Press "Enter" to skip to content

AP: Sports

Oct. 6, 2022
No. 9 Ole Miss Rebels look to stay undefeated at Vanderbilt
By The Associated Press undefined

No. 9 Mississippi (5-0, 1-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1), Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Line: Ole Miss by 18 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Ole Miss leads 54-40-2.

Ninth-ranked Ole Miss is one of only four SEC teams still undefeated trying to keep pace with Alabama in the Western Division. This is the first of three league road games for the Rebels before they host Alabama on Nov. 12. Vanderbilt finally is home for the first time in 28 days. The Commodores are coming off an open date after being routed by Alabama. The Commodores then hit the road again to visit No. 2 Georgia and then Missouri.

Vanderbilt has the SEC’s longest active streak with at least one takeaway at 14 straight games, which is the fourth-longest in the Bowl Subdivision. Ole Miss has fumbled 12 times this season, losing only three. The Rebels also have been intercepted four times through their strong start.

Ole Miss: RB Quinshon Judkins. He has helped power the nation’s No. 4 running game, along with TCU transfer Zach Evans. Judkins leads all freshmen and ranks 12th nationally in rushing with 107.0 rushing yards per game. His six rushing touchdown is the most in a season by any SEC freshman since 2019. Judkins’ 535 yards is the most by any Ole Miss freshman in his first five games in records dating back to 1976.

Vanderbilt: QB AJ Swann. The freshman who has taken over as the starter is one of six players in their first season with at least 50 pass attempts this season. Swann has thrown the most TD passes with six and is the only one of that group without an interception.

Ole Miss has won three straight and is 7-3 in the last 10 games in this series. Vanderbit is 5-4 in the last nine games in Nashville. … Ole Miss hasn’t had a 5-0 start where it didn’t have to vacate any wins since 1962. … Ole Miss has had a 100-yard rusher in five straight games for the first time since 1999. … Ole Miss has blocked three kicks (two punts and an extra point), already the most by a Rebel team since 2015. … Lane Kiffin has reached 20 wins in his first 28 games, the fastest any Ole Miss coach has managed since Johnny Vaught started 20-7-1 from 1947-49. … This is Vanderbilt’s second straight game against a top 10 opponent for the first time since 1995. … Vanderbilt has scored on all 17 trips inside an opponent’s 20, scoring TDs on 15 trips. The Commodores are one of five FBS teams to score on each red zone chance with at least 15 opportunities.

More AP college football: and

Oct. 6, 2022
No. 2 Georgia looking for return to top form against Auburn
By CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Don’t expect Auburn players to empathize with concerns expressed this week about No. 2 Georgia’s sudden dip from championship form.

The Bulldogs, who play Auburn on Saturday, fell from the top spot in The Associated Press Top 25 this week after having to rally for a 26-22 win at Missouri last week. Georgia (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 13-0 early and 22-12 in the fourth quarter before finishing strong.
The major scare at Missouri followed a similarly uninspiring 39-22 win over Kent State. The back-to-back shaky outings have at least temporarily ended talk that Georgia might be better than last season’s national championship team.

Auburn (3-2, 1-1) experienced the other side of a big comeback last week, leaving more pressure on embattled coach Bryan Harsin. The Tigers led LSU 17-0 before losing 21-17 at home.
Harsin would receive a much-needed boost if Auburn can end a streak of five straight losses in the series with Georgia. Even with Georgia’s recent inability to maintain the form it showed in outscoring its first three opponents 130-10, Auburn’s challenge is daunting. The Bulldogs are favored by 29 1/2 points.

“Defending national champions. Overall, just as a football team, they’re well-coached,” Harsin said. “They’ve had a lot of success with their program, and certainly you see that right now.”

It will be the first road start for Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford. T.J. Finley opened the season as the starter before suffering a shoulder injury.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart shrugged off concerns the team hasn’t matched the production of its strong start to the season.

“I don’t look at it as a hitting slump or some kind of funk or anything like that,” Smart said.

Georgia wide receiver Kearis Jackson said the Bulldogs gained confidence from the successful comeback against Missouri.

“I was excited that we were the underdogs for a moment in that game,” Jackson said. “It allowed us to find out a lot about ourselves as a team and we were down 10 or 13 points, which is hard to come back from on the road. Most teams would’ve probably folded. But one thing about us, we showed resiliency and with that brotherhood we have, we were able to overcome that adversity.”

Auburn’s offense has been a flop coming out in the second half against tougher competition under Harsin. The Tigers have scored just six points in the second half against their three Power 5 opponents. Auburn didn’t score in the second half of its last two games against Missouri and LSU.
In fact, the Tigers have been outscored 104-21 in the second half of their last eight games against Power 5 teams.

“We’ve got to be able to find ways to continue to put points on the board,” Harsin said. “It’s not just the half of football, you’ve got to play all four quarters.”

Georgia will be without its top-rated NFL prospect. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter is expected to miss at least one game after suffering a knee injury against Missouri.
Meanwhile, defensive back Javon Bullard returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play after missing one game following his DUI arrest.

Auburn lost one of its top pass rushers, Eku Leota, to a potential season-ending pectoral injury against LSU. The Tigers have since listed a 4-2-5 defensive scheme on the depth chart with the lone edge rusher Derick Hall.

A 6-foot-4, 257-pound graduate transfer, Leota has 17 tackles, including five tackles for loss and two sacks. He had seven sacks last season after transferring from Northwestern.

Anders Carlson has had one of Auburn’s best kicking careers, trailing only brother Daniel on the program’s all-time scoring chart. But Carlson has missed attempts of 45 and 40 yards in the past two games, leading to questions about whether freshman Alex McPherson could get a shot.

McPherson was the nation’s top-rated kicker and set an Alabama high school record with a 61-yarder.
“Alex is ready, but Anders still has our full support, and this week is going to be a great week to get back on track and be consistent in the Georgia game,” Harsin said.

AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.

More AP college football: and

Oct. 5, 2022
Cup champion Avalanche still team to beat in NHL’s West

Roman Josi looks around the Western Conference — and the NHL at-large — and does not see a lot of easy games for his Nashville Predators.

Still, he acknowledges, “Colorado is the team to beat.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche are favored to again come out of a rough-and-tumble West that also features the reliable St. Louis Blues and the Edmonton Oilers, who can go as far as Connor McDavid will carry them. Both look to be Colorado’s biggest challengers in a season that will be defined by which team can knock off the champs.

“I feel like guys, especially on our team, will thrive in that kind of environment,” playoff MVP and Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Cale Makar said. “Everybody wants to play the defending champs. … It’s exciting when you have the ability to be at the top and then everybody wants at you.”

Colorado changed starting goaltenders, acquiring Alexandar Georgiev and letting Darcy Kuemper depart in free agency, and lost key center Nazem Kadri. The situation in net and depth down the middle are the biggest questions, but the core remains intact with stars in their prime from Makar and Nathan MacKinnon to Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

They went through several years of playoff defeats before breaking through and dethroning the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied with hoisting the Cup just once.
“I keep getting asked if I’m going to, like, chill out now, and I don’t feel any different,” MacKinnon said. “We’re still hunting.”

So are McDavid and the Oilers, the West runners-up who ran out of gas and got swept by Colorado in the conference final. He and teammate Leon Draisaitl have each won the Hart Trophy as league MVP, and McDavid is coming off setting career highs in goals, assists and points.
In the aftermath of Edmonton’s deepest playoff run of his NHL career, McDavid sees the Avalanche’s journey as a blueprint.

“They’re a team that went through a lot of disappointments kind of leading up to that, and that seems to be the process for teams that win,” McDavid said. “They get close, they get closer and there’s those disappointments, but you learn from them and you use them when you’re in that situation again.”
If anyone has learned that lesson it’s the Blues, who have made the playoffs 10 of the past 11 seasons and done everything from losing in the first round to winning the Stanley Cup. Now three years removed from the franchise’s first championship, much has changed about how the Blues play but not their blue-collar attitude.

“We roll up our sleeves and we go to work,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I wouldn’t consider ourselves flashy or a lot of bravado. We just try and come and do our jobs every day and keep our head down and hopefully let the results speak for themselves.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at

More AP NHL: and

Oct. 5, 2022
Dodgers finish with 111 wins, best in NL since 1906 Cubs
By The Associated Press undefined

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers finished with their 111th victory to become the National League’s winningest team in more than a century, and Clayton Kershaw tuned up for the postseason with nine strikeouts in beating the Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Wednesday.

Trea Turner hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the fifth inning for the NL West champions, who finished 111-51 to become the NL’s winningest team since the 1906 Chicago Cubs went 116-36.
Kershaw (12-3) reached 2,807 career strikeouts. He allowed one run and one hit in five innings and walked one as the Dodgers ended a three-game skid.

The Dodgers open the Division Series on Oct. 11 against the New York Mets or San Diego.
The Rockies were held to two hits for the fourth time this season and finished 68-94, equaling their most losses since 2015.

Freddie Freeman doubled and homered in his first two at-bats, but a flyout to the warning track in center field in the fifth ended his hopes of winning the NL batting title. Freeman hit .325 for the season; Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets finished at .326 after sitting Wednesday.
Turner’s three-run shot to right-center chased Chad Smith (0-1) and gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

Oct. 5, 2022
Dodgers finish with 111 wins, best in NL since 1906 Cubs
By The Associated Press undefined

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers finished with their 111th victory to become the National League’s winningest team in more than a century, and Clayton Kershaw tuned up for the postseason with nine strikeouts in beating the Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Wednesday.

Trea Turner hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the fifth inning for the NL West champions, who finished 111-51 to become the NL’s winningest team since the 1906 Chicago Cubs went 116-36.
Kershaw (12-3) reached 2,807 career strikeouts. He allowed one run and one hit in five innings and walked one as the Dodgers ended a three-game skid.

The Dodgers open the Division Series on Oct. 11 against the New York Mets or San Diego.
The Rockies were held to two hits for the fourth time this season and finished 68-94, equaling their most losses since 2015.

Freddie Freeman doubled and homered in his first two at-bats, but a flyout to the warning track in center field in the fifth ended his hopes of winning the NL batting title. Freeman hit .325 for the season; Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets finished at .326 after sitting Wednesday.
Turner’s three-run shot to right-center chased Chad Smith (0-1) and gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

Blues’ Scandella out several months after having hip surgery
September 20, 2022

Days before opening training camp, the St. Louis Blues have a hole to fill on their blue line.
Defenseman Marco Scandella is expected to miss a majority of the coming NHL season after undergoing surgery on his right hip joint. He got injured during offseason training in late August and will be re-evaluated in six months.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced the timeline for Scandella’s absence Tuesday. The first on-ice sessions of camp are scheduled for Thursday, with the season opener set for Oct. 15.

The injury to Scandella is another change at a position that has undergone a near-complete overhaul since St. Louis won the Stanley Cup in 2019. Only top-pairing defenseman Colton Parayko and veteran grinder Robert Bortuzzo are left from that group, which now features Torey Krug and Justin Faulk in prominent roles.

Scandella, 32, is expected to go on long-term injured reserve, giving the Blues relief for his salary cap hit of $3.275 million. Nikko Mikkola already figured to take on a full-time role at 26, and it wasn’t immediately clear if Armstrong might bring in another veteran to compete for a roster spot.

The injury could provide an opportunity for 24-year-old prospect Scott Perunovich, who played in 26 NHL games last season. Perunovich, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top college hockey player in the country while at Minnesota-Duluth in 2019-20, impressed teammates during his first year in the pros, especially while running the power play.

“He moves the puck at the right time,” said forward Robert Thomas, who signed a $65 million, eight-year contract this summer. “He’s smart. I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed for a guy just coming in the league, he’s so patient and calm, especially breaking the puck out. He loves to skate it out. He loves to make a quick first pass and, yeah, I think he’s got tons of potential.”

Scandella joined the Blues in a trade from the Canadiens before the deadline in 2020. He has played in 755 games with Minnesota, Buffalo, Montreal and St. Louis.

More AP NHL: and

Kane Fitzgerald taking over NBA’s replay center operations
September 19, 2022 By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

The NBA Replay Center has a new leader.

Kane Fitzgerald, who spent 13 years working as an NBA referee, has been announced as the league’s new vice president of referee operations and replay center principal. He’s replacing another former referee in Jason Phillips, who left the job after three years.

The 41-year-old Fitzgerald officially started his new job Sunday at the opening of the league’s annual preseason referee meetings.

“I’ve always kind of been excited about new challenges, and it’s a rare opportunity that you can come off the floor as a referee and find a position in the NBA of this magnitude,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m excited about the challenge, something new, something different, seeing if I can grow into the role and being as successful as I was on the floor.”

Fitzgerald worked his way up the ranks steadily throughout his on-court career. At 18, he was officiating high school games in his native New Jersey, introduced to the job by his father — who has been a referee for 49 years and is still working games.

From there, Fitzgerald did stints at the college level — the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley conferences — before two years in the WNBA and four more in the G League. He was picked to work four NBA Finals games, the last of those coming this past season in the Boston-Golden State series.
At that time, he had no idea this opportunity would present itself.

“Kane’s broad experience and distinguished record as an NBA official make him well suited to oversee our efforts to maintain the highest of standards for the NBA Replay Center,” said Byron Spruell, the NBA’s President for League Operations. “We are fortunate that he will bring his skills and expertise to such an important leadership position.”

In his new role, Fitzgerald will oversee the day-to-day operations of the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. He also will be involved with referee operations in ways such as creating training videos and interpreting the rules of the game for officials, teams, broadcasters and media.

The move allows Fitzgerald to have a more normal schedule with his family. The work will remain demanding and travel will still be involved — his home is in Florida now, the job is in New Jersey — but not officiating 50 or more games a year will bring a better work-life balance.

“I’ve probably had Christmas on Christmas Day maybe five out of the last 17 years,” Fitzgerald said. “And last year was the first year I was ever home for Thanksgiving. So, there will be some very positive changes for the family with this schedule.”

More AP NBA: and

Chargers-Chiefs open NFL’s exclusive Amazon Prime deal
September 14, 2022 By The Associated Press undefined


Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EDT, Prime Video

OPENING LINE: Chiefs by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

SERIES RECORD: Chiefs lead 65-58-1.

LAST MEETING: Chiefs beat Chargers 34-28 in OT on Dec. 16, 2021, in Los Angeles.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Chargers plus-3; Chiefs minus-1.

CHARGERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WRs Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer will take on added importance after Keenan Allen hurt his hamstring in a season-opening win over the Raiders. Williams and Palmer combined for just five catches for 15 yards last weekend.

CHIEFS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Travis Kelce had 121 yards receiving during last weekend’s romp in Arizona, the 30th time he has eclipsed the century mark. He needs three more games of 100 yards to pass the retired Rob Gronkowski (32) and Tony Gonzalez (31) for the most among NFL tight ends.
KEY MATCHUP: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes against the Chargers pass defense, which picked off the Raiders’ Derek Carr three times. Mahomes opened the season by throwing for 360 yards and five touchdowns without an interception against the Cardinals.

KEY INJURIES: Chargers TE Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) and Allen are expected to miss the game. There is a chance that CB J.C. Jackson (ankle) plays after missing Week 1. … Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie (hamstring) went on injured reserve Tuesday and K Harrison Butker (ankle) is also expected to miss the game. OG Trey Smith (ankle) was limited in practice this week.

SERIES NOTES: The Chiefs have won 13 of the past 16 games against the Chargers, though Los Angeles has won two of the past three. One of those was a January game in which Kansas City rested its key players ahead of the playoffs. … The Chargers and Chiefs were original members of the American Football League, both established in 1960. They have been in the same division ever since, first in the AFL’s Western Conference and since the 1970 merger with the NFL in the AFC West. … Kansas City coach Andy Reid is 15-6 against the Chargers. Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley is 1-1 against KC.

