NBA on All-Star break, but no easy answers to rest problem
The NBA has an ongoing battle with load management and finding ways to optimize player health, performance and availability. While there is a consensus that the league has problems, there is no consensus on how to solve those problems. Over the last week, The Associated Press asked a cross-section of 48 players, coaches, owners and executives if the NBA should abandon its 82-game, 170-day blueprint of a regular season for something with either fewer games or more days in the season to allow for more rest. The results were muddled: 40% said they would simply go along with whatever the league decides is best, 35% said they don’t want the current format changed and the remaining 25% wants changes.
Houston back at No. 1 as Northwestern makes AP Top 25 debut
Houston returned to No. 1 in the AP men’s college basketball poll for the third time this season while Northwestern and Texas A&M barged into the rankings after each had a pair of impressive wins last week. The Cougars picked up 48 first-place votes from the 62-member national media panel with just two weeks left in the regular season. Alabama dropped one spot after losing to Tennessee and routing Georgia in its lone week at No. 1. The Crimson Tide held onto seven first-place votes, while Kansas also earned seven to climb two spots to No. 3. North Carolina State and Florida Atlantic dropped out after each lost games last week.
South Carolina’s No. 1 run in women’s Top 25 hits 35 weeks
South Carolina remained No. 1 in The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll after topping Mississippi in overtime on Sunday. The Gamecocks have been No. 1 for 35 straight weeks, the third-longest streak of all time. They received 27 of the 28 first-place votes from the national media panel, marking the first time all season they weren’t a unanimous choice. Indiana got the other first-place vote and stayed second in the poll. The Hoosiers have won 14 consecutive games and are 9-0 against AP Top 25 teams this season — the most wins against ranked opponents of any team in the country. Stanford, UConn and LSU round out the top five teams.
Celtics stars Tatum and Brown put on quite an All-Star show
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Best record in the NBA. A team that won the Eastern Conference and went to the NBA Finals last season. A pair of All-Stars, including the MVP. And a coach who isn’t an interim coach anymore. The Boston Celtics have much to like about where they are right now. Jayson Tatum’s All-Star scoring records — 55 points in the game, 27 points in the third quarter, both numbers that have never been touched by any of the other 449 All-Stars in league history — were the big story coming out of Team Giannis’ 184-175 win over Team LeBron on Sunday night. So was Jaylen Brown with 35 points, and now, coach Joe Mazzulla isn’t Boston’s interim anymore.
AP source: Antetokounmpo going to New York for wrist exam
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo was scheduled to be in New York on Monday to undergo testing and get further evaluation on his injured right wrist, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because neither the Bucks nor Antetokounmpo released the plans publicly. Antetokounmpo injured his wrist Thursday in Chicago after attempting to block a shot. Antetokounmpo exited after only nine minutes and did not return. He had X-rays and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at the time they came back clean.
Tiger Woods sightings are rare as he enters semiretirement
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tiger sightings are rare these days on the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods at Riviera played 72 holes for the first time in 10 months. And there’s no telling for sure when Woods will compete again. That might be in the Masters in April. This is the new normal. And the wild fan reaction to Woods is to be expected. It can be pure pandemonium because there was a time it looked as though the 2021 car crash might be the end of his career. Woods says so much goes into getting ready that he’ll plan on playing the majors and maybe a few other tournaments.
Column: Stenhouse Jr. and JTG get breakout Daytona 500 win
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — One victory in 28 years was all tiny JTG Daugherty Racing had to show for the time, sweat and money the team had poured into trying to build a winning NASCAR organization. The team entered Season 29 still committed to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a driver stuck in a losing streak that stretched nearly six years. But he snapped that streak by winning the longest Daytona 500 in history. He won in double overtime, under caution, to end a losing streak that spanned 2,060 days and 199 races. The victory gave JTG just its second trophy to take back to its North Carolina shop, and it happens to be the biggest piece of hardware in NASCAR.
Nations: No clarity on neutrality, no Olympics for Russia
The governments of more than 30 nations signed a letter calling on the IOC to clarify the definition of “neutrality” as it seeks a way to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes back into international sports and next year’s Paris Olympics. The letter said the countries do not agree Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition as long as the lack of clarity and concrete details on a workable neutrality model aren’t addressed. The United States, Britain, France, Canada and Germany were among those signing. Those five countries brought nearly one-fifth of all the athletes to the Tokyo Games in 2021. The letter was the product of a Feb. 10 summit in London.
Body of Ghana soccer player Atsu repatriated from Turkey
ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — The body of Ghana soccer player Christian Atsu has been repatriated after he was found dead in his collapsed apartment building in the Turkey earthquake. Atsu’s remains arrived in the Ghanaian capital of Accra late Sunday and Ghana Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia led a government delegation to receive them. Bawumia says “this loss is a very painful one and this is a sad day for Ghana.” Atsu played for Premier League teams Chelsea and Newcastle before joining Turkish club Hatayspor last year. He also played more than 60 times for his country after making his debut in 2012.
Major league teams searching for advantages with new rules
PHOENIX (AP) — The only certainty about Major League Baseball’s new rules for the 2023 season is that everyone is going to push and pull on them in search of an edge. The size of the bases has been increased to 18-inch squares from 15. The new pitch clock is 15 seconds with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners. The increasingly frequent infield shift has been eliminated, and there is a limit of two of what MLB calls disengagements — pickoff attempts or steps off the rubber — per plate appearance.