Jokic dominant as Nuggets down Lakers, Suns sink Warriors

Jokic dominant as Nuggets down Lakers, Suns sink Warriors
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets fights for a rebound against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of the NBA Opening night game at Ball Arena. (AFP)
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Updated 25 October 2023
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Jokic dominant as Nuggets down Lakers, Suns sink Warriors

Jokic dominant as Nuggets down Lakers, Suns sink Warriors
  • The clash at the Ball Arena was a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals, which Denver swept 4-0 to reach the NBA Finals
  • Devin Booker scored 32 points as the Phoenix Suns pipped the Golden State Warriors 108-104 in a roller coaster scrap in San Francisco

LOS ANGELES: Nikola Jokic delivered a dominant triple-double performance as the Denver Nuggets launched the defense of their NBA championship crown with a season-opening 119-107 victory over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

On a night which saw Nuggets players receive their championship rings as the team raised its first banner in franchise history, Denver tipped off the 2023-2024 season with a display which suggested they will once again be one of the teams to beat.

“I think the whole ceremony gave us a boost,” Jokic said after the win. “We didn’t want anything to ruin our night.

“The first half was amazing for us but then we kind of slowed down... But then at the end of the game we were really good and we won the game.”

The clash at the Ball Arena was a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals, which Denver swept 4-0 to reach the NBA Finals where they emerged victorious against the Miami Heat.

Denver threatened to steamroller the Lakers early on, surging into an 18-point lead at the start of the second quarter as the Lakers struggled to contain two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic and Jamal Murray.

The Lakers, who strengthened their roster during the offseason with the additions of Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent and Christian Wood among others, fought back during the second half to close the gap to just three points at 92-89 in the fourth quarter.

But Denver once again demonstrated their championship pedigree, pulling away whenever the Lakers appeared to be within striking distance to close out an impressive victory.

Jokic believes the Nuggets have what it takes to challenge for back-to-back titles.

“We have the opportunity,” he told the TNT television network. “You never know what the season’s gonna bring. But our offense was good and our defense was good.

“If we play like this tonight, I think we have a chance. Why not?“

Jokic finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists — his 106th career triple — as Denver showcased their formidable offensive power once more.

All five Denver starters finished with double-digit point tallies.

Murray posted 21 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 20, while Aaron Gordon knocked down 15 and Michael Porter Jr. 12.

The Lakers’ scoring was led by James, who finished with 21 points, while new recruit Prince added 18, including four three-pointers.

Anthony Davis finished with 17 points but faded badly in the second half. All of Davis’s 17 points came in the first half.

Austin Reaves (14) and D’Angelo Russell (11) also got into double figures for the Lakers.

In Tuesday’s other season-opener, Devin Booker scored 32 points as the Phoenix Suns pipped the Golden State Warriors 108-104 in a roller coaster scrap in San Francisco.

A wild second half saw the Warriors overturn a 15-point deficit after outscoring Phoenix 40-19 in the third quarter, before the Suns rallied in the fourth quarter to complete a memorable victory.

Booker was backed by 18 points from former Golden State star Kevin Durant, while Josh Okogie added 17 and Jusuf Nurkic 14.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors scoring with 27 points while former Phoenix guard Chris Paul added 14 points in his first regular season game for Golden State.

“We understood after a good first half that they weren’t giving in,” Booker said.

“They were champs two years ago, and they’re a really good team – a really good third-quarter team. They came out in the second half and gave us another punch but we kept playing through it.”


Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals

Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals
Updated 6 sec ago
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Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals

Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals
DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev raced to victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday to reach the Dubai semifinals and continue his excellent start to the year.
The world number four wasted little time in wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3 win and will face either Hubert Hurkacz or Ugo Humbert in the last four.
The Russian is playing in just his second tournament of the season after reaching the Australian Open final, where he suffered an agonizing defeat by Jannik Sinner after leading by two sets.
Reigning champion Medvedev is bidding to defend an ATP title for the first time, having won 20 trophies at Tour-level events in his career but all at different tournaments.
Medvedev eased through the opening set with breaks in the sixth and eighth games.
He powered into a 4-0 lead in the second and sealed victory on his first match point, despite a brief rally from Davidovich Fokina, who has now lost all four of his meetings with Medvedev.
Alexander Bublik and Andrey Rublev will meet in the other semifinal after both were beneficiaries of retirements in their last-eight matches.
Kazakhstan’s Bublik led 6-4, 4-1 when his opponent Jiri Lehecka quit their tie with injury.
Second seed Rublev was 6-4, 4-3 ahead when American Sebastian Korda left the court in the second quarter-final.
The win ended a run of three successive quarter-final exits for world number five Rublev.

