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France detains soccer great Platini in 2022 World Cup probe

By John Leicester and Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — French police investigating whether corruption played a role in the stunning decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar took 1980s soccer superstar and former top executive Michel Platini into custody Tuesday for questioning. Platini's representatives denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying he is "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself for." Also questioned Tuesday were two one-time associates of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, adding a layer of political intrigue to the investigation of the hugely controversial decision to hold soccer's showcase tournament in a desert country so scorching hot in June and July that the matches will be played instead in November and December. As head of European soccer's governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent's top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar in 2010. The closed-door, secret-ballot vote baffled many at the time, not least because the Persian Gulf nation has no soccer pedigree to speak of. But gas-rich Qatar is pouring billions into the world's most popular sport and has the means to finance new stadiums. Platini, 63, was taken into custody after being summoned to a French police anti-corruption and financial crimes office outside Paris, a judicial official told The Associated Press, confirming a report by online publication Mediapart. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. French authorities did not announce any charges against the soccer legend or say exactly what he was being asked. He can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours, after which he can be either released or formally charged. It was the latest turn in a string of scandals in recent years that have brought down dozens of soccer officials from FIFA and other organizations over such offenses as vote-buying, kickbacks and bribery. French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships. Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14-8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who presided over the vote, has accused Platini of backing out of a secret "gentleman's agreement" to award the tournament to the United States after meeting with Sarkozy, France's president at the time. Platini's representatives said he was taken into custody only for "technical reasons." His lawyer, William Bourdon, explained that police wanted to ensure that Platini and other witnesses couldn't confer with each other about their accounts. Also detained Tuesday was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser in Sarkozy's administration, the judicial official said. She was released late in the evening. Claude Gueant, former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy, was questioned as a witness and not detained. French prosecutors previously questioned Blatter. Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games. Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later. "Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good," he told the AP in 2015. But in the same interview, he also said that he "might have told" American officials earlier that he was going to vote for the United States' bid. Blatter quoted Platini as saying ahead of the vote: "I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider the situation of France." FIFA had no comment on Platini's detention and said it has made a "full commitment to cooperating with the authorities." As a player, Platini was one of the best ever, a creative midfielder who lit up the pitch for club and country. He helped France reach the World Cup semifinals in 1982 and 1986 and led his national team to the 1984 European Championship title. He also played club soccer for Nancy and Saint-Etienne before switching to Italian club Juventus. He won three straight Ballon d'Or titles as the best player in Europe while playing for Juventus from 1983 to 1985. Both Platini and Blatter were toppled from their positions at the top of soccer in 2015. Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in connection with a $2 million payment authorized by Blatter — a suspension set to expire in October. ___ AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in Nice, France, and AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News17 hr. 20 min. ago

Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind him and move on. Leonard spent several days partying with his teammates in Las Vegas and Los Angeles after last Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 clincher, returning to Toronto in time to ride in one of five open-top double decker buses that carried the Raptors along a crowded parade route. A three-time All-Star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Leonard is expected to decline the player option on the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Toronto can offer him a five-year deal worth around $190 million, one year and some $50 million more than any other team. Before stepping on stage Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) for a ceremony in the square outside Toronto’s City Hall, Leonard said he hasn’t been thinking about his future. Instead, he’s trying to extend the celebratory vibe as long as possible. “I’m enjoying this” he said. “It’s not time to stress, it’s still time to have some fun. I’ve just been enjoying my experience.” After precisely two months of playoff basketball, Leonard doesn’t have a lot of time left to be a fun guy — free agency gets underway at 6 p.m. on June 30 (6am, Monday, PHL time). “I’m going to take the right time,” he said. “You don’t need too many days to figure it out. We’ll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we’ll all lay the pros and cons out.” Visibly bothered by soreness during stretches of the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, Leonard declined to say how much pain he endured en route to winning his second career title. “We’re always battling through things,” he said. “You know, knee pains, ankles, fingers. Everybody was just grinding it out.” Injured for all but nine games in his final season with San Antonio, Leonard played 60 regular-season games for Toronto and another 24 in the postseason, upping his minutes once April arrived. While winning a trophy was an obvious success, Leonard said he’s enjoyed all aspects of his season north of the border, even the varied Canadian weather. “It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons,” he said. “Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans, just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.” Fans chanted ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’ when Toronto mayor John Tory presented Leonard with the key. Later, the festive mood of the event was marred by gunfire. Four people were shot, leading to a stampede. Three people were arrested and two guns were recovered, Toronto police said. Leonard is one of three Raptors starters with uncertain futures. Center Marc Gasol also has a player option, while guard Danny Green is a free agent. Guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and forward Serge Ibaka, are heading into the final year of their deals. Ibaka and Leonard have become friends in their time together as teammates. “I’ve been talking with him a lot during the season and in the playoffs, but after we won, I can see the man is happy,” Ibaka said. “That’s the most important. We play this sport because we want to enjoy and have fun and be happy and be somewhere people love you. I’m sure he feels that people here love him, and after this moment, that’s the most important.” Lowry attended the parade wearing a game-worn Damon Stoudamire pinstripe Raptors jersey. Stoudamire was the first player drafted by Toronto in 1995, and won rookie of the year honors in 1996. Lowry and Stoudamire were teammates in Memphis from 2006 to 2008......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2019

