Multi-team deal sends Harden to Nets
UNDATED (AP) — James Harden is heading to Brooklyn, joining Kyrie Irving and old teammate Kevin Durant to give the Nets a potent trio featuring some of the NBA’s highest scorers.
The Nets acquired the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets in a deal that became official on Thursday, a move Harden has sought for weeks.
Harden is the centerpiece of a deal that also involved Cleveland and grew to a fourth team when Indiana, made a separate deal with Houston. The Nets sent Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs to Houston, along with 2022, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 202 and 2027. The Nets also sent center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince to Cleveland.
A person with knowledge of the situation says the Rockets also are trading LeVert to Indiana for Victor Oladipo (oh-lah-DEE’-poh).
The blockbuster deal provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both Houston and Brooklyn. It was struck less than 24 hours after Harden seemed to deliver a farewell address of sorts following the Rockets’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, and just before Irving was set to miss a fifth straight game during a personal absence from the Nets.
Celtics expect to play Friday, as NBA weighs more testing
UNDATED (AP) — The Boston Celtics expect their unplanned weeklong hiatus because of coronavirus-related issues to end Friday, when they’re scheduled to play host to the Orlando Magic. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, in a radio interview Thursday, said “it looks like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Boston had three games that would have been played between Sunday and Wednesday postponed because some players were positive and others were ruled out because contact tracing showed that they could have been exposed to the virus.
Leaguewide, eight games since Sunday have been postponed and the NBA is reviewing whether more games — including a Saturday contest in Phoenix and a Sunday game in Washington — will have to be pushed back. The Suns and Wizards were both scheduled to play Friday but those games were postponed because contact tracing showed neither club would meet the NBA requirement of having eight available players.
Meanwhile, the NBA is considering even more testing if teams can enlist local labs to save time. In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, league officials have told teams that they are deciding whether to have additional game-day testing for players and referees. Teams in all 28 NBA cities have been told to investigate if there is a local lab that can process PCR tests relatively quickly; the extra tests would be conducted on game-day mornings and turn in results no later than one hour before tip-off.
The league regimen already includes daily PCR tests for players and coaches, and rapid tests on game days. The NBA told teams it was possible that a decision could be made on the extra layer of testing by the weekend. ESPN first reported the contents of the league’s memo.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-COLLEGE BASKETBALL
More postponements announced
UNDATED (AP) — Two more Georgetown men’s basketball games — against Providence and Marquette — have been postponed after the Hoyas reported a positive COVID-19 test.
Georgetown was supposed to play at Providence on Saturday and host Marquette on Jan. 20. Those will make it three consecutive postponements for Georgetown and five overall this season. The Hoyas were supposed to host DePaul on Wednesday.
Georgia State has postponed its third straight game because of COVID-19.
The Panthers halted all team activities for a week after multiple positive tests within the program, including athletes, coaches and support staff. That forced the postponement of two games against Sun Belt Conference rival Troy.
Georgia State was scheduled to play back-to-back games against Coastal Carolina this weekend, but the Friday contest was called off. The teams are still set to play on Saturday. Both programs are looking at possible makeup dates.
Browns get their coach back
CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is back with his team after having COVID-19.
Stefanski returned to the team’s facility Thursday, 10 days after he tested positive with the virus and after he missed Cleveland’s playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Stefanski had been isolated in his home for the required 10 days since contracting COVID-19. He watched from home on his basement TV as Cleveland beat the Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. He’ll make his playoff debut Sunday when Browns play the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
In other NFL news:
— A person familiar with the search says Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars are “working toward finalizing” a deal to make him the team’s coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Thursday because an agreement was not in place. The person says it could be done soon. Meyer would be leaving the broadcast booth and returning to the sidelines after a two-year break that followed another health scare. The 56-year-old Meyer has won three college national championships, with a staggering winning percentage of more than 85%.
Murray status for Australia in doubt after contracting virus
UNDATED (AP) — Andy Murray’s status for the Australian Open has been put in doubt after he tested positive for the coronavirus only days before his planned charter flight to Melbourne.
The tournament says that the three-time Grand Slam champion is isolating at home, will miss the charter flights and won’t be able “to go through the quarantine period with the other players.”
Murray has been given a wild-card entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2021.
The Australian Open was delayed three weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions and is set to begin Feb. 8. Players and officials must spend 14 days in quarantine once they arrive in Australia.
Olympic champion Rollins-McNeal suspended in doping case
MONACO (AP) — Olympic hurdles champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal has been provisionally suspended for a doping rules violation. Rollins-McNeal won gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The 29-year-old American was also world champion in 2013.
The Athletics Integrity Unit says it charged Rollins-McNeal with “tampering within the results management process.” It did not specify details of the case. The AIU cited a section in the World Anti-Doping Code that covers “conduct which subverts the doping control process.”
Rollins-McNeal is the fourth-fastest woman in history in her event. She clocked 12.26 seconds at the U.S. national championships.
‘Cover up of cover-up’ still led to downsized Russian ban
UNDATED (AP) — The highest court in sports is blasting Russia for engaging in “a cover up of the cover-up” in a desperate attempt to deny culpability for a state-sponsored doping scheme.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport says Russia’s plot to manipulate lab data means “it will never be possible to know the number of cheating athletes or officials who may have escaped detection.”
But in a 186-page report made public Thursday, the court also defended its decision last month to reduce Russia’s punishments at the next two Olympics. The World Anti-Doping Agency had proposed a four-year ban for Russia, but CAS reduced the sanction to two years. The court says it did so in part because WADA only ever intended the ban to include one Summer and one Winter Olympics.