Can the Las Vegas Raiders replace the fanaticism of the Black Hole?

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Mark Acasio says he and his gorilla suit are joining the Las Vegas Raiders this fall. Acasio, a long-time fan from Brentwood, California, known far and wide as Gorilla Rilla, has shelled out $3,500 for home-game tickets and $8,500 for a (PSL) for a front-row seat at Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders’ posh new home.

Acasio has not missed a Raiders’ home game in 25 years. Just because the Raiders will now be a one-hour flight from his home instead of a one-hour drive, he is determined to stay loyal to the team and to his comrades moving to Vegas from the Black Hole, the NFL’s most infamous cheering section, at dingy Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

“On the other hand, many other friends of mine have not, and will not, step foot in ,” Acasio tells The Guardian.

They won’t because Las Vegas is not exactly around the corner from the Bay Area, and because tickets in the sections at Allegiant Stadium envisioned as a New Black Hole are about double what they were in Oakland – $218.75 in Vegas, up to $110 in Oakland. There was a PSL in , but as far as anyone can remember, it was not much more than $500.

But that is only half of the issue. Oakland had the Raiders twice: from 1960 until 1982, when they moved to Los Angeles for 13 years, and then again from 1995 through last season. The Raiders won two Super Bowls in their first stinter Danny Murphy has slammed the work of Arsenal boss Unai Emery.Murphy reckons the Gunners would be better off with another man at the helm – and has suggested there is a lack of faith in Emery among the Arsenal players.He told talkSPORT: “[Granit] X in Oakland and another in Los Angeles, but the second stay was pretty bleak, .

Although they knew that Mark Davis, the Raiders’ owner and son of Al Davis, the legendary former Raiders’ coach and owner, had tried in vain for years to replace the obsolete Coliseum, many of the team’s long-suffering fans were enraged that the team abandoned the Bay Area again – and that Davis was hardly nostalgic about Oakland.

“I have a football team, but it’s going to be the Raiders,” Wayne Deboe, a fan for 60 years and the president of the Oakland Raiders Booster Club, tells the Guardian. “They’re called the now, but they’ll always be just the Raiders to me.”

The Black Hole had consisted of four lower-deck sections at the Oakland Coliseum where fans dressed up in freaky silver-and-black outfits and loudly cheered the Raiders: “positive fanaticism”. The Black Hole is also a global fan club with thousands of members.

But the Black Hole is, well, :

We are a STATE OF MIND. Our state of mind has united the entire Raiders Nation over the years. We have grown from a few friends to a worldwide family made up of generations of fans young and old, from all ethnicities, races, and sexes. If you bleed SILVER and BLACK, then we are connected and you are spiritually part of us.

Rob Rivera, a resident of Hayward, California, who is the president and co-founder of the Black Hole, tells the Guardian, “The move has broken our hearts, pissed us off. They proved loyalty is a one-way street in the .”

Deboe was not a Black Hole denizen: “They stand up too long for me,” says Deboe, who is retired and lives in Castro Valley, California. But he feels burned, too. Like Rivera, Deboe figures he will go to one or two Raiders’ home games per season in Las Vegas, probably using tickets purchased by a season-ticket holder (with a PSL).

Deboe is sure he won’t become a San Francisco 49ers’ fan. “That’s definitely out of the question,” he says, laughing. “Nobody will do that.”

The Raiders did not return several emails from the Guardian about duplicating the Black Hole in Vegas. Marc Badain, the team president, : “A lot of the folks that sit in the Black Hole in Oakland bought tickets in the south end zone at Allegiant. Whether that happens organically, we’ll see what happens.”

Deboe, for one, is Champions League winner Harry Kewell says they’re a striker short.Rather than look to strengthen their attacking options in the summer, Liverpool opted to hand Divock Origi a new deal, shortly after he scored the goal to seal victory in the Championsnot optimistic that will happen. He says that is “because Las Vegas is a destination city. A lot of people take trips there from all over the country. Fans of other teams will see a road game in Vegas and will want to make a weekend of it. Oakland was a sold-out stadium of locals.”

There is a Black Hole chapter in Las Vegas, a good start. The chapter president is Cisco “Kid” Ortega, whose job was relocated from the Bay Area to Vegas before the Raiders made Mundo Deportivo says La Real sports chief Robert Olabe is seeking a new left-back and is prioritising Monreal.The former Osasuna defender enjoys great support inside the board room of La Real, where they have been trying to bring the 32 year-old backtheir move. Ortega says the team has not been in touch with him, but when asked about a Black Hole II, he says “We are going to do our best to duplicate that.”

The chapter threw a Super Bowl party at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas just to get the ball rolling, although the coronavirus pandemic scuttled plans for the NFL to host its draft in Las Vegas in April, denying the Black Hole club some inevitable TV screen time and valuable publicity. Ortega is still optimistic for success in Vegas, though he understands the challenges.

“I know I can speak for many of us Oakland fans when I say this second relocation will always hurt,” he says. “Many of us, including myself, will not wear any Raider gear that says ‘Las Vegas’. However, what’s done is done, and we, The Black Hole, have to continue on with what we’ve built in the past 25 years.”

When plans for Allegiant Stadium were revealed, Raiders fans were horrified to note that an area in the stadium outside the north end zone that would be ideal for another Black Hole was taken up by club seating. But the Raiders said there could be a Black Hole at the other end. About 15% of the season tickets in Vegas were sold to fans from northern California.

But will the Black Hole, or can the Black Hole, really ever be the same? Gorilla Rilla will be there, and he is determined to make the place look and sound like Oakland. All the team has to do, whenever or however the NFL season starts, is to win more games and give whoever shows up at its new stadium more to cheer.

“I will continue pounding my chest to the Silver and Black among our Raider Family from Vegas to around the country,” says Acasio, ever the noble warrior to the cause. “I’ve visited 30 stadiums and have stepped foot in Mexico City, London and Germany, and I have always represented my Black Hole Banner and Raider Nation.”

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‘I’m saying goodbye’: Maria Sharapova announces tennis retirement

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, who announced her retirement from tennis on Wednesday, will be remembered in many corners of her sport with respect more than affection – and it will not worry her much at all.

The 32-year-old Russian who arrived in America from Sochi with her father in 1994 as refugees from the poison of Chernobyl – with $700 and not a word of English between them – won five grand slam titles and was ranked the highest earner in women’s sport for 11 years in a row. But it is her icy demeanour and failure to build on an early victory over Serena Williams that grab the imagination as much as those fine achievements.

Sharapova, who beat Williams to when just 17, then lost 20 of their following 21 matches, was never universally popular in the locker room. She cared little about courting popularity, but she had the professional respect of her rivals for her single-mindedness and fighting spirit. Petra Kvitova, who beat Sharapova to win Wimbledon in 2011, was one of her few rivals to give her warm praise on Wednesday, describing her as a, “big champion”.

The Czech, who was sidelined from tennis after a knife attack in her apartment in 2016 but has returned to the upper reaches of the game, : “I know how tough it is to come back and play. She has been injured a lot. Of course she wanted probably bigger success than … her body allowed her to have.” She added: “It was a pleasure to be with her on the tour, sharing the court with her. It was always great battles when we play together. So it’s been always nice to share the court with her and I do always have respect to her.”

