Global talent powers LeBron v. Durant at NBA All-Star Game

Global talent powers LeBron v. Durant at NBA All-Star Game
NBA Legends Dave Bing, Oscar Robertson and Lenny Wilkens during the NBA All-Star game in 1997. Some iconic players will attend when the league celebrates its 75th Anniversary Team during Sunday’s All-Star Game. (AP/File)
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Updated 18 February 2022

Global talent powers LeBron v. Durant at NBA All-Star Game

Global talent powers LeBron v. Durant at NBA All-Star Game
  • Greek star Antetokounmpo will spark Team LeBron James in the elite talent showdown at James's home area of Cleveland
  • Embiid will ignite Team Kevin Durant, whose namesake captain is injured and will not play

WASHINGTON: Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and NBA scoring leader Joel Embiid lead a record-tying four international starters in Sunday’s 71st NBA All-Star Game.
Greek star Antetokounmpo, last year’s NBA Finals MVP after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first title in 50 years, will spark Team LeBron James in the elite talent showdown at James’s home area of Cleveland, Ohio.
Antetokoumpo averages 29.4 points a game, second in the NBA, just ahead of Los Angeles Lakers superstar James at 29.1 per contest.
James called Antetokounmpo “the hardest playing player in All-Star history” upon taking him in a player draft and the “Greek Freak” has the Bucks contending for another crown.
“I just try to play as hard as I can, play for the team and always play to win,” Antetokounmpo said.
“We’re happy we won the championship last year, but we’re not satisfied. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position that we can be one of those teams that play down the stretch in June.”
Embiid, the Cameroonian forward who leads the NBA with 29.6 points a game for Philadelphia, will ignite Team Kevin Durant, whose namesake captain is injured and will not play.
The Sixers star could be the first center to win the scoring title since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.
“You have to do whatever it takes to win,” Embiid said. “I know my role and it’s to go out there and dominate. I’m going to get the ball a lot and I’m going to make things happen.
“It’s all about making the right plays, finding my teammates, looking to score and just being aggressive.”
Serbian center Nikola Jokic, the 2021 NBA MVP, will also start for Team LeBron while Canadian forward Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors is also in the opening lineup for Durant’s squad in his first All-Star appearance.
Memphis standout guard Ja Morant, averaging 26.4 points a game, makes his first All-Star Game appearance as a starter for Team Durant, which also features Boston swingman Jayson Tatum in Durant’s place and Atlanta guard Trae Young, who ranks fifth in the NBA with 27.8 points a game and fourth in the league with 9.3 assists a contest.
LeBron’s other fellow starters include eight-time NBA All-Star Stephen Curry of Golden State and five-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls.
Each team has a global big man among the reserves with Utah’s Rudy Gobert, a Frenchman who leads the NBA with 14.8 rebounds a game, on the bench for Team Durant and Slovenian playmaker Luka Doncic of Dallas among Team LeBron substitutes.
This becomes the fifth consecutive year that James has served as captain of an All-Star team since the format changed from an East versus West matchup and he is trying to stay unbeaten.
Team LeBron beat a Curry-captained squad in 2018, another guided by Antetokounmpo in 2019 and 2020 and defeated Team Durant 170-150 last year with Antetokounmpo taking All-Star MVP honors.
Philadelphia guard James Harden is injured and will not play for Team LeBron while Team Durant lacks injured Golden State forward Draymond Green.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will coach Team Durant while Phoenix’s Monty Williams coaches Team LeBron.
Among veteran All-Star reserves are 12-time All-Star Chris Paul of Phoenix and six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler of Miami for Team LeBron and Team Durant’s three-time All-Star Devin Booker of Phoenix and two-time All-Star Zach LaVine of Chicago.
First-time All-Stars include Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball for Team Durant and Cleveland guard Darius Garland and Cleveland center Jarrett Allen for Team LeBron.


WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history
Updated 27 September 2022

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history

WarGames matches to headline Survivor Series for first time in WWE history
  • Rebranded ‘WWE Survivor Series WarGames’ set for Nov. 26 at TD Garden in Boston

STAMFORD: WWE has announced that this year’s Survivor Series will feature both men’s and women’s WarGames matches for the first time ever.

The Premium Live Event — branded WWE Survivor Series WarGames — is taking place on Nov. 26 at TD Garden in Boston, US.

It will mark the first time in history that WarGames matches take place in a WWE-branded event.

The men’s and women’s Survivor Series WarGames matches will feature teams of WWE Superstars stepping inside a massive steel cage surrounding two rings. The match begins with one member from each team facing off, before additional competitors are added every few minutes thereafter. Once all Superstars have entered WarGames, victory can be attained via pinfall or submission.

WarGames is a staple match with long-rooted history in the world of sports and entertainment. The concept was created by Dusty Rhodes in 1987, with the match originally part of National Wrestling Alliance events, and later, held annually by World Championship Wrestling at the Great American Bash, Wrestle War and Fall Brawl events, respectively.

Since 2017, WWE has held the annual matches at WarGames-branded events as part of their NXT brand. WWE also held the first-ever women’s version of the match in 2019.

Since its inception there have been 39 WarGames matches but none held under the WWE’s marquee November event.

The first ever WarGames match took place at The Omni in Atlanta during the 1987 Great American Bash tour, where it was known as “War Games: The Match Beyond.”

In 1998, WCW added a different twist and converted WarGames into a three-team, nine-man competition — with the same cage and entry format — with pinfalls allowed for the No. 1 Contendership to the WCW World Heavyweight Title.

WarGames proved the ideal platform to settle famous WWE feuds.

It was originally used as a specialty match for the Four Horsemen faction under the leadership of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and over the years has seen legendary Superstars such as Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Sting, Hulk Hogan, the Road Warriors, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Bret Hart and Roddy Piper, to name a few.

One of the most memorable WarGames matches was the first, when the Road Warriors — Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes, and Paul Ellering — took on the Four Horsemen — Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger and Tully Blanchard — at the NWA Great American Bash in July 1987.

The match came at time when the Four Horsemen were running rampant in the NWA, culminating in an attack on their opponents in the previous match that resulted in Rhodes suffering a broken leg and Koloff an injured neck.

The match set the tone for future WarGames, which are not only about getting revenge and settling scores, but also about proving supremacy.


Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly
Updated 27 September 2022

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly

Salem Al-Dawsari undergoes successful surgery as Saudi squad prepare for US friendly
  • Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Owais continue to recover from recent injuries

RIYADH: Al-Hilal star Salem Al-Dawsari on Monday successfully underwent stomach surgery in Alicante as Herve Renard’s Saudi Arabia squad continued their preparations for the 2022 World Cup at their Spanish training camp.

The player will now undergo a period of recovery supervised by the team’s medical staff.

Meanwhile, the rest of the squad took part in their final training session ahead of their second friendly match of the week, which will take place on Tuesday night against the US at the Nueva Condomina stadium in Murcia.

The evening training session took place at La Finca Resort under the supervision of Renard, with the trio of Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, and Mohammed Al-Owais taking part in special exercises as they continue to recover from recent injuries.


Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand
Updated 27 September 2022

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand

Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead 48-player field at LIV Golf’s Asia debut in Thailand
  • Golfers to vie for $25m at Stonehill course Oct. 7-9

BANGKOK: LIV Golf Invitational Chicago champion Cameron Smith and Invitational Boston winner Dustin Johnson will compete amongst an all-star 48-player field for the $25 million Bangkok title, the series’ Asian debut at Stonehill taking place from Oct. 7 to 9.

The strong lineup for the sixth event of this year’s LIV Golf Invitational Series includes four former world No. 1s and 12 major champions, including multiple major winners Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Johnson and Martin Kaymer, as well as 13 Olympians, and 20 players with 10 or more professional wins to their names.

“The LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok marks a significant step for LIV Golf in Asia, a massive market with incredible passion for the sport,” said Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf.