STATS AND STUFF: The game is the first of the NFL’s exclusive deal with Amazon Prime for Thursday night contests. … Los Angeles is trying to start 2-0 for the first time since 2012 while Kansas City is aiming for its fifth 2-0 start in the past six years. … The Chiefs have won the AFC West six straight years. … Chargers QB Justin Herbert is coming off his ninth game of at least three TD passes with no interceptions, tied with Mahomes for the most by a player in his first three seasons. … Herbert finished last season with at least 300 yards passing in five straight road games. … Williams will be going for his third straight game against Kansas City with at least 100 yards receiving and a score. … Chargers RB Austin Ekeler has scored in three straight games against the Chiefs. … LB Khalil Mack had three of the Chargers’ five sacks last week. He also forced a fumble against Las Vegas. … This is the first of five primetime games for Kansas City this season. … Mahomes is coming off his sixth career game with at least five TD passes, tied with Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger for fourth-most in NFL history. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are next with nine. … Mahomes is 13-2 as a starter in September. He has at least three TDs passing in 12 of them. .. Kelce has caught a pass in 128 straight games, three behind Gonzalez for the franchise record. … The Chiefs allowed 28 sacks last season, tied for third-best in the NFL. They did not allow one in Week 1 against Arizona. … Chiefs DT Chris Jones forced a fumble last week against the Cardinals. He has four sacks in his past two Thursday night games.

FANTASY TIP: Mahomes apologized to fantasy football owners before Week 1 that he would be spreading the ball around, making any Kansas City wide receiver a gamble. But not only did JuJu Smith-Schuster get eight targets against the Cardinals, one behind Kelce for the team lead, he hauled in six of them for 79 yards. And as good as the Chargers defense was last week, it allowed the Raiders’ Davante Adams to catch 10 balls for 141 yards and a score.

More AP NFL coverage: and

MATCHDAY: Haaland’s reunion; Potter’s 1st game for Chelsea
September 13, 2022By The Associated Press undefined

A look at what’s happening in the Champions League on Wednesday:


Rangers will host Napoli in a game pushed back from Tuesday because of logistical issues arising from the death of Queen Elizabeth II. UEFA has said Napoli fans will not be allowed to attend the game in Glasgow. Rangers, back in the Champions League after a 12-year absence, opened the group with a 4-0 loss at Ajax. Napoli beat Liverpool 4-1. On Tuesday, Liverpool beat Ajax 2-1.


Graham Potter takes charge of his first match as Chelsea manager when Salzburg visits Stamford Bridge. Potter left Brighton and replaced Thomas Tuchel as manager on Thursday before Chelsea’s English Premier League game at Fulham on Saturday was called off following the death of the queen. The pressure is immediately on Potter, with Chelsea having opened the group with a 1-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb. Tuchel was fired two days later. Salzburg started with a 1-1 home draw with AC Milan, which hosts Dinamo for their second game.


Defending champion Real Madrid will remain without the injured Karim Benzema when it hosts Leipzig. The striker is still recovering from a tendon injury sustained in Madrid’s 3-0 win at Celtic in the opener last week. Coach Carlos Ancelotti used Rodrygo and Eden Hazard playing alongside Vinícius Júnior in attack in the team’s win against Mallorca in the Spanish league last weekend. Madrid has a perfect record to start the season, with seven victories. In the other match, Shakhtar Donetsk plays its first “home” game in the group in Warsaw when Celtic visits the Polish city. The Ukrainian team has played in exile eight for years because of Russian aggression.


Erling Haaland is getting a quick reunion with Borussia Dortmund. The striker left Dortmund in the offseason to join Manchester City, the team he supported as a child after being born in England, and he has started the Premier League in explosive fashion, scoring 10 goals in six games. Then, in his first Champions League game for City, Haaland scored twice in a 4-0 win at Sevilla last week to make it 25 goals in 20 games in the competition. Dortmund, which beat FC Copenhagen 3-0 to open the group, had Haaland in its team when losing 2-1 at City in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2021. Both Copenhagen and Sevilla look to rebound when they meet in Denmark.


Neymar and Kylian Mbappe look to continue their sparkling form as unbeaten Paris Saint-Germain travels to play Israeli club Maccabi Haifa. Mbappe scored two sharp volleys in PSG’s opening win against Juventus, while Neymar has netted a French league-high eight goals — one more than Mbappe. But PSG coach Christophe Galtier will be without central defender Presnel Kimpembe, who is out for at least six weeks with a hamstring injury. Backup goalkeeper Keylor Navas will sit out the match with lower back pain. Benfica, which leads the group on goal difference, is off to a great start this season and will be going for its 12th straight victory overall when it travels to Juventus in the other game.

More AP soccer: and

Former Chiefs assistant coach Reid pleads guilty in crash
September 12, 2022 By MARGARET STAFFORD Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid pleaded guilty Monday to felony driving while intoxicated resulting in serious physical injury stemming from a 2021 crash, which occurred when his pickup truck struck two stopped cars on an interstate entrance ramp and seriously injured a 5-year-old girl.

Reid, the 37-year-old son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, had been scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 26. Britt
Reid had faced up to seven years in prison, but the plea deal means he now faces a possible sentence of up to four years in prison. He entered his plea in Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City. Sentencing is set for Oct. 28.

While questioning Reid to confirm that he understood the plea deal, Circuit Judge Charles McKenzie said Reid also could serve a short period of time in prison and then be placed on probation if he qualifies for good behavior.

Investigators said Reid was intoxicated and driving about 84 mph (135 kph) when his Dodge truck hit the cars on an entrance ramp to Interstate 435 near Arrowhead Stadium on Feb. 4, 2021.
A girl inside one of the cars, Ariel Young, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Six people, including Reid, were injured in the crash.

In court Monday, Reid acknowledged he was drinking on the night of the crash.

“I really regret what I did,” Reid said. “I made a huge mistake. I apologize to the family. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

Tom Porto, an attorney representing Ariel’s family, said they opposed the plea deal.

“The five victims of this crime are outraged the prosecuting attorney is not seeking maximum sentence allowable by law,” Porto said. “The defendant is a prior offender whose actions caused a 5-year-old girl to be in a coma and seriously injured three others.”

A Kansas City police officer who arrived at the scene of the crash reported he could smell alcohol and that Reid’s eyes were bloodshot, according to court documents. Reid had a blood-alcohol level of 0.113 two hours after the crash, police said. The legal limit is 0.08.

One of the vehicles he hit had stalled because of a dead battery and the second was owned by Ariel’s mother, who had arrived to help.

The Chiefs reached a confidential agreement with Ariel’s family in November to pay for her ongoing medical treatment and other expenses.

Reid underwent emergency surgery for a groin injury after the crash. The Chiefs placed Reid on administrative leave and his job with the team ended after his contract was allowed to expire.

This is not the first legal issue for Reid, who graduated from a drug treatment program in Pennsylvania in 2009 after a series of run-ins with law enforcement. His father was coach of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time.

Britt Reid’s older brother, Garrett, served a two-year sentence in a Pennsylvania state drug program after he was arrested on drug-related charges. Garrett Reid was found dead in August 2012 in his dorm room at Lehigh University, where he was assisting at the Eagles’ training camp. A coroner ruled that he
died of an accidental heroin overdose.

More AP NFL coverage: and

No. 6 Texas A&M hosts Appalachian State
September 8, 2022 By The Associated Press undefined

Appalachian State (0-1) at No. 6 Texas A&M (1-0), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Line: Texas A&M by 18 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.


The Aggies got a 31-0 victory over FCS school Sam Houston last week, but are looking to clean some things up and play more consistently Saturday against what should be much tougher competition in the Mountaineers. Appalachian State will try to bounce back after losing a 63-61 thriller to North Carolina in its opener. They’ll look to build on the momentum gained in a stellar fourth quarter where they scored 40 points to rally from a 41-21 deficit to set up the exciting finish.


Texas A&M’s secondary vs. QB Chase Brice. Brice threw for a career-high 361 yards and set a school record with six touchdown passes, including four in the fourth quarter against North Carolina. Now he’ll face a secondary that allowed just 91 yards passing with an interception in the opener.


Appalachian State: RB Nate Noel had 14 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns against North Carolina. The performance came after a 2021 season where he led the Sun Belt with 1,126 yards rushing.

Texas A&M: WR Ainias Smith had six receptions for a career-high 164 yards with two touchdowns in the opener. His TD receptions were for 63 and 43 yards, illustrating how dangerous he is as a deep threat.


The Mountaineers’ last game against an SEC team was a 20-15 win at South Carolina in 2019. … This will be Appalachian State’s fourth game in the state of Texas. … Appalachian State OLB Nick Hampton had 2 ½ sacks and forced a fumble in the opener. … Texas A&M QB Haynes King had three touchdowns with a career-high 364 yards passing in Week 1. … The Aggies haven’t allowed a touchdown at home in 12 straight quarters dating to last season. … Texas A&M is 22-4 at home under coach Jimbo Fisher. … The Aggies are 25-0 under Fisher when leading after the first quarter.

More AP college football: and Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter:

Jets QB Wilson out until at least Week 4, Flacco to start
September 7, 2022 By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Pro Football Writer

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Joe Flacco will huddle up for the New York Jets against his former team. And likely a few more opponents after that.

Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday that Flacco will start at quarterback in the season opener Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens in place of the injured Zach Wilson — who likely will be out until Week 4 at Pittsburgh.

Flacco starting this week is not unexpected, as it appeared to be trending that way for a few weeks. But the announcement that the game against the Steelers on Oct. 2 is likely “the earliest” Wilson will return from a knee injury was a surprise.

“Now, can it change? Sure, I’m always going to leave that door open,” Saleh said. “You guys know me, I’m the eternal optimist. But we are going to make sure both mind and body are 110% and make sure we do right by him.

“And we feel like, talking to the doctors and everyone, it’s going to be that Pittsburgh week.”

Wilson worked out on the field Monday and Tuesday while testing out his right knee, which was injured in the preseason opener at Philadelphia on Aug. 12. Saleh said Monday “it’s possible” Wilson could play against Baltimore, but that the quarterback would be evaluated in the next few days. Saleh said the second-year quarterback had no setbacks while working out, but the Jets don’t want to rush him back to the field.

“He looks fantastic, he still looks good, he feels good,” Saleh said. “He’s not walking with a limp or anything.”

Despite Wilson missing at least the first three games, the Jets did not consider putting him injured reserve — which would sideline him for a minimum of four games — so that he can continue to practice with the team. Wilson will work with the training staff this week, Saleh said, and then slowly start resuming practice during the next few weeks.

Saleh also left no doubt that the starting job remains Wilson’s whenever he is fully ready to play.
“When Zach’s healthy, he’s rolling,” Saleh said.

Wilson suffered a bone bruise and torn meniscus, which was repaired via arthroscopic surgery in Los Angeles on Aug. 16. It’s the same knee in which he sprained a ligament last year and sidelined him for four games. He was initially expected to miss two to four weeks with the current injury, a timetable that turned out to be a bit overambitious.

Taking the cautious approach in Week 1, New York will turn to Flacco — who will take on his former team. And with the confidence of the Jets.

“Heck yeah, man, Cool Joe,” Saleh said. “He’s been preparing. He’s freakin’ awesome. I’m really excited for him for this opportunity.”

The 37-year-old quarterback spent his first 11 NFL seasons in Baltimore, helping lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory to cap the 2012 season. He was the MVP of that game and signed a six-year, $120.6 million contract a month later, becoming the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history at that time.

A hip injury midway through the 2018 season put Flacco on the sideline — and Lamar Jackson into the starting lineup. The following offseason, Flacco was traded to Denver, where he spent one season before signing with the Jets for his first stint in New York. Meanwhile, Jackson went on in 2019 to become the second player to win the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award unanimously.

This will mark Flacco’s first start against the Ravens, and he’ll take on the QB who replaced him.

“I’ve been in a bunch of games where guys have played their old teams and coaches have played their past teams and usually the emotions are definitely crazy,” Flacco said last month about the possibility of starting against Baltimore. “I’ve definitely thought about that a little bit like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s not going to be a big deal,’ but I know deep down like, ‘Oh, OK, I’m going to try to make sure it’s not the biggest deal in the world.’

“But at the same time, I’ve been through it enough, I’ve seen guys go through it. It’s a different thing.”
Flacco is looking for his first win as a starter with the Jets, going 0-5 while filling in for Wilson in one game last season and four in place of Sam Darnold in 2020.

“Even at 37, I know that it’s in the back of his head, he’s getting a chance to play Baltimore and all these different things,” Saleh said. “Even at 37, he’s got to keep the main thing the main thing and just do his best, and trust his best is good enough.

“I think we’re all excited for Joe and his opportunity, and excited for Sunday.”

More AP NFL coverage: and

Twins-Yanks rained out, doubleheader Wednesday; Rizzo to IL
September 6, 2022 By MIKE FITZPATRICK AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Injuries keep piling up for the New York Yankees at just the wrong time.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo is headed to the 10-day injured list, the latest health-related setback for a banged-up team trying to hold onto first place in the AL East.

Rizzo is hampered by headaches the Yankees think are related to an epidural injection he received to alleviate lower back pain. He was expected to resume baseball activities Monday, then Wednesday, before the club decided Tuesday to place him on the IL.

“I don’t think it’s anything back-related now,” manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s scheduled game against Minnesota was postponed because of rain.

It will be made up Wednesday as part of a single-admission doubleheader beginning at 3:05 p.m.
Ronald Guzmán will be called up Wednesday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help fill in at first base.

The 27-year-old Guzmán is a .227 career hitter with 31 home runs in 243 major league games with Texas from 2018-21. He was batting .260 at Triple-A with 12 homers, 39 RBIs and an .823 OPS.
“He made a huge impression on me in spring training,” Boone said. “I really liked what I saw.”

Rizzo is far from the only key player hurting for the Yankees, who began the day five games in front of Tampa Bay and 5 1/2 ahead of Toronto after leading the AL East by 15 1/2 games on July 8.

Boone said slugger Giancarlo Stanton (left foot) and infielder DJ LeMahieu (toe) were not going to play Tuesday if the game hadn’t been rained out.

Stanton fouled a ball off his foot in Monday’s 5-2 win over Minnesota and later left the game. He was feeling better Tuesday, according to Boone, but the manager said neither Stanton nor LeMahieu is sure to play Wednesday.

Right-hander Luis Severino, out since mid-July with a strained lat, is scheduled to make a rehab start Wednesday for Double-A Somerset. He will likely throw about 50-55 and could rejoin the Yankees after that.

If not, he’ll get another minor league outing before returning.

“I definitely feel like he can impact right away,” Boone said. “We’ll see. We’ll make that call.”

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.28 ERA), who was scheduled to start Tuesday, was pushed back to Wednesday’s nightcap. Domingo Germán (2-3, 3.12) will pitch the opener for New York.

Cole gave up a career-high five homers in 2 1/3 innings June 9 at Minnesota.

The Twins plan to call up local kid Louie Varland to start the opener in his major league debut. The 24-year-old right-hander was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he went to Concordia University before getting picked by his hometown team in the 15th round of the 2019 amateur draft.

Varland is 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings over four starts for Triple-A St. Paul. He went 7-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 19 starts and one relief outing for Double-A Wichita this season.
Right-hander Joe Ryan (10-7, 3.88 ERA), who had been slated to start Tuesday, goes in the second game.

Minnesota entered the day a game behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central. The Guardians were set to play later in Kansas City.

More AP MLB: and

AP source: College Football Playoff to expand to 12 by 2026
September 2, 2022 By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer

The university presidents who oversee the College Football Playoff voted Friday to expand the postseason model for determining a national champion from four to 12 teams no later than the 2026 season.

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that the presidents would like to have the new format in place as soon as the 2024 season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement was still forthcoming.