More than most players on the tennis circuit, Sharapova divided opinion. There were many players who objected to her early return from a drugs ban in 2017, after she had . Sharapova, who protested her innocence, had her two-year ban cut to 15 months, but was never the same player in a comeback that stuttered from one disappointing setback to the next, on the court and off. Her last tournament win was in a low-ranked event in China three years ago.

Long-time problems with her serving shoulder recurred and, towards the end, she was losing to lesser players on a regular basis. There was a suspicion among some of her rivals and critics that she was playing merely for publicity to drive her many commr Kostas Manolas recognises they’re underdogs facing Lazio this weekend.Manolas admits Lazio are having an “extraordinary season”.“We’ll give everything we’ve got to pick up points. It’s a very complicated time for Napoli, but the only way out is tercial interests, although she claimed she played for the love of the game and the competition. That was certainly evident in her trademark screeching and her relentless pursuit of lost causes on court, mainly from the baseline and with a two-handed backhand that was among the best in tennis. She made the most of the weapons she had – including a powerful serve early in her career until injury struck on a regular basis – and was rarely found close to the net. Hers was a game of calculation rather than inspira the battle for exciting Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare.The youngster is rated among the best prospects emerging in French football.LOSC president Gerard Lopez is ready to sell land La Provence says a move to England is likely with United and Spution.

In her last match, a at the Australian Open in January, Sharapova was ranked 373 in the world, a long way from her five separate reigns as world No 1, the first of them in 2005. It was her third first-round exit from a major in a row.

However, five grand slam titles – encompassing all the four venues, on clay, grass and hardcourt – and career earnings of $38.7m tell a story of longevity and persistence, which Sharapova regarded as her greatest asset.

Her rivalry with the younger of the two Williams sister was fierce but doomed – and it defined Sharapova’s struggle. Their last encounter – in the first round of the 2019 US Open, when Sharapova needed pain killers to get on court and could win only two games – summed up the physical decline of the Russian.

“Behind closed doors, 30 minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match,” , her chosen platform to confirm her retirement. “I’ve had multiple surgeries – once in 2008; another procedure last year – and s missing Champions League qualification is a frustrating blow.The Gunners missed their chance after being beaten by Chelsea in the Europa League final.Asked if it was painful to be in the Europa League again, Arsenal midfielder Xhaka said: “Yeah, of pent countless months in physical therapy. Just stepping on to the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory. I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.”

It always was. Sharapova regularly turned back questions about her looks as irrelevant, and protested that her many fashion shoots did not form the centrepiece of her career.

“Behind the photo shoots and the pretty tennis dresses, [the courts] exposed my imperfections – every wrinkle, every drop of sweat,” she wrote. “They tested my character, my will, my ability to channel my raw emotions into a place where they worked for me instead of against me. Between their lines, my vulnerabilities felt safe.”

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Warriors’ Stephen Curry scores 23 in long-awaited return from broken hand

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scored 23 points for Golden State in his anticipated return after missing more than four months with a broken left hand, but the Toronto Raptors beat the Warriors 121-113 Thursday night to clinch a playoff spot.

After being sidelined 58 games, Curry led Golden State out of the tunnel to a big ovation – as loud as his neon sneakers, one pink and one yellow. He missed his first two shots but had three quick assists, including a no-look, behind-the-back dish to Andrew Wiggins. He finished with seven assists in 26 minutes.

The two-time MVP hit a 17-footer for his first basket early in the second quarter, then got a huge reaction for a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc shortly before halftime. He was 3 of 11 from 3-point range for the game.

“It feels like the first day of school pretty much all over again,” the 31-year-old Curry said earlier in the day after shootaround. “It’s kind of just getting back to enjoying playing basketball at the highest level. There’s a process to that.”

Norman Powell scored a career-high 37 points for Toronto, which clinched a playoff berth with the win in a rematch of last year’s finals. The Raptors won that series in six games, finishing with a victory in Golden State’s final game at its old arena in Oakland.

Kyle Lowry added 26 points and 10 assists, and Serge Ibaka had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who won at Phoenix on Tuesday night to end a three-game losing streak.

“Knowing that Steph was coming back, we knew it was going to be a great night, a great atmosphere,” Lowry said. “One of the best players in the league was coming back from injury, we wuitting for Bordeaux.The 33-year-old signed for Bordeaux on Tuesday having previously refused to travel on Arsenal’s pre-season tour to the USA. On social media, Koscielny explained, “I have spent wonderful years with this club, nine years during whiere a little more focused and concentrated on him, but coming in here, it’s a great regular season game.”

Damion Lee scored 23 points and Marquese Chriss had 17 points and 12 rebound for the Warriors, who have lost 10 straight at home.

Golden State trailed 62-55 at halftime but took an 85-83 lead in the third on Eric Paschall’s three-pointer – with Curry on the bench, no less.

After Toronto regained the lead, Paschall tied it at 95 on a free throw with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors countered with five straight points. A three-pointer by Lowry and a powerful dunk from OG Anunoby helped Toronto stretch the lead moments later.

Curry checked back in with 3:51 left and hit a falling layup with two minutes remaining that pulled the Warriors within 113-108. Wiggins added a three-pointer to make it 113-111, but Pascal Siakam made two baskets in 15 seconds to keep Toronto’s lead safe.

Lee stole the ball from Powell with 25.8 seconds left and was fouled by Powell. But he missed both free throws and then two three-point tries after consecutive offensive rebounds.

Curry practiced Monday with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, then was recalled later in the day in a most anticipated promotion. His return to action came without most of his familiar supporting cast — Draymond Green missed his fourth straight game with a left knee injury, and Klay Thompson remains out with a torn left ACL.

Box-and-one D?

Curry and Lowry chatted recently, and Lowry kidded about pulling a box-and-one defense against Curry again.

“I’m expecting anything,” Curry said. “I talked to Kyle the other day and he joked about it, he might throw it back out there. Obviously last time we played them it was a terrible feeling losing in the finals, but obviously the situation’s different this year, but there’s excitement about what tonight’s going to be, me getting back out there and guys coming off a huge win in Denver, trying to build momentum.”

Tip-ins

Toronted boss Ole Gunnar is eager to get a deal for Leicester City defender Harry Maguire settled.Solskjaer spoke of the England international after their friendly shootout win over AC Milan in Cardiff.”Hopefully, the last little details will be in place to had lost 13 of its last 14 on the Warriors’ home court. … The Raptors are 8-3 on the road v the Western Conference. … The Raptors are the only opponent that swept the season series from the Warriors last season.

Golden State hasn’t won at home since beating Orlando 109-95 on 18 JanuaNew Bordeaux sports chief Hugo Varela has expressed interest in Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud.Off contract in June, Giroud has emerged as a confirmed target for Olympique Lyon and Olympique Marseille.And now Varela has revealed Bordeaux are also keery. They 7-25 at home overall and 2-9 against the Eastern Conference.

Up next

Visit the Kings on Sunday night.

Host the 76ers on Saturday night having lost 115-104 at Philadelphia on 28 January.

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My favourite game: Miami 10-13 NY Giants, Wembley’s first taste of NFL

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It was a night for raincoats and thermals at Wembley on 28 October 2007, not T-shirt and shorts; hot drinks not cold brewskis at the tailgate party for the sensible in the crowd of 81,176; and the sodden pitch, designed for football, cut up in seconds leaving huge divots and bad first impressions.