“Our investment in the Asian Tour with The International Series has already begun to create new opportunities in golf. This tournament in Thailand is further proof of LIV Golf’s commitment to showcasing top competition amongst the best golfers on the planet while connecting with new audiences around the world. Excitement continues to build with each event, and we can’t wait to deliver a memorable tournament at Stonehill, a one-of-a-kind venue.”

In Bangkok, players will once again compete for a purse of $25 million and the chance to become LIV Golf’s sixth individual and team champions, earning points toward the season-long individual competition.

In addition to watching a number of major champions, local fans will have another reason to cheer at the new Stonehill course, with Thai players Sadom Kaewkanjana and Phachara Khongwatmai once again competing in the high-profile field thanks to their standings in the Asian Tour and International Series Order of Merit.

The International Series is the Asian Tour’s new marquee events established through a 10-year, $300-million partnership with LIV Golf, with tournaments in Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Egypt, Morocco, and England.


Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi
Updated 27 September 2022

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi

Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks to host youth programs in Abu Dhabi
  • League’s first ‘Jr. NBA Week’ in Mideast for 2,000 young basketball players and coaches through clinics and camps
  • The teams will play two preseason games on Oct. 6 and 8 at Etihad Arena on Yas Island

ABU DHABI: The National Basketball Association announced on Tuesday a series of youth engagement programs in collaboration with the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks as part of The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022.

The activities, which will include the league’s first “Jr. NBA Week” in the Middle East, will run from Monday, Oct. 3 to Sunday, Oct. 9, with nearly 2,000 youth, coaches and basketball stakeholders from the UAE, the region and Europe.

The week will consist of clinics and camps focused on teaching the game, promoting health and wellness, and empowering the next generation of female players and coaches. The events will feature appearances by Hawks and Bucks players and coaches, NBA and WNBA legends, and US Basketball Head Coach/Coach Director, Youth & Sport Development Don Showalter.

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will feature the Hawks and the 2021 NBA champions Bucks playing two preseason games at Etihad Arena on Yas Island on Thursday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 8, marking the league’s first games in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

The games are part of a groundbreaking multiyear collaboration between the NBA and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi that earlier this year saw the launch of the first Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League, a youth basketball competition for 450 boys and girls aged 11 to 14 from schools across the city.

The collaboration also includes a variety of interactive fan events featuring appearances by current and former NBA players, a series of NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, and an NBA 2K League exhibition event.

The week’s activities include, among others:

Atlanta Hawks Youth Program Oct. 3

Hawks players and coaches will lead three simultaneous youth development events at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus’ three-court facility, including clinics for boys and girls from the first Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League and the Abu Dhabi Special Olympics program. There is also an NBA FIT clinic for local youth that will focus on the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle. The participants will attend the game on Oct. 6.

NBA Coaching Clinics Oct. 3 to 4

The assistant coaches of the Hawks, Joe Prunty and Mike Longabardi, and those of the Bucks, Mike Dunlap and Vince Legarza, will host clinics for over 300 male and female basketball coaches from the UAE.

Milwaukee Bucks Youth Program Oct. 4

Bucks players and coaches will offer drills for members of the NBA Basketball School in Dubai and the Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

Jr. NBA School Clinics Oct. 4 to 5

The NBA will conduct eight clinics for boys and girls at local schools across Abu Dhabi, two of which will be attended by NBA Legend Dominique Wilkins and WNBA Legend Ticha Penicheiro (Portugal). The clinics will focus on teamwork, skills and healthy habits.

NBA Hoops For Troops Meet & Greets

In collaboration with the United Service Organizations, the NBA will host members of the US military for meet and greets with NBA legends at both games.

Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp Oct. 4 to 9

The NBA will host 25 of the top boys and girls from Jr. NBA leagues across Europe and the Middle East, and the NBA Basketball School in Dubai, at an elite training camp in Abu Dhabi. The athletes, from 11 countries, were selected following a Jr. NBA Elite Camp in Rome in May. They will participate in training and competitions with the NBA Basketball School from Dubai and the UAE under-18 Men’s National Team.

