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Doc Rivers out as LA Clippers coach after ‘disappointing’ end to season

Doc Rivers has stepped down as coach of the LA Clippers in what chairman Steve Ballmer called a “mutual decision.”

The team fell well short of its championship expectations this campaign after getting All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer in what were NBA-altering moves.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Ballmer said in a statement Monday. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

Rivers had two years left on his contract, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Clippers went 49-23 in the regular season, the fourth-best record in franchise history, but squandered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals versus the Denver Nuggets, surrendering leads of 16, 19 and 12 points as the franchise’s Western Conference finals drought reached 50 years.

Rivers has been the coach in five of the Clippers’ six best regular seasons. Rivers is the only coach in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in three playoff series, having previously done so with the Clippers in the 2015 West semis versus the Houston Rockets and with the Orlando Magic in the first round versus the Detroit Pistons in 2003.

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This team was considered a championship contender from the moment the Clippers signed Leonard in free agency and traded for George.

After the Clippers completely unraveled for a third straight game in a 104-89 loss to the Nuggets in Game 7, Rivers said the title expectations were not too heavy for his team, even though the Clippers fell short of reaching what many thought all season would be a West finals showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rivers took over as Clippers coach in June 2013 and was later promoted to president of basketball operations in conjunction with his coaching duties, before giving up that post in August 2017.

In Rivers’ seven seasons at the helm, the Clippers went 356-208, winning 63.1% of their regular-season games — the fifth-best record in the NBA and the best by any team without a conference finals appearance.

Rivers went 3-8 in potential series-clinching matches with the Clippers, tied for the worst mark by a single coach with one team.

His 943 career victories is the 11th most by a head coach all time. The Clippers’ job becomes the sixth current vacancy in the NBA, along with Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. New York, Brooklyn and Chicago have already filled vacancies in their offseasons.

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Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton out for season

The Denver Broncos’ passing attack now will have to forge on without not only its starting quarterback but also its top target.

Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Vic Fangio confirmed Monday.

Sutton had three catches for 66 yards before exiting the match. He missed the Broncos’ Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans while dealing with a sprained AC joint. Sutton, 24, earned a Pro Bowl berth last season after recording 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns.

He was expected to be the focal point of a passing attack that returned second-year tight end Noah Fant and added dynamic rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.

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The injury is just the latest in a series of significant blows to a Denver team that was looking to break out in Fangio’s second season at the helm.

Quarterback Drew Lock suffered a “bad bruise” on his shoulder that will force him to miss three to five weeks, Fangio stated Monday. Three-time All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller suffered a dislocated peroneal tendon that multiple reports indicated could sideline him for the remainder of the campaign.

Running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) also is expected to miss several weeks, per multiple reports, and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder) will sit out at least two more games after being placed on injured reserve.

An already young Broncos offense will now feature one of the youngest wide receiver groups in the league as three rookies — Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland — will get plenty of work in the weeks ahead. Fangio said “it will be the guys on the roster filling that void [left by Sutton].”

Denver had seven wideouts on roster and will go with six for now. The Broncos host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week before facing the New York Jets on the road in a “Thursday Night Football” matchup.

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Koepka out of U.S Open over ongoing injuries

Brooks Koepka, who has been hampered by a knee problem for the better part of a year, withdrew from next week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot, tweeting, “I’m looking forward to getting healthy and competing at 100% again very soon.”

Koepka has collected two of the past three U.S. Opens and concluded second to Gary Woodland last year at Pebble Beach.

Last month, Koepka was attempting to become the first player since Walter Hagen in the 1920s to collect three straight PGA Championships, but he fell out of contention with a final-round 74 at Harding Park.

Koepka missed the cut the following week at the Wyndham Championship then withdrew from the first FedEx Cup playoff event, the Northern Trust, ending his 2019-20 campaign.

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He has dropped to No. 8 in the world after starting 2020 in the top spot.

The four-time major champion had a stem cell procedure on his left knee after last year’s Tour Championship then aggravated the injury at a tournament in South Korea in October. He didn’t play again until January, and it’s mostly been a struggle since.

Koepka finished seventh at the RBC Heritage after the PGA Tour’s restart and tied for second in early August at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He was just two shots out of the lead heading into the final round of the PGA Championship before dropping to a tie for 29th.

“My golf swing’s fine,” Koepka said after missing the cut at the Wyndham. “If I can physically do it, then yes, everything’s fine.”

But Koepka has also complained about trying to get to his left side in his swing, and during the second round of the PGA Championship, he three times had a trainer help with his hip.

“It just locked up, cramped,” Koepka said. “I couldn’t do anything with it.”

Paul Waring will replace Koepka based on his Official World Golf Ranking as of Aug. 23. The U.S. Open starts Sept. 17 after being rearranged from June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States Golf Association has yet to announce an alternate to take Koepka’s place in the field of 144.

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Padres’ Eric Hosmer fractures index finger while bunting, could be out 2-6 weeks

San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer broke his left index finger while attempting to bunt in the first inning versus the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

Manager Jayce Tingler stated Hosmer could be out two to six weeks.

“Knowing Hos, he’s a tough guy, and knowing his pain tolerance … with some good luck and some good fortune, it heals up, and at that point, it’ll be up to pain tolerance,” Tingler said. “If we can get it to that point, I feel very confident betting on the man.”

The Padres have options at first base.

Rookie Jake Cronenworth played well at first base when Hosmer missed several matches early in the season because of a stomach ailment, and the Padres obtained Mitch Moreland during a flurry of trades in the days before last week’s deadline.