The job’s not done : Raptors reset, as NBA Finals loom

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — The parade that the Toronto Raptors enjoyed last week was an impromptu and quick one. A chance at the real parade awaits. There is a clear back-to-work vibe coming from the Raptors as they get ready for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) in Toronto. There was some reveling late last week for an hour or two after winning the Eastern Conference title, but that feeling is nowhere to be found anymore. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “We know that we accomplished some great things,” Raptors guard Danny Green said. “But the job’s not done.” When the Raptors won the East, after the on-court celebrations and a few moments back in the locker room, someone got the brilliant notion to take the silver conference-championship trophy to what’s known as “Jurassic Park” — the outdoor area usually called Maple Leaf Square, unless the Raptors are playing. So, with players flanked by security and Drake — of course — Kyle Lowry carried the trophy out through an arena concourse long after the game was over on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), past hundreds of lingering fans who tried to get hugs and photos, and the group eventually made their way toward the outdoor stage. Most fans were gone by then, and the party didn’t last long. By Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Lowry had shifted his focus to the finals anyway. “Pretty much,” Lowry said. “It’s a big task at hand. We know we’ve got a good team, and we’ve got to be focused every single possession. They’re all going to be massive in this series.” Handling this moment is sure to be a challenge for the Raptors, since most of the players on Toronto’s roster haven’t been to the finals before. If there is a silver lining there, it’s that Toronto has already dealt with the mood-swing pendulum in these playoffs. The most worried Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been about a game so far this postseason was Game 1 of the East finals at Milwaukee — a game that came a couple days after Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beating jumper hit the rim four times before dropping in and giving Toronto a win in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Philadelphia. “If there was ever a time I thought maybe a disastrous moment could happen, it was then,” Nurse said. “But man, we played great. Totally outplayed them. We played tough. We didn’t win the game but I thought we outplayed them almost all the way through. We just didn’t get the ball to bounce our way. We might have used a couple bounces a couple days earlier. But again, that just showed me our team was capable of kind of keeping their emotions in check.” They’ll need to be that way again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Fred VanVleet doesn’t think it’ll be a problem. “None of us in October and July and June of last year were working out thinking about the conference finals,” the Raptors’ backup guard said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “Obviously, it’s a great accomplishment, and we’re happy to be taking that next step. But you want to win a championship. You want to win the whole thing. It’s not about just making it to the finals.” The arena will be electric for Game 1. Jurassic Park will be rocking yet again. But the quick little trophy parade through the halls and stairwells of Scotiabank Arena — one where Green revealed on his podcast earlier this week that reserve OG Anunoby was inadvertently decked in the eye by a celebrating fan, and where Leonard needed two security staffers to clear his path — will be long forgotten by the Raptors when Game 1 rolls around. “I think everybody understands that,” Raptors center Marc Gasol said. “You get to kind of soak it in and enjoy that moment and after that night, the next morning, it’s on to the next challenge.” Everyone knows what that challenge is, too. The Warriors are coming. “I think along this little playoff run there’s been some critical, critical games,” Nurse said. “There’s been some ups and downs, and again, I know I keep (sounding like a) broken record, but we’re just trying to take what’s in front of us. And right now, it’s Game 1.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 28th, 2019

Despite title chances, Bayern coach Kovac s future uncertain

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Despite leading Bayern Munich to the verge of two titles, Niko Kovac's future as coach remains up in the air. Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title at home against Eintracht Frankfurt — Kovac's former team — on Saturday, one week before the team's German Cup final against Leipzig in Berlin. But with persistent doubts over his authority and experience dogging his first season in charge, even a domestic double might not be enough. Bayern's management has been less than convincing in its support for the 47-year-old Croat after a season in which the team hasn't displayed the authority of before. "We'll see," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said earlier this month to repeated questions about Kovac's future, adding that the club had bigger priorities for now. "At this time when we can achieve a lot and win two titles, we'd be well advised not to waste our energy on questions of personnel." Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge was also less than forthcoming in defending Kovac, saying he had "no problem with him" and warning, "at Bayern Munich, players, management and coaches have to deliver." Kovac has struggled for authority since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October. The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for "derogatory, slanderous reporting" of its bad run, and felt compelled to address an Instagram post criticizing Kovac from Lisa Mueller, forward Thomas Mueller's wife, for only using her husband as a substitute. Kovac, who led Frankfurt to victory over his future club in last season's German Cup final, is going for his first league title as coach. But his team missed the chance to clinch it in a scoreless draw at Leipzig last weekend and dropped points at relegated Nuremberg two weeks before. That Bayern is still in contention has more to do with rival Borussia Dortmund's inability to defend a lead. Dortmund led Bayern by nine points earlier in the season and has developed an inopportune habit of conceding late goals. Dortmund could yet win the Bundesliga title with a victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach if Frankfurt beats Bayern in Munich at the same time. Kovac, who played as a defensive midfielder for Bayern from 2001-03, said Thursday he was uninterested in the speculation over his coaching future. "I'm totally independent. I don't need to earn millions. Money is not my primary concern. Whatever comes, comes," said Kovac, who has a contract at Bayern through 2021. "I like this job and would like to fulfill my contract," Kovac said. "And I've never given up on anything in my life - never.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for Celtics?

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press It begins. When the buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, the question immediately became this: Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for the Boston Celtics? It’s very possible. Welcome to free agency, Kyrie. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He’s now in the place that other big names like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all will be whenever their respective seasons end, whether that happens with a playoff defeat, or with an injury — Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with a right calf strain — or with their fingerprints smudging the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will all hear some version of the question that Irving got. Free agency doesn’t technically start until July 1, but in actuality it began for the superstar point guard with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 — when he checked out for the last time in what capped Boston’s ousting from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Milwaukee Bucks. He has a player option for next season, one that would pay him about $21 million. No one expects him to pick up that option. Irving got the question a number of different ways Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), and his defense was stellar. No hints, whatsoever. “I’m just trying to make it back to Boston first, safely,” Irving said. “Get to see my family. Decompress. Do what human beings do.” This will be a seismic free-agent summer in the NBA and everyone has known this was coming for some time. Durant, Butler, Leonard, Thompson, Irving and Kemba Walker all may sign deals worth well over $100 million apiece. Combined, the total value of those six looming contracts could flirt with $1 billion if everyone involved decides to max-out and not take shorter-term deals. The New York Knicks might have close to $75 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to potentially land Irving and Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers could have close to $60 million. Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana might have about $50 million apiece. The Los Angeles Lakers — even with LeBron James’ big contract and a coaching search that has gone from slow to stuck — have more than enough to add some major names. It will be wild, starting with lots of eyes on Golden State. Questions about Durant leaving have percolated all season and will only pick up between now and July 1. Thompson’s future has been the source of much debate. Imagine: The Warriors could win their third straight title and fourth in five years, and they might break up anyway. Butler will take a long look at signing elsewhere, and he might start hearing ‘the question’ as soon as Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Philadelphia now on the ropes against Toronto. Leonard’s future with the Raptors may be tied to how deep they go in the playoffs. Walker’s situation in Charlotte hinges on the size of the offer the Hornets make to keep him. Irving tried to make all the chatter about his future go away in early October, when he stole the show at a preseason event for Celtics fans at the team’s arena in Boston. He grabbed the microphone, walked toward midcourt and delivered a sentence that is going to get replayed a lot over the next eight weeks. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving said. Sounded great then. Doesn’t seem so iron-clad now. And truth be told, the Celtics might be thinking they’re better off without Irving anyway given how they went deeper in the playoffs with him sidelined last season and his struggles over the last four games of the Milwaukee series. They were 35-19 at one point. They went 19-18 the rest of the way. They went 14-17 in Irving’s last 31 appearances. They were 12-3 when he didn’t play this season. Irving won’t be taking a whole lot of questions — if any — over the next few weeks about his future. He knows what would be asked. All that matters now is his answer. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