The only play worth highlighting was Eli Manning’s super slow-motion 10-yard run for New York’s only touchdown and the final score was barely relevant to most either. It was an event, with a capital E, V, E, N and T because this was the first regular-season game played outside North America, the culmination of decades of endeavour in the UK.

Channel 4 showed highlights – extraordinary to think these days but on a week delay – in 1982 and the late-night Super Bowl ritual was formed. A weekly American football newspaper, First Down, was produced, a domestic competition sprung up and there were pre-season American Bowl games at Wembley from 1986-1993. There were the heady days of the World League and the London Monarchs winning the first World Bowl in 1991, provoking semi-serious discussion of a game between them and the worst team of the 1990 NFL season, which, rather remarkably given the past 20-odd years, was New England.

It was all that and more. The late Sunday nights listening to the Armed Forces Network as its medium-wave signal faded in and out, whistling and crackling live commentaries. Then came weekly live games on TV every Sunday and Monday and the emergence of a market big enough to satisfy the NFL’s rapacious desire for yet more millions of dollars.

It was scarcely believable that here were two NFL teams, right in front of us with all the rigamarole and pageantry; at kick-off thousands of cameras lit up the dark sky. There were tears in the packed press boxes.

Those closer to the action were also in awe. David Tossell, of the NFL London office, told me: “Even when we first knew we were going to be staging the game it was pretty daunting, so the moment that always sticks with me was when The Feeling were performing the pre-game show and my boss and I looked around at the packed stands and turned to each other and said: international is on the radar of Fenerbahce, says Sky Italia.Khedira faces a battle for a place in Juve’s midfield under new coach Maurizio Sarri and has been told he can leave should he find the right club.A move to MLS has been mooted for the vete ‘Wow, we did it.’”

Things moved so quickly it was noticeable to the players. Osi Umenyiora, the former Giant, born in England and now an award-winning analyst for the BBC, said: “The crowd was amazing but I wasn’t sure how much they understood about what they were seeing. I really noticed a difference when I returned to play for the Atlanta Falcons.”

and the International Series, as it is now marketed, featured four games in London last year, two at Wembley and two at Tottenham’s new stadium with a pitch and dressing rooms installed especially for thn de Beek.Marca says United are trying to pry the Dutchman away from Los Blancos’ grasp with a last-ditch offer.Van de Beek expected to make the move to the Spanish capital last summer but, given that Real Madrid were unable to sell James Rodriguez ae sport. Every year talk of a franchise in London builds while the provoked the theory of every team playing once outside the US. That appears unlikely for now, as is fanciful talk of a Super Bowl being played in London.

On a micro level, in September the NFL AcadThe Molineux outfit recorded a brave 2-1 away win over Slovan Bratislava on Thursday, with Jimenez scoring the decisive penalty.He told BT Sport: “For me it’s always in my mind that I’m going to score. It’s my style of shooting penalty kicks, I’m nevemy opened in north London, giving young athletes the opportunity to combine full-time education with training from professional coaches. The aim is for the best to go to colleges in the US and, though a huge long shot, the NFL.

There is another lasting effect of this game that benefits all those who visit Wembley now. The stadium’s creaky infrastructure was overwhelmed that night and the NFL demanded major improvement. Thus, anyone who uses the wifi at Wembley can thank the NFL for the massive, free upgrade.

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Houston Astros cheating probe widens to almost 60 witnesses, 76,000 emails

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Major League Baseball has interviewed almost 60 people and obtained tens of thousands of electronic messages in its investigation into allegations the broke rules by using a television camera to steal signs.

Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers sparked the investigation when he told the Athletic last month the Astros had used the camera to steal signs in 2017 during the team’s run to its first World Series title.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month MLB was investigating Houston’s conduct for the past three seasons, and he hoped to complete the inquiry before the start of next season.

“I think that this is probably the most thorough investigation that the commissioner’s office has ever undertaken,” he said Wednesday at the winter meetings. “I think we’ve interviewed already nearly 60 witnesses, 76,000 e-mails, a whole additional trove of instant messages.

“That review has caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing. It is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible, but it’s really hard to predict how long something like that is going to take.”

Astros manager AJ Hinch and Boston manager Alex Cora, the Astros’ 2017 bench coach, said they had spoken with investigators, and Hinch said he had been involved in several sessions. New York Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, a Houston player in 2017, refused to say whether he had been interviewed.

“At this point in the investigatArsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi says the club have enough “ammunition” to secure transfer targets this summer.The Gunners will lose Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech after letting their contracts expire.But Sanllehi is confident thion it would be wholly inappropriate for me to speculate about what types of discipline might be in play,” Manfred said. “I’m going to get all the facts in front of me and make a decision as promptly as possible on discipline.”

MLB strengthened its rules against electronic sign stealing before the 2019 season, and Manfred said the rules are reviewed eacise on teammate Raheem Sterling.Sterling, insists Delph, now belongs at the top tier of today’s stars.“I joined City with Raheem, so for me to see Raheem’s ­development as debut in Major League Soccer.He was playing for FC Cincinnati for the first time since joining the club temporarily in the January transfer window.Locadia netted in the 71st minute, only seven minutes after he came off the bench for Cincinnati.His nd to push him, to be that voice in his ear, I still felt very much part of ih offseason to determine whether more alterations are warranted.

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Is Jameis Winston the most baffling player in the NFL?

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Jameis Winston, once again, started a game on the worst possible note. For the fifth time this season – and the 10th time in his career – he threw an interception on the game’s opening drive, this one to the Detroit Lions’ Jahlani Tavai. It looked like it was going to be one of those Jameis Winston Games, but it ended up being the other kind: he bounced back to throw four touchdowns in a 38-17 victory for the . It was yet another chapter in the up-and-down career of a quarterback who continues to show tantalizing flashes of being an elite signal-caller while also showing a frightening predisposition for ugly turnovers.

In Sunday’s win, Winston became the first quarterback in history to throw for at least 450 yards in consecutive games. He’s also thrown for over 4,573 yards on the season, which currently puts him ahead of the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott for the league lead, to go alongside his 30 touchdowns. Sounds great, right? Here’s the problem: the interception increased Winston’s season total for picks to 24, with many of those giveaways avoidable. He’s also incredibly sack-prone – he’s been sacked 43 times on the year – and has shown a frustrating inability to learn when he needs to throw the ball away. At no point during his pro career, has he shown any sign of improving all-important ball security.

Ultimately, as much as the Bucs must love games such as the one Winston gave them on Sunday, those strong performances may be making it more difficult for them to figure out what to do at the end of the season. Do the Buccaneers hand an extension to a young quarterback capable of putting up monster numbers? Do they place the one-year franchise tag on him and hope that he becomes more consistent in his sixth year as an NFL starter? Or do they let another team take up his services and find a replacement quarterback in free agency? It’s not like they have had a tremendous amount of success with Winston – he has yet to lead them to the playoffs.

Winston’s troubled history may make that third option more attractive. The Buccaneers drafted Winston out of Florida State University, where he was the subject of a high-profile sexual assault allegation, one that eventually ended with him coming to a (he was not charged over the allegations). There were also several other less serious incidents that occurred during his college career: a citation for shoplifting and a suspension for shouting vulgarities in the campus cafeteria. Tampa Bay took a risk with Winston but hoped that he would keep out of trouble once in the NFL.

