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    Jason Kidd: Giannis Antetokounmpo Called Before Firing Trying to Save My Job

    Jason Kidd: Giannis Antetokounmpo Called Before Firing Trying to Save My Job


    The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd on Monday, but it reportedly was star player Giannis Antetokounmpo who told him and offered to try to save his job, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.  Shelburne provided a breakdown of the conversation Kidd...

    The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd on Monday, but it reportedly was star player Giannis Antetokounmpo who told him and offered to try to save his job, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. 

    Shelburne provided a breakdown of the conversation Kidd and Antetokounmpo had before the official firing:

    Chris Haynes of ESPN.com noted earlier in the day that reports of Kidd's firing came before the coach was officially told, and Haynes added that the small forward was "devastated" by the news.

    Bucks general manager Jon Horst explained that the team needed "a fresh approach and a change in leadership," in the team's official release.

    With a 23-22 record entering Monday, good for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the team was obviously disappointed considering its high expectations coming into the year. On the other hand, Kidd has apparently been a key part of Antetokounmpo's development since the start of his career.

    In the three-plus seasons under Kidd's tutelage, the 23-year-old has grown from a raw talent averaging 12.7 points per game to a legitimate MVP candidate averaging 28.2 ppg this season. He was selected to his second straight All-Star game, earning the most votes from both players and media among Eastern Conference frontcourt players.

    However, the relationship reportedly hasn't been quite as good with every player. According to Ryen Russillo of ESPN, Kidd and Jabari Parker currently aren't speaking.

    In any case, Antetokounmpo will now try to continue his development under interim coach Joe Prunty and whomever the team hires as a permanent coach. Considering he is under contract to stay in Milwaukee through the 2020-21 season, he won't have too many other options.

    Austin Jackson, Giants Agree to 2-Year Contract After 1 Season with Indians


    After a terrific bounce-back season in 2017, outfielder Austin Jackson will look to build off that momentum next season with the San Francisco Giants. The team announced the news on Monday. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported the two sides agreed to a...

    After a terrific bounce-back season in 2017, outfielder Austin Jackson will look to build off that momentum next season with the San Francisco Giants. The team announced the news on Monday.

    FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported the two sides agreed to a two-year deal worth $6 million. According to Heyman, Jackson can earn another $2.5 million based on achieving certain incentives.

    Jackson is the second outfielder the Giants have added this offseason after acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Jackson began last season by signing a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians in January. The 30-year-old struggled his way to a .254/.318/.343 slash line in just 54 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2016.

    After making Cleveland's 25-man roster out of spring training, Jackson became an invaluable member of manager Terry Francona's lineup. He set career highs in batting average (.318), on-base percentage (.387) and slugging percentage (.482).

    Francona acknowledged Jackson's importance in Cleveland's lineup after All-Star Michael Brantley injured his ankle in early August.

    "Austin has really, really picked us up a number of times," Francona said, via Cleveland.com's Zack Meisel. "You lose a Brantley, that's not good. And certainly, long-term, it's not. But when you look up at what A.J. has done, he's been so good. So, he's taken some of the sting away."

    Jackson is a player who has to be carefully managed to maximize his performance. He only appeared in 85 games for the Indians last season due to two stints on the disabled list.

    His best asset is his hitting ability versus left-handed pitching, whom he posted a 1.013 OPS in 2017. The Giants will have to closely watch Jackson to make sure he's not overextending himself physically. He hasn't played more than 120 games in a season since 2015.

    When Jackson is healthy and on the field, he's a versatile outfielder who can play all three positions and has a potent bat to hit anywhere in the order to give the Giants a deeper lineup that will score a lot of runs.

    NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy Donated Brain to CTE Research


    The brain of NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was donated to the Boston University School of Medicine Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at the behest of his family, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.  According to...

    The brain of NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy was donated to the Boston University School of Medicine Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center at the behest of his family, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. 

    According to his autopsy, Kennedy died of natural causes on May 23. He suffered "congestive heart failure due to hypertensive heart disease, with organizing pneumonia and diabetes mellitus as contributing factors."

    Boston University's CTE center is at the forefront of the research being done into the degenerative brain disease, with the program's director, neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, releasing a study in July 2017 finding that the brains of 110 NFL players out of 111 examined upon their death had CTE.

    The disease currently cannot be identified in living subjects, leading many athletes—especially those in contact sports—to agree to donate their brains to CTE research upon their death.