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm
Updated 12 min 13 sec ago
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Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm
  • Half marathon hosted by Saudi Sports for All Federation, Historic Jeddah Program
  • Runners of all ages, abilities will pass famous landmarks over 4 routes

JEDDAH: Runners in Jeddah will take in the city’s charming sights on March 3 during a half marathon hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation and Historic Jeddah Program.
The event will include four routes for male and female runners of all ages and fitness levels.
The Historic Jeddah Program was launched by the Saudi Ministry of Culture to elevate the Red Sea port city as a key center of heritage within the Kingdom.
Bab Jadid, known as Jeddah Old Gate, will serve as the start and finish line for all race routes.
Adults can take part in the half marathon distance of 21 km, while the 10 km race is open to runners aged 12 and above.
Meanwhile, the two other races of 4 km and 1 km are open to runners of all ages and fitness levels, including those with special needs or disabilities.
The event will feature a range of activities within the race village, which is welcoming visitors starting Thursday.
Musical and cultural shows will be held, alongside a range of traditional food offerings for visitors.
The race routes pass by charming streets and famous historical landmarks, including Naseef House, the Al-Matbouli Museum, Al-Jafali Mosque, King Fahd Fountain and the Jeddah Corniche.


Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

Racism in sport: a local or global issue?
Updated 29 February 2024
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Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

Racism in sport: a local or global issue?
  • Cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s upcoming book detailing his troubling experiences in the English game will provide lessons for some — and pose difficult questions for others

On Feb. 23, I participated in the inaugural gathering of the Cricket Research Network. This has been initiated by a group of British academics whose research specializations focus on cricket. Their focus is to bring together researchers, writers on cricket, journalists and others with an interest in the game. Their purpose is to provide a forum for disseminating research results to a wider audience than achieved currently on a fragmented basis. It is hoped that a more coordinated approach may lead to a greater voice and input into decision making by the game’s policymakers.

Although there were several papers on issues in other countries, the focus at this stage is on cricket in England and Wales. In that sense, it was fitting that the venue for the conference was Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, the home of the only non-English county cricket club, one fiercely proud of its heritage. This was well exemplified by the displays on view in the Museum where the sessions were held. Proceedings were well-mannered, the only hints of discord arising in relation to two of English and Welsh most emotional topics — The Hundred and structural racism in the game.

The latter had been given an adrenaline shot three days before the conference took place. This was in the form of a hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, which was continuing the work it began in 2021. At its first hearing, on Nov. 16, 2021, Azeem Rafiq testified about his experiences at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Earlier, in March 2021, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced the setting up of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket to look at issues of diversity, inclusion and equity in cricket, at all levels and in all roles. Terms of reference were established in July 2021, followed by an online call for evidence in November 2021 that generated about 4,200 responses. A call for written evidence in March 2022 resulted in 150 responses. The findings, based on the evidence and underpinning research, were published in June 2023.

No punches were pulled by the commission, which concluded that “structural and institutional racism” exists within the game, women are treated as “subordinate” to men at all levels of the sport, Black cricket has been failed, and there is a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination.” It was left to the ECB, under new leadership, to formulate how it would respond and draw up measures to address the ICEC’s recommendations.

A major part of the select committee hearing last week, also under new leadership, was to explore how much progress has been made since June 2023. In the first part of the hearing, three ICEC commissioners reported that the ECB had accepted all of their findings, most of their recommendations, along with displaying a commitment to tackle the issues. However, several press headlines focussed on the disappointment that the ICEC chair expressed about Lord Botham’s disparaging response to the report, given that he chairs a county cricket club.

In the second part of the hearing, the ECB’s chair revealed that he had spoken privately to Lord Botham to say that he did not agree with his views. It may safely be assumed that they would not be welcomed by the ECB’s leadership. They are faced with a herculean task to implement the ICEC’s recommendations. Failure to do so will pose questions about the board’s fitness for purpose and caliber of personnel. Finance is also an issue. In the last cycle up to 2024, sale of media rights accounted for 75 percent of the ECB’s income, about $260 million. In his testimony to the select committee, ECB’s chair said that in the new cycle to 2028, media rights have been sold that equate to around 90 percent of income.