He didn’t. In 2018, the NFL suspended him three games after he was accused of groping an Uber driver (Winston was never charged over the incident ). The NFL report : “As a result, the investigation had concluded that Winston violated the Personal C club great quit Roma last summer after feeling isolated in his front office role.”My withdrawal was a bit unexpected, but correct. Now I accepted it, but I needed two years, because it was not my decision. In any case, I never regretted my decisionsonduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”

The Buccaneers clearly have a conundrum. Winston can win games for the team, he can lose games for the team and there’s a chance that legal or personal issues could prevent him from taking the field altogether.

In a league where starting quarterback options are plentifuLoftus-Cheek has revealed how he has endured a tough season.The 24-year-old has been sidelined since May with an Achilles injury, but he has recently returned to first-team training.”Tough times are definitely hard to stay motivated,” he told the clul, it would be an easy decision for Tampa Bay to move on and let another team take on the risks. That doesn’t describe the modern NFL, however, where teams seem to be constantly installing and discarding proven mediocrities. Because of this, there must be an temptation within the organization to stick with the Devil They Know and hope that he keeps coming up with games like the one had had on Sunday.

. After Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown at least one interception against 31 NFL teams. In other words, . In fact, in what was likely his last game at MetLife Stadium, he ended up throwing three to various Dolphins defenders. Manning also, however, threw two touchdowns and led his team to a 36-20 victory, which was well appreciated by the hometown fans who rewarded him with a standing ovation.

. Congratulations to every fantasy football player who had Drake on their roster: he managed to score four touchdowns in a 38-24 Cardinals win over the Cleveland Browns. As you can imagine, Drake also accumulated plenty of carries (22) and a ton of yardage (137) in an Arizona victory that essentially sealed Cleveland’s playoff fate.

“Walking in here with Stretch (assistant to the head coach, John Streicher) I said one idiot was going to ask me that question” – Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel, LeShaun Sims’ punt return at the end of the Titans’ 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans.

You can’t blame Vrabel for coming into the press conference a little bit heated. His team’s record, after all, fell to 8-6 thus putting the Titans in second place in the AFC South behind the 9-5 Texans. To be fair to the reporter in question, it wasn’t an entirely ridiculous question, as the Titans would have had better field possession, and slightly more time on the clock, had Sims not returned the punt during their final drive of the game. Vrabel, however, had a point by emphasizing that was hardly the key play in what ended up being a frustratingly close loss, one that puts their .

The Cincinnati Bengals’ execution – or lack thereof– on this onside kick was emblematic of their 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots. The Patriots improved to 11-3 thanks to the general ineptitude of the 1-13 Bengals, who are still successfully pursuing the No1 pick in next year’s draft. Given how poorly the Bengals have been playing all season, it feels baffling that the Patriots would decide that they would need to resort to underhand methods to defeat them.

Or, it would be baffling if this were any other football franchise we were talking about. Before the game, footage of a Patriots employee videotaping last week’s game between the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The videographer, who is heard sheepishly offering to delete the potentially-illicit footage, has been suspended. The NFL is currently investigating the incident and suggests that this story is not going away any time soon.

— The Oakland Raiders played their final game at Oakland Coliseum before the franchise relocates to Las Vegas next season. It was not the storybook ending that the hometown fans were hoping for. The Jacksonville Jaguars snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-16 comeback win. Who knows, however, maybe there was something fitting about the Coliseum hosting .

— The Baltimore Ravens on the back of a ridiculous performance by MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson, who broke Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jackson now has put together 1,103 yards on the grounds to Napoli on Sunday made it four winless friendlies in a row for the Reds.But Dutch star van Dijk believes the return of the club’s stars, including Mohamed Salah, Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Salah Mane, will be important for Sunday’s Community Sh to go along with his 2,889 passing yards and, frighteningly enough, he’s only in his second year in the NFL.

— Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears ended up doing the exact opposite of clinching on Sunday. With their 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, combined with the Minnesota Vikings’ 39-10 win over the increasingly hapless Los Angeles Chargers, the Bears were officially eliminated from postseason contention.

— The Philadelphia Eagles beat Washington 37-27. They now have a 7-7 record, which keeps alive hopes that whoever wins the NFC East – and gets home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs – could end up having a winning record at the end of the regular season. Their divisional rivals, the Cowboys, are also 7-7 after they beat the Rams on Sunday.

— Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner made this athletic grab to intercept Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. It was among three interceptions that Allen gifted Seattle in the 30-24 Seahawks victory. It was a dazzling reminder of just how great a defensive player Wagner is, which made it even rougher when he later . There was better news for the Seahawks later in the afternoon, as the Atlanta Falcons’ 29-22 upset road win over the San Francisco 49ers meant that Seattle ended the day as the top seed in the NFC.

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Oleksandr Usyk won his heavyweight debut but can he beat the big boys?

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Oleksandr Usyk, the cruiserweight champion turned heavyweight contender, is guided by two indomitable polar forces that he brings to bear with magnetic energy, a twinkle in the eye and a gap-toothed grin. He is part Conan the Barbarian, part Conan O’Brien. Both apex predator and Animaniac. Killer and comic relief. Usyk is the planet’s warmest, fuzziest bear trap.

He won gold for Ukraine at the London Olympics in 2012, turned pro, then pulverised the 200-pound division into particle dust, becoming the first cruiserweight to hold all four major world titles. Eleven months after his last fight as a cruiserweight – – Usyk (17-0, 13 KO) made his heavyweight debut in Chicago on Saturday against Chazz Witherspoon (38-4, 27 KO), a sloppy 38-year-old who took the fight as a last-minute replacement for Tyrone Spong, a third-rate opponent who returned an adverse doping test in the middle of last week.

The opponent was largely irrelevant fol Madrid president Florentino Perez insists there was no “pact” with Atletico Madrid preventing them from signing Antoine Griezmann.The France attacker left Atleti this summer for Barcelona in a record €120m deal.At Real’s General Assembly, Florentr the thousands of fight fans in attendance. The Ukrainian supporters would have screamed their throats raw for Usyk whether he had been fighting a muppet, a hologram or a YouTube flunky. This was a party.

Previously, Usyk was merely one of the greatest cruiserweight fighters in history and a theoretical pound-for-pound boogeyman. Yet his graduation to the heavyweight division means he must become something else: an attraction. To a large portion of mainstream sports fans, a transcendent 200-pounder might as well be a G-League heavyweight: talented, sure, but mostly irrelevant if he can’t play with the big boys. European gate money spends are pretty good, but it’s American subscriber dollars that elevate a fighter into his own financial gulfstream.

So it has become Usyk’s challenge to not only display his gifts – both pugilistic and charismatic – but to do so against men inches taller and dozens of pounds heavier. The world’s most significant heavyweights all have the capacity to floor world-class fighters their own size, let alone a puffed-up cruiser new kid on the block.

Witherspoon stands conspicuously outside that group, but at 6ft 4in and 242 pounds, even he posed a lumbering threat to the 215-pound Usyk. The Philadelphia-born former not-quite-contender came in having fought just twice in three years, and he signed on as the fill-in just four days before the bout – apparently cornered between buffet runs at the Golden Corral. Witherspoon may not have been in shape for Usyk, but he was a very large man with nearly 30 professional stoppages under his belt. Styles make fights, but size can end them.

