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New NBA rules to combat COVID

UNDATED (AP) — With four games called off this week already and more teams dealing with virus-related issues, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have enacted additional rules in the hope of keeping the season going safely.

Among the new policies: for “at least the next two weeks,” the league and union said Tuesday, players and team staff will have to remain at their residence when in their home markets and will be prohibited from leaving their hotels or having outside guests when on the road.

Tonight’s matchup in Chicago between the Bulls and the Boston Celtics has been postponed because of coronavirus concerns.

In other virus-related developments in the NBA: — The Brooklyn Nets and the NBA are looking into Kyrie Irving’s actions after a video showed the point guard at an indoor family gathering while not wearing a mask. General manager Sean Marks says the team is reviewing the circumstances with both Irving and the league to determine compliance with health and safety protocols. Irving will miss his fourth straight game for what the Nets are calling personal reasons Tuesday night against Denver. He will likely face a quarantine period upon his return and could be fined if the NBA determines he violated the rules in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

— The Washington Wizards say two of their players are going on the NBA’s health and safety protocols list. The announcement Tuesday is the latest in a wave of bad news related to the coronavirus pandemic for the league in recent days. The Wizards canceled their Tuesday practice, saying that decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.” They beat the Phoenix Suns on Monday night, and are scheduled to host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. The Wizards did not identify the two players.


Miami at Philadelphia, short-handed because of COVID

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — After their game on Sunday against the Celtics was postponed because of contract tracing concerns within the Heat, Miami is back in action tonight in Philadelphia against the 76ers.

The Heat could be without eight players — including All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo — for several days because of possible exposure to the coronavirus.

In other action:

— Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets will be out as the Nets host the Denver Nuggets tonight. It’s the fourth straight game he’s missed for personal reasons. Coach Steve Nash said yesterday that he has no updates on Irving’s status.

— The Los Angeles Lakers have won six out of seven as they head into tonight’s matchup against the Rockets in Houston. On Sunday, Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 45 points as the Lakers beat the Rockets 120-102.

— Elsewhere, the Cleveland Cavaliers wrap up a stretch of five games in seven days as they host the Utah Jazz. San Antonio plays in Oklahoma City in the final game of a five-game road trip. And the Indiana Pacers visit the Golden State Warriors.


Tennessee-Vanderbilt game postponed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference has postponed the Tuesday night basketball game between in-state rivals Tennessee — ranked 10th — and Vanderbilt. It’s because of a combination of positive coronavirus tests, contact tracing and quarantining within the Commodores’ program.

The game was a late addition to the schedule because of COVID-19 issues at Missouri, where Vanderbilt had been scheduled to play, and at South Carolina, Tennessee’s originally scheduled opponent.

Vanderbilt is still set to visit Tennessee on Saturday night as originally scheduled.

In other virus-related developments in college basketball:

— The Big 12 announced Tuesday that West Virginia has postponed its next two men’s basketball home games due to COVID-19 concerns. The announcement came a day after the 13th-ranked Mountaineers called off their game Tuesday night at No. 2 Baylor.

— The Nebraska men’s basketball game at Maryland scheduled for Saturday has been postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Cornhuskers’ program. Nebraska announced a pause in its program on Monday because of at least one positive coronavirus test.


Michigan hosts Wisconsin

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — After being idled for a week because of a postponed game against Penn State, seventh-ranked Michigan hosts number-nine Wisconsin tonight. The Wolverines are unbeaten in ten games this season.

In other action:

— Sixth-ranked Kansas, coming off of a hard-earned win over Oklahoma, is at Oklahoma State.

— Two ranked teams meet in Blacksburg, Virginia, where number-20 Virginia Tech hosts 19th-ranked Duke.


Alabama fans ignore precautions for celebration

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Thousands of excited football fans ignored pandemic precautions and partied in streets around the University of Alabama after the Crimson Tide defeated Ohio State for the national championship.

City officials had urged people to watch the game at home and celebrate privately to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. But students and others poured out of jam-packed bars near campus as time expired in Miami.

The massive crowd that resulted was recorded by traffic cameras and images posted on social media. Many of the fans screaming and cheering in the middle of the street didn’t take basic precautions like wearing face masks.


Alabama a unanimous No. 1

UNDATED (AP) — Alabama has finished No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the 11th time after finishing with the program’s first perfect season since 2009.

The Crimson Tide were a unanimous No. 1 in the final poll, getting 61 first-place votes after beating Ohio State 52-24 in the national championship game. The Buckeyes finished second, followed by Clemson at No. 3.


