Grizzlies rout Warriors, Bucks hold off Nets

Grizzlies rout Warriors, Bucks hold off Nets
Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones (21) drives to the basket between Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) and forward Kevin Looney in the first half of an NBA game in Memphis, Tenn. (AP)
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Updated 10 March 2023

Grizzlies rout Warriors, Bucks hold off Nets

Grizzlies rout Warriors, Bucks hold off Nets
  • Sacramento Kings ground out a 122-117 win over New York Knicks in a thrilling duel that went down to the wire

LOS ANGLES: The Memphis Grizzlies produced a devastating first-quarter scoring spree in a blowout 131-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the latest instalment of their rivalry with the NBA champions on Thursday.

The Grizzlies erupted for 48 points in the first period to take a stranglehold on the contest as Golden State’s suspect defense was exposed once more.

Tyus Jones led the Memphis scorers with 22 points while Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 21 points apiece as six Grizzlies players finished in double figures.

The emphatic victory was a welcome piece of good news for Memphis after a challenging week that saw star point guard Ja Morant dropped by the team and put under investigation by the NBA for posting a video on social media of himself waving a handgun in a strip club.

The win also gave Memphis bragging rights over a Golden State team with whom they have developed an increasingly fractious rivalry in recent seasons.

The Warriors beat the Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoffs last season en route to the NBA title, and the buildup to Thursday’s game had been marked by public feuding between Memphis’ Dillon Brooks and Golden State’s Draymond Green.

The bad blood threatened to spill into Thursday’s clash, with the two men getting into a tense confrontation in the second quarter which ended with them being separated by a member of the officiating crew.

Brooks stoked controversy last week by voicing his antipathy toward Green and the Warriors, stating: “I don’t like Draymond at all. I just don’t like Golden State. I don’t like anything to do with them.”

Green later returned the fire, declaring on Wednesday on his podcast: “I quite frankly wouldn’t like a team that beats me all the time either.”

Nevertheless it was Brooks and Memphis who had the last laugh after completing a wire-to-wire victory.

“We’ve had a rough couple of weeks but we’ve got dogs on our team,” Brooks told an on-court interviewer from broadcaster TNT, before adding: “You should give that mic to Draymond so he can keep talking about me and making me play better.”

Green brushed off Brooks’ verbal volley in postgame comments to reporters, dismissing once again suggestions that Memphis were serious “rivals” to the Warriors dynasty.

“Rivalries are created by, you know, ‘You win, I win’. Our organization has won four championships (since 2015) and I think their organization has won zero championships,” Green said.

“I don’t consider that a rivalry. Anybody can win a game in March. What does that mean? I have a hard time getting out of my bed in March.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr meanwhile was left lamenting the first-quarter tactical gamble of starting four guards that saw his team routed.

“We’ve gotten off to bad starts in the last six or seven games so we were looking for a little daylight early in the game,” Kerr said.

“We wanted to get some good shots early, but we didn’t do that. We were impatient and took some really tough, quick shots.

“I think in hindsight we got a little too cute with that. But we are where we are. We took a gamble and it didn’t pay off.”

Elsewhere on Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to extend their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 118-113 win over Brooklyn.

Bobby Portis led the Bucks scorers with 28 points while Brook Lopez added 24 and Grayson Allen 19.

The Bucks jumped out to a 22-point lead early in the second quarter but Brooklyn chipped away and got within two points with less than a minute remaining.

Milwaukee held on for victory and now lead the East by 2.5 games from the Boston Celtics with a 48-18 record.

In California, the Sacramento Kings ground out a 122-117 win over the New York Knicks in a thrilling duel that went down to the wire.

Sacramento led 69-53 at halftime and stretched their lead to 21 points early in the third quarter.

New York rallied in the fourth to draw level before the Kings pulled away to seal the win, with seven players finishing in double-figures.

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip
Updated 58 min 55 sec ago

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip
  • The 22-time Grand Slam title winner, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, could in theory be back in time for the Davis Cup finals in November
  • Nadal said last month that the hip injury had not healed as well as he had hoped and therefore he was taking more time out of the sport

MADRID: Rafael Nadal’s keyhole surgery on his injured hip was “positive” but he will require a five-month recovery period before playing again, his spokesman said Saturday.
The 22-time Grand Slam title winner, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, could in theory be back in time for the Davis Cup finals in November.
However, it is likely he will sit out the rest of the season before resuming in 2024 which he has already said will be the last year of his career.
“The surgery was positive,” said his spokesman of the procedure which was carried out in Barcelona.
“The normal recovery process is estimated at five months.”
Nadal said last month that the hip injury had not healed as well as he had hoped and therefore he was taking more time out of the sport.
The Spaniard missed the ongoing French Open, which he has won 14 times, for the first time since 2004.
He will also sit out Wimbledon, where he is a two-time champion, next month.
Nadal had hoped the injury he suffered in a second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January would heal in six weeks.
While he recovers, old rival Novak Djokovic has the chance to break out of the tie for 22 majors by winning a third French Open.
On Friday, Djokovic reached the last 16 in Paris for the 14th successive year and will face Juan Pablo Virallas, the 94th-ranked Peruvian, on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
Updated 03 June 2023