A process that started 14 1/2 months ago with an optimistic rollout of an ambitious plan, and then was derailed as conference leaders haggled over details and questioned each other’s motivations, is now finally moving forward.

There are still issues to be hammered out by conference commissioners who comprise the CFP management committee, which is scheduled to meet next week. Most notably whether the logistical hurdles can be cleared in time for a new playoff to be up and running by 2024.

Last month, the CFP locked in sites for the championship games to be played after the 2024 and 2025 seasons. But the 11 presidents who make up the Board of Managers ultimately decide what happens with the playoff, and they took matters into their own hands to push the ball forward.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at

More AP college football: and Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter:

Facing Serena not easy for Open opponents who look up to her
September 1, 2022 By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The next woman who must deal with the daunting task of playing Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, Ajla Tomljanovic, considers herself an admirer of the 23-time Grand Slam champion.

“I’ve been a Serena fan,” Tomljanovic said, “since I was a kid.”

Tomljanovic, an Australian who is 29, will face Williams, who turns 41 next month, for the first time on Friday night — in front of what is sure to be another exuberant and partisan full house — in the third round at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“She kind of has that aura, like Roger (Federer), Rafa (Nadal), and deservedly so,” Tomljanovic said. “I always get happy when she says ‘Hi’ to me.”

Tomljanovic recalled watching on TV as Williams won major trophies. Also tuning in over the years — but never across the net from Williams in a match until this U.S. Open — was the player Williams beat in the second round on Wednesday, No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit, who’s 26. Same for the player Williams beat in the first round on Monday, Danka Kovinic, who’s 27.

This is not why Williams is winning these contests in what is expected to be the last tournament of her career, but it sure can’t hurt.

Must not be easy to try to defeat someone whose success is oh-so-familiar, someone you looked up to before you turned pro yourself, someone you admire to this day.
“Oh, it factors in a lot. When I was young, I knew I had to beat members of a certain generation to move up. And Serena’s always been the one to beat,” said Billie Jean King, the Hall of Famer who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles in the 1960s and 1970s, plus another 27 in women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

“It can work in your favor if you thrive on playing the best player ever and you know it’ll help your career if you win,” King said in a telephone interview Thursday. “But the other side of the coin is, ‘Oh, no! I have to play her?’ And with the crowd, the history, you really have to try to embrace the situation and the occasion.”

That certainly is not easy.

Especially when Williams is playing as well as she did against Kontaveit, particularly in the moments that mattered the most in the 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 victory — the first-set tiebreaker and the third set.

“Well,” Williams said with a laugh, “I’m a pretty good player.”

Sure is.

And her opponents sure know it, of course.

Back when Williams and her older sister Venus — they were scheduled to play in the first round of doubles together Thursday night — were swapping the No. 1 ranking the way other siblings might share clothing and meeting each other in nine all-in-the-family finals at Grand Slam tournaments, they often took the court with something of an advantage that went beyond their considerable talents.
Some other players were simply in awe.

So even though Williams plays less, and wins less, nowadays than she used to in her heyday — her 2022 record was 1-3 before this week — listen to what Kovinic had to say about learning she was drawn to face the American at Flushing Meadows: “I was happy. I won’t lie. I’m honored to play against her, never mind whether I win or lose. It’s a privilege to share the court with Serena.”

How did that go? Williams won 6-3, 6-3.

Here is what Kontaveit’s thoughts were when her matchup against Williams was assured: “I’m really excited. I was really rooting for her to (advance to the second round). I’ve never played against her. I mean, this is the last chance. Better late than never.”

Kovinic and the 46th-ranked Tomljanovic expressed similar sentiments.
Jessica Pegula, a 28-year-old American who is seeded No. 8 in New York and won Thursday to reach the third round, played Williams once, losing to her in the final of a tournament at Auckland, New Zealand, in January 2020.

“I knew it was a big moment. … I felt OK, but then once we started playing and you could kind of feel her power — and feel her hitting a winner, coming at you, serving — I think that’s when you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m playing Serena,'” Pegula said. “I think we all kind of have those moments for the first time.”

More AP coverage of U.S. Open tennis: and

Titans go with rookie Malik Willis as Tannehill’s backup QB
August 31, 2022
By TERESA M. WALKER AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rookie quarterback Malik Willis’ quick learning curve made veteran Logan Woodside dispensable for Tennessee.
The Titans cut Woodside along with 27 other players waived or released Tuesday at the NFL deadline to trim the roster to 53. They also waived injured tight end Tommy Hudson before turning attention to their season opener Sept. 11 hosting the New York Giants.
Woodside was a seventh-round pick out of Toledo by Cincinnati in 2018. He joined the Titans’ practice squad later that year and spent 2019 on the Titans’ practice squad while injured. Then Woodside backed up veteran Ryan Tannehill the past two years.
His experience and knowledge of the Titans’ offense couldn’t beat out Willis’ stronger arm and legs especially as the rookie showed weekly improvement since the start of the team’s rookie minicamp in mid-May.
“He can beat you throwing in pocket, he can beat you outside the pocket throwing, he can extend plays and then he can also beat you by turning up and running,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Willis after their preseason finale last weekend. “So there’s a lot of guys that we’re going to defend like that. And it’s difficult.”
Tennessee traded up in the third round to make the 6-foot-1 Willis the third quarterback taken in this year’s NFL draft at No. 86 overall. That was the highest draft pick Tennessee had used on a quarterback since taking Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall in 2015.
The rookie started all three preseason games for the Titans and got rid of the ball more quickly each game.
Willis played all but one series in Tennessee’s preseason finale, a 26-23 win over Arizona thanks to a rally led by Woodside. But Willis had a 50-yard scramble after first looking downfield for an open receiver, a run that wound up being the longest in the AFC this preseason.
The rookie also led the AFC with 159 yards rushing. Vrabel said Sunday that Willis showed the ability to step up in the pocket and keep looking downfield at times.
“He also was able to have some explosive gains running, which is exactly what we talked about,” Vrabel said. “The operation was better, but then there were some things that we have to improve.”
The Titans also made it official, releasing their longest-tenured player in three-time Pro Bowl punter Brett Kern, a move they announced was coming Monday.
NOTES: The Titans also sent a 2024 fifth-round pick to Carolina for OL Dennis Daley and a seventh-round pick in 2024. … Also released: linebackers David Anenih, Jack Gibbens and Joe Jones; RB Trenton Cannon; offensive linemen Christian DiLauro, Hayden Howerton, Jalen McKenzie, Xavier Newman-Johnson, Jordan Roos, Andrew Rupcich and Willie Wright; receivers Dez Fitzpatrick, Cody Hollister, Mason Kinsey and Reggie Roberson; safeties Adrian Colbert and Tyree Gillespie; tight ends Thomas Odukoya and David Wells; defensive linemen Larrell Murchison, Sam Okuayinonu and Jordan Peevy; and DBs Chris Jackson, Theo Jackson, Greg Mabin and Tre Swilling.

More AP NFL: and and

Tennessee Vols open season hosting Ball State under lights
August 31, 2022
By The Associated Press undefined
Ball State (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0), 7 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Line: Tennessee by 34 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: First meeting.
With a trip to No. 17 Pittsburgh up next, Tennessee has an opportunity to get coach Josh Heupel’s second season on Rocky Top headed in the right direction. The stress level is much different than a year ago when the Volunteers opened with a Thursday night win over Bowling Green. These Vols are just outside the AP Top 25, which could change with a big win in their opener. Ball State will be opening with a new quarterback in John Paddock. He played in just two games last season.
Ball State’s defense has to try and handle Tennessee’s up-tempo attack. While going 7-6 last season, the Vols averaged 475 offensive yards. The Vols will be trying to work out personnel issues at left tackle (Gerald Mincey or Jeremiah Crawford), running back behind Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright and a steady rotation in the defensive secondary. Ball State sophomore RB Carson Steele, who rushed for 891 yards and six touchdowns last season, will be the focus of the Tennessee defense.
Tennessee: WR Bru McCoy. The transfer from Southern California was just ruled eligible by the NCAA and will line up opposite Cedric Tillman. He hasn’t played since six games for the Trojans in the pandemic-truncated 2020 season.
Ball State: Senior CB Ameche Uzodinma II. He had 37 tackles and three pass breakups last season. If the Vols choose to give McCoy and Tillman a workout, Uzodinma is likely to be in the thick of things.
Both teams ended last season with bowl losses. Tennessee lost 48-45 in overtime to Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Ball State lost 51-20 to Georgia State in the Camellia Bowl. … Hendon Hooker came off the bench to earn the starting quarterback job for Tennessee. Now he goes into his second year as the starter poised to improve on 2,945 yards, 31 TDs and only three interceptions. … The Cardinals’ returning offensive line has accounted for 56 starts, led by LG Damon Kaylor … In 10 games against current Southeastern Conference teams, Ball State has yet to have a victory. … Tennessee will be unveiling some changes to Neyland Stadium in this game, including new videoboards in each end zone and a new deck area in the north end similar to a sports bar.

More AP college football: and

Wimbledon quarterfinalist due in Australian court

July 5, 2022
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Wimbledon quarterfinalist Nick Kyrgios is due in court back home in Australia next month, and a lawyer representing him said Tuesday the “precise nature of” the allegations “is neither certain at this moment nor confirmed by either the prosecution or” the 27-year-old professional tennis player.

“While Mr. Kyrgios is committed to addressing any and all allegations once clear, taking the matter seriously does not warrant any misreading of the process Mr. Kyrgios is required to follow,” attorney Pierre Johannessen wrote in a statement emailed to the media.

Johannessen wrote that “the allegations are not considered as fact” by the court, and Kyrgios is not “considered charged” with an offense until a first appearance in court.

The Canberra Times reported that Kyrgios is supposed to appear in court on Aug. 2. The newspaper cited local police as saying that a 27-year-old Australian man is involved in a case about “common assault following an incident in December 2021.”

Canberra police did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment emailed by The Associated Press.

Kyrgios is scheduled to play Cristian Garin at Wimbledon on Wednesday. It’s the third Grand Slam quarterfinal of the Australian’s career — he is 0-2 in the others — and first in 7 1/2 years.

An ATP spokesperson said: “The ATP is aware of the Australian case involving Nick Kyrgios but as legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”


More AP Wimbledon coverage: and and

“The Church of Baseball” received accolades

July 5, 2022
“The Church of Baseball: The Making of ‘Bull Durham’: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings and a Hit” by Ron Shelton (Knopf)

Former minor-league ballplayer Ron Shelton has written and directed a host of sports-themed movies, but it’s doubtful anyone has told him they’ve named their children after the characters in “Tin Cup” or “White Men Can’t Jump” or even “Cobb.”

“Bull Durham”? That’s different. A couple once introduced Shelton to their young sons, Crash and Nuke. That might be more impressive than the Sports Illustrated declaration in 2003 that the 1988 comedy starring Kevin Costner was the best sports movie ever.

What’s really impressive, once you read Shelton’s breezy behind-the-scenes recap, “The Church of Baseball,” is that “Bull Durham” didn’t end up in the direct-to-video minor leagues or just sent to the showers. Initially, too many people had too little faith in the movie and the man behind it.

There were conflicts over the casting of the leads, Costner as Crash, Susan Sarandon as Annie, and Tim Robbins as Nuke. Though Costner’s star was just emerging, none was seen as box office draws. Teen comedy veteran Anthony Michael Hall was considered a better choice as the pitching phenom completing the love triangle between Crash and Annie. However, all three — Costner, Sarandon and Robbins —were destined to win Oscars in standout careers.

And there was conflict over Shelton himself, some executives thinking the first-time director wasn’t up to the task. Somehow he managed to keep so many cooks with so many thoughts from spoiling his broth before it was even in the pot.

Dissention continued throughout shooting. At one point some people decided that the scene on the mound in which the teammates talk about anything but Nuke’s erratic pitching — “Candlesticks always make a nice gift” — should be cut. But test audiences and future fans would judge it the movie’s funniest moment. Shelton credits actor Robert Wuhl for the line, just one example of how the film was a team effort and Shelton generous in sharing the credit.

At the heart of “The Church of Baseball” isn’t the filmmaking or the fighting with the studio or even the insider’s view of baseball. It’s the creative process. Unlike most making-of books, many pages are devoted to how Shelton conceived the characters, developed a framework for a movie, sold a studio on it, then wrote and rewrote and rewrote the script. And the creativity continued during the actual filming, the editing, the music, the costumes and all the other stuff that goes into making a movie. Fortunately, creativity can be pretty funny as well as pretty interesting, and “The Church of Baseball” is consistently both.

Sure, let’s go to another baseball analogy: Making “Bull Durham” was like fielding a squirrely ground ball off the end of the bat at the edge of the infield grass — a play Shelton says looks easy but is actually hard to do. Fans of baseball and the movies are glad he didn’t botch it.


Douglass K. Daniel is the author of “Anne Bancroft: A Life” (University Press of Kentucky)

Tennessee parks offering low-cost kayaking instruction
May 12, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Twelve Tennessee State Parks are joining the American Canoe Association to offer low-cost kayaking instruction next week as part of National Safe Boating Week.
ACA Tennessee estimates there are approximately 1 million people regularly paddling Tennessee without formal training. The class will help participants understand hazards, better control their boats and have more fun on the water.
The classes take place May 21 and cost $15 per person, with revenue going to the parks, according to a news release. A limited number of kayaks, paddles and life jackets are available for participants who reserve the equipment in advance.
There are classes in both flatwater kayaking and river kayaking, depending on the park. The participating parks are: Meeman-Shelby Forest, Chickasaw, Harpeth River, Long Hunter, Fall Creek Falls, Seven Islands, Big Ridge, Harrison Bay, Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River, Davy Crockett Birthplace, Cove Lake and Warriors’ Path.
People can register on the state parks website at

