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.
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.
Nuggets’ Jokic has a chance to join some exclusive clubs
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Nikola Jokic might be on the cusp of entering some highly exclusive clubs. There’s the three-consecutive-MVP club, with only Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird as its current members. Then there’s the averaged-a-triple-double club, which includes only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook. Jokic doesn’t care about being added to either of those lists. It might happen anyway. The best team in the Western Conference so far has been the Denver Nuggets, and the biggest reason why is the 28-year-old Serbian big man who might be the NBA’s MVP for the third year in a row.
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.
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.
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 antisemitic 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. That opens 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. Leonard’s career was jeopardized and his reputation was seriously damaged in March 2021 when it was discovered that he used a slur while playing an online game as others watched on a livestream.
Nations: No clarity on neutrality, no Olympics for Russia
The governments of 35 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.
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.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s on collision course for WCC title
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are barreling toward a showdown for the West Coast Conference title. The No. 12 Bulldogs are a game back of the No. 15 Gaels with a matchup scheduled for Saturday in Spokane, Washington. But first, Gonzaga will have to get by San Diego on Thursday night while Saint Mary’s must take care of Pacific. It will be the 11th time the two teams have met while both are in the Top 25. The Gaels won the previous such matchup earlier this month, when they rallied from an early 11-point hole for a 78-70 overtime victory.