Saturday wasn’t for spoilers, though. After taking stock in the opening round, Usyk got to work with the jab. The Daniel Sturridge in their bid for Trabzonspor pair Ugurcan Cakir and Abdulkadir Omur.The Karadeniz Gazette says Sturridge could help Liverpool land Cakir and Omur.The former Reds striker currently plays with the duo at Trabzonspor.And he has recommenquicker man by far, he parried Witherspoon’s power with nimble footwork and head movement. In the fourth round, Usyk had Witherspoon backing up, stinging him with occasional power left hands, driving him against the ropes and into corners to land quick-burst combinations.

Chants of “Ooh-seek, Ooh-seek” arose when the headliner paused the onslaught to size up his work and, by the seventh round, Witherspoon had been sufficiently tenderised. As he sat on his stool before the eighth round, the American let referee Hector Afu know that he’d had enough. Usyk had won his first fight as a heavyweight. Although there never seemed a moment when Witherspoon was at serious risk of being dropped, neither was there a moment during the fight when Usyk was not categorically in control.

The post-fight questions lobbed at Usyk were predictable. Was the impact of heavyweight power what you expected? Will you be able to withstand it against elite competition? How will your own arsenal match up against those of Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury?

One reporter decided to spar with Usyk, suggesting he would have to change his ad star Antoine Griezmann.Robert was still with Barca when the Frenchman infamously turned them down this time last year – via a Gerard Pique produced documentary.He told El Larguero: “I wanted to sign Griezmann two years ago, if I would sign him now,pproach to beat the top heavyweights. Usyk, who speaks through an interpreter except on occasional low-leverage situations when he flashes his lovably broken English, stared a hole through the reporter – who was sitting no more than a lunging jab away from him – before asking: “You serious?” The moment passed, the reporter’s soul was returned to his earthly body and, in an instant, Usyk was giggling and playfully nudging his manager and translator, Egis Klimas.

“Soooo hungry,” said Usyk, as the questions continued to pour in. He was famished. A good sign. Usyk will need to bulk up for what comes next — which promoter Eddie Hearn says is the winner of the rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua. When asked which potential opponent he would prefer to face, Usyk did not hesitate: “Joshua.” He didn’t miss a beat a moment later, either, when he answered the night’s final question in thickly accented but perfectly constructed English – a potential marketing game-changer.

“Wait, why has he been translating for you this whole time?” asked one of the reporters, only half-jokingly. A pause. Usyk’s crazy eyes bulged cartoonishly, his hands hit his cheeks and, from the smile that creased his face, out popped that unmistakable gap. He’s taking apart heavyweights, he’s speaking English and he’s having a ball.

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Skater badly injured in Olympic ceremony rehearsal accident

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A female skater was severely injured after falling to the ice from about 16 feet during a rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Youth Winter Olympics in Lausanne, police said Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Russian woman’s life is in dange is reluctant to return to the Premier League this summer.The Mirror says Bale is being pushed towards the exit at Real Madrid by boss Zinedine Zidane.But the star is determined not to be forced out without his mega contract worth over £600,000-a-wer, police in the canton of Vaud said. An investigation into Tuesday’s incident is being led by police in the city of aking to Bleacher Report in a Q&A, James named manager Frank Lampard alongside three of his current Blues team-mates in an all-time Chelsea dream team.Cesar Azpilicueta earned the nod over James himself at right-back while World Cup winner N’GoloLausanne.

Police said the woman was being hoisted by a cable attached to the ceiling of the main hockey stadium in Lausanne. The skater suddenly lost balance and fell.

The inquiry must try to establish “the reasons, the circumstances and possible responsibilities in this accident,” police said.

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement a female pecan understand Arsenal’s interest in defender Tierney.“Once you’re a top quality player like he [Tierney] is, like what Callum [McGregor] is, what James [Forrest] is, you are always going to get bids. You are always going to get speculation and yourforming artist was evacuated for treatment at a hospital in Lausanne, without detailing the incident.

“The IOC and Lausanne 2020 wish the performer a fast and full recovery,” the Olympic body said.

The two-week games open Thursday with a ceremony at the new arena, which will also host games at the men’s hockey world championships in May.

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Charles Rogers, second overall pick in 2003 NFL draft, dies aged 38

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Charles Rogers, the wide receiver chosen second in the 2003 NFL draft after a prolific career at Michigan State University, has died aged 38.

The Detroit Free Press after a number of his former teammates on social media.

No cause of death has been reported, but several of his former coaches said .

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Charles Rogers,” the Lions said rsenal manager Unai Emery has admitted that losing the Europa League final is a blow for his team.The Gunners were routed 4-1 by Chelsea in a game where they never looked competitive.It means they will be unable to qualify for the UEFA Champions Leagin a statement Monday. “From Saginaw, to East Lansing, to Detroit, Charles’ connection to the state of Michigan and its football community was felt by many during the course of his life. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his friends and family during this difficult time.”

Rogers set a school record with 27 career touchdowns that still stands at Michigan State despite playing only two seasons at the Lansing school, winning the Fred Biletnikoff award as the best college wide receiver in the nation during his junior season.

The 6ft 3in, 220lb star was chosen with the No 2 pick in the 2003 draft behind only Carson Palmer and almost immediately made good on his $9.1m signing bonus with the Lions, catching 22 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns in his first five professional games, but his rookie year was abruptly cut short when he broke his collarbone during a speed drill.

Rogers broke his collarbone again on the third play of the 2004 campaign, ending his second season. By the end of year three, he was out of football entirely, finishing with 36 receptions for 440 yards and three touchdowns in 15 appearances.

The Saginaw native was arrested at least six times from 2008-12 on charges ranging from assault and battery and probation violations to DUI, open container violations and marijuana possession.

In 2017, Rogers that he became addicted to Vicodin during his time with the Lions. He also said he smoked marijuana throughout his time in college and the pros.

“I am getting my life together. … A fresh start,” he said in that interview. “Do I need a little love? Yeah. Am I still trying to find Charles Rogers? Yeah. I stay optimistic and positive. I’ve been to hell and back, but I stay strong. I still have faith. I’m still a young man. It ain’t over. I’m going to be all right, you know? I’m going to be all right.”

Donham boss Harry Redknapp believes Paul Pogba could yet stay with Manchester United.Pogba continues to be linked with Real Madrid and Juventus.But Redknapp told Sky Sports, “I wouldn’t think they’ll take a loss – I think he is a great footballer.”Maybn Durrett, who coached Rodgers at Saginaw High School, told the Free Press he was the best athlete he’d any seen across spo confirmed the club is under an English Football League transfer embargo due to an unpaid tax bill, reports BBC Sport.The Shrimpers will owe £668,000 to HM Revenue and Customs by 11 March, with a further month “stacked up behind”.Sol Campbell’s siderts.

“I’ll tell you, he was – and I’m including Flint, too, since I coached at Flint Northern all those years – he’s the best athlete I ever seen. I mean, honestly,” Durett told the newspaper. “We’re talking about basketball, football and track together. He could have had a scholarship in all three sports. That’s how good. … I haven’t seen nobody that fast that could do it all. He was just a blessed athlete that could do it all.”

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Brandon Brooks says he had to leave Eagles’ loss to Seahawks due to anxiety

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Brandon Brooks said he had to leave the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday due to anxiety.