Grizzlies rout Warriors to avoid elimination, force Game 6
May 12, 2022
By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies fought off elimination with the highest-scoring performance in their franchise’s postseason history.
And with All-Star guard Ja Morant cheering from the bench. Then Morant upped the ante by chanting “Grizz in seven!”
Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones each scored 21 points and the Grizzlies routed the Golden State Warriors 134-95 on Wednesday night to force a sixth game in their Western Conference semifinal.
“We’ve exceeded expectations ever since I’ve been here,” Bane said. “It almost seems whenever someone thinks we can’t do something, we end up doing it. So I never want to put a limit on this team on what we can do because anything’s possible.”
Dillon Brooks added 12 points for Memphis. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke had 11 apiece and De’Anthony Melton 10. Steven Adams had 13 rebounds, six offensive as Memphis outscored Golden State 24-5 on second-chance points.
The Grizzlies never trailed, turning in their best performance of this series to pull within 3-2 even with Morant out a second straight game because of a bone bruise in his right knee. They improved to 4-11 when facing elimination.
“We knew what was at stake,” Jackson said. “We didn’t change anything, though. We just calmed down, looked at the film, understand what we had to take away from the last game and just went out there and executed.”
Memphis scored 77 points in the first half, the most in franchise postseason history. The Grizzlies pushed their lead to 55 in the third quarter, threatening the three biggest postseason blowouts in NBA history. Their 52-point lead after three tied for the largest in a playoff game in the past 70 years.
“Obviously, this was a very impressive win for our group, great bounce-back for sure,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
When Memphis fans chanted “Whoop That Trick! Whoop That Trick!” early in the fourth, Stephen Curry laughed on the court while Draymond Green swung a towel in unison with the crowd. Green said he doesn’t respect people who only bring energy when winning.
“When you spew it out, you’ve got to be willing to take it and not hide from it and not duck from it and not hide from it. Embrace it,” Green said. “So, I appreciated the crowd tonight and the energy they brought to the game. If they want to whoop that trick, we’re going to whoop it together.”
Game 6 is Friday night in San Francisco, where the Warriors have won five straight playoff games and their last seven overall.
Klay Thompson led Golden State with 19 points, Jonathan Kuminga added 17, Curry had 14 and Damion Lee and Moses Moody each had 10.
The Warriors lost for the first time with assistant Mike Brown filling in for coach Steve Kerr, who missed his second straight game since testing positive for COVID before Game 4. Thompson said they expected to close out this series only to play “like a shell of ourselves.”
“It was awful,” Thompson said. “It was embarrassing from the opening tip. We didn’t have great flow. They were more aggressive than us, reflecting their 30 free throws to our 13.”
The Grizzlies got back to doing the things that helped them post the second-best record during the regular season. They outrebounded Golden State for the first time in this series 55-37, dominating the offensive boards 18-4. They forced 22 turnovers and got their best production from the bench of this series.
Golden State, thanks to Jordan Poole coming off the bench, had outscored Memphis’ reserves each of the first four games. Facing elimination, the Grizzlies had a 28-8 edge through the first two quarters and finished with a 52-35 margin. Poole had three points.
Memphis led 38-28 at the end of the first quarter and continued a 24-8 run into the second quarter to go up 53-36. They finished the second on a 20-4 run, including 14 straight, to outscore Golden State 39-22 for a 77-50 lead at halftime.
Then the Grizzlies opened the third quarter outscoring Golden State 20-6. They kept pushing, outscoring Golden State 42-17 in the third for a 119-67 lead going into the fourth.
Brown benched most of his starters by 3:44 of the third, and Jenkins followed to start the fourth resting up for a flight to California and Game 6.
Warriors: The 39-point loss was the fifth-largest playoff loss in franchise history and largest since a 40-point loss to the Clippers on April 21, 2014, in Game 2 of the first round. They’re the sixth team in the past 10 years to lose by 39 or more in a game that didn’t end a series. Four of the previous five won the next game. … The 77 points allowed in the first half matched the most allowed all season. They also gave up 77 on Jan. 13 at Milwaukee. … The Warriors also fell to 12-4 in Game 5s since 2015. … Otto Porter Jr. played 12 minutes before being sidelined by a sore right foot.
Grizzlies: They matched their most first-half points, also scoring 77 against New Orleans on March 8. … They went 20-5 without Morant during the regular season and are 1-1 in this series.
“This is definitely impressive but to use our players’ phrase, ‘We deep,'” Jenkins said. “I mean we’re deep. It’s as simple as that. I think we say that not arrogantly, we say that confidently because anybody that steps out on the floor can make an impact for us.”
The Bucks also led Philadelphia by 52 (124-72) on March 30, 1970. Denver beat New Orleans by 58 on April 27, 2009, matching the margin Minneapolis beat St. Louis on March 19, 1956. Golden State beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 56 on April 21, 1973.
Memphis scored 25 points off turnovers in the first half — most by any team in the 1st half over the last 25 postseasons. The Warriors had been averaging 19 turnovers a game in this series and had 14 by halftime and finished with 20.
Brown, the next coach of the Sacramento Kings, had been 12-0 coaching the Warriors in the postseason, winning 11 straight in the 2017 playoffs. He also won Game 4 when the Warriors took the lead for the first time with 45.7 seconds left to pull out a win for a 3-1 series lead.

More AP NBA: and

Swollen eye sidelines Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper for Game 4
May 9, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Darcy Kuemper will sit out Game 4 on Monday night with the Colorado goaltender’s right eye still swollen from being poked by a stick through his mask.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Pavel Francouz, who made 18 saves in nearly 41 minutes coming off the bench in relief on Saturday, will start against Nashville. Justus Annunen, recalled from Colorado’s AHL affiliate, will back up Francouz.
The Avalanche, up 3-0, can clinch this best-of-seven, first-round Western Conference series with a win.
Kuemper was hurt late in the first period of the Avs’ 7-3 win on Saturday. Play stopped with 56.6 seconds left, and replays showed Predators center Ryan Johansen’s stick poked through Kuemper’s mask. The goalie was able to skate off and headed to the locker room holding a towel to his face.
Johansen said Sunday he was “sick to his stomach” at seeing Kuemper hurt. Bednar had left open Kuemper playing Monday night if the swelling subsided.

More AP NHL: and

Nashville tops Real Salt Lake 2-0 for first win in new park
May 9, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dave Romney broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 63rd minute, C.J. Sapong scored in stoppage time and Nashville SC notched its first win in its new home with a 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in MLS play on Sunday.
Joe Willis saved the only two shots he faced for Nashville (4-3-3), which opened GEODIS Park last weekend with a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia and has now gone 21 straight games without a home loss.
Nashville and Colorado are both on 21-game unbeaten streaks at home, tied for the seventh longest in MLS history. Next up are the 22-match runs of Portland (2013-14) and the Columbus Crew (2008-09).
Nashville outshot Real Salt Lake 17-6 with a 9-2 advantage in shots on goal.
Zac MacMath saved seven of the nine shots he faced for RSL (4-3-4).

The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

NCAA clarifies compensation rules but is crackdown likely?
May 9, 2022
By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer
Eleven months after the NCAA lifted most of its restrictions against athletes cashing in on their fame, college sports leaders are trying to send a warning to schools and boosters it believes have crossed a line: There are still rules here and they will be enforced.
But following last year’s Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA in an antitrust case, is a crackdown on so-called collectives brokering name, image and likeness deals still likely — or even possible?
“I didn’t think (the NCAA) would not try at some point,” said Maddie Salamone, a sports attorney and former Duke lacrosse player. “That’s why many attorneys have been kind of giving cautious advice in terms of what is and is not allowed. Especially when it comes to collectives and different NIL deals.”
The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors on Monday approved guidance developed by a group of college sports administrators, clarifying the types of NIL payments and booster involvement that should be considered recruiting violations.
“Specifically, the guidance defines as a booster any third-party entity that promotes an athletics program, assists with recruiting or assists with providing benefits to recruits, enrolled student-athletes or their family members,” the NCAA release said. “The definition could include ‘collectives’ set up to funnel name, image and likeness deals to prospective student-athletes or enrolled student-athletes who might be considering transferring.”
The NCAA added a reminder: Recruiting rules bar boosters from recruiting or providing benefits to prospects.
The guidance is effective immediately. NCAA enforcement staff was directed to look for possible violations that might have occurred before May 9, 2022, but “pursue only those actions that clearly are contrary to the published interim policy, including the most severe violations of recruiting rules or payment for athletics performance.”
The NCAA neither changed its rules nor created new ones.
“I don’t think they’re even necessarily clarifying the rules,” said attorney Darren Heitner, who helped craft Florida’s NIL law. “My understanding is this is just certain individuals who have made up a working committee deciding that after almost 11 months we want to enforce our rules.”
The rise of booster-funded collectives prompted the board in February to ask the DI Council to review the NCAA’s interim NIL policy. The concern among many in college sports has been that payments from collectives are being made to high school recruits and to college athletes in hopes of getting them to transfer to a particular school.
“Some things look very much like pay-for-play,” Salamone said. “There are rules on the books within the NCAA around boosters. The fact that the NCAA has been hesitant to enforce anything I think has emboldened a lot of people around this issue to be a little bit more obvious.”
Last year, the NCAA removed its longstanding ban against athletes earning money from sponsorship and endorsements deals. What remained in place, however, were three pillars of the NCAA’s amateur athlete model:
— Athletes could not be paid solely for playing their sport;
— Compensation could not be used to lure an athlete to a particular school;
— Financial arrangements must have some type quid pro quo agreement in which the athlete was being paid for services provided, like a social media post or appearance.
The NCAA did not ban boosters from being involved in NIL activity. However, without detailed NCAA rules and with state-level NIL laws differing across the country, it left both schools and the association struggling to determine what activities were impermissible.
Some state laws also prohibit boosters from engaging with recruits, but there has been little appetite for enforcement of those laws.
Should the NCAA start targeting some collectives it could trigger a new round of lawsuits against the association.
Mit Winter, a sports attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, said NCAA enforcement of these rules is not a clear-cut antitrust violation.
“So the question is, under antitrust law, is the rule that’s being enforced reasonable?” Winter said. “And from my reading of everything, the rule that they’re going to be enforcing is the rule that says boosters and other third parties like collectives cannot pay athletes in return for a commitment to a school.”
Heitner advises several collectives and businesses that have made NIL deals with college athletes. He said he has stressed to clients from the start to wait until athletes are at the school of their choice before getting involved.
“I don’t think it’s a collective issue,” he added. “I think it’s just a matter of the NCAA saying, ‘Hey, we’ve always been of the position that boosters cannot influence decision making of athletes, particularly high school athletes who have not yet enrolled at universities.'”
Gabe Feldman, the director of sports law at Tulane, said the NCAA would be best served being forward-looking with its NIL enforcement.
“I think that probably is a safer and probably more fair approach,” Feldman said. “Hindsight is 20/20, but what might have been an even better approach is to have come up with clear rules earlier and started enforcing those so we didn’t get to a situation where it might be unfair to start enforcing the rules.”
College sports conferences and the NCAA have been frequent targets for lawsuits, and last June’s Supreme Court ruling left the door open for even more.
Feldman said the NCAA could be opening itself up to more antitrust exposure by failing to enforce its existing rules. But both antitrust lawsuits and NCAA enforcement are notoriously slow moving.
“This would be able like the tortoise and the tortoise,” Feldman said. “Neither would get done quickly, but there’s a lot of risk in the interim.”

Follow Ralph D. Russo at and listen at

More AP college football: and

Kuemper lead top-seeded Avs, Saros out 2 games
May 3, 2022
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) — Darcy Kuemper’s hockey card collection as a kid in Saskatoon, Canada, included plenty of his favorite player, Hall of Famer Patrick Roy.
The goaltender of the No. 1-seeded Colorado Avalanche wanted to make saves like Roy, step up big like Roy and collect something else Roy-like — titles.
Kuemper’s gets his shot as the Avalanche try to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since Roy backstopped the team to a championship in 2000-01. Game 1 of the first-round series against Nashville is Tuesday night in Denver.
The series features two of the best defensemen in the league — Colorado’s Cale Makar and Nashville’s Roman Josi — and plenty of scoring, but boils down to what it usually does: goaltending.
The Predators will be without Juuse Saros and his 38 wins this season for the opening two games due to a left leg injury. It will either be David Rittich or Connor Ingram in net for Game 1.
The Avs have Kuemper, who is coming off a season in which he appeared in a career-high 57 games and won a career-best 37, which was fifth-most in club history.
“Playoffs are so fun,” said Kuemper, who turns 32 on Thursday, just in time for Game 2. “You’ve just got to kind of shut off the outside noise and just cherish the moment. Playoff hockey obviously is what you grew up dreaming of.”
Just like he grew up yearning to be the next version of Roy. Kuemper has settled in with Roy’s former team since being acquired from Arizona last summer.
“He’s been a rock for us back there,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “We just love that he makes saves.”
Kuemper, though, has struggled against Nashville this season. He allowed four goals in a shootout loss to the Predators last Thursday, and five in an OT loss in Nashville on Jan. 11.
In between, though, there have been some beauties like turning back a career-best 49 shots , 11 in overtime, during a 2-1 win at Edmonton on April 9.
“Great teammate, work ethic, competitor,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, whose team has been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including last year against Vegas after leading 2-0 in the series. “Quiet guy. Just wants to go about his business and help your team win.”
On the other end of the ice, the Predators have a quandary in net with Saros sidelined. It could be Rittich, who picked up a shootout win over Colorado last week, or Connor Ingram, who has made three career NHL appearances.
“He (Saros) has been a real strong backbone of our team,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s preparing himself, mentally, to make sure that when and if he’s ready, then then he’s going to be ready to go.”
The Avalanche are coming off a season in which they recorded a franchise-most 119 points, breaking the mark held by the 2000-01 squad. Colorado had 308 goals (not counting shootouts) this season, which was the second-most since arriving in Denver. It trails only the ’95-96 team (326) that also won the Cup.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the room,” Kuemper said. “Just ready to get going.”
Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog returns to the lineup after undergoing knee surgery on March 14. He used the off time to study his team and recharge.
“Hopefully the adjustment period of coming back won’t be too long,” said Landeskog, who had 30 goals and 29 assists.
As the last seed in the West during the 2017 postseason, the Predators swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks on their way to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance.
“You take experience from every playoff run you have,” said Predators forward Filip Forsberg, who was part of that postseason march. “You try to make the best out of it.”
Makar and Josi are favorites to win the Norris Trophy, which goes to the league’s top defenseman. Both make strong cases, too. Makar led all blue-liners with 28 goals, while Josi was tops among defensemen in points with 96.
“He’s such a fun player to watch,” Josi, the 2020 Norris winner, said of Makar.
The Avalanche had eight different players reach 50 or more points this season, matching the ’82-83 Quebec Nordiques for most in franchise history. Mikko Rantanen led the way with a career-best 92 (36 goals, 56 assists).
Matt Duchene set the Nashville franchise record with 43 goals. He finished with 86 points for the best season of his career in his third season with the Predators.
It’s a reunion of sorts for Duchene, who was drafted third overall by Colorado in 2009. He scored 178 goals over nine seasons with the Avalanche before being traded.
No hard feelings, of course.
“He just needed a change of scenery,” Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “Dutchy’s a great player.”

AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

More AP NHL coverage: and

Hollingshead transfers from Georgia to Tennessee Lady Vols
May 3, 2022
Hollingshead transfers from Georgia to Tennessee Lady Vols
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jillian Hollingshead has transferred to Tennessee after her freshman season, giving Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper four players from the transfer portal.
Harper announced Hollingshead’s commitment Monday.
The 6-foot-5 forward is a 2021 McDonald’s All-American from Powder Springs, Georgia, and ranked No. 37 in espnW’s 100.
Hollingshead played 20 games as a freshman for Georgia, averaging 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds. She was limited by illness and injury but was a two-time Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week. She scored a season-high 15 points in the NCAA Tournament against Dayton.
Tennessee has added 6-2 forward Rickea Jackson from Mississippi State, 5-6 point guard Jasmine Powell from Minnesota and 6-1 Missouri State graduate transfer Jasmine Franklin. Justine Pissott, a 6-4 guard-forward who is the No. 11 overall player in the 202 class by espnW HoopGurlz, signed in November.

More AP women’s college basketball:

Preds goalie Juuse Saros out final 2 regular-season games
April 28, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators will be without goaltender Juuse Saros for the final two games of the regular season because of an injured left leg.
The Predators announced Saros will miss Thursday night’s game at Colorado and the regular season finale Friday at Arizona. They also recalled Connor Ingram from their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.
Saros made 30 saves Tuesday night for the Predators before leaving with 6:32 remaining favoring his left leg. He was replaced by David Rittich in a 5-4 overtime loss to Calgary, a potential playoff opponent for the Predators.
Nashville clinched its eighth straight playoff berth with the overtime point and Dallas’ shootout victory over Vegas. The Predators join a growing list of teams with questions in goal heading into the playoffs, injury or otherwise.
Carolina may begin the first round without starter Frederik Andersen because of injury, Pittsburgh is still without Tristan Jarry and Toronto and Washington have concerns at the position going into their respective openers next week.
Rittich is 5-3-4 this season backing up Saros and has a 3.56 goals-against average with a .883 save percentage.
Ingram, 25, leads all AHL goalies in games and minutes played, saves and is tied for first with five shutouts. He is second in wins with a career-high 30. He made two starts for Nashville earlier this season, winning his debut Oct. 24 at Minnesota.
He joined Pekka Rinne as the only goalies in Nashville history to win their NHL debuts.