“This one hurts,” Tingler said. “But at the same time, we’re going to have some guys step up. We’re going to hold ground, and we’re going to get him back. When he gets back, we’re going to be in a good position.”

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Hosmer was injured while bunting with two strikes for the second out of the first inning and was taken out of the game. He was replaced by Moreland.

Later in the contest, Hosmer was in the dugout with what appeared to be a splint on the injured finger.

Hosmer has been having a good campaign, hitting the ball in the air more than he had in recent seasons. He is hitting .291 with eight homers and 32 RBIs, and he was part of the Padres’ “Slam Diego” outburst in mid-August, when they became the first team in MLB history to hit four grand slams in four consecutive games.

The Padres beat the Rockies 1-0 on Monday for their sixth triumph in eight games. At 26-17, the Pads are second in the National League West, 4½ games back of the MLB-leading  Los Angeles Dodgers. San Diego hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006.

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Grizzlies rule Jaren Jackson Jr. out for season due to meniscus tear

The Memphis Grizzlies suffered a big blow on Tuesday, as the team revealed that second-year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA campaign after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury occurred versus the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. 

In Monday’s game versus the Pelicans, Jaren Jackson Jr. experienced an unstable landing after making contact with an opposing player while contesting a shot. Subsequent medical evaluation revealed a meniscus tear in his left knee, which will cause him to miss the remainder of the season. He is expected to make a full recovery. 

This is not the first time that the left knee has been an issue for Jackson. Jackson sprained the knee in February, and he missed nine matches leading up to the suspension of the season in mid-March because of the injury.

Aside from the injury issues though, Jackson Jr. had a stellar sophomore season. He averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game for the Grizzlies, and he scored 76 points over the three games that he played in Orlando. 

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The injury comes at a tough time for the Grizzlies, who are locked in a tight battle for postseason positioning in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies entered the seeding slate in Orlando with a slim lead for the eighth spot in the West, but they lost all three of their first seeding games, which made the contest even tighter.

If the ninth seed in the conference is within four games of the eighth seed when the seeding slate is complete, a play-in series will be triggered. In the series, the eighth-seeded team will only need to win once in order to claim the final playoff spot in the West, while the ninth-seeded team would need to win twice in a row before the eighth-seeded team wins once. 

The Trail Blazers, Spurs, Pelicans, Kings, and Suns are all currently within four games of the Grizzlies. Whichever team ultimately claims the final spot in the West will face off versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, as the Lakers secured the top overall seed in the conference on Monday night. 

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Yankees’ Aaron Judge out another day with stiff neck

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was held out of action for a second consecutive day Sunday due to a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year was scratched from a simulated match Saturday after waking up with a sore neck, and the right fielder was not included in either lineup for an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

New York manager Aaron Boone stated Judge got treatment at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and was improving.

“Just thought it was better not to push through it today,” Boone said.

The Yankees are set to open a pandemic-shortened season July 23 at Washington. Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and used the coronavirus hiatus to recover.

He had been swinging at full strength for at least a couple of weeks before camp opened and had been a full-go in intrasquad action over the past week.

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The 6-foot-7 star has missed time each of the past two campaigns.

He broke his right wrist on a hit-by-pitch in 2018 and went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

When he’s been on the field, Judge has proved himself to be one of the sport’s most complete players, but staying healthy has been an issue the last two seasons. After playing in 155 games in 2017 — when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors going away and finished second in the MVP voting — Judge was limited to 112 games in 2018 and 102 games in 2019 because of different injuries.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka played catch Sunday to 100 feet and is ramping up his cardio but remains in concussion protocol. The Japanese starter was hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s 112 mph line drive eight days ago. Boone is still unclear when Tanaka will return to the mound.

Boone said Clint Frazier is expected to resume playing the outfield this week after being limited to designated hitter so far due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

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Astros Justin Verlander out 6 weeks after groin surgery

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander underwent surgery on his right groin Tuesday and is anticipated to miss at least six weeks. 

“Initially, the hope was that physical therapy would be the proper course of action,” general manager James Click said in a statement. “However, after a recent setback in his rehab, the medical staff recommended that a surgical procedure was necessary. The early prognosis is that Justin will be out for about six weeks.”

Verlander’s initial timetable would put him out until the beginning of May.

Whether he misses any on-field action will be dependent on MLB’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

MLB indefinitely suspended its season last week, and there is no firm timetable for a return.

“I would say it would probably take a miracle for me to be back by Opening Day,” the 37-year-old Verlander told reporters afterward. “But I don’t want to take miracles off the table. … Talking with doctors and looking at the scans, it’s definitely not worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario would be nothing. It’s just probably somewhere in the middle of that.”

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The CDC suggested the cancellation or postponement of events with 50-plus attendees for the next eight weeks as health officials attempt to slow the spread of the virus. 

Houston initially was scheduled to open its season March 26. Since, baseball has shut down, pushing the start of its season back until at least mid-May and remaining optimistic it can squeeze in a 162-game schedule.

Verlander, 37, is coming off his second Cy Young Award in 2019. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, striking out a career-high 300 batters. He has made at least 30 starts in 13 of his 14 full MLB campaigns, a remarkable stretch of health that’s a rarity for a modern-day pitcher.

The baseball implications of his injury cannot be determined until play restarts. However, if Verlander misses time, Zack Greinke will take over as the Astros ace.

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