UAAP Season 81 Final Four: Coach O assures that Lady Eagles are alright

After taking a shock loss in UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball Final Four, the Ateneo Lady Eagles are taking a page off the book of a certain bitter rival. A little over an hour after the top-ranked Lady Eagles absorbed a devastating five-set loss to the FEU Lady Tamaraws to start Final Four play, Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro finally emerged from their locker room at the MOA Arena. The typically intense and animated mentor was awfully quiet, though he didn’t seem particularly down. Asked for an interview by members of the UAAP Press Corps, the many-time champion coach politely declined. Still, Coach O assured that he and his Lady Eagles are okay despite the fact that they just blew a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four. With a knockout game against the Lady Tamaraws set for next week, Almadro mentioned that Ateneo has “no doubt.” Against FEU Saturday, Ateneo scored a rousing 25-10 win to start only to lose the next two sets. The Lady Eagles responded with an impressive 25-12 win in set four but fell apart in the decider, allowing an 8-1 FEU run late as the Lady Tams pulled off a 15-8 victory in set 5.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

In letter to NFL, lawyer for Chiefs Hill disputes abuse

By Dave Skretta, Associated Press KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The attorney for Tyreek Hill sent a letter to the NFL on Thursday disputing child-abuse claims made by the wide receiver's fiancee, offering a point-by-point response to a secret recording of the couple that was made public last week. In the four-page letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, attorney N. Trey Pettlon also said Hill was willing to cooperate with the league's investigation. "(Hill) categorically denies he has ever 'punched' his son in the chest or anywhere on his body, or otherwise touched him in the chest in a mean-spirited manner," Pettlon wrote, adding that the audio was recorded while Hills and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, were considering separation. The NFL has declined to comment on the case. The Chiefs also have declined additional comment. The Chiefs suspended Hill indefinitely last Thursday, shortly after KCTV aired the recording in which the couple discusses injuries to their 3-year-old son. The following day, prosecutors in Johnson County, Kansas, reopened an investigation of Hill that had been closed just 48 hours earlier. On the audio, Espinal asks why the boy "kept saying, 'Daddy punches me,' which you do when he starts crying. What do you do? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest." Pettlon wrote there have been times that Hill has "tapped his son gently" and told him to "Man up, buddy," or "Don't cry, my man." Pettlon also said Hill has always done so in a "calm voice" and that he has never punched or used his fist as a form of punishment. "The only thing Tyreek does with his son that is close to what she is describing as 'punching' is when they are playing," Pettlon wrote. Espinal also claims during the recording, made as the couple was walking through a Dubai airport, that Hill's son is "terrified" of him. Hill responds, "You should be terrified of me, too, bitch." "Instead of denying that his son was terrified of him a second time, something that has bothered him a great deal, he became frustrated and said she should be terrified, too," Pettlon wrote. "That comment is inexcusable, of course, and he wouldn't ask me to defend that here. That comment is also inconsistent with Tyreek's conversations with Ms. Espinal over the past several months." Pettlon said a forensic examiner has looked through extensive text messages between the couple and that never once does Hill call Espinal a derogatory name. In one exchange, according to Pettlon's letter, Hill tells Espinal after their trip to Dubai: "Crystal you know I didn't cause any bruising or harm to (our son) but for some reason I still may be charged." Espinal replies: "I know you didn't. I did. I hurt (our son). I'm the one that did it. I was hurt and mad you so I blamed you for everything." Pettlon also said that Hill is currently engaged in both family and individual counseling, "and he is committed to improving his life and becoming the best parent he can be." The Chiefs are in the midst of voluntary offseason workouts, and Hill has already been barred from attending, which is one reason why the NFL has not placed him on the commissioner's exempt list. Hill was drafted by the Chiefs despite a domestic abuse case in which he attacked Espinal while he was a student at Oklahoma State. Hill was kicked off the team there and wound up at West Alabama, and the Chiefs said at the time of the draft that he was undergoing counseling. That background, combined with the audio revealed hours before the start of last week's NFL draft, generated a substantial outcry that Hill should be released by the Chiefs. Some have even said Hill, one of the league's best wide receivers, should never play in the NFL again. Pettlon said Hill and Espinal continue to cooperate with investigators, and that District Attorney Steve Howe's office has reviewed the audio tape and has yet to prosecute either party. "It should be clear by now that there is a lot of information, including other compelling evidence that points to Tyreek's innocence, that is not a matter of public record and cannot be addressed in this letter," Pettlon said. "All indications are that the criminal investigation is over and Tyreek still maintains his innocence.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Kluber s broken arm will put major stress on Indians depth

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians decided during the winter their starting pitching would carry them to another October. Cleveland's ride might end before then. Corey Kluber's broken right arm may alter the plans for a season the Indians hoped would include a fourth straight AL Central title. Kluber sustained a non-displaced fracture Wednesday night when he was struck by a line drive in the fifth inning of a start against Miami. Kluber, who struggled through the season's first month, couldn't avoid the 102-mph comebacker hit by Marlins infielder Brian Anderson. After being nailed, Kluber chased after the ball while his right arm stayed motionless against his side. He swatted the ball with his glove toward the bag before walking dejectedly back to the mound. The 33-year-old underwent further imaging tests Thursday to determine the length of his absence. The team is reviewing those results and will place him on the 10-day injured list while providing an update Friday before the opener of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. Based on the initial diagnosis, and assuming there's no other damage, Kluber will likely miss more than one month to allow his ulna bone to heal. The loss of Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, for any time will hurt. He's been among baseball's most consistent pitchers for the past five years, and the Indians are already without starter Mike Clevinger, who is out with a strained upper back muscle. Without 40 percent of their starting staff, the Indians look vulnerable. They already trail the improved Minnesota Twins by 2½ games, and Cleveland's offense has been in a prolonged slump. The Indians are batting an AL-low .215 and have 111 runs in 29 games. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor hasn't taken off after being sidelined to start the season with a sprained ankle, and All-Star third baseman José Ramírez has yet to break out of a slump that stretches back to August. When Cleveland's front office chose not to trade Kluber or Trevor Bauer and to reconstruct the team's roster by allowing All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley to leave as a free agent and trading sluggers Edwin Encarnación, Yonder Alonzo and Yandy Díaz, it did so behind the belief that the pitching depth would be enough to get the Indians back to the playoffs. That theory is about to be tested. Clevinger is still probably a few weeks from returning, although he played catch this week and appears to be ahead of schedule. The Indians will likely go to a five-man rotation in May with Jefry Rodríguez getting one of the spots. He's made two starts while filling in for Clevinger and is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox. Kluber would have started Monday, and manager Terry Francona will either juggle his rotation or reach down to Triple-A Columbus and bring up either Adam Plutko or Cody Anderson. Plutko opened the season in the minors and has been recovering from a forearm strain. Anderson has missed most of the past two seasons after Tommy John elbow surgery, but the Indians think he could be ready soon. When Francona went to the mound to check on Kluber, what he saw was alarming. "It looked ugly," he said. Right now, it's not the only unpleasant sight for the Indians......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Bucks loathe to adjust gameplan after season-long success