More AP NHL: and

Struggling Braves reinstate Acuña from IL 1 week before plan
April 28, 2022
By CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves reinstated outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. from the injury list on Thursday, more than a week ahead of the team’s target date for his return from knee surgery.
Acuña is expected to hit leadoff in Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. He may initially split time between right field and designated hitter.
The defending World Series champion Braves have struggled at the start of the season and are still looking for their first series win after splitting the first two games of their three-game series with the Cubs. The Braves will be looking for Acuña to provide a boost to their lineup after showing in his rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Gwinnett that he has recovered from the surgery that ended his 2021 season.
Acuña was 2 for 5 for Gwinnett on Wednesday night and hit .368 with three stolen bases in six games.
Despite the strong showing by Acuña in his rehabilitation assignment, the Braves had appeared firm in their plan to remain cautious ahead of his projected return on May 6.
There had been some signs that Acuña was influencing that plan, however. On Wednesday, manager Brian Snitker said the team would wait until after Acuña’s scheduled nine innings with Gwinnett on Thursday night before deciding on his next game.
The Braves’ decision to activate Acuña could have been motivated by losing Eddie Rosario for eight to 12 weeks. Rosario, the MVP of the NL Championship Series last season, had a laser procedure on Wednesday to correct blurred vision and swelling in his right eye.
The Braves designated outfielder Alex Dickerson for assignment to clear a spot for Acuña on the active roster.
Struggling Braves reinstate Acuña from IL 1 week before plan
April 28, 2022
By CHARLES ODUM AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves reinstated outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. from the injury list on Thursday, more than a week ahead of the team’s target date for his return from knee surgery.
Acuña is expected to hit leadoff in Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs. He may initially split time between right field and designated hitter.
The defending World Series champion Braves have struggled at the start of the season and are still looking for their first series win after splitting the first two games of their three-game series with the Cubs. The Braves will be looking for Acuña to provide a boost to their lineup after showing in his rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Gwinnett that he has recovered from the surgery that ended his 2021 season.
Acuña was 2 for 5 for Gwinnett on Wednesday night and hit .368 with three stolen bases in six games.
Despite the strong showing by Acuña in his rehabilitation assignment, the Braves had appeared firm in their plan to remain cautious ahead of his projected return on May 6.
There had been some signs that Acuña was influencing that plan, however. On Wednesday, manager Brian Snitker said the team would wait until after Acuña’s scheduled nine innings with Gwinnett on Thursday night before deciding on his next game.
The Braves’ decision to activate Acuña could have been motivated by losing Eddie Rosario for eight to 12 weeks. Rosario, the MVP of the NL Championship Series last season, had a laser procedure on Wednesday to correct blurred vision and swelling in his right eye.
The Braves designated outfielder Alex Dickerson for assignment to clear a spot for Acuña on the active roster.

More AP MLB: and

Predators make the playoffs despite 5-4 OT loss to Flames
April 27, 2022
By JIM DIAMOND Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk forced overtime by scoring with a second left in the third and Elias Lindholm’s OT goal secured the Calgary Flames’ 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Despite losing its third straight, Nashville clinched a wild-card spot thanks to Dallas’ shootout win over Vegas.
Dillon Dube scored twice and Noah Hanifin also had a goal for Calgary, winners of three straight. Dan Vladar made 19 saves.
“What that game did for us, bringing us together at this time of year, that game did so much more for us than people would probably expect,” Tkachuk said.
Filip Forsberg scored two power-play goals, Matt Duchene had a goal and two assists and Roman Josi had one goal and one assist for the Predators.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Josi said of Tkachuk’s goal, which was a wraparound under David Rittich’s pad. “Like, doesn’t happen too often that you get scored on with 0.1 seconds. But it happened, and we have to regroup. I liked our effort. I thought we played hard.”
Juuse Saros made 30 saves for Nashville but left the game with 6:32 remaining favoring his left leg and was replaced by Rittich, who made three saves.
“I don’t have any update on him,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s still getting evaluated. I haven’t talked to the trainer or anything yet, so we’ll probably have more on that tomorrow.”
In overtime, Lindholm picked up a rebound and beat Rittich with a wrist shot.
With the game tied at two entering the third, Forsberg and Hanifin traded power-play goals early, then Forsberg scored another man-advantage goal at 9:35.
“That’s what playoffs are … up one, down one,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “You have to play every shift like it’s the one that will be the difference. That’s the way it works.”
Dube scored the game’s first goal at 4:02 of the opening period on a power play. Josi made it 1-1 at 5:41 of the second.
Ryan Johansen won a faceoff to Philip Tomasino, who sent a pass to Josi. He navigated to the slot and unchecked there, fired a slap shot by Vladar for his 22nd goal of the season.
Duchene gave Nashville its first lead at 8:08 of the second.
Mikael Granlund’s shot attempt from the left side tipped off the skate of Flames defenseman Christopher Tanev and landed right on the tape of Duchene’s stick on the right side, where he had an open net for his 42nd goal of the season.
Dube struck again at 13:14 of the second off the rush when his shot from the slot tipped off the stick of Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm.
Tuesday may have been a preview of a potential first-round Western Conference playoff matchup. The Flames are already locked in as the Pacific Division winners and will be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
“Back and forth, ultimately we hadn’t beaten these guys this year, so if we do run into them, it’s nice to have the confidence that we can beat them,” Tkachuk said.
If the Predators finish in the top wild-card spot, they will play the Flames in the first round. Dallas and Vegas are fighting for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Yeah, definitely don’t like each other much,” Josi said. “You can tell on the ice.”
Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau skated in his 600th career NHL game. The 28-year-old has spent his entire career with Calgary and has set career highs in goals (39), assists (72) and points (111).
His 111 points are the second-highest total in Calgary’s franchise history, trailing only Kent Nilsson who posted 131 in 1980-81.
Predators: At Colorado Thursday to begin a two-game road trip to conclude the regular season.
Flames: Visit Minnesota on Thursday.

More AP NHL: and

Comeback Grizzlies rally again from big deficit for 3-2 lead
April 27, 2022
By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies keep proving that no deficit is too deep to claw their way back to victory.
And Ja Morant is getting tired of playing from behind, no matter how good the wins feel. He wants to see the Grizzlies start like they did in their easiest win of this series in Game 2.
“Not give them too much life,” Morant said. “Go ahead and come out and play hard. Play with energy. Start early. Last three games, we haven’t played our basketball. Weren’t knocking down shots, but we battled. Me personally, I’m giving it my all. Ready to lay down.”
The NBA’s Most Improved Player scored 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, including the final 13 for Memphis, in rallying the Grizzlies from a 13-point deficit with 9:38 left. Morant’s final bucket, a layup with a second left, lifted Memphis to a 111-109 victory and a 3-2 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.
This deficit was half the 26-point shortfall Memphis clawed its way back from, not counting the 25-point deficit late in the third, in winning Game 3. That tied the Grizzlies’ franchise record for the biggest comeback victory.
According to ESPN, that makes Memphis the first NBA team ever to post multiple comeback wins after trailing by double-digits going into the fourth quarter in a single playoff series. The Miami Heat in 2020 were the only other team that managed to rally from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter twice in a single postseason.
Bane says there’s no quit in these Grizzlies.
“We’re at our home arena down, down late,” Bane said. “Their players talking about ‘Oh, they’re about to fold, about to fold.’ I knew that wasn’t the case, and we just kept chipping away, kept trusting and what we do got some stops and was able to make some shots down the stretch.”
Minnesota led 99-88 only to be outscored 23-10 over the final 6:43, and Memphis outscored the Timberwolves 34-27 in the final quarter. The Grizzlies also outrebounded the Wolves 18-10 in the fourth, and 10 offensive rebounds led to a 12-0 edge in second-chance points.
The biggest was Brandon Clarke tipping a missed 3 from Tyus Jones out where Morant snagged it before knocking down his lone 3 of the game. That gave Memphis its first lead since the first quarter.
The Wolves missed 4 of 14 at one stretch in the fourth, part of an ugly shooting night where Memphis clanked dunks and missed wide-open 3-pointers. Morant, the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year, was 9 of 22 for the game, and Dillon Brooks was 3 of 18 — 1 of 10 from 3 with his lone make coming in the fourth quarter.
These are two of the NBA’s youngest teams this season, and that youth and inexperience in the intense pressure of the postseason certainly has played a part in this series. Minnesota easily can look at the stats and be convinced this is a series the Wolves should clinch.
Instead, Memphis takes a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 on Friday night looking to clinch its first series since 2015.
“No doubt about it, but all credit to Memphis,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “They hang strong, they don’t beat themselves, and we got to do a better job of making little plays when it matters most.”

More AP NBA: and

Reese Witherspoon becomes part-owner of Nashville MLS team
April 26, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Actor Reese Witherspoon and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry have joined the ownership group of Major League Soccer’s Nashville team ahead of the opening Sunday of Geodis Park, its 30,000-seat stadium.
Witherspoon’s husband, agent and investor Jim Toth, also has joined the ownership group, the team said Tuesday.
The soccer team started play in 2020 at Nissan Stadium, home of the Titans, and played its first eight league games on the road this season before it opens the new venue with a game against Philadelphia.
Witherspoon grew up in the Nashville area.
“As a Tennessee native, it is thrilling to see how much growth and development has come to our home state,” she said in a statement. “The opportunity to go as a family and watch a world-class team compete has been such an incredible experience.”
Henry has been with the Titans since 2016. He joins Mark Ingram (D.C.), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) as NFL players who have become MLS part owners.
Actors who are owners include Drew Carey (Seattle), Matthew McConaughey (Austin) and Will Ferrell (Los Angeles FC).

31 NFL teams looking at Vrabel. No, not the Titans coach
April 26, 2022
By BARRY WILNER AP Pro Football Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — One player has been off-limits for Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel when preparing for the draft with general manager Jon Robinson: Tyler Vrabel.
The Titans coach’s oldest son is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman who was a three-year starter at Boston College, spending two seasons at left tackle and one on the right side. Asked if the Titans are considering the younger Vrabel as a prospect, the elder Vrabel said no. He and Robinson haven’t even talked about it.
“I think that there’s 31 teams that are evaluating Tyler. I don’t think that’s good for anybody,” Vrabel said.
The Titans coach played 14 NFL seasons himself at linebacker, winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots. As coach, Vrabel has been a proud parent able to wear BC gear and cheer for his son during his college career. Now his son could hear his name called, even if he has to wait until Saturday. Mike Vrabel is staying in dad mode, excited to see what’s next for his son.
“That’s really what I’m trying to do,” Vrabel said. “It’s taken me a lot of years to be more dad than coach, and I’m trying to do a much better job at that, and I feel like I have. So, I’m excited for him to see where his next opportunity will be, and try to support him any way I can.”
Twenty players from 17 schools will attend the draft in person, with many of them likely to go in the first round.
Three universities will have two representatives each: national champion Georgia with defensive lineman Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean; Alabama with offensive lineman Evan Neal and wide receiver Jameson Williams; and Ohio State with wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
On the list of attendees are several prospects expected to go in the top-10 selections, including Neal, Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, North Carolina State OL Ikem Ekwonu, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Two quarterbacks will attend: Matt Corral of Mississippi and Malik Willis of Liberty.
And now, for the New York Jets’ next selection, we take you to … London?
As the NFL continues to ramp up its international flavor, several teams will use sites abroad for a pick.
The Jets will have former center Nick Mangold at the observation deck of a London skyscraper to announce one of their picks. The Steelers will reveal a choice from Mexico City and the Dolphins from the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Local officials will illuminate the statue in Dolphins colors at night.
In all, 10 teams will announce a selection on Saturday from other countries. The move is in keeping with the league handing out commercial rights to 18 clubs.
Also involved Saturday will be the Bears and Jaguars from the United Kingdom; the Chiefs, Panthers and Buccaneers from Germany — Tampa Bay will host the NFL’s first regular-season game in Munich in the coming season; and the Texans and Cardinals in Mexico.
The National Flag Foundation, in coordination with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, will commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Purple Heart when the 240th draft pick is announced on Saturday.
Representatives of both organizations, including former NFL players Rocky Bleier and John Banaszak, will do the honors.
Bleier, Banaszak and MOPH national commander James McCormick are veterans. Bleier, a U.S. Army combat-wounded veteran, is a recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Banaszak is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and McCormick is a multiple Purple Heart recipient.
“Our nation’s wounded veterans have sacrificed their full measure of devotion for our freedoms, and they deserve our thanks and recognition on this day and every day,” Bleier said. “We are grateful for the National Football League’s continued support of America’s combat-wounded veteran community and for helping the National Flag Foundation’s efforts to mark this important anniversary.”
Also Saturday, the Department of Defense will hold a joint enlistment ceremony for 10 future service members joining the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, will preside over the 5-minute ceremony on the draft stage.

AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

More AP NFL: and and

Supreme Court tackling case about praying football coach
April 25, 2022
By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will tackle a dispute between public school officials and a former high school football coach who wanted to kneel and pray on the field after games.
The case before the justices on Monday involves Joseph Kennedy, a former football coach at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Washington. For years, the coach would kneel at the center of the field following games and lead students in prayer. The school district eventually learned what he was doing and asked him to stop.
Kennedy’s lawyers say the Constitution’s freedom of speech and freedom of religion guarantees allow him to pray on the field, with students free to join. But the school district says Kennedy’s religious speech interfered with students’ own religious freedom rights, could have the effect of pressuring students to pray and opened the district itself to lawsuits. The school district says it tried to work out a solution so Kennedy, who is Christian, could pray privately before or after the game, including on the field after students left, but Kennedy’s lawsuit followed.
The case comes to the court at a time when conservative justices make up a majority of the court and have been sympathetic to the concerns of religious individuals and groups, such as groups that brought challenges to coronavirus restrictions that applied to houses of worship.
But cases involving religion can also unite the court. Last year, for example, the court unanimously sided with a Catholic foster care agency that said its religious views prevent it from working with same-sex couples. Already this term in an 8-1 decision the justices ruled for a Texas death row inmate who sought to have his pastor pray aloud and touch him while his execution was carried out.
The case from Bremerton, meanwhile, has already caught the justices’ attention. In 2019 the justices declined to get involved in the case at an earlier stage. But four justices were critical of lower court rulings for the school district, writing that an appeals court’s “understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling.”
Kennedy started working at Bremerton High School in 2008, and it was his practice at the end of games — after the players and coaches from both teams would meet at midfield to shake hands — to pause and kneel to pray. Kennedy said he wanted to give thanks for what his players had accomplished and for their safety, among other things.
Kennedy initially prayed alone on the 50-yard line at the end of games, but students started joining him and over time he began to deliver a short, inspirational talk with religious references. Kennedy says he never required players to join or asked any student to pray. He also led the team in prayer in the locker room before games, a practice that predated him.
The school district didn’t learn of Kennedy’s practice until 2015. It told him then that he needed to stop praying with students or engaging in overtly religious activity while still “on duty” as a coach. After Kennedy continued to pray on the field, he was placed on paid leave. His contract expired and he didn’t reapply to coach the following year, the school says.
A decision is expected before the court begins its summer recess.
The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 21-418.