The guard, who joined the Eagles from the Houston Texans in 2016, has been open about his struggles with anxiety in the past, and said he was not ashamed of his decision to leave the game.

“I’d like to address what happened yesterday,” . “I woke up, and did my typical routine of morning vomiting. It didn’t go away like it eal Madrid.The 18 year-old Japan international will join Real after the Copa America from FC Tokyo.Kubo had been with Barca since he was eleven years of age before he was forced to return to Japan after a FIFA crackdown on the recruitment of junior pnoid have confirmed coach Zinedine Zidane’s brother has passed away.Zidane left Los Blancos’ training camp on Friday to fly back to Spain and be with his family.In Montreal, the players and coaching staff all observed a minute’s silence before startingrmally does, but I figured it would calm down once I got to the stadium. It did, but I felt exhausted. The nausea came back, and I tried to battle through it and went out for the first drive. The nausea and vomiting came back until I left the field, and tried everything I could to get back for my teammates but just wasn’t able to do it.

“Make no mistake, I’m NOT ashamed or embarrassed by this nor what I go through daily. I’ve had this under control for a couple of years, and had a set back yesterday. The only thing I’m upset about is that when my team needed me, I wasn’t able to be out there with and for them. Lastly, I appreciate the support of my coaches, teammates and fans. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Brooks has missed five games during his career due to anxiety, and was given a formal diagnosis in 2016. Until Sunday, he had not missed time due to anxiety since the diagnosis. One of his fellow offensive lineman on the Eagles, Lane Johnson, also suffers from anxiety and the two have said they joke with each other about vomiting before games.

The Eagles’ head coach, Doug Perderson, said he fully supports Brooks. “This is not a football issue with Brandon; y came from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu in their Champions League last-16 first-leg clash.Isco had given the hosts the lead but Gabriel Jesus and a Kevin De Bruyne penalty, before Sergio Ramos’ late red card, ensured the Premier Lethis is a real-life issue that he has come out and publicly acknowledged and kind of shared his story a few years back,” Pederson told 94.1 WIP on Monday. “It’s something that he’s dealing with each and every day of his life. You never really know what triggers it. We’re here to support him. We love him. It is unfortunate that it happened, but it’s something that he deals with every single day. We’re just going to continue to support him.”

The 30-year-old is considered one of the best guards in football, and signed a four year, $56.5m contract extension in November. He won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles in February 2018.

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NBA 2019-20 predictions: The rise of Los Angeles and the era of the super duos

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This season will be defined by …

How things . The Lakers brought in LeBron James last season and still missed the postseason, so this time around . They had hoped to add Kawhi Leonard and become the new Golden State Warriors. Then the Clippers . Now the Lakers may not even be the best team in their own building.

The end of the superteam era means . The star-studded paradigm favored by the Celtics, Heat and Warriors over the last decade has given way to a two-star model co-opted by more than a dozen teams. Increased league-wide parity promises an improved nightly product and a much-needed injection of suspense at the business end.

The regular season will mirror the offseason, with the NBA’s best duos dominating the headlines in the same way they did this summer. Leonard and George with the Clippers, James and Davis with the Lakers and James Harden and Russell Westbrook with the Rockets are just a few of the superstar combinations that are sure to own the months to come.

. Every team is one bad spill away from watching their championship dreams swirl down the drain. Take the 2019 NBA finals, for example, when Golden State lost Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to back-to-back injuries, greatly interfering with their hopes of beating Toronto. Talent is nothing without health.

Rate the NBA’s handling of the China situation out of 10

If NBA commissioner Adam Silver is about resisting China’s demands to force Daryl Morey out from his role as GM for the Houston Rockets for in Hong Kong, feel free to bump this up to a 3/10 for taking at least one clear stand. Strike me as not giving the commissioner the benefit of the doubt on this one.

. The controversy has in many ways awakened the broader public to the scale of Chinese censorship – and the degree to which US corporations are willing to play along with it in pursuit of their bottom lines. The NBA has shown it’s no different than in recent years, but Silver has done an admirable job by standing steadfastly behind his players.

The NBA took a benign tweet and turned it into an international fiasco. Representatives at every level of the NBA overreacted, as LeBron, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Silver all scolded Morey and created a media firestorm.

. The NBA learned that it can’t have it both ways. In Silver’s first statement he toed the line, angering many people who thought he was supporting a totalitarian regime which happens to generate huge revenues for the league. After the backlash, he released another statement clarifying that the league supports free expression, later adding that Money won’t be disciplined. With millions on the line, Silver was in a tough position – but he ended up doing the right thing.

Which team had the best off-season?

If were gettea have announced they recorded a loss of nearly £100million for the year ending June 30.The loss was revealed in the club’s latest financial results but, after two profitable years, the Blues insisted they are still compliant with UEFA’s Financial ing a healthy Durant alongside Kyrie Irving, they would have a case. But Durant’s likely out for the entire season, so it’s clearly the Clippers for luring Leonard and George to California.

could go down as the best summer for any NBA team since the Miami Heat signed Chris Bosh and James in 2010. The addition of a lengthy superstar wing player who can create for himself or his teammates off the dribble, make threes and play lockdown defense would have been enough to lift the longtime Los Angeles afterthoughts into the title conversation. Adding two of them, while managing to retain their depth, makes them overnight frontrunners in a loaded Western Conference.

It wouldbe utterly insane to argue in favor of any team other than . Leonard’s decision to skip town on the Raptors and link up with the Clippers’ veterans was a win from the jump. The surprise addition of George took things over the edge, separating their summer from the rest of the pack in one of the biggest off-seasons in recent memory.

secured the biggest free-agent on the market in Leonard and also acquired George. That’s enough to transform a team that have never made it past the second round of the playoffs in their 49-year franchise history into instant title contenders. Leonard led the Raptors to their first-ever championship last season, perhaps he could do the same thing this year with the former laughing stocks of the league.

One bold prediction

The than they did last year despite the losses of Irving and Al Horford. The Celtics won’t be able to replace everything Horford gave them but Kemba Walker could end up being a better fit for the Celtics than Irving, even if he’s somewhat of a downgrade at point guard.

. The No 2 pick in the 2017 draft has resurfaced with the Pelicans after a pair of injury-hit seasons with the Lakers and he should thrive away from the drama and pressure of playing alongside LeBron. New Orleans has some interesting pieces in place, and it all should add up to plenty of opportunities for Ball to shine in his natural point guard role.

Many are expecting the Nets’ newest member to cause a talented team to crumble from the inside out. But I think Irving learned a lot about himself and the potential pitfalls that leaders face in the locker room and in front of the media last season. Irving has close friends around him in Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan and a strong leadership in Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks. We can expect Irving to play just as well on the court and comport himself much better off it.

. Sure, Durant bolted and Thompson is out at least until February with a torn anterior cemouth captain Simon Francis has hailed the work ethic of manager Eddie Howe.Francis is one of those who have made the journey from League One with Howe.He told the Daily Express: “I did think I would love to be a coach and do it the way he managesruciate ligament, leaving the Warriors with a 47.5-point scoring hole. But Stephen Curry is in top shape and D’Angelo Russell is awfully talented too. Not to mention, the team needed a challenge after five-straight NBA finals appearances and three championships. No more going through the motions.

