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.
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.
AP source: Bucks give Meyers Leonard chance to resume career
MIAMI (AP) — Meyers Leonard is getting another chance at the NBA, nearly two years after he used an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game that was being livestreamed. A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Leonard and the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed on a 10-day contract, opening the door for the 7-foot center to play in an NBA game for the first time since January 2021. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced publicly.
Report: Westbrook to sign with Clippers after Jazz waive him
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russell Westbrook has been waived by the Utah Jazz and according to a published report, the nine-time All-Star is expected to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. ESPN reports that Westbrook’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, told the outlet he will sign with the Clippers after completing a contract buyout on the remaining $47 million the guard is owed on his expiring deal. Westbrook averaged 15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 28.7 minutes per game during a rocky tenure with the Lakers. The move would reunite Westbrook with Paul George, his former teammate in Oklahoma City. George had lobbied for the Clippers to land Westbrook.
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.
Sasser looks to lead No. 1 Houston to title in last season
HOUSTON (AP) — Marcus Sasser weighed many factors in deciding whether to return for his senior season at Houston. The chance that he could lead the top-ranked Cougars to their first national title at home, with the Final Four being played in Houston, made his decision to come back much easier. Houston reclaimed the top spot in the AP men’s college basketball poll after winning seven straight, capped by Sunday’s 72-64 victory over Memphis, in which Sasser scored 20 points. The preseason AP All-America selection leads Houston by averaging 16.7 points a game. Sasser has made a strong comeback this season after sustaining a season-ending foot injury just 12 games into the 2021-22 season.
Nations: No clarity on neutrality, no Olympics for Russia
The governments of 34 nations signed a statement 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 statement 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.
Asmussen 1st trainer to notch 10,000 wins in North America
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Steve Asmussen is the first trainer with 10,000 victories in North America. He saddled Bet He’s Ready to victory in the fifth race at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas on Monday. Asmussen is already the all-time winningest trainer in the United States and Canada. He set that mark of 9,446 on Aug. 7, 2021, at Saratoga. He surpassed Dale Baird at the time. Asmussen has trained such champions as Curlin, filly Rachel Alexandra and Gun Runner.