Season resumes with doubleheader
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The NBA season resumes Thursday after a 20-week break because of the coronavirus pandemic. In a reopening night doubleheader inside the bubble at Walt Disney World, New Orleans will take on Utah before a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference — the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
There won’t be any fans in attendance, and health and safety protocols are in place that don’t even allow teams to shower in the arena after games. With eight games remaining games before the playoffs, teams that have clinched berths are focused on securing the best possible playoff seed. For the hopefuls, it’s about finding a way to get into the field and stay at Disney at least a couple weeks longer.
Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson are ready for reopening night. Davis practiced Wednesday for the first time since getting poked in an eye during the Los Angeles Lakers’ scrimmage opener last week. He said the plan is for him to play tonight when the Lakers face the Clippers in the first seeding game for both teams.
The Pelicans said Williamson will be a game-time decision for New Orleans’ opener against Utah. Williamson missed nearly two weeks because he left for a family emergency and then had to quarantine for four days upon his return.
Knicks bring Tom Thibodeau back to New York as new coach
NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Thibodeau (THIH’-buh-doh) is back in New York as the Knicks’ new coach.
The former NBA Coach of the Year was hired Thursday, returning to the team he helped lead to the NBA Finals as an assistant coach.
The 62-year-old Thibodeau is 352-246 in eight seasons coaching Chicago and Minnesota. He was the Coach of the Year in 2011 in his first season with the Bulls. He led Chicago to 50 wins in three of his five seasons.
Thibodeau was an assistant to Jeff Van Gundy when the Knicks reached the 1999 NBA Finals.
Roberts returning after 1-game suspension
UNDATED (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will be returning from a one-game suspension when the defending NL West champions visit Arizona for the Diamondbacks’ home opener Thursday night.
Major League Baseball suspended Roberts one game and Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly eight games on Wednesday, the day after benches cleared in the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 5-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined.
Roberts served his penalty Wednesday night when the Dodgers beat Houston 4-2 in 13 innings.
Kelly was punished for throwing a fastball near the head of Houston’s Alex Bregman and mockingly taunting Astros star Carlos Correa. He elected to appeal and can continue to play.
In other MLB news:
— Major League Baseball is debating whether to play shorter doubleheaders this season. The players’ association is surveying its members and deciding whether to propose two seven-inning games, or one nine-inning game followed by one seven-inning contest. MLB is expected to decide by Saturday whether to go with shorter doubleheaders. Philadelphia and Toronto are scheduled to play a doubleheader that day.
— Major league hitters have opened this 60-game sprint by stumbling out of the blocks. Coming off a condensed preseason camp for a season truncated by the coronavirus pandemic, hitters can’t seem to get in the swing of things. The league-wide batting average is .229, down from .252 last season — stunning, considering the National League has adopted the designated hitter for this season. The all-time low for batting average is .237, set in 1968, “the year of the pitcher.” Strikeouts are up for the 15th straight season, and the home run rate has dropped a year after extra-slick baseballs helped produce a record 6,776 big flies.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL-IOWA-RACIAL BIAS
Inquiry finds racial bias, bullying in Iowa football program
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An investigative report has found that the Iowa football program has suffered from racial bias against Black players and bullying by a small number of current and former coaches.
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld says the report from an outside law firm shows that the “climate and culture must and will change within our football program.”
Coach Kirk Ferentz, the longest-tenured head coach in college football, is expected to keep his job. The report found that many players believe he has already made several positive changes.
Barty withdraws from US Open
UNDATED (AP) — Top-ranked Ash Barty has withdrawn from the U.S. Open because she’s not comfortable with traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. The 24-year-old Australian is the highest-profile player so far to pull out of the Grand Slam tournament in New York because of the global health crisis. The U.S. Open is set to start Aug. 31. Barty won the French Open champion in 2019 in her major breakthrough. She hasn’t yet decided if she’ll defend that title. The clay-court major was postponed earlier in the year and rescheduled to start in late September.
In other news related to the coronavirus pandemic:
— A total of 457 Division I football games have been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Associated Press research, 134 Football Bowl Subdivision games are off. That number is 383 for the Football Championship Subdivision. Included in those numbers are 60 matchups between FBS and FCS teams. A total of 454 Division II games are off. The number is 1,013 in Division III.
— Formula One driver Sergio Perez is in isolation at the British Grand Prix after returning an inconclusive coronavirus test. The Racing Point driver has since been retested and is awaiting the outcome. The Mexican was absent from his scheduled media duties at Silverstone circuit in central England.
— Fans will attend soccer in Britain on Friday for the first time since the country’s coronavirus lockdown four months ago. In a pilot event for the planned widespread return of supporters, 500 will be allowed into the Irish Cup final at 18,500-capacity Windsor Park in Belfast. The tickets will be split between finalists Ballymena United and Glentoran. Northern Ireland is ahead of the rest of the U.K. Over in London on Saturday, England’s FA Cup final will be played without any spectators at Wembley, just like the Premier League concluded in empty stadiums following a 100-day shutdown.
Criminal case opened against FIFA president Gianni Infantino
GENEVA (AP) — A criminal case against FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been opened by a Swiss special prosecutor. The case is connected to a meeting Infantino had with the Swiss attorney general.
Special prosecutor Stefan Keller believes there is enough evidence to take the case to court after investigating the circumstances of a meeting Infantino had with Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber, who offered his resignation last week.
Keller has uncovered “elements that make up reprehensible behavior,” according to a statement from the Swiss authority overseeing the federal prosecutors office. Keller opened a criminal case against Infantino as well as Valais prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold and has sought authorization to open a legal case against Lauber.