Russia’s sports exile persists 1 year after invading Ukraine
Russia’s reintegration into the world of sports one year after the invasion of Ukraine began threatens to create the biggest rift in the Olympic movement since the Cold War. Russia remains excluded from many international sporting events but that could soon change. Next year’s Paris Olympics are fast approaching and qualifying events are under way. The International Olympic Committee is working to bring athletes from Russia and ally Belarus back into competition but not everyone agrees. Ukraine and several of its allies say any return for Russia would be unacceptable. The IOC says excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes entirely would be discriminatory.
NBA teams get ready to make 4th-quarter push for playoffs
There are six teams in the NBA that look pretty comfortably in playoff position. There are four other teams that pretty much know they’re not going anywhere. That leaves 20 teams for the last 10 playoff spots. The NBA’s All-Star break ends Thursday night. And there’s only 28% of the season left, which means it’s time for teams to start really jostling for playoff position.
MLB curtails infield shift, hopes for more singles, speed
PHOENIX (AP) — One of MLB’s most visible rule changes for 2023 is a sizable curtailing of infield shifts. The practice had grown exponentially over the past several years and has been partially blamed for a steady league-wide decline in batting average. The new rule states that all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield — and two infielders must be on each side of second base — when the pitch is delivered. MLB has also mandated that the infield dirt cutout have uniform dimensions in all 30 ballparks. The outfield edge of the dirt must be 95 feet from the front of the pitching rubber.
Mets’ Beltrán won’t discuss role in Astros’ cheating scandal
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Carlos Beltrán refused to discuss his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, preferring to concentrate on his new role with the New York Mets. Beltrán was hired by the Mets in November 2019 to replace Mickey Callaway as manager. But the team announced Beltrán’s departure the following January without him managing a game. Beltrán’s departure was announced three days after he was the only Astros player mentioned by name in Major League Baseball’s report that concluded that Houston broke rules by using electronics to steal signs en route to the 2017 World Series title.
Djokovic hopes to play in US despite being unvaccinated
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic says he has asked American authorities for special permission to enter the United States to play tennis tournaments in California and Florida despite being unvaccinated against the coronavirus. The Transportation Security Administration has said the requirement for foreign air travelers to be fully vaccinated against the disease would be in place at least until mid-April. The tournament in Indian Wells will be played from March 6-19 and the Miami Open is scheduled from March 20-April 2. The top-ranked Serb says “I have a big desire to be there.” Djokovic is one of the most high-profile athletes who is unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Hawks GM Fields says Snyder a candidate to replace McMillan
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields says former Utah coach Quinn Snyder will be “somebody we will consider” in the search to replace Nate McMillan. The Hawks fired McMillan on Tuesday, and Fields stressed the team’s eighth-place standing in the Eastern Conference is “not acceptable” for a team which advanced to the conference finals in 2021. Fields said Snyder, also a former Atlanta assistant coach, will be “part of that pool” of candidates. The 56-year-old Snyder guided the Jazz to six consecutive playoff appearances before stepping down after last season. Snyder was a Hawks assistant in 2013-14.
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.
PGA Tour holding last Honda Classic as a new sponsor awaits
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Someone will be getting a big check this week at the Honda Classic. And then someone will be writing a big check to take over the Honda Classic. It’s expected that there will be a tournament at PGA National in 2024 and beyond, but this weekend will mark the last time someone wins the Honda. The automaker’s 42-year sponsorship ends with this PGA Tour event. Potential successors will be in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to decide if they want to buy the naming rights. Only three of the game’s top 20-ranked players are in the field this week.
Jake Paul takes next step in boxing journey with Fury fight
Jake Paul’s unorthodox career in boxing might just be about to get serious. The YouTube influencer-turned-prize fighter will be coming up against a recognized professional boxer for the first time Sunday when he takes on Tommy Fury. Fury is the half-brother of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Paul turned to boxing in 2018 and has fought a fellow influencer, a former NBA basketball player and three past-their-best MMA fighters. He has won each time and built up his brand in the process. Fighting Fury is widely regarded as a step up. The WBC will grant Paul a place in its world rankings at cruiserweight if he wins.
WWE leaning in to social media ahead of possible sale
WWE, an organization that is already king of the ring on social media, will attempt to expand its online presence this year with the $6.5 billion sports entertainment company talking about the possibility of putting itself up for sale. WWE surpassed 20 million followers on its flagship TikTok account during its most recent quarter, the first sports league to do so, and is launching three international TikTok accounts after the WWE Español TikTok handle reached nearly 2 million followers in its first year. But the company’s presence online is broad. The company says its YouTube channel topped 92 million subscribers in the fourth quarter.