Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shakes hands with VP of basketball operations David Griffin. (AP)
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Updated 07 July 2022

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives

Zion Williamson, Pelicans aim to end ‘negative’ narratives
  • Williamson appears healthy now, cleared by the club to engage in basketball activities without restrictions

NEW ORLEANS: A few months after Zion Williamson was left entirely out of Pelicans promotional material regarding ticket renewals, the injury-riddled star forward was back to being celebrated Wednesday as a supremely influential figure in New Orleans’ future.

“The last few months were a roller-coaster of emotions,” Williamson said. “The world just ran with narratives, and so when my family was going out in public, they’re getting harassed by people about why we don’t like New Orleans or why we don’t want to be here, when that’s not the case at all.

“I wasn’t able to play because my foot was broke,” Williamson continued. “Every time I checked my phone it’s always something negative. Even when you’re trying to make positive of the situation, it was very tough.”

So the Pelicans used the occasion of Williamson signing a $193 million, five-year contract extension — which could be worth up to $231 million if the explosive, 6-foot-6, 280-pounder lives up to the potential he’s displayed when healthy — to try to dispel past notions of distrust and start a new narrative.

“This is a really momentous occasion for all of us,” said David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations. “This is an opportunity for us as an organization to really put to bed a lot of things that were said.

“So many things that are talked about are just words,” Griffin continued as Williamson nodded in agreement beside him. “What Zion Williamson did today is express his commitment to this team and to this city and to this community. ... So the noise that’s on the periphery of all of that is completely irrelevant.”

Williamson appears healthy now, cleared by the club to engage in basketball activities without restrictions. Recently, he and his stepfather, Lee Anderson, have been running basketball camps for kids at a New Orleans YMCA, where Williamson formally signed his contract while campers stood behind him and applauded.

It also was Williamson’s 22nd birthday, and he commented, while grabbing Griffin’s shoulder and smiling, that it was his best birthday yet.

“Thank y’all for really sticking with me the past year,” Williamson said to the Pelicans’ brass. “It was a tough year, and then for the Pelicans to come give this birthday gift, I’m not going to let ‘em down. I’m not going to let the city down, I’m not going to let my family down, and most of all, I’m not going to let myself down.”

Now the 2019 No. 1 overall draft choice out of Duke, who has played in just 85 games in his first three seasons, is primed to see how much his return could help a squad that improved dramatically late last season and made a surprisingly competitive playoff showing without him.

Griffin, meanwhile, sees his vision for building a young team set up for sustained success coming together under Willie Green, who in his first season as an NBA head coach shepherded the team from a 1-12 start to postseason qualification, two play-in victories and two more victories in a first-round series against top-seeded Phoenix.

“We feel like with the team we have assembled, with Zion as an enormous part of that, coach Green and his staff are going to be able to put together an incredible run,” Griffin said. “We’re young, we’re talented and most importantly we are very hungry.”

Williamson played in just 24 games as a rookie because of a preseason right knee injury (lateral meniscus). In his second season, he played in 61 of 72 games, averaging a team-high 27 points and becoming a first-time All-Star during what was his lone NBA campaign not mostly or entirely wiped out by injuries.

“Zion is a huge part of what we want to accomplish,” Green said, noting that Williamson will periodically initiate the offense handling the ball as he did successfully in is second season. “It’s not necessarily him fitting in. He can do that with any team in the league. It’s about maximizing the group that we have when we had him to it. And, frankly, I think it’s going to be scary for the rest of the NBA.”

Williamson said he is focused on adopting strategies meant to preserve his health and promote career longevity — but cutting down on vigorous, high-flying dunks in favor of lower-impact layups probably won’t be one of them.

“I’m a competitor, so when I’m on the court, I’m not thinking about, ”Let me lay this ball in; hopefully my career will last longer,’” Williamson asserted with a playful grin. “No, I’m thinking about putting that person through the rim. So, as far as me dunking, that’s going to always happen. That’s going to stay happening, no matter what (team trainers and management) are talking about. I’m always dunking. Come on, man!”


Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
Updated 12 August 2022

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
  • Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea with rounds 15 and 16 this weekend
  • Four drivers still in contention for the title as Formula E makes its South Korean debut on specially designed track

