s James Palmer reported.

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The biggest obstacle for the Broncos’ burgeoning star has been staying on the field.

Following a sensation 12-sack rookie season in 2018, Chubb played in only four matches in 2019 due to a torn ACL. Chubb’s 2020 return saw him play in 14 games, but he missed this season’s opener with an ankle injury that he tweaked in his debut (which saw him tally one tackle in 19 snaps).

Making matters worse for the Broncos’ defense, which has spearheaded the team’s 2-0 start, is that inside linebacker Josey Jewell is already out for the season with a torn pectoral.

A procedure awaits Chubb on Wednesday and then another trip on a familiar road to recovery. “I’m gonna push everything I have to get back to these games,” Chubb said. “I expect to see a whole new Bradley Chubb.”

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Trevor Lawrence bounces back from early sack, turns in solid debut as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback

Trevor Lawrence’s first NFL snap ended with a sack that nearly turned into a fumble, but the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback didn’t let that rattle him.

The 2021 No. 1 draft pick bounced back from that inauspicious start and turned in a solid but unspectacular performance in the Jaguars’ 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night.

Lawrence threw for 71 yards — including a 35-yarder to Marvin Jones Jr. to convert a third down — but failed to lead the first-team offense to any points in his two possessions and admittedly held on to the ball too long at times.

But he also made some good throws and left his head coach feeling pretty good about the former Clemson standout — though there’s a lot of improvement needed.

“I asked [passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] how he played, and he said he did pretty good,” coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought the ball to his left right in front of us, I think it was on third down, he really anticipated a nice out cut, scrambled and delivered a nice one to Marvin Jones.

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“He certainly wasn’t awestruck. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to protect him better. And we’ve got to get all our wideouts healthy and just play better.”

Lawrence went 6-for-9 and, per NFL NextGen Stats, completed 3-of-4 of those passes into tight windows, which equaled the best completion percentage on tight-window throws by a Jaguars quarterback in 2020.

The offense also was much more effective under Lawrence (74 yards) than under Gardner Minshew II, who threw for 47 yards and an interception and led the offense to 46 yards in three possessions.

“I feel like the first time out there, I felt comfortable, felt poised,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, the first play’s not kind of what you want for the first play, but after that, I thought we did a good job. We communicated well up front. They did a really good job of protection. At least one of those sacks was on me, for sure, just holding the ball too long. That’s something I’ll work on. Just maneuvering in the pocket is something I’ve always got to work on.

“Other than that, I missed an easy one to Marvin, a little quick out I wish I would have hit. But other than that, I felt good out there. I think we were seeing it, all on the same page. There’s obviously things to clean up, but I thought it was a pretty good day.”

The biggest thing for Lawrence to clean up is getting rid of the ball quicker, which he did at times on quick throws to LaViska Shenault. Meyer stated he would need to look at the film to figure out why Lawrence was hesitant to get rid of the ball, but there were times when the signal-caller had to wait for receivers to get clear.

Lawrence accepted to having a bit of nerves, but he stated those went away quickly, as he felt more comfortable on his second drive than on his first.

“The first play you’re a little bit, especially first game here in the NFL, you’re a little bit nervous; but after that, you’re just playing ball,” Lawrence said. “Definitely felt that [comfort] setting in.

“I usually typically get nervous before the first game of any season anyway, so that’s pretty standard. I was excited. I was ready to get out there. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been my dream.”

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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal advance to French Open quarterfinals

For two sets and more than two hours at the French Open on Monday, Novak Djokovic found himself being outplayed by a 19-year-old rival from Italy making his Grand Slam debut.

And yet, to hear Djokovic tell it afterward, he had the kid right where he wanted him. Which turned out to be true.

Rafael Nadal also faced an Italian who’s just 19 in the fourth round — and also took a bit of time to get going. Nadal’s trouble lasted all of eight games and less than 45 minutes Monday before he took control, ran his Roland Garros streak to 35 straight sets and joined Djokovic in reaching a record 15th quarterfinal at the clay-court major tournament.

