AP source: James Harden traded to Brooklyn Nets
HOUSTON (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have agreed to acquire three-time scoring champion James Harden from the Houston Rockets in a deal that reunites him with Kevin Durant and gives him the move that he has sought for weeks.
A person familiar with the situation says Harden is going to the Nets as part of a four-team deal that also involves Indiana and Cleveland. The deal was struck less than 24 hours after Harden vented his frustration after the Rockets’ second straight blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night.
At least four draft picks and additional pick swaps are also part of the deal, according to the person. Other key players: Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris Levert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana, the person said, adding that Cleveland was also part of the massive trade.
The person spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the trade call with the NBA — which signs off on all deals — has not been completed.
Hawks-Suns game latest to be called off by NBA amid virus
UNDATED (AP) — The Phoenix Suns are the latest NBA team to deal with contact tracing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. Their game Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks has been called off by the league after it was learned they wouldn’t have enough players cleared to participate.
It’s the sixth postponement in the NBA since Sunday and the third on Wednesday’s schedule, joining Utah at Washington and Orlando at Boston. It also marks the second consecutive time that a team ran into issues after playing in Washington. The Miami Heat lost eight players to COVID-related issues following their road game against the Wizards on Saturday.
Also not playing Wednesday: Zion Williamson, ruled out by the New Orleans Pelicans for their game at the Los Angeles Clippers because of the league’s health and safety protocols. That doesn’t mean he tested positive and simply could mean he was potentially exposed to someone who has.
On Tuesday, the league and the National Basketball Players Association released updated rules that will be in place for at least the next two weeks, requiring players and team staff to remain at their residences when in their home markets and being prohibited from leaving their hotels when on the road — with exceptions primarily for practices and games. Additional measures now include limiting team pregame meetings in locker rooms to 10 minutes, with the extra caveat that everyone must wear a mask. The mask-wearing rules in bench areas during games have also been stiffened.
Browns get Denzel Ward back
UNDATED (AP) — The Browns’ top cornerback is back with the team after missing Cleveland’s past two games — one of them a playoff win — with COVID-19.
Denzel Ward was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday along with cornerback Kevin Johnson as the Browns began practicing for Sunday’s playoff game at Kansas City. The Browns could use their help. They gave up 501 yards passing on Sunday to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who picked on Cleveland’s backups.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to the team after being one of four assistants sidelined by the virus. Head coach Kevin Stefanski says he’s on track to return Thursday after missing Sunday’s wild-card win in Pittsburgh with COVID-19.
Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio remains in isolation, and the Browns are hoping to get him back in the next day or two.
In other NFL news:
— Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has practiced for the first time since getting hurt in a game against New Orleans in Week 15. That’s raising hopes the first-round draft pick can play in the divisional round of the playoffs against Cleveland on Sunday. Edwards-Helaire had been out with a high-ankle sprain. The only players to miss practice Wednesday were wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who missed the final game of the regular-season with a calf injury; rookie linebacker Willie Gay Jr., who has been dealing with an ankle injury; and cornerback Rashad Fenton, who hurt both of his ankles in the Chiefs’ meaningless Week 17 loss to the Chargers.
— The Philadelphia Eagles won’t be penalized after the NFL looked into the way the team handled its quarterback decisions in the final regular-season game against Washington, according to two people familiar with the decision. Both people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal the conversations. Coach Doug Pederson removed Jalen Hurts for third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of a 20-14 loss. The Eagles trailed by a field goal at the time. Sudfeld hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since 2018. He was picked on his second attempt and lost a fumble. Washington secured the NFC East title with the win and the Giants were eliminated. The loss gave Philadelphia the sixth pick in the draft instead of the ninth.
— John Elway’s replacement as the Denver Broncos general manager will be Vikings executive George Paton. The 14-year Minnesota Vikings executive will report to Elway, who is keeping his title as president of football operations as he transitions out of the GM role he’s had for the last decade. Paton was among five candidates who interviewed for the job after Elway announced he was taking on more of an overseer’s role at age 60. Paton will be in charge of the draft, free agency and the roster for the Broncos but bigger decisions facing the franchise will still be run past Elway.
— The Chicago Bears plan to keep general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy for at least another season. Chairman George McCaskey says the team opted against sweeping changes in leadership after the Bears slipped into the playoffs despite going 8-8 for the second year in a row. The announcement comes on the heels of the Bears’ wild-card loss at New Orleans on Sunday, their second playoff appearance in three years. Chicago won the NFC North at 12-4 in 2018, which was Nagy’s first season. The Bears have two playoff appearances and a 42-54 regular-season record in six years under Pace, while Nagy is 28-20.
— The search for a new coach continues for the New York Jets after they completed an in-person interview with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh without reaching a deal. Saleh was the first of the nine known candidates to speak remotely with the Jets last week.
Mark Shapiro gets 5-year extension as Blue Jays’ CEO
UNDATED (AP) — Mark Shapiro (shuh-PY’-roh) has been given a five-year contract extension as the Toronto Blue Jays’ president and chief executive officer.
Rogers Communications, which owns the team, made the announcement Wednesday. Rogers chairman Edward Rogers said Shapiro’s leadership and commitment over the last five years have been critical to the team’s growth and development.
The Blue Jays returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016. Toronto was 32-28 during the pandemic-shortened season, earning a wild card in the expanded playoffs. The Blue Jays were swept over two games in the first round by eventual AL champion Tampa Bay.
Shapiro worked for the Cleveland Indians before becoming the Blue Jays’ president on Oct. 31, 2015.
In other MLB news:
— The Texas Rangers have signed right-handed pitcher Justin Anderson and veteran catcher Drew Butera to minor league contracts that include invitations to major league spring training. Butera got a one-year deal that will be worth $1 million if the 37-year-old is on the big league roster after he played the past two-plus seasons with Colorado. The 28-year-old Anderson is recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery last July. He got a two-year minor league deal that would be worth $850,000 in the majors.