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Just one game removed from one of the most marvelous seasons of basketball in Milwaukee Bucks history – 60 victories in the regular season, a sweep of Detroit in the first round, the debut of a dazzling new arena – the team is loathe to let all that go and overreact to 48 minutes that didn’t go their way in Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) Game 1 loss to the Celtics. But if they underreact in Game 2 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum, it will be at their own peril. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Adjustments – from game-to-game, at halftime, even on the fly during live action – are as much a part of the NBA postseason as podium interviews. The reason is simple: Strategic mistakes, small failings and tendencies you can get away with facing teams randomly across a six-month canvas are sniffed out and exploited by an opponent you see as many as seven times in a two-week span. You can stubbornly stick with a pat hand, but most coaches and players would rather change things up to minimize what didn’t work last time and might, if repeated, prove fatal again. The Bucks, though, sounded a little clingy Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) in the wake of their 112-90 defeat. Wanting to hold on to everything that worked so well from October until, well, noon on April 28 (April 29, PHL time). “No, no. Definitely not,” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.” You might be inclined to read that quote assuming sarcasm, as in: Oh right, we’re just going to keep doing exactly what got us blown out and stripped of home-court advantage. Sure. After all, Antetokounmpo had one of his worst performances of the season (7-for-21 FGs, a minus-24 rating). But no, the Greek Freak was sincere. “I don’t think there should be no change at all,” he said. “Why should there be a change after a game that we lost, like … we should not be the team that makes the adjustments.” Antetokounmpo was not alone. “The way we’ve been playing all season has been just letting it fly,” center Brook Lopez said. “So even if we miss it 10-out-of-10 times, just keep [shooting].” The Bucks made 13 of their 39 three-point shots Sunday (Monday, PHL time), well off their regular-season rate of 38.2 percent. Lopez was 1-for-4 on three's and 1-for-5 overall, combining with fellow Bucks starters Sterling Brown and Eric Bledsoe to shoot 3-for-17 from the floor. Said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer: “I think adjustments and all those things are sometimes overrated.” So unless the Bucks are trying to snooker the Celtics with some tweaks they weren’t willing to share, we’ll get to see how that pat hand plays out. Milwaukee did get serious mileage out of its formulas prior to Game 1. Offensively, they’ve surrounded Antetokounmpo with potent three-point shooters, relying on his drives into the lane to draw defenders and offer them unobstructed views from the arc. Defensively, they committed to defending the other guys’ three-pointers, protecting the rim and keeping foes off the foul line. What did that leave? Contested two-pointers and mid-range jumpers – so ugly and out-of-style in the NBA of 2019. It all worked tremendously – until the Celtics shot 15-of-27 on mid-range attempts in their rout. Suddenly, the Bucks’ sagging defense against pick-and-rolls looked as gimmicky and ineffective as that tactic deployed late this season of guarding Houston scorer James Harden from behind. Once the prolific Rockets scorer got over his shock at the unusual method, he was able to pick it apart. Ditto for the Celtics' shooters. Kyrie Irving is one of the most dangerous scorers from any place on the floor but particularly inventing ways to put the ball in the hoop in the mid-range. Celtics veteran Al Horford savored his looks inside the arc, as did Gordon Hayward. The Bucks, meanwhile, were 5-of-12 from mid-range. They try to avoid those shots for the same reasons they encourage opponents to take them. Never mind that the same dynamic was in play in the Houston-Golden State opener later in the day: the Rockets took only four mid-range shots, were 14-of-47 on three's and lost, because the Warriors were 10-of-23 on mid-range attempts and 31-of-53 on two-pointers overall. There is one area in which the Bucks believe they can adjust without, y’know, adjusting. They can play harder. A pervasive lack of hustle and urgency was apparent in real time at Fiserv but was undeniable when Budenholzer and his staff went to “the truth machine” before practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). That would be the video the Bucks reviewed before Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) workout. “He chewed us out. And like I say, ‘Film don’t lie,’” Bledsoe said. “It was effort, man. We weren’t playing our game.” Antetokounmpo said he got scolded on that front in a postgame phone call from his older brother Thanasis. “No. 1, I play for my family,” he said. “So when he’s like, ‘C’mon man. Giannis! You’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. You’ve got to still be aggressive. You’ve got to make the right pass,’ it stabs you in your heart. But at the end of the day, I know it’s the truth.” The Bucks appeared a step slow on both ends. It showed when they went after loose balls or closed out on Celtics shooters. And it showed when lollygagging, relatively, in getting to their spots on offense. Boston already was sending extra defenders at Antetokounmpo, and the Bucks not being crisp in their execution never made them pay. “We weren’t as quick in transition,” Lopez said. “Our pace wasn’t great … We can be better at getting it out. Everyone running the floor, finding their spots. Keeping the spacing wide.” It should be noted the Bucks only lost two games in a row one time all season (March 2-4 against the Jazz and Suns). They’re proud of that resiliency. Of course, in the regular season, they only played the same opponent in consecutive games one time (New York, Dec. 26-28, PHL time). The Bucks never had to react after losses to specific things the other guys did. They merely had to be themselves, only better. “Even though we lost the first game, we’re just gonna come out and play our hardest and see how Game 2 goes,” Antetokounmpo said. “If it doesn’t go well for us, then you can think about adjusting. But right now, we’re not adjusting nothing.” Fine. But unless someone rattles Boston out of its comfort zone in the mid-range, Milwaukee’s adherence to its style of play could contribute to its undoing. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

AP source: Cavs interview J.B. Bickerstaff for coaching job

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are interviewing a coaching candidate with a very familiar name. Former Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff is meeting Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) with the Cavaliers about their job, a person familiar with the team’s coaching search told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team is not revealing its plans. Bickerstaff’s father, Bernie, was a longtime NBA coach and currently is a senior adviser with the Cavaliers. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The 40-year-old Bickerstaff was fired earlier this month by the Memphis Grizzlies, who made a coaching change and demoted general manager Chris Wallace to their scouting department in the wake of a disappointing 33-49 season. The Grizzlies had numerous injuries and crumbled after a 12-5 start. Bickerstaff was named the Grizzlies’ interim coach in November 2017 to replace David Fizdale. Bickerstaff has previous experience as an assistant with Charlotte, Minnesota and Houston, and he has been praised for his ability to help develop young players. Bickerstaff is the third known candidate to meet with the Cavaliers, along with Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley and Miami assistant Juwan Howard. The team also is expected to interview Utah assistant Alex Jensen and has received permission to speak with Portland assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts, who are still involved in the playoffs. The Cavaliers are looking for their sixth coach since 2013 after parting ways with Larry Drew following a 19-63 season. Drew took over in October when Cleveland fired Tyronn Lue following a 0-6 start. Earlier this month, GM Koby Altman said there was no timetable to find a coach. He promised to be respectful in talking to coaches on teams in the postseason......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