This is a highly vulnerable, seemingly unavoidable, position. The need to attract additional funding into the game, partly in order to finance the ICEC’s recommendations, is encapsulated in the conundrum of The Hundred. It is now highly probable that private investment will be allowed into the competition using a model that is still to be finalized. Into this equation steps the returning Chair of YCCC, Colin Graves. He accepted an invitation to appear in front of the select committee for the third part of its hearing, alongside YCCC’s retiring chair. Cricket’s ability to polarize views seems to know no bounds, and Graves is a potent example. Even the committee chair remarked that he is “a gentleman who divides opinions.”

This potential was aptly demonstrated in response to a question asking why he had not picked up the phone to apologize to Rafiq. Graves’ response was that he “did not feel that was appropriate at the time.” Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, before becoming ECB chair between 2015 and 2020. It has always been difficult to understand why, during those years, he claims to have been unaware that racism might exist in cricket. He says that he “read about the complaints in the papers, just like everyone else.”

This has been and still is a sordid affair, which is not yet over. My sense, from listening and taking to people in the game, is that English and Welsh cricket is tired of the matter. They feel that the issue is being addressed, so leave us alone. Rafiq is branded as a controversial character. He is now exiled from the UK. Graves has returned to be in charge of YCCC. Where, one might ask, is the equity in this? Money, power and control appear to rule the roost.

In late April a book is due to be published under Rafiq’s name, chronicling his unsavory journey. It is likely to have lessons for others. One such lesson is that someone who has the bravery to stand up for their cause may, not for the first time, be downed by those with vested interest. It is for this reason, alone, that racism in sport is a global matter.


PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
Updated 29 February 2024
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PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
  • “If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said
  • “I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically”

POISSY, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique on Thursday promised that the French giants will have a stronger team next season despite the impending departure of Kylian Mbappe when the superstar forward’s contract expires.
“If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said after refusing to name specific targets when asked if AC Milan forward Rafael Leao was on the club’s shopping list.
“I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically,” added the former Barcelona and Spain coach.
His comments came after he took Mbappe off with PSG trailing in last week’s 1-1 draw against Rennes.
Luis Enrique later said the Ligue 1 leaders needed to become accustomed to life without Mbappe, who recently informed PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the current campaign.
“Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian,” he said after that game.
PSG are 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before going to Mbappe’s former club Monaco on Friday, when they will be without captain Marquinhos due to a calf injury.
They then travel to Spain to face Real Sociedad in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next Tuesday, defending a 2-0 lead from the first meeting.
“Obviously we are entering into a difficult period. The players really want to win things and this is the key point in the season, the best time,” Luis Enrique said.
“It is all or nothing, and that is a nice feeling.”


‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS
Updated 54 min 24 sec ago
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‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS
  • “I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said
  • “As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport"

ROME: Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba’s career hung in the balance on Thursday after he was handed a four-year doping ban but the France international said he would try to clear his name by appealing the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Pogba was provisionally suspended by a tribunal of Italy’s national anti-doping organization (NADO Italia) in September after testing positive for testosterone — a banned substance and hormone that increases athletes’ endurance.
Juventus did not comment on the ban, but a source confirmed the club was notified about the decision and would assess the next steps.
The 30-year-old Pogba, who has a contract at Juve until June 2026, said he had been informed of the decision but denied any wrongdoing and believed the verdict to be incorrect.
“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said in a statement.
“As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against.
“As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he added, referring to sport’s highest court.
Italy’s national anti-doping organization (NADO Italia) declined to comment on Pogba’s case citing privacy rules.
The doping test, performed after Juve’s 3-0 Serie A season-opening victory at Udinese on Aug. 20, detected testosterone, with the tribunal saying the results were consistent with an ‘exogenous’ (external) origin of the substance.
Pogba was an unused substitute in that game but he later made two appearances off the bench against Bologna and Empoli before he was handed a provisional suspension.
Pogba’s positive doping test was also confirmed in a counter-analysis on a second sample in October.
The ban could effectively end Pogba’s career at the highest level.
The Frenchman was among the sport’s highest-earning players at his peak after he completed a then-world record transfer of over 100 million euros ($108.42 million) in 2016 to Premier League giants Manchester United.

MINIMUM WAGE
According to a source, Juve are currently paying Pogba a minimum wage of 2,000 euros ($2,169.80) per month.
If the ban is upheld by CAS, Pogba’s contract could be terminated while he will not be able to return to action until September 2027 — when he will be 34.
“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations,” Pogba added.
Pogba has had a torrid second spell with Juve due to injuries since he returned to the Turin-based club following his departure from United on a free transfer in 2022.
The 2018 World Cup winner barely featured last season due to knee and hamstring injuries as well as knee surgery, which prevented him playing for France at the World Cup in Qatar.