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
  • ‘I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night’
  • World number four had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round

PARIS: World number four Elena Rybakina withdrew from the French Open on Saturday due to illness, handing a significant and unexpected title boost to defending champion Iga Swiatek as Zhang Zhizhen chased history for China.
Rybakina had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round in the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night,” said the 23-year-old Wimbledon champion.
“I had fever and a headache and it’s difficult to breathe. I tried to play in the warm-up but I feel it’s the right decision to withdraw.”
Rybakina had swept into the last 32 without dropping a set.
The Russian-born Kazakh was seen as a potential champion having arrived at Roland Garros with the prestigious Italian Open clay court title under her belt.
She had been seeded to face two-time champion Swiatek in the semifinals.
“I guess with my allergy that my immune system just went down and I picked up something,” said Rybakina. “The doctor said there’s a virus in Paris.”
Rybakina said she will focus on recovery ahead of defending her title at Wimbledon which gets underway on July 3.
“The plan was to play Berlin, Eastbourne, and Wimbledon. There are not many tournaments on grass, but the most important thing is to get healthy again.”
Sorribes Tormo, ranked 132 in the world, will be playing in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.
She will face either Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia or Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Later Saturday, world number one Swiatek takes on China’s 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu for a place in the last 16 as she continues her bid to become the first back-to-back champion since Justine Henin in 2007.
Zhang meets world number four and last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud hoping to become the first Chinese man since Kho Sin-Khie in 1936 to make the last 16 in Paris.
Zhang, ranked 71, had never won a Grand Slam main draw match until this French Open but he had announced himself as a capable clay-courter by reaching the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open last month.
“For me, it’s not pressure to be here,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m trying to show my best self, show everything what I have and try to compete with these guys. That’s the reason I’m here. It’s no pressure for me.”
Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the breakout star of Roland Garros, faces 2022 runner-up and sixth-ranked Coco Gauff for a place in the fourth round.
Andreeva came through qualifying and has made a mockery of her world ranking of 143 by dropping just six games in two rounds in the main draw.
The France-based Russian is the youngest player to make the last 32 since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva went to the 2005 quarter-finals.
She is just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in 30 years, a group that includes the likes of serial Slam champions Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.
“My dream? I know that Novak Djokovic did 22 Grand Slams so I want to go until 25,” said Andreeva who played the junior tournament in Paris last year.
Holger Rune, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2022, takes on Argentina’s Genaro Alberto Olivieri.
The 231st-ranked Argentine has dedicated his run to the third round to his father who passed away during pandemic.
“He was my sidekick, the person who helped me in every way — psychologically, emotionally,” said the 24-year-old.
“I always remember him. I hope he is now watching everything that is happening to me this week and that he has an even bigger smile than I do.”

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23
Updated 03 June 2023

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23
  • A campaign like no other saw Cristiano Ronaldo move to Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal stall and Al-Ittihad end a 14-year drought

A Roshn Saudi League campaign like no other is in the books.

Jeddah giants Al-Ittihad ended their long wait for top-flight glory, while Al-Batin and Al-Adalah dropped into Yelo League.

A series of other substantial events occurred throughout a remarkable campaign which transformed preconceived notions about the Middle East’s premier club competition.

From Cristiano Ronaldo’s paradigm-shifting, mid-season Al-Nassr switch to Al-Hilal’s historic run at the FIFA Club World Cup and beyond, here are Arab News’ highlights from a memorable 2022-23.

Best player

A new benchmark was set for goalkeeping excellence by Ittihad’s Marcelo Grohe.

The Brazil custodian surged past the previous record of 14 clean sheets in a single Pro League campaign, ending with an official Opta tally of 18 (which would be 19 if he had not been afforded deserved adulation by a late substitution in the season finale vs. Al-Tai).

His 58 saves occurred in a title campaign which saw him beaten only 13 times. Remarkably, it took until match week six for him to concede.

Ittihad’s success was built from the back and Grohe laid firm foundations.

Best coach

Ittihad’s missing ingredient to end a 14-year title wait proved to be Nuno Santo.

Last season’s agonizing near miss under Cosmin Contra left a sense of desolation and desire for change. The club’s turn to their bearded ex-Valencia, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur supremo proved astute.