Rookie of the year

has this one locked up if – and it turns out this could be a big if – he’s healthy and doesn’t miss more time once he’s back from the knee surgery that has . Expect the New Orleans Pelicans to be extremely cautious with the Future of the Franchise, but here’s hoping that we aren’t denied what could be a rookie season of the ages.

Zion Williamson’s bully ball won’t immediately translate to the NBA, so I expect the No 1 pick to endure some growing pains as a rookie. He’s also surrounded by an intriguing mix of young and veteran talent, which could make it difficult for him to stand out even if he plays 30 minutes a night. Instead look to , who put up PlayStation-like numbers at Murray State and will get plenty of opportunity running the point for the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies.

A rare lockhe’d like to sign Real Madrid youngster Vinicius Junior.Vinicius has battled for minutes this season, with Ronaldo making an attempt to sign him on-loan over the summer.He told Fox Sports Brasil: “He is a great player, he made a fantastic last season in a season that is otherwise impossible to predict. Williamson’s game is built for New Orleans, a team full of young guards who are sure to get up and down the floor. If preseason and Summer League serve as any indication, Williamson will be productive and efficient every night.

. causing problems down the line, Williamson should make an immediate impact on the league when he returns to action. He’s strong, agile and unstoppable around the hoop.

MVP

. If Zach Lowe , who am I to argue? The Bucks star’s main rival should be Davis, but it’s hard to get the votes when you’re on the same team as LeBron James.

. The best shooter in the history of basketball first earned the NBA’s highest individual honor in 2015, then became the first-ever unanimous winner in 2016. Only Curry’s willingness to accept a scaled-back role to accommodate the addition of Durant loosened his stranglehold on the trophy. But with Durant out of the picture and Thompson sidelined all or part of the year with an ACL injury, Golden State will be relying on Curry more than ever – and his numbers will reflect it.

The Lakers wanted as badly as he wanted them. The worst kept secret in the NBA paired Davis with one of the best passers in league history, LeBron James. While they have two of the most transcendent basketball players in history, the Lakers are still top heavy and they’ll need career years from Davis and James. If the Lakers are to make good on their lofty expectations, Davis must be the best player in Los Angeles – and the league.

. We all know the saying ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Well, I believe that saying – gender notwithstanding – now applies to a certain 6ft 8in, 250lbs player from Akron. He missed the playoffs last season with the Lakers after eight-straight finals appearances. Not reaching the postseason was embarrassing for the four-time MVP, and you better believe he’ll be playing with a chip on his behemoth shoulders this time around.

Western Conference playoff teams

LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs.

LA Clippers, Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder.

LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, LA Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks.

LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs.

Eastern Conference playoff teams

, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic.

Philadelphia 76ers, , Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets.

Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors.

Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers.

Western Conference finals

LA Clippers 4-3 LA Lakers.

LA Clippers 4-2 Denver Nuggets.

LA Clippers 4-2 Denver Nuggets.

LA Clippers 4-3 Golden State Warriors.

Eastern Conference finals

Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers 4-3 Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA finals

. The Bucks were the best team in the East last season but they lost to Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the Conference finals. Leonard’s in the West now, which means their biggest challengers in the East are an oddly-constructed Philadelphia 76ers team and whatever the post-Kyrie Boston Celtics end up being. The bad news? They may end up facing Leonard again eventually. The Clippers will have a tougher road to the finals, but if they make it they will have a clear advantage over whoever comes out of the East.

. The superteam era may be over but Philadelphia may have the closest thing resembling one. The Sixers lost Jimmy Butler in free agency but added Josh Richardson and the still-underrated Al Horford to a lineup that includes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. This is a team that’s built their identity around size, versatility and defense and one of the few outfits equipped to counter the Clippers’ two superstar wings. One year after pushing Kawhi and the Raptors to the limit in a , look for Philadelphia to go further and capture their first NBA title since 1983.

With the Warriors’ dominance drawing to a close, this season feels like one of the hardest to predict. The star power is heavy across the league but so are the issues. The Clippers, Warriors and Nets have injury issues, the Lakers and Bucks have short rotations and the 76ers and Nuggets are still green. Equipped with the best stars and the strongest supporting cast, the Clippers are essentially my pick by default.

. Leonard and George are going to be an incredible duo, and they’re going to be hungry. Coached by Doc Rivers, this team is going to go far. As for the 76ers, it’s quite tough to bet against a team that added Horford to a roster with Simmons and Embiid. It will be an exciting series, with the Clippers coming out on top.

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Wayne Rooney scores stunning goal from beyond halfway line for DC United

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continues to add to his highlight reel in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday night he scored for DC United from beyond the halfway line for one of the best goals of his long career.

The goal came in the 10th minute of DC’s game against Orlando City. Rooney picked up the ball in his own half and say Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe well off his line. He proceeded to drive the ball over Rowe, and was promptly mobbed by his teammates. It proved to be the only goal of the game.

Roor and RB Leipzig have undergone managerial change this season. Julian Nagelsmann took charge of the German club last July and turned them into Bundesliga contenders. Around four months later Jose Mourinho arrived ati Emery rather than a seek a transfer.Ozil has been frozen out by Emery, but will wait to see whether the Arsenal boss lasts beyond the end of this season before deciding on his future.The midfielder is Arsenal’s highest-paid player on £350,000 a we Spurs and galvanised them, taking ney joined last year with the club bottom of the Eastern Conference. He then inspired them to the playoffs. This season they currently sit third in the table.

Three former Manchester United players are now in MLS’s top-five scorers this season. As well as Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nani are also in the top fivates after skipping out on them this weekend.Against AC Milan, Ronaldo was hooked on 55 minutes for the eventual matchwinner Paulo Dybala on Sunday and is said to have left the ground before the final whistle.Gazzetta dello Sport says Ronaldo did note.

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Kyrgios clashes with tennis authorities again in US Open row over shirt message

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Nick Kyrgios courted more controversy at the US Open before his second-round match against Antoine Hoang had begun.

The Australian, already in hot water this week , was told to fold his collar down because the motto written underneath it, “Just Do You”, apparently contravened the rules.

Kyrgios called the match supervisor and asked what the rule was. “I’m not going to play until you show me the rule,” he told the supervisor. “I want to know the rule. I want to see the rule. I’ve seen shirts worse.”

He also had another of his familiar tantrums in the third set after the umpire allowed a Hoang challenge having previously called game.

The 24-year-old demanded the supervisor came back onto the court to explain that rule as well.

“I’d won the game. He called game then my opponent challenged. I thought that wasn’t right,” he said. “[The collar] I think it was a misunderstanding. I think they thought it was a slogan but it wasn’t. I knew the supervisor was wrong, but I just folded my collar down.”

The 24-year-old was later told he could di Cutrone.Nuno was happy with the former AC Milan striker for their Europa League win over Pyunik.He said, “Positive performance, as already with Leicester. “Monday will be tough, Manchester United will put us to the test, I’m happy with the ethics ansplay the logo in future matchesEvening Standard says the 19-year-old, who can operate in midfield or defence, is currently on loan at German side RB Leipzig but he has struggled for action.Ampadu has made just five appearances for them this season and it has alerted other clubs to at Flushing Meadows.

He defeated French wildcard 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, and will next meet Andrey Rublev of Russia. Kyrgios already faces two ATP investigations for his conduct during and after his previous two matches and New York.

