Tagged in: returns

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Donovan Mitchell returns to practice, expects to play in Sunday’s playoff opener for Utah Jazz

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his right ankle more than a month ago and plans to play in the Utah Jazz’s playoff opener.

“That’s the goal,” Mitchell said. “Barring any setbacks, God forbid — knock on wood — that’s the goal. I’m just trying to go out there and be there for my teammates and try to help to go out there and win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s been the goal all year.”

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Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, sat out the last 16 games as the 52-20 Jazz wrapped up the NBA’s best record and the top overall seed.

Utah will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the winner of the Western Conference play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell suffered the injury April 16 against the Indiana Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner.

Mitchell has ramped up his on-court work in the past two weeks, staying in Salt Lake City when the team was on the road to work out with assistant coach Keyon Dooling, but hadn’t participated in competitive, full-contact action until Thursday.

Mitchell said that the ankle still has some soreness but that he didn’t experience any significant pain. “Practice was good,” Mitchell said.

“I got out there and competed. You could definitely tell it was the first time in four or five weeks, but that’s to be expected. I’m just trying to find ways to get back in a groove.”

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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Alonso discharged from hospital following cycling accident

Alpine Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has been discharged from hospital following a road traffic accident last week.

Alonso was knocked off his bike while cycling in Switzerland on Thursday and underwent corrective surgery on his upper jaw as a result of his injuries.

After a period of 48 hours observation following the surgery, Alonso left hospital on Monday and will keep his recovery at home.

“He will now have a short period of complete rest before progressively resuming training to undertake preparation for the start of the season,” a statement from the Alpine team said.

Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, returns to the series this campaign after two years racing in other categories.

He became a two-time World Endurance Champion with Toyota while away from F1, which incorporated two victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018. His quest to become only the second driver to collect the Triple Crown — victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indy 500 — has been put on hold.

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Alonso entered the Indy 500 in 2017 and 2020, and failed to qualify in 2019, but will not be competing in the event while he is contracted to Alpine’s F1 operation.

He is due to take part in pre-season testing in Bahrain between March 12-14 before the first race of the new season gets underway on March 28 at the same circuit.

The incident did lead to some doubt over Alonso’s fitness ahead of the new campaign, only for Alpine to say last week that it expected him to be “fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.”

Alonso tweeted last Friday that he was “OK and looking forward to getting 2021 underway”, with his extending first outing in the Alpine A521 car due to come in pre-season testing in Bahrain.

Alpine is yet to ratify launch plans for its new car, but will take the covers off prior to the start of the running at the Bahrain International Circuit on 12-14 March.

The new season will then get underway on 28 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same circuit. It will mark Alonso’s maiden outing with the Enstone-based team since his final appearance with the squad in 2009, having also won both of his world titles in Renault colors in 2005 and 2006.

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Gennady Golovkin returns to the ring

Once feared, but still revered by many boxing fans, IBF and IBO middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin will be back in the squared circle this Friday versus mandatory challenger Kamil Szeremeta at Seminole Hard Rock and Casino in Hollywood, FL.

Now 38, Golovkin is anxious to get back in the ring.

“I’m ready to fight. I feel great,” said Golovkin Tuesday during a virtual news conference.

Golovkin was last seen in the ring battling Sergey Derevyanchenko. The bout was intense, brutal, and exciting. Golovkin was judged the winner by a close unanimous decision. Many thought the wrong fighter got the nod. I thought Golovkin edged it, but his advanced age became more prominent after the bout.

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As it should. Combining his amateur and professional careers, Golovkin has engaged in close to 450 fights. Ten years ago, fighting in virtual obscurity in Europe, Golovkin captured a title (in Russia) that few respected, and then became something of a folk hero with more belts due to his modest ways and heavy hands.

He was just over 30 when he came to America. Many fighters evaded Golovkin like the plague when he reigned over the middleweight division. He scored 23 straight knockouts and held world titles in the division for eight years.

That was then. This is now.

Szremento, his opponent in a few days, is undefeated in 21 fights, scoring five knockouts. The Polish native earned his shot against Golovkin by stopping Oscar Cortes in two rounds on the undercard of Golovkin versus Derevyanchenko.

“I treat every fight very seriously,” Golovkin said. “At this level, there are no easy fights. Every opponent brings certain challenges.”

A third fight with Alvarez could be on the table next year for Golovkin. Promoter Eddie Hearn has talked of pitting Golovkin against other division champions, Jermall Charlo, and Demetrius Andrade.