Matchmaking: Tennis s Stephens, soccer s Altidore engaged

By The Associated Press Talk about matchmaking: 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and soccer player Jozy Altidore are engaged. Both tweeted the news Monday, posting a photo and brief message. Hers said: "Forever yes." His said: "Forever starts now." Forever yes ♥? @JozyAltidore pic.twitter.com/VVvUlrohtY — Sloane Stephens (@SloaneStephens) April 29, 2019 Forever starts now. pic.twitter.com/cI8uumEScq — Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) April 29, 2019 In addition to winning a Grand Slam title 1.5 years ago, Stephens was the 2018 French Open runner-up and was a member of the 2017 championship U.S Fed Cup team. The 26-year-old American currently is ranked No. 8. The 29-year-old Altidore has scored 41 goals in 110 international appearances since his U.S. national team debut in 2007. He has not played for the Americans since October 2017, when a loss at Trinidad and Tobago prevented them from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Altidore has been with Toronto FC in Major League Soccer since 2015......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2019

Argentina's Tevez settling into role with Shanghai Shenhua

SHANGHAI (AP) — Argentine striker Carlos Tevez says he's already feeling at home with Chinese Super League squad Shanghai Shenhua. Tevez last month became the latest in a procession of star players to join the CPL after Shenhua paid a reported $11 million transfer fee to Argentine club Boca Juniors. He declined to offer financial details on Saturday, but said he'd been moved by the sincerity of Zhou Jun, the club's deputy general manager, who met with Tevez in Argentina to discuss arrangements. The 32-year-old said he shared a 'similar football philosophy' with Shenhua coach Gus Poyet, the former Sunderland and Real Betis manager who joined the club in November. A person familiar with the negotiations said Tevez is being paid $40 million over two years. The Super League season begins in March. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Darvish wants to prove himself in final year of Texas deal

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer br /> DALLAS (AP) — Yu Darvish marked his five-year anniversary as a Texas Ranger this week. Now healthy again, he wants to prove how good a pitcher he is. 'It's not much about my contract, but coming back from Tommy John surgery,' Darvish said through his interpreter at the Rangers' winter banquet Friday night. 'This will be my second year to see how my body reacts and how much I can do to prove how good of a pitcher I am. That's what I'm looking forward to.' Darvish is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers in January 2012 after seven seasons in Japan. While the 30-year-old Darvish is 46-32 with a 3.29 ERA in 100 career starts for Texas, he missed all of the 2015 season because of the surgery and didn't pitch for the Rangers last season until May 28. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings during the regular season. But in his first AL Division Series start last October, he gave up a career-worst four homers. Three of them were in the same inning of a 5-3 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the best-of-five series that the Blue Jays swept. 'I would love to pitch in that kind of situation again this year,' Darvish said. 'And I would like to pitch very well.' Darvish said he just started throwing again and feels 'really good.' Texas spent more than two years scouting Darvish and getting to know him personally before committing more than $107 million to get him. On top of his guaranteed $56 million contract, the Rangers had to pay in the old system a massive $51,703,411 posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan. The 2017 season could have become a player option without a buyout had Darvish won the Cy Young and finished second-through-fourth another time, or finished second in the voting once and second-through-fourth two other times. Darvish finished second behind Max Scherzer in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, when the Rangers right-hander was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-high 277 strikeouts. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span in which he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season because of elbow inflammation. 'I am really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization by just giving me this big of a contract. They've been taking care of me really well,' he said. 'So I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and then show them that they were right giving me that contract.' Darvish said he considered it too much of a risk just two years after surgery to compete in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Then, he smiled and said, 'At the end, let me tell you that I didn't get offered' a spot. NOTES: The Rangers announced they will retire uniform No. 7 during an August ceremony to honor former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week and will be inducted with the class of 2017 on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York. The only other Rangers to have their numbers retired by the club are Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (No. 34) and former manager Johnny Oates (No. 26). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Venus focused on tennis, not age, in record 73rd Grand Slam

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — One could never accuse Venus Williams of being sensitive about her age. Not the way she keeps making self-deprecating jokes about it at the Australian Open. Case in point: Asked about the Australian great Margaret Court after her third-round win over China's Duan Yingying at Margaret Court Arena on Friday, Williams said she had a letter from the 24-time major winner hung on the wall in her room as a memento. 'It's a congratulations for me being the oldest person in the draw or something like that,' she dead-panned. The 36-year-old Williams fields more than her fair share of questions about her advanced age in the sport, how often she considers retirement, what keeps her motivated after more than two decades on the court. Indeed, she is appearing in her 73rd Grand Slam singles draw — a record for the Open era. And she is the oldest woman in the draw at Melbourne Park, though it should be noted that male players her age, such as Ivo Karlovic and Roger Federer, aren't continuously peppered with the same questions. But rather than show her annoyance, Williams smiles and patiently responds each time, sometimes with a joke. And she's made clear with her play this week that she's still a serious contender — she's reached the fourth round at the Australian Open for the 10th time in her career, and without dropping a set. Against Duan, a player who admitted she'd never seen the seven-time Grand Slam winner play, the 13th-seeded Williams only lost one game. 'Just like every player here, I have put in a ton of work,' Williams said earlier in the week. 'I'm not coming all the way to Australia for kicks and giggles. I'm here as a competitor.' Williams made clear Friday she doesn't want to get dragged into controversies, either. She declined to comment on a remark by a TV commentator during her second-round match when he described her as moving in and charging with what sounded like a 'gorilla' or 'guerrilla' effect. The commentator, Doug Adler, who maintains he said 'guerrilla' — as in, her choice of tactics — but apologized for his poor word choice, was dropped from ESPN's coverage for the rest of the tournament. 'All I can say is it's been a wonderful, wonderful career for me full of positives. That's what I focus on,' said Williams, who hasn't shied away from addressing issues ranging from racism to gender pay equity throughout her career. 'I pay attention and address situations that are noteworthy,' she added, when pressed on the subject. 'That's been my past record, clearly.' What Williams wants to talk about is her tennis. Especially as she continues to win at Melbourne Park, where she's reached the final just once in her career. Her next opponent is another player many years her junior, 26-year-old Mona Barthel, a No. 181-ranked qualifier from Germany. 'It's never enough,' Williams said. 'I've been in the fourth round before. I've tasted it before and it's always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That's what I'm going to go for.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Silence, mourning since fatal crash turn to hope at Chapeco