SEOUL: Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea this weekend with the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix, where the champion driver and team will be crowned and the world’s first all-electric motorsport series will mark 100 races.
Eleven teams and 22 drivers have competed in Formula E’s biggest racing season to date with rounds 15 and 16 to come this Saturday and Sunday, and four drivers still in contention for the title at the top of the standings.
It will be the first time Formula E has raced in South Korea with the E-Prix taking place on a unique track constructed around and even looping through the Jamsil Olympic Stadium, the first world championship sporting event held at the venue since the Olympic Games in 1988.
Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way for Mercedes-EQ in a bid to make it back-to-back wins following their Drivers’ and Teams’ World Championship success last year in season seven.
The Belgian extended his lead to 36 points over nearest rival Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) during the SABIC London E-Prix two weeks ago that saw his closest competitors falter.
While Vandoorne has achieved only one win this season compared with three each for Evans and Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) in third place, Vandoorne has the most podium finishes and has scored on 13 occasions, taking the honor from Daniel Abt as the most consistent points finisher in a campaign.
Vandoorne’s last four rounds have all yielded top-four finishes and a pair of podiums: The gauntlet has been thrown by the Mercedes-EQ driver.
Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had worked his way into closest contention of top spot, but a technical problem in London put a huge dent in his chances. The Kiwi was on track to pin Vandoorne back to a 22-point lead, but an inverter problem at the end of round 14 forced him to retire.
In third and fourth, respectively, Edoardo Mortara and DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne have it all to do.
Mortara topped the standings at the halfway stage of the season after a run of two wins and two more podiums in Berlin and Jakarta. Since then, the Swiss has managed only two low-scoring points finishes in New York City and a pair of non-scores in London, but he remains just five points back from Evans.
Similarly, Vergne has hit his worst-ever run in Formula E, with four consecutive blanks for the first time in the championship. While it is an uncharacteristic return from the Frenchman, JEV is the only driver in the top four to have won the world championship — twice — and experience could still earn a place on the podium.
In the team championship race, Mercedes-EQ stretched its lead in London, with silverware for both de Vries and Vandoorne.
Back-to-back titles look to be on with a 36-point margin on ROKiT Venturi Racing in second, with DS Techeetah behind the Monegasque outfit by 11 points.
On Sunday, the second race of the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix double-header will be Formula E’s 100th E-Prix, also marking the end of the Gen2 era, the second version of Formula E race car.
The centenary E-Prix will mark three major generational leaps in EV technology and industry-leading sustainability achievements ahead of the debut in season nine of the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car built yet, the Gen3.


Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury
Updated 12 August 2022

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury

Eddie Howe’s transfer plans shaped by Shelvey injury
  • The 30-year-old’s absence for 12 weeks could force Magpies boss to sign a midfielder in addition to expected forward targets
  • Shelvey limped out of the Magpies’ 3-2 friendly loss to Benfica last month

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed the injury to midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could shape his Newcastle United transfer plans in the final weeks of the summer window.
Newcastle had been looking to add only two more players to their ranks with a wide forward and a young striker on their radar.
However, with creator Shelvey out for the next 12 weeks due to a hamstring surgery, Howe admits that he may have to consider building strength in that department.
“I wouldn’t say it was our main focus but it’s something in the back of our minds, if we need to do something then we have the capability of doing something in that position. But we have other positions that are more of a priority currently,” Howe said.
“I feel we have enough to cover his absence currently, but you know football, it can change very quickly. Losing Jonjo is a big blow, he’s been a huge player for us the last few seasons. He brings unique qualities in that midfield role.
“Bruno played in that position on Saturday and did very well and we do have other players — Sean’s played the position during pre-season and again done very well. He used the ball excellently. We have a couple of options but we’re going to miss Jonjo.”
Shelvey, a mainstay in the Newcastle starting line-up last season, limped out of the Magpies’ 3-2 friendly loss to Benfica last month and has since gone under the knife to rectify his injury.
Howe does intend to name the former Liverpool and England man in his 25-man Premier League squad for the first half the season, despite the fact he may only be able to play a handful of matches.
“It was quite a complex one,” said Howe of the 30-year-old’s injury.
“We had a number of scans and opinions because we wanted to make the right call. It wasn’t a clear or simple injury.
“He’s had an operation and is expected to be out around 12 weeks. He was very disappointed obviously, he worked very hard in pre-season and looked in really good physical shape.
“It was a real shame for him and for us but he’s on the road to recovery now and is in a much better place after the operation and before mentally. We’re looking forward to getting him back.”
While some fans are starting to get anxious about Newcastle’s lack of transfer action, Howe is not.
Newcastle have not signed any senior players since July 1 when Sven Botman was brought in from Lille for a fee of $36 million.
“I’m never relaxed. I’d love to bring somebody in or players in we feel can benefit the group and add to what we have. But, I’m not anxious about that currently,” said the Newcastle head coach.
“The squad is in a very good place, very confident. There’s a good feel about the group, good dynamic internally. We still have time.”
Asked if anything is imminent on the transfer front, with talk of Brazilian Lucas Paqueta again surfacing in recent days, Howe said: “I’m sorry to keep giving you the same answers, I want to give you a different response but I can’t. We’re no closer currently but hopefully in the next week or so, it might be different.”
For Newcastle to sign players, they would have to trim some senior players from their ranks.
The likes of Matt Ritchie, Karl Darlow, Matty Longstaff and Jamal Lewis could all be shown the door to free up space in United’s 25.
On outgoings, Howe said: “I’d say, the squad is and has been very consistent during training. Our numbers have been 21 or 22, which is where we want to be really, depending on knocks and injuries. I certainly wouldn’t want to be any weaker than that. I’d be reluctant to let anyone go currently without bringing someone in.
“With the younger guys that don’t currently train with us, we would be open for anybody to go if the loan was right for them but there is a couple of players I’d probably want to hold back who I feel could be part of our season next year.
“I do encourage the loan market — we see what it did for Elliot Anderson last year. It’s something I do passionately believe in, getting that experience under their belts will do them the world of good.”