On Wednesday he called the ATP was long loan.Sky Sports News says a move back to Bramall Lane has been agreed and will be confirmed this week.The United keeper spent last season on loan with the Blades and helped them earn promotion to the Premier League. Henderson is expected to sig“pretty corrupt” for fining him $117,000 for his outburst in Cincinnati a fortnight ago, then back-tracked in accused the governing body of having “double standards” following his first-round win.

Second seed Rafael Nadal moved into the third round after Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew ahead of their night session encounter with a shoulder injury.

Alexander Zverev came through yet another gruelling five-setter to reach the third round, coming through against American Frances Tiafoe, just two days after going the distance against Radu Albot.

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Angelique Kerber’s title defence ends but Serena Williams rallies to victory

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It is well over two decades since any woman other than Serena Williams and Venus Williams successfully defended the women’s title at Wimbledon. Angelique Kerber, in such style 12 months ago, will not be joining them after she was ousted 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 by the American Lauren Davis in the second round.

Davis, at 5ft 2in one of the smallest players on the Tour, only got into the draw as a lucky loser. A brilliant mover, she chased down everything and made the usually rock-solid Kerber miss, with 31 unforced errors from the German telling their own story.

“I was trying to find my game the whole match, actually,” said Kerber, who will drop out of the world’s top 10 after . “I was not really feeling good from the beginning. I don’t know why. The energy was not there. I tried. She played well. She was going for it. She took the match in her hand. I was too defensive in the important moments. Of course I’m disappointed. It’s not the way I would like to finish here or to play here. But you have sometimes days like that. You have to accept it. You have to learn from it, try to forget this as soon as possible.”

Davis was ranked inside the top 30 just two years ago but injuries have dropped her down to her current mark of 95. Here, though, with Kerber off-colour, she took full advantage to take her place in the third round, where she will play Carla Suárez Navarro, the No 30 seed from Spain. Having lost in the final round of qualifying, it is almost like she’s playing with house money and she is enjoying the ride.

“It’s definitely been incredible,” she said. “I was super-disappointed, having lost last round of qualies. I found out less than two hours later that I got into [the] main [draw]. I was ecstatic about that. It’s honestly a dream being here. I played qualies last year, so I wasn’t able to come here. It feels amazing.”

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, was there to watch in her second-round match against Kaja Juvan, an 18-year-old Slovenian who likes the philosophy of Socrates and Descartes. Her tennis wasn’t bad, either, as she took the opening set against a rusty-looking Williams but the American, trying to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 grand slams, pulled her game together when she needed it. Her 2-6, 6-2,abao Cup semi-final is evenly poised after the first-leg finished 1-1 at King Power Stadium.”I thought we played well,” Rodgers told LCFC TV. “In the first half, we were too slow both in attack and when we pressed the game. We were too passive.”They 6-4 victory sets up a third-round meeting with the 18th seed, Julia Görges of Germany. “It was definitely coming together as the match went on,” Williams said. “I’m just low on matches basically. I could feel it. But I’m getting there.”

She will get plenty of matches if she keeps going deep into the second week as she partners Andy Murray . While the media might like to claim credit for putting the pair together, W-1 defeat of Bournemouth.The Magpies made it successive wins in the Premier League wins thanks to goals from DeAndre Yedlin and Ciaran Clark who helped cancel out Harry Wilson’s opener.Bruce admitted there was still room for improvement, he said: “Ifilliams said she and Murray had discussed it a few days before and were excited to get on the court together. “It made sendy on a six-month deal after he was released by Wolves.The 21-year-old Scot began his career with Rangers before moving to Spain with Real Murcia.He joined Bury in 2014 before a three-year stint at Molineux that included loan spells with Oldham, Ayr se for me because I really could use some matches at this point,” she said. “It made sense for him. We both want to do well. We both love Wimbledon. Playing with a British icon like Andy is going to be really exciting. I’m looking forward to sharing the court with him and maybe I can learn a thing or two from him.”

Petra Kvitova, meanwhile, continues to defy expectations as she battles the arm injury that forced her to miss the French Open. The Czech, whose two grand slam titles came here in 2011 and 2014, beat Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-2, serving a whole game of aces early on and saving three set points before pulling away for victory. She will play Mandy Minella, of Poland, a surprise winner over American teenager Amanda Anisimova, who reached the semi-finals at the French Open last month.

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Silver defends NBA employees’ right to free speech as China cancels broadcasts

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The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said the league is not apologizing for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet showing support for anti-government protesters in , even after China’s state broadcaster canceled plans to show a pair of preseason games in that country later this week.

Silver, speaking on Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, went as far as to say that he and the league are “apologetic” that so many Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey’s tweet but insisted that the executive has the right to freedom of expression. The NBA has also received criticism from US politicians. Senator Ted Cruz said the league by initially saying it was “regrettable” that Morey’s tweet had caused offence in China.

“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right [to free speech] as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

Those consequences are already becoming clear. The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) said it would not show the games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who will play former Liverpool midfielder was a free agent after his contract with Stoke City expired last month.He has signed a one-year deal with the Royals.Chief Executive Nigel Howe said: “A player with both Championship and Premier League experience, not to mon Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen. is wildly popular in China, with the Lakers drawing particularly strong support due to the presence of superstar LeBron James

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.” The broadcaster is also reviewing all its cooperation with the , according to the statement.

Chinese state media on Wednesday accused the NBA of endorsing violence with the Daily accusing Silver of “brazenly endorsing Morey’s secessionist-supporting tweet” and giving “a shot to the arms of the rioters of Hong Kong”.

The state-owned Global Times accused Silver of caving in to political pressure, saying the NBA was treating the Chinese market with disregard.

Silver will arrive in Shanghai on Wednesday and said he hoped to meet officials and some of the league’s business partners in an effort to find common ground. “I’m sympathetic to our interests [in China] and our partners that are upset,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time to signing another English player – 25-year-old winger Turgott,.The ex-West Ham youth scored 18 goals in 46 appearances for National League side Maidstone last season.Ostersunds have embarked on a policy of bringing young English talent to the far nostand by our principles.”

Silver said the NBA did not expect CCTV to cancel plans to show the Lakers-Nets games. “But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values,” Silver said.

The rift between China and the NBA started late last week when Morey tweeted a now-deleted image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” in reference to months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory that has been mired in violence between protesters and law enforcement.

Efforts were quickly made to defuse the impact. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and Morey returned to Twitter on Monday in an effort to clarify his original post. NBA streaming partner Tencent which has a $1.5bn contract with the league over the next five seasons said it would not show Rockets games and a sports website in China said it was no longer covering the team.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that China’s best-known basketball player is Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who spent his NBA career with the Rockets. Yao is now the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, which has said aj is ready to leave Napoli in January.”There had been discussions in the summer with Roma, then we stopped when the season began, but we still like them as a destination,” agent Mario Giuffredi told Radio Marte.“I think it is Napoli’s interests toit is suspending its relationship with the Rockets in response to Morey’s tweet. The CBA also canceled plans to have the G League affiliates from Houston and Dallas play preseason games in China later this month. “I’m hoping that together Yao Ming and I can find an accommodation,” Silver said. “But he is extremely hot at the moment, and I understand it.”

The NBA’s reaction to Chinese displeasure is jarring to some, given the fact that the league for encouraging its players to express their views on social issues they believe are important, such as police shootings of African Americans.

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