MAURICIO SAVARESE, AP Sports Writer   CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — Silence and mourning are slowly being replaced by boisterous fans and hope. As the Chapecoense club rebuilds after the air crash that killed 19 players and nearly all members of the staff and board of directors, so is the town of 200,000. Like many in Brazil, football is the oxygen for everything: gossip, community pride and heated debate. On Saturday, Chapecoense's 20,000-capacity Arena Conda will host the team's first match since the tragedy almost two months ago. Lines outside are filled with fans excited about the club's and the city's restart. Fifty coffins lined the same field in November, where this time Chape's reconstructed team will play Brazilian champion Palmeiras in a friendly match. 'I bet I won't be able to sleep Friday night,' 19-year-old fan Marcelo Ribeiro said as he walked to the stadium. 'Since the accident the city is dead. The festivities were mostly canceled at the end of the year, and all most people are thinking about is the rebirth. I want to see what the rebirth looks like.' At the Hotel Bertaso, where most of Chape's players and coaching staff have traditionally lodged, the first signs of that rebirth are obvious. The second floor, which was home to many of the victims, including coach Caio Junior, is once again full. 'I can't help feeling a lot of hope for the future now,' said receptionist Gelson Mangone, who lost several friends in that crash on an Andean mountain side near Medellin, Colombia, on Nov.28. 'It has been a lot of work to settle all these new signings here, they are also learning their way here,' the receptionist said. 'But it does feel like a brand new start.' New coach Vagner Mancini is one of the hotel's new residents. He said the job makes him 'a better human being, but it's the most challenging to face.' 'We have to build a team, a coaching staff and a club infrastructure in a season in which Chape will be in demand,' Mancini told The Associated Press. 'I understand now that the city was so affected because the club and the city are run like a family,' he added. 'The players we brought are cut from that cloth, but we have to reach a higher level now.' After the crash, Colombian club Atletico Nacional, which was to face Chape in the Copa Sudamericana final in Medellin, awarded the victory to the small Brazilian team. That means that Chape qualified for South America's No. 1 tournament for the first time, the competitive Copa Libertadores. The team will also try to defend its title in the Santa Catarina state championship, try to stay up in Brazil's top-flight competition, and play in a pile of fundraisers, including one against Barcelona. 'We have to assemble a competitive team at the same time we need to hire someone to handle passports, contracts,' Mancini said. 'The club used to handle this well, but like a family run business. Now we are at a different moment.' Chapecoense had almost nothing left after the crash: six players that did not travel on the ill-fated flight, two physiotherapists, one goalkeeping coach, one doctor, one data analyst, one nurse and a few club officials. New chairman and club co-founder Plinio David de Nes Filho, a wealthy local businessman known as Maninho, is leading the charge to bolster club finances. Former players like Nivaldo Constante, who played as a goalkeeper until the tragedy struck, are approaching players that can help. And Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon is working as a kind of ambassador for the club and the city. 'Our weekends were about three things: family, church and Chapecoense,' Buligon said. 'It has been hard to get the city back on track because the wounds are still very open. But we are slowly moving on. On Saturday we will start getting a part of our weekends back.' Not everyone is happy. Rosangela Loureiro, widow of crash victim Cleber Santana, said she is upset because his belongings still have not been returned to the family. 'I feel sadness and rage. No one is doing anything to bring their belongings back. I plead with them to soften our pain and make us get the memories that we will hold dear for the rest of our lives,' she said on Instagram last week. Other widows have complained about damages not yet being paid by the club. Chapecoense directors say they are doing the best they can as they try to rebuild. There are even complaints at the joyous Hotel Bertaso. 'These new players love to make a mess in their rooms,' said a cleaner, who declined to offer her name. 'The other ones were older, more mature and the new ones seem to be more infantile. I hope they are up for the task. The city really needs that now.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Pochettino, Guardiola confounding expectations in EPL

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer   LONDON (AP) — In one dugout at Etihad Stadium on Saturday will be a manager enjoying a six-match winning streak with his second-place team. In the other, a manager reeling from the biggest loss of his career and down in fifth place. Few at the start of the English Premier League would have predicted it would be Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with the edge over struggling Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola. But the top of the standings is confounding expectations in the second half of the season. City hosts Tottenham with Guardiola's side trailing the second-place London club by three points and leader Chelsea by 10 points. Having already ruled City out of the title race, Guardiola is now in a scrap just to secure Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four as he endures a difficult first season in English soccer. It was against Tottenham in early October when Guardiola experienced his first setback at City, with Pochettino ending the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach's winning league start. Last weekend, he was humbled by a 4-0 loss at Everton, a career low for the Champions League-winning coach. Has Guardiola lost the Midas touch? 'The coach has to adapt with the players, the players have to adapt with the coach,' Eric Abidal, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, told The Associated Press on Thursday. 'Tactically, and the methodology of Pep Guardiola is methodology from Barcelona ... he needs time. They will win trophies. 'I spoke with some players from (City), tactically they learn a lot,' Adibal added at a Barcelona event on Thursday in Singapore. 'But when you have a good coach and good players, a lot of teams want to beat you. So it's not easy, every weekend, and we know the intensity of English football.' City racked up six successive wins in the league before losing 2-0 at Tottenham on Oct. 2. Since then City has dropped 18 points, winning seven of its 14 games as the shortcomings of the brittle defense and shaky goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been exposed. City's attacking options have been reinforced with Gabriel Jesus completing his move from Palmeiras in time to feature against Tottenham. 'Gabriel is a technically gifted player who was chased by some of Europe's biggest clubs and we are delighted he decided to join City,' director of football Txiki Begiristain said. 'He has the potential to become one of the best attacking players in the game.' And for the 19-year-old Jesus, Guardiola played a big part in deciding his next destination. 'He was the only manager who called me so I was very pleased,' Jesus said. 'One thing I've noticed is that, like me, he is mad about football. He lives football 24 hours a day. I'm like that, too. 'When I'm not playing, I'm watching, or playing a video game, doing something linked to football. This is very important, that I'm the same as him, and I hope to learn.' Tottenham could move six points clear of City by completing the double over Guardiola's side. And for Pochettino it's not just about securing a second successive season in the Champions League but delivering the north London club's first domestic title since 1961. 'We have to try to show that we can be real contenders for the Premier League, that's the real challenge,' Pochettino said. 'It's more important that we can show ourselves, rather than show Manchester City. 'We need to show ourselves we are capable of dealing with that pressure, and to try to win games to achieve big things.' Tottenham has received more positive news on defender Jan Vertonghen's ankle injury. After initial fears the center back could be out for three months, Tottenham now expects him back in six weeks. Here are some other talking points around the Premier League: ___ PAYET PREDICAMENT West Ham travels to Southampton on Saturday with the fate of star player Dimitri Payet still uncertain after the France midfielder told the club more than a week ago he wants to leave to rejoin Marseille. Payet would not play against Crystal Palace last weekend, according to manager Slaven Bilic. 'Is his departure inevitable? I don't know,' Bilic said. 'We are not going to sell our best players on the cheap just because someone wants to sign them or even because they want to go home. 'I left it with the chairman and I'm sure he's going to do the best thing. The ball is in Marseille's court. They are the ones who expressed interest. Now they should act ... like everybody, he has his price.' AT THE BOTTOM Two of the teams in the relegation zone have tricky trips to top-four opposition. Paul Clement takes Swansea to third-place Liverpool on Saturday for a daunting second league game in charge of the bottom-place team. 'It does not look hopeless,' the former Bayern Munich assistant coach said. 'We are one point behind the team outside the relegation zone and not far behind the teams just above that as well.' Sunderland, which is above Swansea on goal difference, is at West Bromwich Albion. Hull is a point further up the standings going into Sunday's game at leader Chelsea. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