    The autopsy report also stated that the request to send the brain to the Boston CTE center "was not made by the medical examiner for a determination of cause of death but that if any evidence of CTE is found that the cause of death can be amended."

    On May 10, Kennedy was admitted to Orlando Regional Medical Center after suffering dyspnea, swelling in his legs and a persistent cough and that, at the time of his death, he had fluid in his lungs and "a markedly enlarged heart," according to Condotta.

    Kennedy spent his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks (1990-00), accumulating 58 sacks. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time first-team All-Pro and the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 1992. 

    "Cortez will be remembered not only for all his great achievements on the football field but how he handled himself off the field," Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said, per SeattlePI.com. "He epitomized the many great values this game teaches which serves as inspiration to millions of fans."

    Can the Milwaukee Bucks Be Saved This Season After Firing Jason Kidd?

    Can the Milwaukee Bucks Be Saved This Season After Firing Jason Kidd?


    Clinging to eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a roster ostensibly worthy of so much more, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking toward a coaching change to save their season. As ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, the team has relieved...

    Clinging to eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a roster ostensibly worthy of so much more, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking toward a coaching change to save their season.

    As ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, the team has relieved Jason Kidd of his duties, both due to its precarious place in the standings and "frayed relationships in [the] organization and general non-alignment."

    This marks the Bucks' second significant leverage play of the year. They acquired Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns in November, a move that signaled a particular view of themselves: They have Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Cleveland Cavaliers look vulnerable, verging on hopeless. Neither of the East's current top-two seeds, the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, incite a sense of futility into those beneath them. 

    The Bucks, by making this change, are reinforcing the belief that not only can they win now, but they also should be winning now.

    In the most fundamental sense, Kidd went from guiding the NBA's most promising upstart to becoming the scapegoat for one of its foremost underachievers. But does his absence, on its own, do enough to override their wrongs? And if it does, do the Bucks, with more than half the year gone, have time to incorporate and enjoy the effects of his departure?

    The answers aren't so cut and dried. Nor can we say for sure whether the front office is even hoping for an immediate reversal.

    For as much as Kidd's dismissal is about Milwaukee's 23-22 record, it seems heavily rooted in workplace politics, as Yahoo Sports' Chris Mannix pointed out:

    And then we have this from general manager Jon Horst:

    That the Bucks aren't swiftly scouring the market for Kidd's replacement is equally telltale. Assistant coach Joe Prunty will take the reins in the interim, per Woj, and ESPN.com's Zach Lowe hinted, even if inadvertently, at a summer search:

    Waiting to find and name a permanent successor isn't necessarily the wrong decision, but it says a lot about the Bucks' intent. They're not instantly hoping to be the next iteration of the Golden State Warriors, who didn't transform into what they are now until subbing out Mark Jackson for head coach Steve Kerr. 

    They're banking on a deviation from the norm—any one at all—improving their state of affairs.

    And, in what is no doubt an indictment of the job Kidd has done, this approach has merit.

    So many of the Bucks' material warts can be treated, perhaps remedied, with an extra dab of common sense. Kidd remained married to a hyper-aggressive defense scheme that, save for a brief spell in 2014-15, hasn't yielded results warranting continuity. 

    The Bucks are dead last in frequency of shot attempts given up at the rim and 28th in corner three-point defense, according to Cleaning The Glass. They're sixth in opponent turnover rate, so their "We have extra-long limbs" approach did its job to some extent, but they're 28th in points allowed per fast-break possession and 25th in defensive efficiency overall.

    And still, Kidd, with the exception of warding off a few more corner treys, never fudged together a noticeably different strategy. 

    He was neither more flexible nor inventive on the offensive end either. Yes, the Bucks are eighth in points scored per 100 possessions, just ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards. But their success is tied more to individual talent than anything. 

    They don't shoot nearly enough threes, and their volume in transition doesn't always translate to substance. They're third in fast-break frequency but a so-so 13th in points per 100 of those plays, per Cleaning The Glass.

    Again: How much of this gets solved by removing Kidd from the picture is up for debate. The Bucks should, at the bare minimum, have more wiggle room under Prunty. 

    Kidd's stubbornness so often felt like it came from a sense of superiority or overthinking—or both. He always tried to outsmart everyone, right down to his trying to prevent last-second four-point plays via missed free throws.

    Still, penciling the Bucks in for an uptick now dramatizes what they have to work with.