Defensive rigidity was instilled as Egypt center-back Ahmed Hegazi became his conduit on the pitch, with Ittihad letting in five fewer goals than anyone else. But this did not come at a cost up top, with a second-best tally of 60 goals scored helped by 21-goal top marksman Abderrazak Hamdallah.

March’s astute 2-0 victory vs. Nassr and April’s roller coaster 2-1 win against Al-Shabab — more on that later — proved critical junctures.

Breakthrough moment

Saudi Arabian football changed forever on December 30, 2022.

This was when Ronaldo’s heralded arrival was announced and a proud footballing nation’s limitless sporting ambitions became real.

The ex-Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid forward could not deliver silverware for Nassr, despite notching an impressive 14 times in 16 top-flight outings. That must wait for next season.

But he did deliver vast global attention, booming interest in television rights — 48 channels/platforms now broadcast to 170 countries — and packed stands wherever he performed.

Ronaldo has helped set a course for Roshn Saudi League to enter the “top-five leagues in the world.” Enormous intrigue surrounds which stellar names will join him on this quest.

Breakthrough performer

Saudi Arabia’s lineage of elite strikers, from Majed Abdullah to Nasser Al-Shamrani, appears in safe hands with Firas Al-Buraikan.
The Al-Fateh star — who started World Cup 2022’s group-stage victory vs. eventual-champions Argentina — produced a career-best 17 top-flight goals, two more than he had netted in every other campaign combined since his bow in April 2018. This eye-catching tally was enough to make him the league’s fourth-highest scorer.

Best signing

Al-Khaleej required a source of inspiration — and they found one in Fabio Martins.

Pedro Emanuel’s promoted side were 15th on four points prior to the ex-Shabab loanee’s mid-season procurement on a free transfer after an unfulfilled spell at the UAE’s Al-Wahda.

A trio of rejuvenating victories followed in the Portuguese winger’s opening three matches. Martins ended the campaign on seven goals and three assists from 17 run-outs, with Khaleej finishing safe in 14th.

Signing who failed to spark

It seemed the perfect winter replacement for the irreplaceable David Ospina.

Nassr swiftly reacted to the Colombia goalkeeper’s serious elbow injury by loaning Agustin Rossi. The 27-year-old had amassed more than 100 league run-outs for Boca Juniors, been previously called up by Argentina and performed to such a high standard that a pre-contract had been agreed with 2022 Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo.

Reality, however, would prove distinctly underwhelming. February’s shaky debut in a 2-2 draw at Al-Fateh saw him swiftly displaced by Nawaf Al-Aqidi and he only started again two months later when the Saudi Arabia prospect suffered fitness issues of his own.

Best match

“Epic” barely does justice to April 27’s unforgettable 2-1 victory for Ittihad over Shabab.

This was a contest from which three penalties were scored, one critical spot-kick was missed and an 106th-minute winner cemented long-held title aspirations for the victor, while crushing those of the vanquished.

Hamdallah and Cristian Guanca exchanged efforts from 12 yards in an ultra-competitive top-three clash. Referee Srdjan Jovanovic would again point to the spot in the 89th minute, this time for Al-Shabab.

Conjecture followed when Gabon forward Aaron Boupendza took on penalty duties. His “Panenka” chip floated harmlessly into the arms of a grateful Grohe.

Fast forward a quarter of an hour at an electrified King Abdullah Sports City and Hamdallah lobbed home his own penalty. Cue pandemonium in this game for the ages.

Best goal

Ronaldo’s free-kick abilities remained sharp with a sensational 38-yard strike which sparked March’s rousing comeback victory against Abha.

Valuable points appeared to be draining away after Nassr loanee Abdulfattah Adam’s early opener for the visitors went without reply.

This was until the 78th minute when Ronaldo unleashed a ferocious low effort from distance which swerved past the despairing grasp of Cameroon’s emergent 2022 World Cup No. 1, Devis Epassy.

Outstanding achievement

Stratospherically high standards at Hilal mean the 2022-23 season will always be tinged by disappointment.

But this does not provide full context. The Riyadh heavyweights competed with distinction on all fronts, despite a transfer ban and punishing schedule which would have derailed other clubs.

They became the first Asian outfit to reach a FIFA Club World Cup showpiece final, made the final of their AFC Champions League defense and secured a top-three Roshn Saudi League finish.

The dramatic penalty shootout victory — after Ali Al-Bulaihi’s 99th-minute leveler vs.  Al-Wehda — in the King’s Cup decider will never be forgotten.

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape
Updated 03 June 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape
  • At 38, both sports stars continue to be two of the most relevant athletes on the planet and architects of their own narrative

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James are two sports icons who defy age and dominate their fields. These legendary athletes not only share the remarkable age of 38 but also possess an unwavering commitment to maintaining their peak physical condition.