Though he’s accomplished a lot in his boxing career, Golovkin is still hungry. “I have not achieved everything I have wanted,” Golovkin said. “I have to win Friday to look into other opportunities.”

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Harden returns to Rockets, scores 12 in preseason debut

James Harden was back in a Houston uniform.

It’s still uncertain how many more times that’ll happen.

The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his preseason debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, after practicing only one time with his team following a late arrival to training camp amid incessant trade speculation. Harden scored 12 points in 21 minutes and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He checked out for the final time with 5:02 left in the third quarter, having missed his final four shots.

John Wall and Ben McLemore each had 15 points for the Rockets, who got 11 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins. Lonnie Walker IV scored 17 for the Spurs, who got 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Dejounte Murray. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell each added 11 for San Antonio.

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Harden seemed anything but disinterested to start his first live game action of the season.

He stood immediately to the right of new Rockets coach Stephen Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at whatever Silas was sketching up before taking the floor.

His first shot was a made straightaway 3-pointer, his second attempt led to him getting fouled from beyond the arc and making three free throws.

So, his shooting touch was there, at least at the outset — as was his touch on passes. He connected with Danuel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, timing clearly not much of an issue after a couple months off.

Harden went 3 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

The Rockets lost guard Chris Clemons with 9:58 left, after he was taken off the court in a wheelchair. Clemons made a 3-pointer for an 87-74 Houston lead, and after retreating to the defensive end for the ensuing possession, appeared to take a bad step and immediately started reaching for his right Achilles area.

There was no immediate diagnosis of Clemons’ injury. There are four matches Wednesday, followed by seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three in the preseason finales Saturday. The regular season starts on Dec. 22.

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Seattle Seahawks designate Quinton Dunbar, Rashaad Penny as returns to practice

The Seahawks designated cornerback Quinton Dunbar (injured reserve) and running back Rashaad Penny (physically unable to perform) to return to practice this week.

Dunbar has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Penny, Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick, is working his way back from the ACL tear he suffered last December.

Coach Pete Carroll said Dunbar would practice Wednesday but didn’t offer any assurance he’ll play Sunday versus the New York Jets, saying the Seahawks don’t have to rush him back with how well D.J. Reed has played of late.

The Seahawks listed 23 players on their injury report Wednesday.

Running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (toe) were limited. Carroll stated Carson was feeling better Monday and that he was hoping he could handle a “full load” this week after carrying eight and 13 times in his first two games back.

With players coming off extended absences like Penny, the Seahawks usually like to see them practice for at least two weeks before letting them to play in a game.

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“We’re really excited to get him back and get him back on the field with us,” Carroll said of Penny. “It’s just been a long haul. It’s very meaningful for him to get back out there, first of all. You really want to see him bang his break and really get down and hit it and give really good tempo in practice.”

Right tackle Brandon Shell, out the past two games with a high ankle sprain, was listed as a limited participant in his first practice since the injury Wednesday.

Carroll said Shell would be plenty motivated to make it back this week so he could play against his former team. Shell spent his first four campaigns with the Jets before signing with Seattle in March and was having a strong debut season with the Seahawks before his injury.

“We’ll ease him back in,” Carroll said. “He’s real anxious to get back. It seems like he’s ready to go.”

Carroll said it won’t be until the end of the week that the team knows what possibilities safety Ryan Neal (hip pointer) or tackle Jamarco Jones (groin) have of playing Sunday. Neither practiced Wednesday.

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Yonder Alonso returns to Padres in exchange for Braves

The Padres have obtained first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Braves for cash, Dennis Lin of The Athletic tweets. He’ll join the Padres’ taxi squad. Alonso had been with the Braves on a minor league contract since the winter, and he hasn’t accrued an at-bat this year.

Now 33 years old, Alonso’s a veteran of a handful of major league organizations since he joined the Reds as the seventh overall pick in 2008.

Alonso’s no stranger to the Padres, who acquired him in a 2011 blockbuster with the Reds, but he made a minimum impact in San Diego before it dealt him to Oakland in 2015.

Alonso had his best season between Oakland and Seattle in 2017, but he has generally offered middling production relative to his offensively charged position.

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He has taken 3,773 plate appearances in the majors, including a combined 335 between the White Sox and Rockies last year, and batted .259/.332/.404 (102 wRC+) with 100 home runs.

Now that he’s back with the Padres, Alonso will provide the club a bit of insurance at first behind Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth and Ty France.