GREEN BAY, Wisc. (AP) — Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is back with the Green Bay Packers. The move gives the 33-year-old veteran an opportunity to compete in playoff games for different teams on back-to-back weekends.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur confirmed Tuesday that Veldheer was with the team and would be practicing later that day. The Packers are preparing to host the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

Veldheer was the Indianapolis Colts’ starting left tackle for their 27-24 AFC first-round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.

Elsewhere in the NFL:

— The Browns’ injury issues aren’t easing. As they wait for Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and top cornerback Denzel Ward to return from COVID-19 and join their playoff run, the team lost their replacements to injuries. Cleveland placed guard Michael Dunn and cornerback Robert Jackson on injured reserve, losing two players who started Sunday’s playoff win at Pittsburgh. Bitonio and Ward remain sidelined with the virus. Dunn injured his calf during the fourth quarter while Jackson suffered a hamstring injury. Bitonio and Ward could be back this week for the Browns game on Sunday against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

— The Buffalo Bills have reached an agreement to sign running back Devonta Freeman to their practice squad. Freeman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed the agreement. Freeman is a seventh-year player who was released by the New York Giants last week. He joins Buffalo after the Bills lost rookie running back Zack Moss to a season-ending ankle injury in a 27-24 wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis last Saturday. Freeman must first undergo the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols before being allowed to practice, making it unlikely he’ll be available for Buffalo’s divisional-round game against the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.

— Injured Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow says he’s confident he’ll be ready to start the 2021 regular-season opener. Burrow, in a Zoom call with reporters, says he can start running on his surgically repaired knee in February as he continues the rigorous rehab. The rookie quarterback suffered tore ligaments in a Nov. 22 loss to Washington and had surgery in early December. He’s up and around now and was back in Cincinnati this week. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and top overall NFL draft pick was among the league’s most prolific passers before going out with the injury in Week 11.

— Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo has announced he will retire. The announcement came three days after Indy lost at Buffalo in the wild-card round and less than two weeks after Castonzo had season-ending ankle surgery. The 32-year-old Castonzo considered retiring last year, but eventually signed a two-year deal to continue playing for the Colts. But he missed four regular-season games and the playoff game this season with rib, knee and ankle injuries.


Colliton agrees to 2-year extension with Blackhawks

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton has agreed to a two-year contract extension on the eve of his third season with the team.

Colliton is 62-58-17 since he replaced Joel Quenneville in November 2018, becoming the 38th coach in franchise history. He guided Chicago into the postseason last year, winning a four-game series against Edmonton before being eliminated by Vegas. Colliton’s extension runs through the 2022-23 season.

The Blackhawks open this season on Colliton’s 36th birthday on Wednesday at Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay.

In other NHL news:

— The Minnesota Wild have signed forward Marcus Foligno to a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension. He’s coming off the best season of his career. The deal takes a potential free agent off the market next summer and keeps Foligno in the fold through 2024. The 29-year-old had 25 points and a plus-8 rating in 2019-20. Despite playing in only 59 games, both totals were career highs. Foligno also led the Wild with 184 hits.

— The Boston Bruins are retiring the jersey of Willie O’Ree, who broke the NHL’s color barrier. O’Ree will have his No. 22 jersey hung in the rafters at TD Garden prior to the Bruins’ Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils. He became the league’s first Black player when he suited up for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens. O’Ree played two seasons for the Bruins, retiring from professional hockey in 1979. He becomes the 12th player in team history to have his number retired. The 85-year-old O’Ree works for the NHL as a diversity ambassador.


Masters plans for a limited number of spectators in April

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Augusta National plans to have cheers, but maybe not roars at the Masters in April.

Club chairman Fred Ridley says the Masters intends to have a limited number of spectators when the Masters is played April 8-11. He says the club still plans to operate the tournament the way it did in November with healthy and safety standards set because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those standards included mandatory COVID-19 testing for everyone on site, along with CDC guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Ridley also says the club plans to run the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt Finals.


‘I just felt alive’: Shiffrin gets 1st slalom win in 1 year

FLACHAU, Austria (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin has won a women’s World Cup night slalom for her first victory in her strongest discipline in more than a year.

Not known for exuberant victory celebrations, Shiffrin let out a loud scream after crossing the finish line, telling reporters later “I just felt alive.”

Shiffrin is the 2014 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion but last triumphed in slalom in December 2019. She was away from the circuit for much of 2020 because of the death of her father and a back injury.

The result marked Shiffrin’s 100th career World Cup podium.

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