Deion Sanders highlights HBCU prospects ahead of NFL draft
April 25, 2022
By ROB MAADDI AP Pro Football Writer
Deion Sanders did his part to make sure NFL teams don’t overlook players from historically Black colleges in this week’s draft.
The Jackson State coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer released his “Prime Prospects” on Monday, featuring 16 players from 12 HBCUs. Last year, not one HBCU player was drafted.
“My prediction is five to seven, maybe 10 guys that should be drafted,” Sanders told The Associated Press. “We have at least 15, 16 truly draftable guys, more that I feel like probably are going to get drafted. Exposure helps. What’s going on and what’s translating today in HBCU football is helping tremendously. We’re getting a lot of shine.”
Neon Deion has helped provide a spotlight on HBCU players since leaving his analyst duties at NFL Network and taking over at Jackson State in 2020. Sanders was the Southwestern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2021 after leading the Tigers to an 11-2 record.
“I’m not thinking about legacy. I don’t care about that. I care about winning games and changing lives and provoking change in whatever I touch,” Sanders said. “Eddie George has done a wonderful job at Tennessee State. Hue Jackson coming into Grambling, raising the bar there is going to be tremendous. Willie Simmons at (Florida A&M) and some of the other notable persons, Coach (Fred) McNair at Alcorn, are some guys that can really coach the game and they’re able to take this thing to another level. I’m thankful and pleased that I have Aflac partnering with me to bring shine, so to speak, and shed light on what we’re doing, especially with this Prime Prospects. It’s unbelievable.”
Aflac’s new advertisement, named “Believe,” features Sanders and will air during the draft. The campaign reflects Aflac’s “Close the Gap” initiative, which centers on educating, supporting and advocating for those underserved and overlooked.
“We’re doing a better job of the exposure,” Sanders said. “We’re often overlooked and under exposed, which is something that we’re trying to tackle right now. … We’re trying our best to bring light to all those. It’s just absurd to me. I know pro football. I worked at the NFL Network for almost two decades and played for 14 years. I know what a professional looks like, and there are a multitude of these young men that can play the game at the next level, if given the opportunity. When you don’t see a player visually, it’s hard to understand that he’s equipped and he could participate. If you didn’t see the players from Alabama on television every darn week, I’m pretty sure the number that they’re circulating into the NFL would cease a bit. You never see these kids and you don’t understand what they’re capable of, and I’m telling you they can play this game.”
In 2021, Aflac donated $75,000 to the Jackson State University athletic department for professional development, as well as $25,000 as a supporting partner of Sanders’ football camp. Aflac will donate an additional $100,000 in 2022 to help Sanders continue his mission of mentoring young athletes.
His “Prime Prospects” are: Florida A&M safety Antwan Collier and offensive lineman Keenan Forbes; Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass and wide receivers Dee Anderson and Zabrian Moore; Jackson State defensive end/linebacker James Houston and wide receiver Keith Corbin; Norfolk State defensive lineman De’Shaan Dixon; Alabama State running back Ezra Gray; NC A&T running back Jah-Maine Martin; Mississippi Valley State linebacker Jerry Garner; Fayetteville State defensive back Joshua Williams; Southern University wide receiver Marquis McClain; Fort Valley State wide receiver Shemar Bridges; Bowie State defensive back Tevin Singleton; Virginia State safety Will Adams.
“I’m happy in the role that God has chosen for me,” Sanders said. “I’m happy to be where I am, and I tell people all the time I know I’m employed at Jackson State, but I’m working for the whole HBCU.”
The inaugural Legacy Bowl held in February in New Orleans gave top football players from HBCU schools a new level of exposure to pro scouts and executives. But Sanders has anther idea for a Bowl game.
“I would love to namesake an All-Star Game that HBCUs play against all the other schools,” Sanders said. “I don’t like when you just have an HBCU game we play against each other. Let’s play against all the other talent. I would like for us to put together our All-Star team and we play one of the Bowl games that they play after the season.”

More AP NFL: and and

Tampa Bay hosts Nashville following shootout victory
April 22, 2022
By The Associated Press undefined
Nashville Predators (44-28-5, fourth in the Central) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (47-22-8, third in the Atlantic)
Tampa, Florida; Saturday, 7 p.m. EDT
BOTTOM LINE: The Tampa Bay Lightning host Nashville after the Predators took down Calgary 3-2 in a shootout.
The Lightning have gone 25-8-6 in home games. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference averaging 3.4 goals per game, led by Steven Stamkos with 34.
The Predators are 19-14-5 in road games. Nashville averages 4.7 penalties per game, the most in the league. Tanner Jeannot leads the team with 37 total penalties.
In their last meeting on Feb. 26, Tampa Bay won 3-2.
TOP PERFORMERS: Stamkos leads the Lightning with 34 goals and has 90 points. Nikita Kucherov has 14 points over the last 10 games for Tampa Bay.
Matt Duchene leads the Predators with 40 goals and has 78 points. Ryan Johansen has 10 points over the last 10 games for Nashville.
LAST 10 GAMES: Lightning: 4-4-2, averaging 3.7 goals, 6.4 assists, 4.2 penalties and 12 penalty minutes while giving up 2.9 goals per game with a .905 save percentage.
Predators: 5-4-1, averaging 2.5 goals, 4.5 assists, 4.3 penalties and 12.6 penalty minutes while allowing three goals per game with a .903 save percentage.
INJURIES: Lightning: Brayden Point: day to day (lower body).
Predators: Jeremy Lauzon: out (undisclosed), Matt Luff: day to day (illness), Michael McCarron: out (upper body).

Memphis visits Minnesota with 2-1 series lead
By The Associated Press undefined
Memphis Grizzlies (56-26, second in the Western Conference) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (46-36, seventh in the Western Conference)
Minneapolis; Saturday, 10 p.m. EDT
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Timberwolves -3; over/under is 233.5
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND: Grizzlies lead series 2-1
BOTTOM LINE: The Memphis Grizzlies visit the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference first round with a 2-1 lead in the series. The Grizzlies won the last matchup 104-95 on April 21 led by 26 points from Desmond Bane, while D’Angelo Russell scored 22 points for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves are 32-20 in Western Conference games. Minnesota has a 4-4 record in games decided by less than 4 points.
The Grizzlies are 36-16 in Western Conference play. Memphis is second in the Western Conference scoring 115.6 points per game and is shooting 46.1%.
TOP PERFORMERS: Karl-Anthony Towns is scoring 24.6 points per game and averaging 9.8 rebounds for the Timberwolves. Anthony Edwards is averaging 24.9 points and 5.2 rebounds over the last 10 games for Minnesota.
Bane is scoring 18.2 points per game with 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Grizzlies. Dillon Brooks is averaging 18.9 points and 3.1 assists over the past 10 games for Memphis.
LAST 10 GAMES: Timberwolves: 5-5, averaging 117.1 points, 39.2 rebounds, 26.1 assists, 8.7 steals and 6.3 blocks per game while shooting 47.0% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 124.3 points per game.
Grizzlies: 6-4, averaging 117.7 points, 44.9 rebounds, 28.2 assists, 8.7 steals and 5.3 blocks per game while shooting 45.7% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 113.7 points.
INJURIES: Timberwolves: None listed.
Grizzlies: Santi Aldama: day to day (knee), Killian Tillie: out (knee).

The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar.

Record 8 teams head into NFL draft without 1st-round pick
April 21, 2022
By JOSH DUBOW AP Pro Football Writer
The Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams should have plenty of company sitting out the first round of the NFL draft next week.
The franchise that hasn’t made a selection in round one since taking Jared Goff in 2016 and doesn’t currently have another first-round pick until 2024, is set to be joined by a record seven other teams that have traded away their first-round picks in what has become a growing trend in recent years.
Whether it’s teams emulating the Rams’ model of flipping uncertain picks for cost-controlled rookies for more proven veterans with more lucrative contracts or others that followed the path Kansas City and Buffalo used by trading future first-round picks to move up to take a future franchise quarterback, teams are opting out of the first round of the draft at a furious pace.
This will mark the third time in four years that at least seven teams won’t make a pick in the first round barring one of those teams trading back up, something that happened just twice in the first 52 years of the common draft.
Former Tampa Bay general manager and SiriusXM analyst Mark Dominik said the increased salary cap, more power for players and GMs willing to take more risks have led to the change.
“I think that’s the unique thing is because players are actually getting a little bit more aggressive in their stance and clubs are willing to do that,” Dominik said. “Twenty years ago, if you tried to cross (former Chiefs GM) Carl Peterson you’d never play football again. … That mentality has kind of gone in the league. That’s why you’ve seen more first-round draft picks moved and traded because clubs are willing to do that.
“Therefore, having a known commodity, especially because some of these guys are elite, is better than having that first-round pick that you’re hoping is what you can be.”
No one has been as aggressive as the Rams. GM Les Snead traded two first-round picks to move up to take quarterback Jared Goff in 2016, another first for receiver Brandin Cooks in 2018, traded out of the first round in 2019 for more picks, dealt two more first-rounders to acquire All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and two more for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
It added up to a Super Bowl-winning roster last season.
“The model is working,” Snead said. “It’s allowing us to consistently win games, consistently contend for the NFC West. We’ll try to use our picks in an innovative, creative way, and sometimes it will be picking players in the draft and sometimes it will be using them to go acquire players.”
The aggressiveness by the Rams has rubbed off on other teams, looking to match the success Los Angeles has had in recent years.
Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said there’s never “too high of a price on anybody that’s great” — especially when it comes to quarterbacks. Denver had been dealing with a revolving door of mediocrity at the most important position ever since Peyton Manning retired seven years ago but now has Russell Wilson in place.
“You can ask all these guys around here. You have to have a quarterback to have a chance,” Hackett said at the owners meetings last month. “It’s whatever it takes to get a quarterback.”
Of the eight teams that have given away their first-round picks this year, the Broncos were one of six who did it in trades for quarterbacks along with the Rams, Cleveland (Deshaun Watson), San Francisco (Trey Lance), Indianapolis (Carson Wentz) and Chicago (Justin Fields).
The other teams to do it were Las Vegas and Miami, who both traded top picks away to add game-breaking receivers they hope can get more out of their existing quarterbacks with the Raiders getting Davante Adams from Green Bay and the Dolphins getting Tyreek Hill from Kansas City.
After making 11 picks in the top 100 of the past two drafts to rebuild the roster, Miami now is not scheduled to pick until No. 102 after using those picks to move up in the draft last year to take receiver Jaylen Waddle and tackle Liam Eichenberg and then the deal for Hill.
“We’ve been building here for the last few years,” general manager Chris Grier said. “The chance to get aggressive and adding a talented top player at a position is something we just felt was too good to pass up.”
There are already five teams that have traded away their 2023 first-round picks, with the Rams and 49ers dealing away those picks last year when they got their quarterbacks, the Browns trading three years of first-round picks for Watson, the Seahawks giving up a second first-round pick for Wilson and the Saints trading their 2023 first-rounder for an extra 2022 first-rounder.
The trend shows little sign of easing.
“Any team that has success you become inquisitive and you want to know the why and you kind of dig into ‘OK. They did this and what opportunities is that they made the most of it,'” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said. “So again there’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat in terms of roster building. It’s just what your core philosophy is at the end of the day.”

More AP NFL: and and

Kyle Busch steadily cementing a Hall of Fame NASCAR career
April 21, 2022
By JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A cascade of boos rained down on Kyle Busch following his surprise win at Bristol Motor Speedway, a moment that reminded him of the icy reception the late Dale Earnhardt received after a controversial 1999 win at the track.
But this wasn’t even close to that. Earnhardt wrecked leader Terry Labonte out of his way and shrugged it off: “I didn’t mean to turn him around, I meant to rattle his cage.”
Busch had done nothing of the sort. He was comfortably in third on the final lap of Sunday night’s race at dirt-covered track. It was Chase Briscoe who spun into leader Tyler Reddick, and all Busch did was slip through the smoke for the 60th victory of his Cup Series career.
With the checkered flag in his hand, Busch laughed at the crowd reaction: “I mean, man, I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now. This is awesome. I didn’t do anything.”
What the crowd didn’t realize is that Busch’s ninth career Cup win at Bristol had just earned him a spot in NASCAR’s record books. The victory tied Busch with Hall of Famer Richard Petty with at least one win in 18 consecutive seasons.
“To me, it’s a long time, 18 years,” he said. “The biggest thing to me is just having that opportunity and being thankful for my chances with Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Busch thanked longtime sponsors M&M’s and Interstate Batteries, as well as the leadership at JGR beginning with Hall of Fame team owner Joe Gibbs for “having my back over this long a time, keeping me in the seat.”
Busch ranks ninth on the all-time wins list, but the Bristol win moved him 17 victories away from the Earnhardt, the late seven-time champion and member of the first NASCAR Hall of Fame class alongside Petty. Kevin Harvick, with 58 career Cup victories, is closest to Busch among active drivers; Busch, a two-time Cup champion, is the only active driver with multiple titles.
His journey started first with Jack Roush, who had older brother Kurt Busch under contract, and Kurt swore the driver seven years his junior was going to be better than him. Roush gave Kyle Busch some Truck Series starts when he was 16, but by the time he turned 18 and was approved to race at higher levels, he’d been snagged by Hendrick Motorsports.
Busch won with Hendrick but he was immature and, like his big brother, rather temperamental. He lasted just three seasons before Rick Hendrick cut him loose to sign Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Gibbs grabbed the 22-year-old ahead of the 2008 season and Busch has undoubtedly put together a Hall of Fame career. He has 325 victories across NASCAR’s three national series and “retired” from Xfinity Series racing at the end of last season when he crossed the 100-win threshold with 102.
He still races the five Truck Series events NASCAR permits for his Kyle Busch Motorsports team, though he is winless through his first three starts this season.
Now 36 and awaiting the birth of his second child — Busch and wife, Samantha, have publicly struggled with infertility and are expecting their first daughter via a surrogate — Busch’s focus is on winning more Cup titles.
He knows he backed into the Bristol win, his first in a season that has six top-10 finishes through nine races. He doesn’t believe the No. 18 Toyota team is where it needs to be to contend for the title just yet.
“We got a lot of work to do to win more races and be in contention each and every week,” Busch said. “I feel like I’m in the prime of my career and I would love to be running up front and dominating and winning races and contending for championships. That’s our ultimate goal.”
Next up is Talladega Superspeedway, where Busch has just one victory, in 2008. He’s not counting on past experience in what should be a hectic race with NASCAR’s new Next Gen racecar.
“It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from,” Busch said. “You’ve just got to do what you can in order to let these races kind of fall into place, and sometimes it’s just worth taking the finish that’s coming to you and moving on and going to the next one.”

More AP auto racing: and

Granlund’s shootout winner leads Predators over Flames 3-2
April 20, 2022
By JIM DIAMOND Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Matt Duchene scored his 40th goal of the season and Mikael Granlund had the only goal of the shootout to lead the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
Filip Forsberg also scored and Juuse Saros made 19 saves in regulation and overtime for Nashville, winners of two of three. The Predators entered Tuesday in the Western Conference’s top wild card position, tied in points with the Dallas Stars.
“I think when you come down the stretch like this, you got to play meaningful hockey,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “It’s what this time of year is about. You’re not going to get a lot of rest. I think it’s about getting into game mode, competitive mode, recovery mode, being mentally ready for games.”
Andrew Mangiapane scored twice and Dan Vladar made 25 saves in regulation and overtime for Calgary, which had its two-game winning streak snapped. The Flames inched closer to clinching the top spot in the Pacific Division with the standings point for the shootout loss.
“You want to play these last games here almost like it’s playoff time.,” Mangiapane said. “Playoffs are coming soon, so you want to gear up and sharpen up your game, all-around game… defensively, in the neutral zone, offensively, whatever it is, now is the time to prepare yourself.”
In the shootout, Granlund slipped a wrist shot between Vladar’s pads. Saros then stopped Tyler Toffoli to seal the victory for Nashville.
Forsberg scored the game’s first goal at 7:23 of the second period on a Nashville power play.
From the center of the blue line, Ryan Johansen sent a pass to Forsberg in the left circle. There, he beat Vladar with a one-timer to the far side that tipped off of the post.
Duchene doubled the lead at 12:09 of the second.
Vladar stopped Duchene’s initial shot, but the rebound bounced around just outside of the crease and then off of the stick of Calgary defenseman Christopher Tanev and past Vladar.
“Yeah, it’s kind of funny that’s the one that ends up going in, after last game, I had a ton of shots and looks, made some what I felt were good shots that didn’t find their way in,” Duchene said. “It’s kind of funny that’s the one that ended up. You need luck sometimes. That was definitely my luckiest of the year, but I’ll take it all day.”
Mangiapane halved Nashville’s lead at 15:13 of the second.
With Calgary on a power play, Saros stopped Johnny Gaudreau’s shot from the left side, but the rebound bounced off of Matthew Tkachuk and then to the left post, where Mangiapane had a tap-in for his 33rd goal of the season.
Mangiapane struck again at 6:40 of the third, converting the rebound of a Toffoli shot, tying the game.
During a media timeout in the game’s first period, the Predators played a tribute video for Flames forward Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with Nashville, playing 508 career regular season games for the Predators and scoring 98 goals and adding 117 assists.
Seattle selected Jarnkrok in the expansion draft and traded him to Calgary prior to the trade deadline.
At the video’s conclusion, players from both teams tapped their sticks on the ice and boards to recognize Jarnkrok, who stood and waived to the fans.
Predators forward Matt Duchene skated in his 900th career regular season game. His 40th goal made him the first 40-goal scorer in Predators franchise history.
Entering this season, Duchene’s previous high in goals was 31, set in 2018-19 with Ottawa and Columbus.
Forsberg’s goal snapped a season-long eight-game goalless stretch. The goal was Forsberg’s 39th of the season.
Predators: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday.
Flames: Host the Dallas Stars Thursday.