He’s also now part of the same organization as brother-in-law Manny Machado, the Padres’ third baseman.

It’s also the city where Machado and Alonso’s sister make their home out of season.

“I’m really excited to finally have my brother-in-law on the same team,” Machado said Tuesday after the Padres beat the Dodgers 6-2.

Alonso was on the Braves’ shortlist after failing to show up to their other training site. It will report to the Padres alternate site at the University of San Diego. He is being brought in ostensibly for depth at first base but also to work with young hitters and give the young pitchers at the alternate site a veteran hitter to work against.

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Masahiro Tanaka returns to Yankee Stadium only two days after taking 112 mph liner to head

The Yankees had their Sunday brightened by Masahiro Tanaka, who came to the ballpark and seemed well a day after being hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive.

They’re hoping Yankee Stadium’s lights will do the same this week.

Encouraged by Tanaka’s progress after Saturday’s scare, the Yankees are planning to hold intrasquad night games Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx as they prepare for the July 23 start of a 60-game regular season condensed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 7 p.m. scrimmages will both air on YES Network, giving fans at least a couple of live looks at the defending AL East champions this summer. Left-hander J.A. Happ is expected to start against young righty Clarke Schmidt on Monday, and new ace Gerrit Cole — signed to a $324 million, nine-year free agent deal last winter — is set to pitch Tuesday.

New York has also been working to calendar exhibition matches in the next 2 1/2 weeks with other clubs, possibly the Mets, but nothing has been formalized. “We’re putting a premium on live reps as much as we can,” manager Aaron Boone said.

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Sunday’s second day of summer camp certainly went smoother than the first. The opener carried a somber feel after Stanton’s comebacker drilled Tanaka in the right side of his head in the third at-bat of the session.

Left-hander James Paxton said Sunday that Stanton’s shot was measured at 112 mph (180 kph).

Tanaka was released from the hospital Saturday night after a CT scan came back negative, and he is in concussion protocol. Boone is cautiously optimistic Tanaka could be ready by opening day.

“I think all the signs are pointing that he really dodged a bullet there,” Boone stated.

All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman and catcher Gary Sanchez took the field Sunday after missing Saturday’s workout. They arrived in New York a day later than teammates due to travel issues and had to wait for results from intake virus testing.

Chapman threw a bullpen, and Sanchez took live at-bats against Paxton, who looked sharp in his first simulated game of this camp.

Paxton is ramping up following back surgery in February that would have cost him much of the campaign if not for the delay.

The big left-hander walked Sanchez to start, then struck out Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade and Sanchez successively. It was an encouraging sign for a club already without starter Luis Severino for the year due to Tommy John surgery and now facing questions about Tanaka’s availability.

“I had no problem with the back,” Paxton said. “Everything felt really good.”

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Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald back for 17th season

The Arizona Cardinals informed the receiver will return in 2020 for his 17th pro season, signing Fitzgerald to a one-year contract. He had been set to become a free agent.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Fitzgerald’s deal is worth $11 million with incentives, per sources informed of the contract.

Fitzgerald’s future has been the subject of speculation each season of the past couple of years. Yet the 36-year-old continues to produce.

Fitzgerald snagged 75 receptions for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, all team highs.

Even as things seem to change often in Arizona, Fitzgerald’s production still as steady as a rock.

The veteran’s ability to get open on quick routes meshes well with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and Kyler Murray’s lightning-fast release. Perhaps Fitzgerald will no longer burn past receivers, but he still owns the route-running ability to box out defenders and vice-grip hands to snag pigskins in close quarters.

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While the Cardinals hope someday soon one of their young guns overtakes Fitzgerald as a true No. 1 target, Kingsbury understands the vital role the veteran plays for his offense to move the chains consistently.

“I think he’s playing as good as anybody, honestly,” Kingsbury said at the close of the season. “You watch what he does week-in and week-out, the little things, the blocking and the toughness that he brings to the offensive side of the football. We missed him twice for huge plays yesterday. He’s just still creating separation. He does it all.”

The 11-time Pro Bowler and former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year sits No. 1 in Cardinals history in catches (1,378), receiving yards (17,083) and receiving TDs (120). Fitzgerald trails only Jerry Rice in NFL history in catches and receiving yards.

The Cardinals wideout needs 171 receptions and 5,812 yards to tie Rice. It would take a few more campaigns to come close to those numbers, but Fitzy is at least inching closer to records that once seemed outlandish for any wideout to get near.

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