Update on the latest sports
MLB players begin reporting for tests as first workouts near
UNDATED (AP) — Baseball players began reporting to their teams Wednesday in the most significant step yet as MLB presses ahead with its plan for a 60-game sprint of a season. Most players underwent a battery of health checks, not only for COVID-19 but also for any other lingering ailments from spring training, ahead of planned workouts beginning Friday and Saturday. And one thing was clear: Despite rising numbers of positive tests and some players opting out, most players and executives are bullish about the season taking place in just a few weeks.
In other baseball news:
— An emotional Chicago Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is recovering from a severe case of COVID-19 that quarantined him for 30 days. The former major leaguer learned he had the virus on the third day he felt ill following a nasal test. Hottovy tested negative about two weeks ago and still gets winded easily. Hottovy isolated in a spare bedroom with a relentless fever, difficulty breathing, dehydration and an increased heart rate. It was particularly bad at night, making sleep just about impossible.
— The Kansas City Royals have launched what they are calling a “Fanbassador” program in which up to 500 fans may purchase a plastic cutout of their likeness for $40 apiece that will be displayed in a seat at Kauffman Stadium during the abbreviated 2020 season. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Royals Respond Fund.
— Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich says he supports outfielder Ian Desmond’s decision to sit out the 2020 major league baseball season over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and other issues in society. Desmond’s will be replaced by veteran Matt Kemp. The slugger has agreed to a minor league deal with the Rockies and could get the DH job.
— Catcher Patrick Bailey has agreed to a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants that includes a $3.8 million signing bonus. He was selected 13th overall in last month’s amateur draft, The 21-year-old hit .296 with six homers, including three grand slams, and 20 RBIs in 17 games in the pandemic-shortened season as a junior at North Carolina State. He earned the Johnny Bench award as the top Division I catcher, an honor also won the Giants’ Buster Posey in 2008 and Joey Bart in 2018.
— The baseball organization that presents the annual MVP awards will consider whether the name of former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis should be pulled from future plaques. A longtime official of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America says the issue will be put up for discussion. Former NL Most Valuable Players Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt and Terry Pendleton say they would favor removing Landis’ name because of concerns over his handling of Black players. Landis was hired in 1920 as MLB’s first commissioner and no Blacks played in the majors during his quarter-century tenure.
Lakers add veteran J.R. Smith for Orlando championship push
LOS ANGELES (AP) — J.R. Smith has joined LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for their championship push.
The Lakers announced their long-anticipated signing of Smith as a substitute player. Smith is the Lakers’ replacement for Avery Bradley, who cited family reasons for his decision not to finish the season with the Lakers in Orlando.
The 34-year-old Smith hasn’t played in the league since November 2018, but the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year is a longtime trusted teammate of James. They won the NBA title together with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and reached four consecutive NBA Finals.
In other NBA news:
— Houston’s Thabo Sefolosha is opting out of the NBA’s restart in Orlando. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity Wednesday because the decision hasn’t been announced. Sefolosha is in his first season with the Rockets. The 36-year-old is a 15-year NBA veteran who has also played for Utah, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Chicago. The Rockets are schedule to resume the season on July 31 against the Dallas Mavericks.
— Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers says Lou Williams is expected to join the team for the NBA’s restart in Florida. Williams has described himself as “50-50” on whether he would finish out the pandemic-interrupted season. Rivers says he doesn’t think any of the Clippers are opting out from resuming the season. The team heads to Orlando next week.
— Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown says All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are healthy for the NBA restart. Brown says Simmons is “good to go” following a lengthy layoff with a back injury. Embiid was recovering from surgery on his left hand and had just returned after missing five games with a sprained left shoulder at the time of the shutdown. Brown says he expects Embiid to return to play in the best shape of his professional career.
– The Dallas Mavericks have signed guard Trey Burke as a replacement after center Willie Cauley-Stein decided not to rejoin the team for the planned resumption of the season.
— The Brooklyn Nets don’t look ready for a restart, but general manager Sean Marks says there was no discussion of the team not traveling to Florida for the resumption of the NBA season. DeAndre Jordan and Wilson Chandler aren’t going, and Spencer Dinwiddie’s status is uncertain after both he and Jordan tested positive for the coronavirus. Marks also says neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving will return from injuries to rejoin the Nets this season. The GM says he will support any other players who choose not to play. Brooklyn is currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
AP Source: NFL cutting preseason in half, pushing back start
UNDATED (AP) — A person with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that the NFL will cut the preseason in half and push the start of exhibition play back a week to give players more time to get in shape. Teams haven’t been able to gather together since last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league and the players association have been meeting to find ways to make sure they can have games in a safe environment. The exhibition slate will now begin Aug. 20 instead of Aug. 13. Teams will begin reporting to training camp July 28.
In other NFL news:
— The Green Bay Packers have signed each of their two top draft picks: Utah State quarterback Jordan Love and Boston College running back A.J. Dillon. Green Bay gave the Miami Dolphins a fourth-round draft choice to move up four spots in the first round and take Love with the 26th overall selection back in April. The Packers chose Dillon with the 62nd overall pick. Both selections were somewhat surprising because the Packers already have two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Aaron Jones at running back.
— Some NFL players are raising concerns about playing football amid the coronavirus pandemic while others are ignoring advice of medical experts by working out with teammates. JC Tretter, a center on the Cleveland Browns and president of the NFL Players Association, wrote an open letter to players saying they have to fight for “necessary COVID-19 protections.” New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said last week that “football is a nonessential business and so we don’t need to do it.” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has asthma so he wants to “take every precaution” if he plays.