    Antetokounmpo is a top-five player. Bledsoe is a top-15 player at his position. Khris Middleton is a top-10 small forward. And the Bucks have some nice supporting pieces in reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. But they're not built to make a dent in the championship discussion. Not really.

    Ditching Kidd doesn't give them the size or brawn to be more than a bottom-five rebounding team. It doesn't make their bench—which ranks 29th in point differential per 100 possessions—any deeper. It won't help Jabari Parker return any sooner or simplify his fit in the rotation. His absence won't make DeAndre Jordan or another star trade-deadline acquisition any more accessible.

    The Bucks, make no mistake, shouldn't be fending off a lottery berth. Some of their most-used lineup combinations are statistical fireballs, and they're 16-11, to go with a top-five net rating, in games when they are ahead or behind by five points or fewer at any point in the final five minutes.  

    They should be a solid, surefire playoff team.

    If Kidd is gone because they aren't, and because they want more from their coach as they develop Thon Maker, D.J. Wilson, Brogdon, Parker and even Antetokounmpo, then the Bucks were well within reason to make this call.

    But if he's been sent packing because they're not something they aren't yet built to be, or for any reason not predominantly tied to the bigger picture, they're in for a rude awakening.

         

    Unless otherwise cited, stats courtesy of NBA.com or Basketball Reference and accurate leading into games on Jan. 22.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

    Liverpool Transfer News: Alisson's Agent Plays Down Exit Rumours

    Liverpool Transfer News: Alisson's Agent Plays Down Exit Rumours


    The agent of AS Roma goalkeeper Alisson has played down rumours the Brazilian could be on his way to Liverpool in the near future, telling reporters he's happy in Rome and no offers have arrived. Speculation has been mounting for some time and has mainly...

    The agent of AS Roma goalkeeper Alisson has played down rumours the Brazilian could be on his way to Liverpool in the near future, telling reporters he's happy in Rome and no offers have arrived.

    Speculation has been mounting for some time and has mainly involved the Reds, who are still looking for a top starter after some shaky performances from both Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius.

    While there have been plenty of reports a deal could be made and confidence Roma will sell appears to be high among fans, Alisson's agent Ze Maria Neis made it clear a transfer is not currently on his mind.

    Speaking to reporters after the 1-1 draw against Inter Milan, per ForzaRoma.info (via Calciomercato.com's Jordan Russell), he said:

    ''The match against Inter was great. Alisson played fantastically well. Joining a top club? It’s too early to say. When a player stands out on the pitch thanks to great performances, there is always a lot of talk. Personally speaking, no club has been in contact yet and he is 100% focused on doing well with Roma. He is happy to be in Rome, and the club is happy with him.''

    The same article also mentioned Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid as possible suitors.

    Alisson's awesome showing against Inter didn't go unnoticed on social media, as the 25-year-old put together an excellent performance in the 1-1 draw. He nearly won his team the match with several spectacular saves and also provided the assist for Stephan El Shaarawy's goal.

    Here are some of his highlights, via Breaking The Lines:

    The Liverpool Echo wondered whether his price tag went up with the great showing:

    Roma sit well behind Napoli and Juventus in the current Serie A campaign and will likely shift their gaze toward UEFA Champions League qualification after the January window closes. Even that could prove tricky, as they're winless in their last four matches in the league.

    Their shaky form has led to some belief the club could cash in on some players and start looking at the future, and the duo of Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri are both said to be close to a move to Chelsea, per Simon Jones of MailOnline.

    Alisson only completed his move to the Italian capital from Internacional in 2016, however, and it would be a shock to see the Giallorossi move him elsewhere so soon. There's no real replacement in the squad besides Lukasz Skorupski, who lacks the raw talent of his team-mate but has flashed some potential.

    A summer move seems more likely, giving Roma the opportunity to push for a strong finish and do their homework on a replacement. Italy is bursting with young talent at the goalkeeper position―the likes of Mattia Perin and Alex Meret will likely move at the end of the season―and club director Monchi is renowned for his ability to find hidden talent.

    Report: Former Olympics Coach John Geddert Suspended by USA Gymnastics


    USA Gymnastics has suspended John Geddert as a result of his ties to Larry Nassar, who stands accused of sexually assaulting over 150 girls and women during his time as a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, according to John Barr of...

    USA Gymnastics has suspended John Geddert as a result of his ties to Larry Nassar, who stands accused of sexually assaulting over 150 girls and women during his time as a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, according to John Barr of ESPN. 

