Update on the latest sports
More games suspended due to coronavirus
UNDATED (AP) — Another three NBA games were postponed Friday, including one in Minnesota only a couple hours before game time, as the league’s struggle with increasing coronavirus numbers continued. Among the Wolves with COVID-19 issues: Karl-Anthony Towns, who said he tested positive. The Washington Wizards revealed that they have six players who have tested positive for the virus and another three players out because contact tracing data suggested they could have been exposed. The Timberwolves’ game with the Memphis Grizzlies was called off, as were what would have been Wizards’ home games Sunday and Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In other NBA news:
—The NBA fined Kyrie Irving $50,000 on Friday for violating its health and safety protocols and said he could return to team activities with the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. The league said Irving would be fined for each game he misses during a five-day quarantine period that would end Saturday if he continues to test negative for the coronavirus.
Irving has missed the last five games while away from the Nets for personal reasons. He was seen in a video on social media during his absence at an indoor family party while not wearing a mask. Irving is the second player to be fined for that. The other is his new teammate, James Harden.
Falcons hire Smith
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to become the team’s head coach. The 38-year-old Smith has served on the Tennessee staff for 10 seasons, including two as offensive coordinator. The Titans finished this season tied for second in the NFL in total yards. The Titans went 11-5 to win the AFC South, but were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday with a 20-13 loss to Baltimore.
The Falcons also are seeking a replacement for general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with coach Dan Quinn following an 0-5 start that led to a 4-12 finish.
Elsewhere in the NFL:
— Browns Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio has been activated from the COVID-19 list after missing last week’s playoff win over Pittsburgh. Cleveland’s longest-tenured player had to isolate at home last week and missed his first career postseason game — and the Browns’ first since the 2002 season. Browns, who stunned the Steelers in the wild-card round, face the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
— The conditional reinstatement of wide receiver Josh Gordon has been rescinded by the NFL, and Gordon is once again under suspension. Gordon was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in September despite being under an indefinite suspension. He received conditional reinstatement in early December with the hope he’d play at the end of the season. But that never took place. Gordon was placed back on the commissioner’s exempt list in Week 16.
AP source: LeMahieu, Yanks work on $90 million, 6-year deal
UNDATED (AP) — A person familiar with the deal tells The Associated Press that the New York Yankees and AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu (leh-MAY’-hyoo) are working to put in place a six-year contract worth about $90 million. A three-time All-Star, LeMahieu signed a $24 million, two-year contract with the Yankees in January 2019. He had 10 homers and 27 RBIs in the shortened 2020 season after hitting .327 with 26 homers and 102 RBIs in his first season in New York.
Meanwhile, the Yankees and slugger Aaron Judge avoided arbitration when they agreed to a one-year contract worth $10,175,000.
In other MLB news:
—The Houston Astros agreed to one-year contracts with right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. and infielder Aledmys Díaz on Friday to avoid salary arbitration. McCullers will make $6.5 million next season. The 30-year-old Díaz will make $3 million next season. Houston also finalized a $12.5 million, two-year deal with reliever Pedro Báez.
— The Chicago White Sox have finalized a $54 million, three-year deal with Oakland Athletics closer Liam Hendriks, another big move as they set their sights on a championship run. The 31-year-old right-hander finished second in the majors with 14 saves while posting a 1.78 ERA.
— Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger has agreed to a $16.1 million, one-year contract with the World Series champions that avoids salary arbitration. The outfielder and first baseman was the 2019 NL MVP and 2017 NL Rookie of the Year. He slumped to a .136 average with one homer and three RBIs in the World Series against Tampa Bay as the Dodgers won their first title since 1988.
— The Milwaukee Brewers avoided going to arbitration with pitchers Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff by signing the former All-Stars to one-year contracts. Hader signed for $6,675,000 while Woodruff agreed to a $3,275,000.
— Slick-fielding third baseman Matt Chapman reached agreement on a $6.49 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics to avoid arbitration, and the club also secured deals with its five other arbitration-eligible players.
— The Miami Marlins have agreed to contract terms with all of their arbitration-eligible players, including third baseman Brian Anderson. The Marlins also announced deals with catcher Jorge Alfaro and three relievers — Yimi Garcia, Richard Bleier and Adam Cimber. In addition, Miami signed 11 players from four countries, including 18-year-old Cuban infielder Yiddi Cappe, during Major League Baseball’s international signing period.
— The Texas Rangers agreed to one-year deals to avoid arbitration with their Gold Glove winners. Right fielder Joey Gallo got a $6.2 million deal, after a $4.4 million agreement at this time last year to avoid arbitration. Expected starting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa got a $2 million deal, up from his $587,000 salary last season when he won a Gold Glove at third base.
— The Pittsburgh Pirates reached contract agreements for the 2021 season with pitcher Joe Musgrove and eight others. Musgrove will make $4.45 million after going 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA last season. Catcher Jacob Stallings, a Gold Glove finalist in his first year as a starter, earned a raise to $1.3 million. First baseman Colin Moran, who hit a team-high 10 home runs last season, saw his salary jump to $2.8 million.
— Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez agreed to a $4,325,000, one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, who reached a $3 million, one-year deal with right-hander Ross Stripling. The pair were the only Blue Jays remaining eligible for arbitration
— The Atlanta Braves have agreed to deals with left-handers Max Fried and A.J. Minter that avoid arbitration. The Braves agreed to a $3.5 million, one-year deal with Fried and a $1.3 million, one-year deal with Minter.
—The New York Mets agreed to one-year contracts with first baseman-outfielder Dominic Smith, outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, and pitchers Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to avoid salary arbitration. Smith will make $2.55 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, Conforto is set to receive $12.25 million in his third eligible year, and Nimmo gets $4.7 million and Díaz $7 million in their second years. Lugo agreed to $2,925,000, and Gsellman will make $1.3 million.
— First baseman outfielder Dominic Smith and the New York Mets avoided arbitration when they agreed to a $2.55 million, one-year contract. The 25-year-old enjoyed a huge breakout during the pandemic. He hit .316 with 10 home runs, 21 doubles, 42 RBIs and a .993 OPS in 50 games.
— The Cleveland Indians avoided salary arbitration with catcher Austin Hedges, right-hander Phil Maton and infielder Amed Rosario, agreeing to one-year deals with three players who joined them via trade in the past six months.
— Right-hander Reyes Moronta agreed to a $695,000, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants on Friday to avoid salary arbitration. The 28-year-old reliever didn’t pitch during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season as he worked back from shoulder surgery.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL-NCAA TOURNAMENT-BRACKET
One-city March Madness leads to more straightforward bracket
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — There will be a bit less mystery to the March Madness bracket. With the entire tournament taking place in Indiana because of the pandemic, the NCAA selection committee no longer has to adjust matchups for travel concerns. The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee said Friday that teams will be bracketed more closely to their true seeding, 1-68. In the past, adjustments were made to keep teams as close as possible to their campuses for the early rounds.
The matchups for the opening-round games will not change, with the four lowest-seeded teams meeting in two games and the last four at-large teams to make the field meeting in the other two. There will be 37 at-large spots available — one more this year because of the Ivy League’s cancellation of its season.
Selection Sunday remains scheduled for March 14, but the NCAA hasn’t announced the dates of the tournament yet.
Stars open their season Jan. 22
UNDATED (AP) — The Dallas Stars will open their season Jan. 22 at Nashville after a teamwide outbreak forced their first four games to be postponed. The National Hockey League rescheduled the Stars’ opening games and moved several others around to accommodate. The regular season started Wednesday, and the Stars were set to play Thursday. But 17 players tested positive for the virus, leading the NHL to close down team facilities and Dallas to halt practice.
In other NHL news:
The Edmonton Oilers placed goalie Mike Smith on long-term injury reserve Friday and re-assigned Olivier Rodrigue to the taxi squad, pending quarantine protocols. Edmonton did not elaborate on Smith’s injury. He was supposed to start Thursday night at home against Vancouver, but was declared inactive, forcing Mikko Koskinen into back-to-back starts.
Appeals court OKs convictions in college basketball scandal
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court in New York has upheld convictions against a sports marketer, an aspiring agent and a financial adviser in a college basketball scandal that spoiled the careers of several coaches.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said in its written decision Friday that the ends didn’t justify the means for defendants who maintained that what they did was the way it’s done in college basketball programs.
The convictions grew from the 2017 arrests of 10 individuals in what authorities described as a conspiracy to pay bribes to ensure NBA-bound college basketball stars would pledge allegiance to certain agents and handlers.
Authorities said other bribes ensured top players would go to certain schools.
More than two dozen schools were ensnared in the scandal for misdeeds ranging from paying for meals to six-figure payments to recruits’ families.
Ralph Lauren drops Justin Thomas after gay slur heard on TV
HONOLULU (AP) — Golf star Justin Thomas’ gay slur last week has cost him an endorsement.
Ralph Lauren Corp. says it is ending its sponsorship with the former No. 1 player in the world. Thomas missed a 5-foot par putt last week during the Sentry Tournament of Champions and was heard muttering the homophobic under his breath. Thomas apologized on television after the round. He apologized the next day after finishing one shot out of a playoff. Ralph Lauren heard the apology. The company says it believes in dignity of all people. While it heard the apology, it decided to discontinue Thomas’ sponsorship.
Papal jersey: Francis blesses Hawks jersey on MLK birthday
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks sent a special gift to Pope Francis: an MLK jersey that was blessed by the pontiff on Martin Luther King Jr’s 92nd birthday.
The gift followed Francis’ meeting in November with a delegation of NBA players to discuss social justice. The Hawks sent the pontiff their alternate jersey honoring Atlanta’s native son and civil rights icon. It will be worn by the team Monday for the annual game on the King national holiday. The team released a video that showed Francis opening a package that contained the No. 1 jersey, which had his name across the back.
Mr. WorldWide to NASCAR: Pitbull joins Trackhouse ownership
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — New NASCAR team Trackhouse Racing has brought entertainer Pitbull on as an ownership partner. The organization will make its debut next month at the Daytona 500.
“Mr. Worldwide” joins NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan as celebrity owners entering NASCAR this year. Jordan is a part owner of 23XI Racing with Denny Hamlin. Trackhouse was launched late last year by former driver Justin Marks. The team has hired driver Daniel Suarez.