Her Time To Play Clinic Oct. 8

The NBA will host a “Her Time To Play” clinic at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus for 70 girls from the Jr. NBA Elite Training Camp and the NBA Basketball School in Dubai. Participants will engage in a clinic and conversations focused on female empowerment and opportunities in sports and leadership, highlighted by a talk with Penicheiro.


Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3
Updated 27 September 2022

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Italy advances in Nations League; England, Germany draw 3-3

Part one of the healing process is complete for Italy.
Looking to regain respect after failing to qualify for a second straight World Cup, the Azzurri advanced to next year’s finals tournament in the Nations League by winning at Hungary 2-0 thanks to goals by Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco on Monday.
By topping a group also containing England and Germany, the Italians joined the Netherlands and Croatia in qualifying for the final four, which will be hosted by the Dutch in June.
Portugal or Spain will complete the lineup when they face off on Tuesday.
Unlike Italy, England and Germany will be going to the World Cup in Qatar in less than two months and they’ll head to the Middle East on the back of a wild 3-3 draw at Wembley Stadium, where all the goals were scored in the second half.
Trailing 2-0, England scored three goals in a 12-minute span from the 71st — through Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Harry Kane’s penalty — only for Kai Havertz to pounce on a fumble by England goalkeeper Nick Pope to equalize in the 87th.
England’s winless run stretched to six games, with Gareth Southgate’s team finishing its Nations League campaign without a victory and relegated.
Germany isn’t in much better shape ahead of the World Cup, with just one win in its last seven games.
Italy won Group A3 with 11 points, one more than Hungary, which went into the game in Budapest needing only a draw to reach the Nations League final four for the first time.

Italy's players celebrate after the UEFA Nations League Group 3 football match between Hungary and Italy in Budapest on September 26, 2022. (AFP)


ITALY RECOVERS
The Italians are finding it easier to qualify for Nations League finals than World Cups.
They also got to the 2021 tournament, losing to Spain in the semifinals on home soil in their first few months as the reigning European champion.
Plenty has changed in the team since beating England in the European Championship final at Wembley last year, not least up front where Raspadori is making his mark.
Three days after scoring the winner against England in Milan, the Napoli striker put Italy ahead after Adam Nagy’s back-pass came up short.
Wilfried Gnonto challenged goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi for the ball, which bounced free and Raspadori was alert to round Gulacsi and convert his finish in the 27th.
Gianluigi Donnarumma produced a string of diving stops — including a triple save in a matter of seconds — before Nicolò Barella played a ball through at the other end to Bryan Cristante, who crossed for Dimarco to score from close range for his first goal for Italy.
Late pressure from Hungary failed to yield a goal.
“We were excellent for 70 minutes, the last 20 I didn’t like too much,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “We’re happy — it’s important to have reached the Nations League final four for the second time.”
MAGUIRE UNDER SCRUTINY
Under pressure for his starting place in England’s team, Harry Maguire didn’t help his cause against Germany.
The Manchester United center back was at fault for Germany’s 52nd-minute opener from the spot by Ilkay Gundogan — Maguire initially gave the ball away to Jamal Musiala, then clumsily fouled the teenager in the area moments later — and was then dispossessed in midfield to allow the Germans to break, culminating in a curling finish from the edge of the area by Havertz.
Maguire has lost his starting spot at United but Southgate has retained his faith in the defender, who typically plays better for his country than his club. It was a tough night all around for England’s center backs, with John Stones forced off with a suspected hamstring injury.
England did well to fight back, with Kane’s penalty taking him to 51 goals for England, two off Wayne Rooney’s national record, but yet another mistake proved costly.
Pope, filling in for the injured Jordan Pickford, spilled Serge Gnabry’s weak shot and Havertz was on hand to tap in from close range.
“A couple of errors have cost us the goals,” Southgate said, “but I’ll focus on the fact they played with tremendous spirit and showed a belief that we haven’t shown in the last few games.”
There was a well-observed period of silence before kickoff as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died this month. Players from both teams wore black armbands.