After dropping a pair of tiebreakers, Djokovic suddenly went from a big deficit to his best tennis. He won 13 games in a row before Lorenzo Musetti stopped playing because of lower back pain and cramps while trailing 6-7 (7), 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.

“I like to play young guys in best-of-five, because I feel even if they are leading a set or two sets to love, as it was the case today, I still like my chances,” said the top-seeded Djokovic, who is 34, “because I feel like I’m physically fit and I know how to wear my opponent down.”

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Nadal, who turned 35 last week, trailed 5-3 early on versus the 18th-seeded Jannik Sinner, who served for the first set at 5-4.

“I was playing a very good player with a big future,” Nadal said.

But 13-time French Open champion Nadal took eight games in a row and, after a blip in the second set, resumed his excellent play and closed his 7-5, 6-3, 6-0 win on a 10-game run.

Musetti, a talented Italian so good at the outset with his one-handed backhand and tremendous touch, is hardly used to this best-of-five format at the majors, and he took a medical timeout after the fourth.

“It didn’t make sense to keep playing. I couldn’t win any points or stay in the rallies. It was hard for me to move,” Musetti said. “I was at my limit.”

Djokovic wound up 9 for 9 on his break-point chances and with a 53-30 edge in winners.

Eventually, Djokovic earned his fifth career comeback from two sets down by limiting his mistakes and making Musetti look like what he is: Someone with plenty of promise but not much experience.

Djokovic’s 49th major quarterfinal will come against another Italian, No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini, who advanced without needing to swing his racket.

That’s because the man Berrettini was supposed to face, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, withdrew Sunday in order to let his surgically repaired right knee and the rest of his 39-year-old body recover with an eye to Wimbledon, which starts June 28.

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Schwarber debuts, leads Nats over Cardinals 5-2

Kyle Schwarber doubled home a run in his delayed Nationals debut, Andrew Stevenson had a pinch-hit homer and Washington defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Monday night.

Schwarber, Josh Bell and Josh Harrison were in the starting lineup after being sidelined for Washington’s first six matches by a coronavirus outbreak that prompted the postponement of the team’s season-opening series and left the club short-handed.

The Nats ended a five-game skid, while the Cardinals lost their third consecutive. “We talked about it before the game: Fresh start for all of us, our guys are back,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “So let’s forget about the first six games and start today.”

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Stevenson hit his first homer of the season into St. Louis’ bullpen in right field leading off the seventh inning, putting Washington ahead 4-2. The solo shot was just his fourth homer in 221 career at-bats.

Kyle Finnegan (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up a run on one hit. He struck out two.

Schwarber, acquired in the offseason after the Chicago Cubs declined to offer him a contract, hit a 1-0 pitch from starter John Gant into right-center to drive in Juan Soto, who singled to start the sixth.

“I felt like a lot of guys had great at-bats all night, working deep counts and making that guy grind out there,” Schwarber said. “You know, that’s contagious.”

The Nationals added a run on the next pitch from reliever Giovanny Gallegos when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to foul territory in right, driving in Bell.

Gant (0-1) went five innings and gave up three runs. He permitted six hits, struck out four and walked three.

“The challenge tonight was not getting them all out,” Gant said about the sixth inning, when the first three batters reached against him. “They got a couple of knocks and got me out.”

Washington had an opportunity to break the game open when the first four batters reached to start the eighth against reliever Andrew Miller, including Castro singling home Bell. Ryan Helsley struck out Yan Gomes, and pinch-hitter Ryan Zimmerman flied out to center fielder Dylan Carlson, who threw out Schwarber at home to end the inning.

Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the season in the sixth to pull the Cardinals to 3-2.

Matt Carpenter ended an 0-for-12 start to the season with a bunt single in the third and scored on Tommy Edman’s hit, tying the game at 1. Carpenter has struggled at the plate since spring training, with just two hits in 37 at-bats, including 13 strikeouts.

“I was just glad to get one on the board,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes the first one is the hardest. It obviously was for me.”

Victor Robles led off the game with his second triple of the season and scored on Soto’s one-out single to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

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