6-time champs Djokovic, Williams post Australian Open wins

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The record will show that six-time Australian Open champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic each had straight-set wins. It may seem straight-forward, but it was not routine. Newly-engaged Williams, aiming for an Open-era record 23rd major title, and Djokovic, bidding to become the first man to win seven Australian titles, confronted former top-10 players in the first round at Melbourne Park. And so there was no chance for the No. 2-ranked players, in the recently unaccustomed position at the foot of the draw, to feel their way into the season's first major. Djokovic faced Fernando Verdasco, who beat Rafael Nadal in the first round last year and who had five match points in their last head-to-head encounter — only 10 days earlier. Djokovic held off the Spanish lefthander in a 71-minute, momentum-swinging second set before winning 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Tuesday. The first and third sets were great, he said, but the second was 'a gamble.' 'I'm very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form,' Djokovic said. 'He's a quality player. He's a big match, big-time player.' The 33-year-old Verdasco peaked at No. 7 in the rankings in 2009, not long after he pushed eventual champion Nadal in five sets in one of the best and latest-finishing semifinals ever at the Australian Open. 'From one perspective it was good that I got to have the very tough first-round match, because it made me prepare better and kind of approach the tournament with the right intensity, right from the first point,' Djokovic said. Williams, on the comeback after a stint on the sidelines following a U.S. Open semifinal loss, took a 5-0 lead in the second set against Belinda Bencic. But Bencic has been ranked in the top 10, and was seeded 12th in Melbourne last year. She applied pressure on Williams, who made mistakes on key points — including a double-fault to give Bencic a break point, and another on her first match point — before recovering to win 6-4, 6-3. Williams became engaged to Alexis Ohanian during the holiday break, and the Reddit co-founder was in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. She has been asked repeatedly about her wedding plans since arriving in Australia, but only gave a time frame for that discussion after her opening match. 'February I'll start looking at the bigger picture of my life,' she said. 'Right now, I'm just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about.' Williams made a big statement, though, by walking into her news conference wearing a shirt with the word 'Equality' emblazoned across the front. It was still before midnight Monday in the United States, where the holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was nearly ending. 'It's important to spread the message,' she said. Asked if she was concerned about the future of equality in the United States, Williams declined to comment apart from saying it was 'a concern for just everyone in general.' After improving her record in the first round of majors to 65-1, Williams will play Lucie Safarova, who saved nine match points before beating Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Nadal, also returning from a couple of months on the sidelines following the U.S. Open with an injured left wrist, has already improved on 2016. 'I'm happy to do an interview with you — last year, I didn't have the chance!' Nadal said in his on-court interview after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Florian Mayer. As usual at Melbourne Park, the heat was a factor. The thermostat reached almost 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) on a day when Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic beat Dustin Brown and No. 11 David Goffin beat 19-year-old qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Ivo Karlovic was thankful that it was cooler at night, when the 37-year-old Croat fired 75 aces and held off Horacio Zeballos 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 in a match that set a record for most number of games (84) at the Australian Open in the tiebreak era. No. 6 Gael Monfils, No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 18 Richard Gasquet were among the other seeded players to advance. Heather Watson beat No. 18 Sam Stosur, extending the 2011 U.S. Open champion's drought on home soil. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Johanna Konta, No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova, former top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Elena Vesnina, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and No. 28 Alize Cornet all advanced before third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska finished off her 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win over Tsvetana Pironkova just before midnight. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Patriots face different Steelers team with healthy Big Ben

KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer br /> FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — The New England Patriots got a break by not having to face Ben Roethlisberger during their regular-season win over the Steelers in October. The Patriots' coaching staff is expecting to get his best this time around with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. The 27-16 home loss to New England was the only game the Steelers' 34-year-old quarterback missed due to injury this season. He was away less than a month after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee Oct. 17. He was also among several Pittsburgh players that sat out the regular-season finale against the Browns to rest. Backup quarterback Landry Jones was serviceable in just his third career start in Roethlisberger's absence. The Steelers outgained the Patriots 375-362, but were 1 for 4 in the red zone and Jones finished with only one touchdown and an interception. Pittsburgh is expecting, and will need a stronger performance from the quarterback position this time around. Coach Bill Belichick said Monday that Big Ben's return makes the Steelers' primary offensive options — running back Le'Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown — only that much harder to contend with. Bell rushed for 81 yards in the first meeting and Brown had seven catches for 106 yards. 'They're a tremendous offense. Kansas City was able to make some plays in the red area, but I mean (the Steelers) could've easily been up in the 40s,' Belichick said. 'They do a lot of things well; can run it, can throw it. Brown's the main guy, but all of the receivers, tight ends, backs, I mean they're all a problem.' The Chiefs may have planted the seed for how to keep Roethlisberger out of the end zone, however. The Steelers were held without a touchdown in Sunday's 18-16 divisional-round win over Kansas City. They also ranked 12th in the NFL during the regular season in red zone efficiency, scoring a touchdown on 59 percent of the trips inside the 20-yard line. They were 0 for 5 in their trips against Kansas City. Roethlisberger had 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions in the red zone in 14 regular-season games. But so far in the playoffs, Big Ben has just two total passing touchdowns and three interceptions. Still, the Steelers coaching staff's trust in him to throw the deep ball is something that will be a point of emphasis this week, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. In particular he said Roethlisberger's calm in the pocket and his offensive line's ability to protect him helps him buy time to improvise. 'If those plays can get extended or prolonged, that's when it becomes really difficult,' Patricia said. 'I think Roethlisberger right now (is) very mobile, very healthy, a guy that showed even again (Sunday night) that just a slight bit of movement or a slight bit of ability to maybe evade the rush, or stand in there just a little bit longer gives his guys enough time to get open in those situations.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Storm stays calm to lead McIlroy by 3 shots at SA Open