Healthy Kessel expected to give Coyotes a boost in return
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A healthy Phil Kessel should give the Arizona Coyotes a big lift when the NHL season resumes. Kessel labored during the first part of his inaugural season in the desert while battling injuries. The 32-year-old right wing suffered a groin injury early and didn’t have the same explosiveness he had in the past, scoring 14 goals with 24 assists in 70 games. The NHL’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic allowed Kessel to heal, giving the Coyotes hope of a deep playoff run.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
— Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell says executive Rick Dudley won’t return. The 71-year-old Dudley had worked as the Hurricanes senior vice president of hockey operations since 2018, part of nearly five decades in professional hockey. Waddell says the Hurricanes are still in talks with longtime TV play-by-play announcer John Forslund on a new deal.
UNDATED (AP) — Webb Simpson is competing on the PGA Tour again after his family had a coronavirus scare. One of Simpson’s daughters tested positive for the virus, leading to him withdrawing from last week’s tournament as a precaution. Simpson says the daughter, along with his wife and other kids, later tested negative. Webb leads the tour in FedEx Cup points and scoring average. He is attempting to become the PGA Tour’s first player with three victories during this pandemic-interrupted year. Chad Campbell has withdrawn from the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit after becoming the sixth PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic’s latest policy change on the coronavirus means Cameron Champ can play the tour this week in Detroit. Champ tested positive for the virus last week when he arrived for the Travelers Championship. That meant he had to self-isolate for 10 days without showing symptoms. Champ was asymptomatic when he tested positive. The tour says he had three negative tests over the next three days. The tour consulted with the CDC on its policy change. Now, anyone who is asymptomatic and tests positive will be eligible to return with two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
In other coronavirus related sports news:
— UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is asking for federal help to get foreign students that include athletes back to campus. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said he and other members of Congress plan to press the Department of Homeland Security to grant exemptions for the students, similar to ones given to professional athletes last month.
— Coach Dawn Staley would be prepping the U.S. women’s basketball team for the Tokyo Olympics this week if not for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she’ll hold a Zoom conference call with players who are vying for a spot on the roster in 2021, if the postponed Olympics are held next year. Staley’s focus these days involves getting her South Carolina women’s team back on campus in a safe environment. Her team finished No. 1 in the last AP poll and won the SEC Tournament before the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus.
— Six players with FC Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire team has been quarantined ahead of the MLS Is Back tournament. The team says the players tested positive upon arrival in Florida for a tournament that starts next week. All of the league’s 26 teams are sequestered in hotels in advance of the tournament played without fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.
— For the first time in almost a century, Mexico has cancelled its professional baseball season. It’s the first time in 95 years a whole season had been cancelled. The season was scheduled to start Aug. 7, but the 16 team owners decided that they could not guarantee the safety of fans and players.
-If basketball icon LeBron James gets his way, NBA arenas and other sports venues around the country will be mega polling sites for the November general election. The Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons have already made deals with local elections officials in their cities. The effort will advise sports franchises around the country on how to follow suit.
Sankey: federal NIL law needed to ensure fair competition
UNDATED (AP) — Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has told a U.S. Senate committee that there needs to be a uniform federal law to regulate the compensation of college athletes instead of a series of state-level versions with different requirements.
The hearing came as three states have signed athlete-compensation bills into law, with Florida’s set to take effect next summer. Sankey said there’s a risk of states “one-upping each other” with their own versions without a federal law.
In other NCAA news:
— The NCAA’s infractions case against the University of Kansas men’s basketball program has been accepted into a newly created independent investigation process that was created to handle especially complex cases. It is the first step in a process that was created in August 2018 to deal with select cases and minimize perceived conflicts of interest. Kansas has been accused by the NCAA of committing five Level I violations, which are considered the most egregious, as part of the fallout of an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption. The case hinges on whether representatives of apparel company Adidas were acting as boosters when two of them arrange payments to prospective recruits.
Utah defensive coordinator Scalley to keep job after review
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley will remain on staff but will take a pay cut and must undergo diversity training after being suspended for using a racial slur in a 2013 text message. Utah announced Scalley will participate in diversity and inclusion education, and have his salary cut from $1.1 million to $525,000. His contract also was trimmed from a multiyear deal to a one-year deal, and he will no longer be the designated head coach in waiting. Scalley was suspended last month when his use of a racial slur in a text message was posted on social media.
Missouri man freed from prison with help from WNBA’s Moore
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by WNBA star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.
Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.
He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16.
Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Missouri, native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.
Bobsled, skeleton still planning for full World Cup season
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Bobsled and skeleton officials indicated Wednesday that they are still planning for a full World Cup season, releasing detailed schedules for eight races as well as the world championships that remain scheduled for February in Lake Placid, New York. Also still on the schedule: a season-finale at the new track built for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The addition to the revised schedule released Wednesday was the addition of women’s monobob to the schedule for Lake Placid’s two weeks of world-title races.
Oklahoma athletics cutting $13.7M from budget
UNDATED (AP) — The Oklahoma athletics department is cutting $13.7 million from its budget, blaming those cuts on fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Budget cuts include a 10% salary drop for any employee earning at least $1 million per year.
Athletic director Joe Castiglione said the moves were the “first steps” in responding to the financial losses associated with virus outbreak.