However, their impact extends far beyond their athletic prowess.

Ronaldo and James have spearheaded revolutions in football and basketball, respectively, transforming the way the games are played and empowering players in unprecedented ways.

Ronaldo — redefining football’s orbit

In 2022, Ronaldo left Old Trafford after an abrasive interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticized his coach and colleagues, resulting in an agreement between Manchester United and the Portuguese superstar to part ways.

Ronaldo then took his talents to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr FC, a move that is revolutionizing the world of football. In 2023, players are now eager to join the Saudi Pro League, inspired by his example.

Less than a year after Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh, Karim Benzema is now rumored to be joining a Saudi club, potentially Al-Hilal or Al-Ittihad. Reports from ESPN speak of a two-year contract worth a staggering €400 million ($429 million), beckoning Benzema to play against his former Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo.

With Paris Saint-Germain confirming Lionel Messi’s departure at the end of the season, persistent reports suggest that the Argentine may be next in line to join the Saudi Pro League.

The thought, once met with disbelief, is now contemplated by fans and experts alike. Ronaldo’s move has made possible a world where the greatest football talents dare to chase new adventures in Saudi Arabia, making the Saudi football league a must-watch.

James — architect of player empowerment in basketball

In 2010, the world of free agency basketball and sports as a whole underwent a monumental change, all because of a few simple words spoken by NBA icon James, who was a free agent at the time.

During “The Decision,” a special broadcast for a national television audience, James uttered a single sentence that would reshape professional basketball: “This fall, I’m taking my talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat.”

The move set James on the path to forming a super team, joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, which resulted in winning two NBA championships.

James’ move birthed a new era of player empowerment, in which athletes dictate their narratives, shape team dynamics, and unleash their full potential. The ripple effects of his groundbreaking choice continue to reverberate across the basketball world. In 2016, we witnessed superstar Kevin Durant join the already championship-winning team, the 73-9 mighty Golden State Warriors, alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Now, in 2023, players are taking matters into their own hands, forming alliances, and reclaiming power from team owners.

Ronaldo and James rewrote the rulebook of sports.

Their audacity, unparalleled skill, and fearless pursuit of destiny have reshaped the sports landscape as we know it. We will continue to see basketball superstars forming super teams in pursuit of winning championships and footballers joining the Saudi football league, met with strong financial deals and formidable competition.

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise
Updated 03 June 2023

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise
  • Future MLB Hall of Famer will partner with Dubai-based organization’s leadership, Karachi Monarch’s to-be-named manager

KARACHI: Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league focused on the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, has announced that league co-owner and future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre will serve as the honorary general manager for its latest franchise, the Karachi Monarchs.

The Karachi franchise, which was introduced earlier this week, is the second franchise announced by Baseball United and the first professional baseball franchise in the history of Pakistan.

The Karachi Monarchs will compete in Baseball United’s Dubai Showcase in November alongside the Mumbai Cobras, the India-based Baseball United franchise announced earlier this month. The two franchises are projected to drive significant interest from the fan bases in each country.

According to the International Cricket Council, last year’s Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan was watched by 230 million viewers worldwide. The last Super Bowl, played in February of 2023, was watched by 115 million viewers.

“I am looking forward to helping expand the awareness and excitement for baseball in Pakistan,” said Beltre, a four-time All-Star and one of only 33 players in Major League Baseball history with 3,000 hits. “Our Karachi franchise is a huge milestone for baseball within this sports-loving country, and we are excited to work with our partners on the ground to continue to grow the game. And when Karachi plays Mumbai later this year in Dubai, it’s going to be a historic moment and an incredible atmosphere. I can’t wait.”

The honorary GM role will include input into player selection, coaching hires and baseball strategy, as well as participation in sponsorship and community events within both the UAE and Pakistan.

Beltre will partner with Baseball United’s executive team and the Monarch’s first manager — who will be announced next week — to help select the team’s initial roster during the league’s inaugural draft. The Baseball United draft is slated for later this year.

“With Adrian, Karachi now has one of the best leaders in baseball to help guide and shape its franchise,” said Kash Shaikh, president, CEO and co-owner of Baseball United. “He’s had a storied career at the highest level, and he’s very passionate about teaching and sharing the game. Pakistan already has a strong foundation of baseball fans and baseball infrastructure, and now with the nation’s first-ever professional baseball franchise, there is even more opportunity for growth. We believe that the Monarchs will soon be one of the most popular teams in the country.”

Baseball United recently announced a partnership with Pakistan Federation Baseball to help grow the game at the grassroots level and extend baseball’s reach within the Pakistani community.