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Graeme Storm will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the SA Open as he bids for his first European Tour title in 10 years. The Englishman turned in a third-round 67, the same as Rory McIlroy, who moved into second to set up an intriguing fight on Sunday. 'I'd like to be a few shots better or at least a few shots closer to the lead,' McIlroy said. 'But hopefully, I can get off to a good start tomorrow and put a bit of pressure on Graeme and make it interesting.' Storm had five birdies on Saturday and extended his bogey-free run to 41 holes to leave him at 17-under 199 and on the verge of a second European Tour title after winning the Open de France in 2007. 'I have never played with Rory before and I know him really well so it will be a lot of fun,' Storm said. 'If he hits a good shot and pips me or beats me comfortably, or whoever makes a move from behind, I can't really control that. All I can do is control my golf ball. 'If I can shoot another score in the 60s I'll be pleased even if I don't win. I have come here as a big underdog so that is fine with me.' It would complete an amazing turnaround for Storm, who thought he lost his playing privileges by just 100 euros in October but was then handed a reprieve after Patrick Reed opted not to play the Final Series. 'I find myself now in a position that I have only been in a couple of times over the past few years,' Storm said. 'Things have been difficult and last year was a tough year but it has given me a new lease of life and I hope to continue playing well. 'I thought I had lost my card and all of the privileges that come from playing on the European Tour, and when that happens you realize that you can't afford to lose it.' McIlroy twice caught Storm at the top of the leaderboard with the help of a stunning eagle from 157 yards on the par-4 seventh and a hat trick of birdies on the back nine. But the second-ranked McIlroy, who almost pulled out of the tournament on Friday with a back complaint, bogeyed the 18th as Storm put in a consistent performance to extend his second-round lead by one shot. 'The back was a little tender this morning — I didn't really get much sleep last night,' McIlroy said. 'I couldn't get comfortable and I had to wake up in the middle of the night to take a couple of painkillers, but the physios did a good job on me this morning and strapped me up pretty well, and then gave me a couple of anti-inflammatories, which helped. 'It was a bit uncomfortable for the first five or six holes but then I took another couple of anti-inflammatories in the middle of the round and it actually felt pretty good on the back nine so hopefully it will continue to feel that way.' Storm has led a tournament three times after 54 holes on the European Tour, but hasn't converted any of those leads into victories. Jordan Smith (68) looked set to challenge Storm after four birdies and an eagle but bogeyed the final two holes to leave him four shots behind his compatriot, level with home favorite Jbe Kruger (69). Italy's Edoardo Molinari equaled the course record with a 63 — as Storm had done Friday — to surge more than 30 places up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth. Molinari is at 12 under, alongside South African duo Dean Burmester (67) and Jaco Van Zyl (68), French pair Romain Langasque (68) and Joel Stalter (65), and American Peter Uihlein (70). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Match-fixing back in spotlight on eve of first Grand Slam

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press   For Rafael Nadal and the other stars of tennis, there's a familiar ring to the questions being raised as the first ball is about to be struck at the Australian Open. Recent match-fixing sanctions and a new case are bringing fresh scrutiny to the integrity of the sport a year after corruption allegations cast a pall over the first Grand Slam of the year. '(It's) obviously negative, always in the first month of the season starts to happen,' Nadal said at the season-opening Brisbane International. 'You get tired about this kind of stuff, but the most important thing is fight against these kinds of things.' The headlines started appearing early in the new year. On Jan. 5, police in Australia charged an 18-year-old player with a match-fixing offense at a lower-tier tournament last October in Traralgon, near Melbourne. Days later, another Australian player, Nick Lindahl, now retired but once ranked in the top 200, was handed a seven-year ban and $35,000 fine from the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for offering to throw a match at a minor tournament in the city of Toowoomba in 2013. Lindahl had already been fined after a criminal trial. Two other Australian players received lesser punishments in connection with the incident. While Traralgon and Toowoomba are far removed from the glittering lights of Melbourne Park, the timing of the developments was troubling nonetheless. Last season began similarly beneath a cloud of suspicion after a report by BBC and Buzzfeed alleged that tennis authorities had suppressed evidence of match-fixing and failed to investigate possible cases of corruption. The reports went over old ground, but the timing and the headlines overshadowed the tournament. 'I haven't heard anything (about match-fixing) since last year's Australian Open,' German player Mischa Zverev told The Associated Press last week in Brisbane. 'I think it was funny timing. ... Like the day before the Oscars, they're going to bring something up to make somebody not win it, or win it.' Since then, tennis leaders have gone into overdrive to restore confidence in the sport. An independent panel was created to review the TIU, the internal body tasked with combating corruption, and authorities promised to implement all of its recommendations when it is completed this spring. The TIU also took separate steps to strengthen its monitoring and investigation efforts, develop new anti-corruption education programs for players, and improve the transparency of its operations. In an email statement to The AP, the agency said nine players and officials were sanctioned last year for match-fixing — the most for a single year since the unit was established in 2008. Several were banned for life, including a young South African player and four officials from Turkey and Uzbekistan. The unit also expanded its outreach efforts with betting operators and regulators, leading to increased reporting of suspicious wagers. In 2016, the TIU received 292 betting alerts — an 18 percent increase over the previous year. The vast majority of those came from the Challenger and Futures circuits on the men's tour, considered the most at-risk for match-fixing given the lower likelihood of detection and the smaller earnings of the players. However, the TIU said three alerts were generated at Grand Slam events, as well. The agency was quick to note, though, that an alert isn't necessarily proof of match-fixing. Of the more than 114,000 matches played last year on the professional tours, only 0.2 percent triggered a suspicious betting alert. 'Tennis was one of the first major sports to recognize the potential threat of betting-related corruption and do something about it,' the TIU said. 'It will be for the independent review panel to take a view on the conduct and effectiveness of the unit and to put forward recommendations to improve the current structure and approach.' Whatever the investigators recommend, the fact remains the TIU faces an uphill battle. Technology has shifted the gambling landscape in such a way, it's increasingly difficult for monitors to keep up. In tennis, wagers aren't just placed on who wins or loses; bets can be placed during matches in real time on everything from total points won in a game to whether a set goes to a tiebreak. 'We're talking individual player activities here,' said Hans Westerbeek, dean of the College of Sport and Exercise Science at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. 'It's much easier to get into a situation where you approach individual players to do things that can be, if done well, quite well hidden from it being suspicious.' He likens it to the ongoing battle against performance-enhancing drugs. 'You're always struggling to keep up with the innovations that a better-resourced front of gambling operators, legal or illegal, will have available to advance their technology.' Ryan Rodenberg, an associate professor of forensic sports law analytics at Florida State University, says this is one reason a more sophisticated approach is critically needed. He recommends an internal monitoring system that analyzes each match for suspicious activity in real time, rather than relying solely on betting alerts. 'A robust betting data-monitoring operation would have both in-house capabilities and a number of collaborative information sharing agreements with third parties such as sportsbooks, private monitoring firms or academics,' he said. 'Anything less is sub-optimal.' With a limited budget of just $3.23 million for 2017, however, there is only so much the TIU can do. As such, preventative measures such as education have become a priority. More than 25,000 players and officials have completed the TIU's online anti-corruption training program, and a new version will be launched that players will be required to complete every two years. 'Educating players who are up-and-coming and those who support those players is a very good, positive and necessary thing to do,' Westerbeek says. 'Because the root of the problem is ... people not really (understanding) they're engaging in criminal activity.' ___ AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this report. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017