More AP NHL: and

Grizzlies rout Timberwolves 124-96 to tie series at 1 apiece
April 20, 2022
By TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies responded to losing their first game as a No. 2 seed by getting back to how they play.
The result? The largest margin of victory in franchise history in a playoff game and a near triple-double by Ja Morant.
The All-Star point guard scored 23 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds as the Grizzlies looked much more like the team that posted the NBA’s second-best record, routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-96 on Tuesday night to even up their first-round Western Conference series at 1 apiece.
Morant went to the bench with 4:40 left to a huge ovation and teammates telling him how close he was to a triple-double.
“It was good to get that win,” Morant said. “Obviously, you know, if you get a triple-double, it’s hard to do it in this league, so that’s special as well. But the win is the important thing, and we got that.”
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said Morant showed great balance along with the bench outscoring Minnesota 60-43 and defense fueling the offense.
“This is our recipe …,” Jenkins said. “This is the more the style that we got to play.”
Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. each added 16 with Jackson hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Seven Grizzlies finished in double figures with Brandon Clarke, Xavier Tillman Sr. and Ziaire Williams each having 13. Tyus Jones added 10.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.
Anthony Edwards, who scored 36 points in his playoff debut in Game 1, led Minnesota with 20. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Naz Reid and Taurean Prince had 12 each off the bench, and D’Angelo Russell added 11.
“It shows just how physical and locked in you’ve got to be every single night regardless of the opponent,” Towns said. “A small lapse, mental, and you see what the game comes out to be in the playoffs.”
The Timberwolves dominated the series opener after scoring a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter.
This time, officials stayed very busy calling 20 fouls in a very long first quarter. That kept the NBA’s top scoring teams in the regular season from getting into any rhythm as they combined to shoot 33 free throws.
Foul trouble forced Jenkins to turn to Tillman who didn’t play in Game 1, and he turned in the best playoff game of his young career.
The Grizzlies grabbed their biggest lead of this short series at 30-23 on a floater by Jones with 2:11 left, and they led 33-32 after the first quarter when Morant’s long buzzer-beater attempt hit off the rim and off.
“Then our offense just dried up. Our shot selection in the second quarter basically started the avalanche,” said Minnesota coach Chris Finch, who added that the Grizzlies also started controlling the glass. “That’s really where the game was won.”
The Grizzlies shot 48% from the floor compared to 40% for Minnesota. Both teams made 11 3s, a big difference from the series opener when Minnesota knocked down 16 of 41 compared to 7 of 27 for Memphis.
Memphis started running in the second and opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and finished on an 11-5 run for a 60-49 lead at halftime with Morant not scoring a point. Patrick Beverley summed up Minnesota’s struggles when his layup before the buzzer rolled off the rim.
The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 27 with a 25-9 run in the third, and Morant scored 12 in the quarter hitting 5 of 7 shots, including both 3-pointers. His layup gave Memphis a 87-60 lead with 4:15 to go in the third, and the Grizzlies led 96-77 going into the fourth.
Minnesota was the NBA’s best-shooting team outside the arc and outscored Memphis 48-21 in Game 1 as the Grizzlies shooting 26% outside the arc with only three knocking down a 3-pointer. This time, Memphis shot 11-of-34 with six Grizzlies knocking down at least one.
Timberwolves: They had 30 field goals, matching the season low against Toronto on Feb. 16. … After knocking down 16 3s in Game 1, they were 11 of 38 (28.9%). … Russell now is 5 of 22 in this series.
Grizzlies: Entering the game had lost four of their last five games including the series opener. …Jackson, who matched his career high with seven blocks in the opener, had one Tuesday night. But he knocked down four 3s … D’Anthony Melton came in 8 of 26 from 3-point range. He was 2 of 6. … Adams played 2:50 after picking up two early fouls. … They had 29 assists and now are 29-1 when they have at least 28 assists.
It didn’t take long in the game for things to get a bit chippy. Officials called a foul on Towns early, then on the same play got Patrick Beverley for a technical after a swipe at Morant’s head. Then Adams got called for a foul that was upgraded to a flagrant 1 after he smacked Jarred Vanderbilt across the face. And all that was in the first three minutes.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Minneapolis.

More AP NBA: and

Deshaun Watson reports to Browns for first offseason program
April 19, 2022
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson reported for his first offseason program with the Cleveland Browns, who mortgaged their future in acquiring the controversial quarterback in a trade.
With snow falling, Watson arrived at the team’s facility in Berea, Ohio, on Tuesday for the voluntary program. The Browns posted a photo on Twitter of Watson, wearing a heavy winter jacket, before he entered the building.
One of the reasons Watson initially rebuffed the Browns was because of the cold weather.
Desperate to find an elite QB, Cleveland traded three first-round draft picks and three others in March to Houston for Watson, who faces 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Watson also faces discipline from the NFL, which is investigating whether he violated the league’s personal-conduct policy.
The three-time Pro Bowl QB has professed his innocence. Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict him on any criminal charges. However, Watson is still dealing with the civil lawsuits and has been giving depositions in recent weeks.
The Browns did their own background check on Watson, and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam felt so confident in the research — and after personally meeting with Watson — that they signed him to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract after he waived his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland.
The move for Watson effectively ended quarterback Baker Mayfield’s four-run year run with the Browns, who are looking to trade the former No. 1 overall pick but are finding a limited market, partly due to his $18.8 million contract for next season.
Mayfield is not expected to be at the team’s offseason program. He’s rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder.

More AP NFL: and and

Column: Spieth crossing $50M a reminder of Tiger’s standard
April 19, 2022
Not even inflation can diminish the dominance of Tiger Woods.
The latest reminder came at Hilton Head when Jordan Spieth overcame an 18-inch miss on Saturday and a three-shot deficit on Sunday to beat Patrick Cantlay in a playoff for his 13th career PGA Tour victory.
Along with a tartan jacket (he looks better in green) and a spot in the winners-only field at Kapalua next January (a big perk to him), Spieth earned $1,440,000. That made him the 11th player in PGA Tour history to cross the $50 million mark in career earnings.
Officially, he is the youngest player at 28 years and 9 months to reach $50 million.
That’s where inflation comes in.
Woods is the only other player to reach $50 million in career tour earnings before turning 30. He was 29 and 6 months when he was runner-up at the Western Open in 2005, pushing him over a milestone that he quickly left in the rearview mirror.
Woods needed only seven more years to cross $100 million, and now he is at $120,895,206.
Spieth was among a half-dozen players who inconspicuously leaned over the railing from the second floor of PGA Tour headquarters last month to watch as Woods was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He would be quick to acknowledge that a number like $50 million wouldn’t even exist without Woods.
Yes, there was a significant difference in purses.
Total prize money when Woods turned pro in the summer of 1996 was $65,950. Spieth turned pro in 2013 — like Woods, without a tour card — and the total prize fund was $260 million.
While both reached $50 million in roughly nine years, Woods did it in 41 fewer tournaments (177 compared with 218 for Spieth). The average total prize money for Woods during that stretch was $173.8 million. For Spieth, it was $322.56 million.
Rory McIlroy is a better comparison. He turned pro nearly six years before Spieth and has kept a global schedule with membership on two tours. McIlroy needed only 173 events to reach $50 million at Bay Hill in 2020, about six weeks before he turned 31.
Scores are coming down and prize money is going up. Such is the evolution of sport. The best measure will always be victories.
Woods has 82 on the PGA Tour alone — 11 more on tours in Asia, Australia, Japan and Europe — and 15 majors. Those are the numbers that define him. When he passed $50 million, Woods already had 43 tour victories.
Money still matters, though not entirely to Woods. He was asked at Riviera a few months ago if he knew how much was in his deferred compensation package.
“Nope. Uh-uh,” he said.
Does he want to know?
“Uh-uh,” he said.
Still, this can be added to his long list of feats that might never be matched, right up there with 142 consecutive cuts and needing only seven starts to qualify for the Tour Championship.
Woods has been atop the PGA Tour career money list for 22 years.
It used to be a contest. Greg Norman took the lead over Tom Kite in August 1995 by winning the World Series of Golf at Firestone, and he kept it until the last week in January 2000 when Davis Love III moved past him after the Phoenix Open.
Love stayed on top all of two weeks until Woods was runner-up at Torrey Pines and took over. It took 73 tournaments from his “Hello, world” introduction to Woods leading the career money list, and the gap has only widened.
Spieth is not ready to declare himself all the way back — “close but far” is what he said after he won the RBC Heritage. He has two wins in just over a year, but also seven finishes out of the top 25 since winning the Texas Open last year and three missed cuts this year.
He will always be compared with how he started his career.
It was at the Valspar Championship in 2015 when Spieth, then 21 and in his third year, played a practice round with three others born the same year — Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Ollie Schniederjans. They lined up for a group photo from oldest to youngest, sharing birthdates to make sure they got it right. Spieth was the youngest.
This was one week after he passed $9 million in career money.
Spieth went on to win five times that year, including the Masters and U.S. Open, missing the British Open playoff by one shot and finishing second in the PGA Championship. He had a 60% rate finishing in the top 10 and set a PGA Tour record with $12,030,465 in earnings.
Woods in 2000 won nine times, including three majors. He was runner-up four times and only finished out of the top 10 three times in 20 starts. He made $9,188,321 that year.
The money keeps going up. The Players Championship paid $3.6 million to the winner — the total purse was $3.5 million the first year Woods played.
Is it enough for anyone to catch Woods?
McIlroy, who turns 33 in two weeks, is just over $59 million behind. Spieth is $70 million back, and not quite $4 million ahead of his contemporary, Justin Thomas. Dustin Johnson has just over $74 million in career earnings. He turns 38 in June.
Even with today’s money, they all seem so far away. Just like always.

More AP golf: and

Boston Marathon returns to springtime spot for 126th running
April 18, 2022
By JENNIFER McDERMOTT Associated Press
HOPKINTON, Mass. (AP) — The fastest Boston Marathon field ever returned from the quickest turnaround in the 126-year history of the event, leaving Hopkinton for Boston’s Back Bay on Monday morning, six months after a smaller and socially distanced race was forced to the fall.
Under a sunny spring sky, 10 former champions led more than 28,000 runners down Main Street on the way to the Boylston Street finish, 26.2 miles away. Thick crowds were lined up in the eight cities and towns along the course to celebrate the event’s return to its traditional Patriots’ Day spot in the schedule for the first time since 2019.
At 6 a.m. in Hopkinton, Race Director Dave McGillivray sent out about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard, which walks the course annually, announcing the start of the 126th Boston Marathon. Wheelchair racers left shortly after 9 a.m., the elite runners about a half hour later and then four waves of recreational runners — a full field that follows two virtual races and one more that was delayed until October, the first fall race in the event’s history.
Not welcome: Athletes from Russia or Belarus, who were disinvited in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians who were unable to make it to Boston were offered a deferral or refund.
“Whatever they want to do, they can do,” Boston Athletic Association President Tom Grilk said. “Run this year, run next year. You want a puppy? Whatever. There is no group we want to be more helpful to.”
The 2020 race was called off because of the pandemic, the first cancellation since the event began in 1897. And the 2021 version was postponed, then held in October.
About one-third of the National Guard group marched in October, too. Capt. Gus Ashton, 29, said the crowds last year were great and he’s excited to get back out again and see even more people on the course.
“It’s still not quite normal, but it’s a lot closer to normal,” he said.
The Boston Athletic Association is marking the 50th anniversary of the women’s division, when Nina Kuscsik became the first official women’s winner. (The actual first woman to finish the race was Bobbi Gibb, who was among the unofficial runners known as bandits.)
Valerie Rogosheske, who finished sixth in ’72, said she was planning to hide in the bushes and run as a bandit before women got the go-ahead a few weeks before the race. She is running this year with her daughters, and serve as the honorary starter for the women’s elite field.
“There was just this feeling of, ‘Boy, we’re going to do this. No one can drop out. There are eyes upon us,'” she said at the starting line on Monday. “Many people didn’t think we should be running a marathon. So that’s why we really felt that pressure but opportunity as well to finish this marathon.”
This year’s women’s field is one of the strongest ever.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir, London and New York marathon winner Joyciline Jepkosgei, and Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimeraw all have personal bests that are faster than the Boston course record.
Kenya’s Benson Kipruto won the men’s race in October and will try to defend his title.

Playoff-bound Blues score 7 in 2nd period, beat Preds 8-3
April 18, 2022
By JIM DIAMOND Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The St. Louis Blues set a franchise record for goals in a period, hanging seven on Nashville in the second period of an 8-3 win over the Predators on Sunday.
Calle Rosen, Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou each scored two goals, Nathan Walker and Vladimir Tarasenko also scored, and Jordan Binnington made 33 saves for the Blues, winners of nine straight. St. Louis locked up its fourth straight playoff spot on Saturday when it beat Minnesota.
“I’m very happy with the team, the way they’re performing,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “They are playing for each other and right now. They are doing a good job. It’s all about the team.”
Nick Cousins had a goal and an assist and Luke Kunin and Dante Fabbro also scored for Nashville, which has lost two of three. The Predators are tied in points with Dallas for the top wild card spot in the tight Western Conference.
The game was tied 1-1 after the first period. Cousins gave Nashville its only lead of the game at 4:16 and Schenn answered at 17:41.
“The thing is, it’s so cliché, but there’s nothing you can about it right now,” Cousins said. “You just got to get ready for the next one. It doesn’t really matter whether we lost 2-1, 3-1. It’s a loss.”
The floodgates opened in the second. Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros was pulled at 9:29 after allowing Kyrou’s first goal, which made it 4-1.
“Every line can play and every line can score goals and do the right things,” Kyrou said. “It’s obviously huge and it’s definitely going to be huge in the playoffs.”
Saros, who backstopped the Predators in their win over Chicago on Saturday, made 16 saves on 20 shots. He was replaced by David Rittich, who allowed four goals on 13 shots.
“There (weren’t) any soft goals,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “It was a 2-on-1, breakaway, 2-on-1. It was all clear-cut chances. We just left them out to dry. There was nothing they could have done. It’s on us. We got embarrassed in the second period and we gave up way too much.”
The seven goals were the most allowed in a period for the Predators franchise.
Rosen, playing in his 34th career game, had scored just once prior to Sunday’s two-goal effort — on April 1, 2019. He also picked up an assist Sunday.
“It’s always fun to score goals, so it was good to get two today, but it’s a great second period by us,” Rosen said. “We were rolling over them. It was a fun game to play.”
Blues forwards Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich both extended their lengthy point-scoring streaks.
With one assist, Thomas has reached the scoresheet in 13 straight, scoring six goals and adding 19 assists.
Buchnevich also had an assist, giving him points in his last 10 games. He has six goals and 12 assists over that span.
The Predators honored longtime broadcaster Terry Crisp before the game. Crisp has been part of Nashville’s broadcast team since the team entered the league in 1998 and is retiring at season’s end.
Affectionately known as “Crispy,” he won Stanley Cups as a player with the Philadelphia Flyers and as a coach with the Calgary Flames.
Crisp was also an original Blue, playing five seasons for St. Louis beginning with the team’s inaugural season in 1967-68.
Tarasenko played his 600th career game. With his goal and three assists, he set a career high in points with 76. Tarasenko has scored in five straight games and has eight goals and seven assists in his six-game points streak.
Predators: Host Pacific Division-leading Calgary on Tuesday.
Blues: Host Boston on Tuesday.