Tuchel reveals ‘bond’ with Aubameyang amid Chelsea rumors

Tuchel reveals ‘bond’ with Aubameyang amid Chelsea rumors
Updated 12 August 2022

Tuchel reveals ‘bond’ with Aubameyang amid Chelsea rumors

Tuchel reveals ‘bond’ with Aubameyang amid Chelsea rumors
  • The Blues are looking to reinforce their forward line after the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner
  • "This is totally separate from anything that is happening now, but I enjoyed a lot working with Auba while I was at Dortmund," said Tuchel

LONDON: Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said he will always have a “close bond” with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as speculation links the Barcelona forward with a move to Stamford Bridge.
The Blues are looking to reinforce their forward line after the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner.
Aubameyang, who only joined Barcelona in January, would appear to fit the bill with both Premier League experience from four years at Arsenal and the time he spent under Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund.
The Gabon international scored 79 goals in 95 appearances under Tuchel.
“This is totally separate from anything that is happening now, but I enjoyed a lot working with Auba while I was at Dortmund,” said Tuchel on Friday at his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s visit of Tottenham.
“Some players stay your players because you were very, very close, and Auba is one of those players.
“There was always straight away this close bond. They always stay your players in a way.”
A behind-the-scenes documentary on Arsenal’s 2021/22 season has revealed the scale of disciplinary breaches that saw Mikel Arteta freeze Aubameyang out of the Gunners’ first-team squad.
However, Tuchel said “there was never an issue” with Aubameyang’s discipline during their time in Germany.
Chelsea have also been linked with big money moves for Leicester defender Wesley Fofana and Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong as new owner Todd Boehly looks to put his stamp on the club.
“You don’t always get what you wish for, that’s why we’re calm and ambitious at the same time,” added Tuchel.
“It needs to be possible, we’re looking for top quality, personality and good characters.”
Tuchel also confirmed that Marcos Alonso is on his way to Barcelona to become the sixth signing of an incredible window for the Catalan giants despite their financial struggles.


Tyson Fury announces intention to retire from boxing

Tyson Fury announces intention to retire from boxing
Updated 12 August 2022

Tyson Fury announces intention to retire from boxing

Tyson Fury announces intention to retire from boxing
  • The announcement has been greeted with scepticism as Fury has previously stated his intention to retire only to return to the ring
  • He was expected to fight the winner of Oleksandr Usyk's rematch with Anthony Joshua on August 20

LONDON: WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said he is retiring from boxing on his 34th birthday on Friday, having previously performed a number of U-turns over his future in the sport.
“Massive thanks to everyone who had an input in my career over the years & after long hard conversations I’ve finally decided to walk away & on my 34th birthday I say Bon voyage,” Fury posted on Twitter.
The announcement has been greeted with skepticism as Fury has previously stated his intention to retire only to return to the ring.
He was expected to fight the winner of Oleksandr Usyk’s rematch with Anthony Joshua on August 20 for the chance to unify the world heavyweight titles.
As recently as Tuesday, Fury suggested his most recent spell in retirement was over in order to set up a trilogy fight against Derek Chisora and even claimed to have appointed a new trainer in Isaac Lowe.
However, he has now announced the intention to retire undefeated with a record of 32 wins and one draw from 33 bouts.
Fury went onto thank his wife, promoter Frank Warren and a series of other training partners and television companies who have bought rights to his fights over the years.
The Brit stated ahead of his win over Dillian Whyte in March that he would retire after that fight as he has “150 million in the bank and nothing to prove.”
However, earlier this week, Warren had cast doubt on the suggestion Fury will not fight again.
“I think what’s going to happen is, see what happens on 20 (August) and the outcome of that, and that’ll determine what he intends to do in the future,’ Warren told talkSPORT.
“I think he will (return), because he’s a fighting man and he misses it. That’s what he does, he wants to fight.”


Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, chairman of UAE sports authority discuss cooperation 

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, chairman of UAE sports authority discuss cooperation 
Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, chairman of UAE sports authority discuss cooperation 

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, chairman of UAE sports authority discuss cooperation 
  • The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey’s Konya

KONYA: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal met with the Chairman of the UAE’s General Authority of Sports Ahmed Belhoul Al-Falasi to discuss cooperation in the field of sports, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Thursday. 

The meeting between Prince Abdulaziz – who is also the Chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation – and Al-Falasi was held on the sidelines of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey’s Konya.

Al-Falasi highlighted the UAE’s full support for the Kingdom’s bid to host the ninth edition of the 2029 Asian Winter Games – a move he said would be a key step in popularizing winter sports in West Asia, according to WAM. 

He confirmed his support for Riyadh hosting the 2023 World Combat Games. 

The two discussed the possibility of signing cooperation agreements in sports, with Al-Falasi highlighting the importance of organizing joint bilateral meetings and workshops to exchange knowledge between various sports entities, WAM reported. 

They also discussed the formation of joint coordination entities that comprise of various sporting authorities from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to establish action plans, strategies, programs, and initiatives.