More AP NHL: and

Draisaitl, Smith power Edmonton over Predators 4-0
April 15, 2022
By JIM DIAMOND Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Leon Draisaitl had three goals and Mike Smith made 30 saves, leading the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Draisaitl’s hat trick gave him 54 goals this season, four behind NHL-leading Auston Matthews (58) of Toronto.
Darnell Nurse also scored and Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had two assists for Edmonton, which snapped a two-game losing streak. The Oilers swept the three-game season series with Nashville and have beaten the Predators six straight games.
“We knew that in order for us to walk away with two points, we needed everybody firing on all cylinders,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We came at that team in waves tonight, we skated well and we asserted what we wanted to do on them.”
The shutout was Smith’s first of the season and the 43rd of his career. His finest save came 24 seconds into the third period when he made a glove save of Matt Duchene’s shot from close range on the right side.
“He made a good move on me and I kind of bit on it then just instincts kick in and you try and get something on it and it ended up in my glove,” Smith said. “Obviously, it’s an important time of the game to make a save like that.”
Juuse Saros made 28 saves for Nashville, which has lost three of four. The Predators entered Thursday in the Western Conference’s top wild-card spot by one point.
Draisaitl opened the scoring at 8:56 of the first period.
With Edmonton on a power play, McDavid sent a pass from the left circle to Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. He made a quick touch pass to Draisaitl in the right circle, and he beat Saros with a one-timer.
Draisaitl struck again at 12:36 of the second.
Zach Hyman drove down the right side and, from below the goal line, sent a pass to Draisaitl in the slot. He beat Saros with a wrist shot through traffic on the stick side.
“Full 60 minutes, every facet of the game was checked off really,” Draisaitl said.
Nurse scored a short-handed goal at 15:29 to make it 3-0, connecting from the slot off of a feed from Evander Kane.
Draisaitl capped off his second hat trick of the season and the sixth of his career at 11:09 of the third, again on the power play. It was his 23rd power-play goal of the season.
Colton Sissons appeared to break Smith’s shutout bid early in the third, but Edmonton challenged the call of a goal on the ice and video review determined that the play was offside.
“Every loss hurts real bad this time of year,” Sissons said. “Hopefully we can learn a few lessons from it and keep moving forward.”
Draisaitl has had plenty of success in his career when facing the Predators With three goals Thursday night, Draisaitl has 19 goals and six assists in 20 games against Nashville.
Two of his career hat tricks have come at Nashville. His previous one was March 2, 2020, when he scored four times.
“I think sometimes you just have a team that it seems to work a little better against than others,” he said. “A couple of great plays tonight by some guys, and fortunately I took advantage of them.”
He had five goals and one assist in the three games against Nashville this season.
Earlier Thursday, the Predators recalled center Cody Glass from Milwaukee of the AHL. Glass, obtained in the offseason as part of the trade that sent Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia, began the season in Nashville before being sent to the minors for a majority of the season.
Glass centered Nashville’s fourth line Thursday between wingers Nick Cousins and Luke Kunin.
Predators: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
Oilers: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

More AP NHL: and

Man City and Liverpool meet again, this time FA Cup semis
April 15, 2022
LONDON (AP) — Liverpool is dreaming of a quadruple and Manchester City is targeting a treble.
Something has to give when England’s top two teams meet in their FA Cup semifinal match at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Their 2-2 draw last weekend didn’t move the needle much in the Premier League title race with City maintaining a one-point lead. It will be a different story at Wembley.
“It’s a really intense fight on a really high level,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “City was really strong last week and we were not at our best. So, I would like to see a game where we are at our best, as well.”
Liverpool clinched the League Cup in February by beating Chelsea on penalties after 120 minutes of scoreless play also at Wembley. The intensity was “insane,” Klopp said, and he expects the same on Saturday after both sets of fans navigate around rail closures to get to London.
Liverpool and City have also advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League and could meet in the final next month in Paris.
City got past Atlético Madrid this week but at a cost as midfielder Kevin de Bruyne and defender Kyle Walker went off injured from the bruising 0-0 draw, which allowed the visitors to advance 1-0 on aggregate. City manager Pep Guardiola told BT Sport that “we are in big trouble” with the injuries.
Fatigue is another factor, Guardiola said in his post-match news conference.
“A lot of games in our legs,” he said. “The travel after the Liverpool game was so demanding, and we dropped in the second half (against Atlético).”
Liverpool, on the other hand, was able to rotate players for its second-leg match against Benfica at Anfield, thanks to a 3-1 first-leg lead. They advanced 6-4 on aggregate after a 3-3 draw with defenders Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson getting the night off. Fabinho, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane came on as substitutes.
“It’s just a necessity,” Klopp said of resting players.
No Premier League club has ever won all four trophies in the same season. Liverpool hasn’t won the FA Cup since 2006, while City was victorious in 2019 when it completed the domestic treble.
Romelu Lukaku could return for Chelsea on Sunday when it plays Crystal Palace in the other FA Cup semifinal match at Wembley. The Belgium striker missed the past two games with a leg injury.
“Romelu was back in training yesterday,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said Friday. “Let’s see if he has any reaction or not.”
Crystal Palace is the only team remaining that has never won the FA Cup.
Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher will have to sit out because he’s on loan from Chelsea, which rejected Palace’s official request to allow him to play Sunday.
Tuchel ran into the 22-year-old Gallagher recently at a restaurant.
“The subject came up and I apologized because I know how competitive he is, and I like him a lot,” Tuchel said. “The rules were clear when we made the loan.”
The cup would be consolation for a Chelsea squad that was knocked out of the Champions League this week, ending its European title defense. It last won the FA Cup in 2018.

More AP soccer: and

Antetokounmpo eager to win title a ‘second time, third time’
April 14, 2022
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledges there is pressure in the NBA playoffs and after the winning the first title, “your mind wants to win a second time or a third time.”
A leading MVP candidate again this season, Antetokounmpo likes to compare playing basketball to creating a work of art and he’ll try to produce another postseason masterpiece this weekend.
His last time on the playoff stage, Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in a Game 6 victory over the Phoenix Suns that gave the Bucks their first championship in a half-century.
Antetokounmpo and the third-seeded Bucks face the sixth-seeded Chicago Bulls in an Eastern Conference first-round series starting Sunday in Milwaukee.
“At the end of the day, the mindset doesn’t change,” Antetokounmpo said this week. “Enjoy the game as much as possible because we worked hard for this moment. We can’t take this moment for granted.”
On the surface, it appears that winning a title last year took a weight off the 27-year-old’s shoulders.
Having been there, done that, Antetokounmpo appears more relaxed.
The father of two has begun several postgame news conferences by making “dad jokes,” a practice he continued this week while getting ready for the playoffs.
“What do you call a cow on a rollercoaster?” Antetokounmpo asked reporters who gathered around him. “A milkshake.”
But the postseason is no laughing matter for Antetokounmpo. The Bucks leader insists he feels just as much pressure now as he did before he’d won a title.
“Obviously a lot of people think once you win a championship and you succeed in life, there’s no pressure,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t really agree. Obviously I do not try to focus on the pressure as much. I try to focus and enjoy the game. But at the end of the day, your mind always is going to find something to replace that.
“Almost like, ‘OK, you won one time.’ Now your mind wants to win a second time or a third time.”
That attitude reflects Antetokounmpo’s artistic approach to the game
He believes a player enters each contest with a new opportunity to create, as if he’s an artist staring at a blank canvas.
“If you play well and you hold on to the past, it prevents you from playing well again,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you had 40 the previous game, you’re like, ‘OK, I had 40 the previous game. Today I can just be sloppy with the ball.’ That was that art that was created.
“Today I reset. I get a new canvas and try to create new art.”
The approach helped Antetokounmpo follow up the Bucks’ championship with one of his finest NBA seasons.
He enters the playoffs as the Eastern Conference player of the month for March and April. Antetokounmpo averaged a career-high 29.9 points – behind only Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid – along with 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
He became the first player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in four separate seasons. Oscar Robertson did it three times.
“He doesn’t settle,” Bucks guard George Hill said. “One thing I do know about him: Him winning a championship doesn’t define who he is. He’s still in there every day, every morning, every night working his butt off to get better. He still feels like he has a lot to prove.”
Teammate Jrue Holiday argued late in the season that Antetokounmpo merits consideration for the NBA’s most improved player award because of the way the 6-foot-11 forward diversified his game.
Antetokounmpo said he liked the idea of “changing the narrative” about his game by showing he could shoot effectively and wasn’t merely a guy who capitalized on his size and athleticism by scoring on dunks and drives to the basket.
Although he made fewer than 30% of his 3-point attempts this season, Antetokounmpo passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the Bucks’ scoring record by sinking a game-tying 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation in an overtime victory at Brooklyn. He made 72.2% of his free-throw attempts, his highest percentage since the 2019-20 season.
“He’s dominated and perfected one part of his game, and now he’s going to grow and extend that range to the 3-point line,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, who coached Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee from 2014-18. “That’s what he says he’s going to do, and that means he’s going to do it.”
And that means realizing what he accomplished last year won’t necessarily play any part in whether the Bucks are able to repeat.
“Last year’s last year,” Antetokounmpo said. “Last year we were able to go through ups and downs in the playoffs and end up with the championship. But that doesn’t mean nothing.”
For now, it’s just another blank canvas.

More AP NBA: and

New USFL hoping to succeed where other spring leagues failed
April 14, 2022
By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer
NBC Sports president Jon Miller knows the perils of starting a spring football league. He was with NBC when the network teamed with Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment during the XFL’s first launch in 2001 and has seen other leagues crash and burn.
Miller is optimistic that a new version of the USFL could have some staying power.
“Hopefully, the fifth time is a charm. I think the timing is right, the partnership is right, and the model is bred for success,” Miller said. “We’re optimistic, hopeful, and excited at the same time.”
The USFL kicks off Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama, when the New Jersey Generals face the Birmingham Stallions.
Fox and NBC Sports will each carry 22 games, including Saturday’s opener. It is the first time since the 2007 regular-season finale between the New England Patriots and New York Giants that a game will air on multiple broadcast networks.
Fox Sports owns the USFL and is making a $150 million investment over three years. The only similarity between the USFL of 1983-85 and this one is the team names.
Fox Sports executive vice president Michael Mulvihill thinks the XFL would have made it if it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic. The league suspended operations in April 2020 during the pandemic. It played five weeks before COVID-19 halted sports a month earlier.
In 2019, the Alliance of American Football shut down after eight weeks after running out of money.
“I think the viewership figures for spring football are good enough to give us a high level of confidence that the interest among fans is there,” Mulvihill said. “It just becomes a matter of can we develop a business model that’s more effective than the leagues that have tried and haven’t succeeded. Because we’re structured the way we are, we have a pretty good chance of doing just that.”
There are two significant differences with the USFL before it kicks off. It has waited until April to begin the season. The XFL and AAF immediately started their seasons after the Super Bowl and eventually had to go against the NCAA basketball tournament and the Masters.
The USFL’s most significant competition for viewers will be the NBA and NHL playoffs through the end of May. The XFL averaged 1.5 million viewers on Fox and ABC during its final week of games while AAF ratings for games on NFL Network were similar to preseason NFL games.
The other difference is that the season will take place in two cities. The regular season will occur in Birmingham, with the playoffs slated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“It’s beneficial for us to get on solid financial footing and then year two start to kind of dial it in. Our goal is year two. Nobody’s done that in a while,” said former Dallas Cowboys standout and Fox NFL commentator Daryl Johnston, the USFL’s executive vice president of football operations.
Johnston also had front-office roles in the XFL and AAF. Brian Woods, the founder The Spring League, is the USFL’s president of football operations, while Fox NFL and college football rules analyst Mike Pereira will act as the head of officiating.
The eight teams will play a 10-game schedule during the regular season, with the top two in the North and South divisions advancing to the playoffs. The championship game will be a matchup of division winners.
Among other things to watch with the new league:
Fox and NBC will use drones in football game coverage for the first time. During last week’s scrimmages, the drone followed a player through the hole during one play to show his running path.
Two players from each team will also have cameras in their helmets. During the scrimmages, the helmet cams captured a player blocking a punt and a defensive back intercepting a pass in the end zone.
Telecasts will also have access to all the audio feeds of coaches and 32 players on both teams wearing mics.
“The technology will grow throughout the season because there are things that have never been tried before,” said Fox Sports producer Chuck McDonald. “The biggest learning curve will be figuring out what’s great.”
The technology won’t just extend to broadcasts. Instead, the USFL will not use chain gangs, relying on a chip inside the football to spot the ball. On close plays for first downs, Hawkeye technology — used in tennis to tell if a ball is inbounds — will be utilized to see if a player got the necessary yards.
Besides the extra point and 2-point conversion after touchdowns, teams can attempt a 3-point conversion from the 10-yard line. That means an 18-point deficit theoretically remains a two-possession game.
Teams will also have the option of running a fourth-and-12 play from the 33-yard line to make a first down and retain possession instead of attempting an onside kick.
Most defensive pass interference calls will be 15 yards. It would be a spot foul if a defender intentionally tackles a receiver beyond 15 yards.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Michigan Panthers and Tampa Bay Bandits are the co-favorites at 4.5-1.
Former Titans and Rams coach Jeff Fisher is directing the Panthers, while Todd Haley leads the Bandits.
Michigan also has two of the more recognizable names at quarterback. Former University of Michigan standout Shea Patterson is in line to start, with Paxton Lynch serving as the backup. Lynch used to play for the Broncos and Seahawks.

More AP sports: and

Raiders QB Derek Carr gets 3-year extension
April 13, 2022
By BARRY WILNER AP Pro Football Writer
The Las Vegas Raiders have given quarterback Derek Carr a three-year contract extension, a person with knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press.
The extension is worth $121.5 million, the person said, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.
Despite all sorts of turmoil with the Raiders last season, including the resignation of coach Jon Gruden, Carr helped them to the playoffs as a wild card in the tough AFC West. He threw for a career-high 4,804 yards and 23 touchdowns as Las Vegas went 10-7 before losing at Cincinnati in the postseason.
An eight-year veteran, Carr, 31, was entering the final year of his deal, worth nearly $19.8 million in base salary. When healthy, he has been a starter for nearly all of that time with the Raiders and has made three Pro Bowls.
That contract was for five years at $125 million, the richest in the NFL at the time he signed it in 2017. The new deal puts him more in line with what veteran starting quarterbacks make throughout the league.
Last month at the owners meetings, new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels seemed to stress the importance of finding the money for Carr.
“If you’re not trying to win, I don’t know what you’re doing at this point,” he said. “I think we are all in that mode of trying to do what’s best for our football team so we can compete and win as many games as possible. That’s what they pay us to do.”
Extending Carr, the Raiders’ career leader in yards passing with 31,700 and touchdown passes with 193, is the latest move in a busy offseason. Carr will have All-Pro Davante Adams added to his receiving group in a trade with Green Bay, and standout pass rusher Chandler Jones as a free agent.

More AP NFL: and and

Copyright, 2022, All content is property of the author.