    Geddert served as the coach of the Team USA women's gymnastics team that won gold in 2012. He also ran two different gyms that employed Nassar.

    According to a story by Barr and Dan Murphy for ESPN's Outside the Lines, Geddert and Nassar "have been all but inseparable, professionally and socially" for the past 25 years:

    "They worked together for more than 25 years, first at Great Lakes Gymnastics and, starting in 1996, at the gym Geddert owns now, Twistars USA Gymnastics Club near East Lansing. They worked the 2012 Olympics together. Geddert was in Nassar's wedding party when Nassar got married in East Lansing in 1996. They attended each other's house parties and traveled the country and, later, the world together at competitions. They vouched for each other when faced with career-threatening circumstances."

    "John and Larry were like this perfect storm," Priscilla Kintigh, a former office manager at Twistars and gymnast under Geddert, told Barr and Murphy. "You become so unapproachable that your own gymnasts don't feel comfortable telling you what's going on. There's no way any of the girls would have felt comfortable saying anything to John [about Larry]. Kids were terrified of him."

    Per that same report, a number of Geddert's gymnasts, their parents and various coaches said that his "coaching style was largely based on fear and intimidation."

    And Amanda Smith, a former gymnast who gave a victim impact statement during Nassar's sentencing hearing, told Barr that Geddert would "regularly shove and berate girls in the gym, punishing them for failures in courage by forcing them to do hours of physical conditioning."

    He was also accused of assault and battery by two separate gymnasts at Twistars, though he was never charged by the authorities in either alleged incident. 

    One woman also alleged that Geddert walked into the training room while Nassar was molesting her. 

    "All I remember is him [Nassar] doing the treatment on me with his fingers in my vagina, massaging my back with a towel over my butt, and John walking in and making a joke that I guess my back really did hurt," she said in her testimony, per Barr and Murphy

    Geddert's suspension comes amid a number of the USAG's board members resigning, including chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley. 

    A number of former gymnasts have accused USA Gymnastics of institutional failure for its inability to protect their athletes from Nassar and its attempt to protect its image at all costs.

    "You know, their biggest priority from the beginning and still today is their reputation—the medals they win and the money they make off of us," Aly Raisman told ESPN's Bob Ley (h/t Julia Jacobo of ABC News). "I don't think that they care."

    Report: Amazon, Facebook Interested in Bidding for WWE Raw, SmackDown Rights


    WWE may move Raw and SmackDown to another television network when the company's contract with USA Network and NBCUniversal expires in 2019, Variety's Kristopher Tapley reported Monday.  According to Tapley, Fox is among the companies considering making...

    WWE may move Raw and SmackDown to another television network when the company's contract with USA Network and NBCUniversal expires in 2019, Variety's Kristopher Tapley reported Monday. 

    According to Tapley, Fox is among the companies considering making a bid for Raw and SmackDown's television rights, while Amazon and Facebook are showing interest as well.

    In a statement to Tapley, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon praised the company's current deal with NBCUniversal but stopped short of committing to staying there in the future.

    "We are incredibly happy with our partnership with USA," McMahon said. "In terms of what the future might hold, I guess we'll see, but we've been very, very happy and I hope NBC is happy as well."

    Raw, in particular, has become a staple on USA for fans in the United States. WWE's flagship show has called the network home for the bulk of its 25-year run. SmackDown, on the other hand, only moved to USA Network in July 2016.

    Regardless of what WWE ultimately decides, the impending expiration of its contract with NBCUniversal seemingly provides a chance to alter its current programming format.

    The most obvious change would be cutting Raw back to two hours, since the addition of a third hour in July 2012 has largely come to the show's detriment. WWE could also move NXT to terrestrial television, though it's one of the bigger selling points for the WWE Network.

    Joining up with Amazon or Facebook could lead to more experiments such as the Mixed Match Challenge, which kicked off on Facebook Watch last Tuesday.

    Should WWE maintain the status quo with Raw and SmackDown when it signs its next television contract, it could be a major missed opportunity.

    La Liga Results 2018: Full Table and Scores After Final Week 20 Match

    La Liga Results 2018: Full Table and Scores After Final Week 20 Match


    Eibar stayed sat at eighth in La Liga on Monday after they were forced to come back from a goal down against Malaga, who finished the Week 20 matchup with only 10 men. Malaga took the lead through Youssef En-Nesyri after 16 minutes but conceded a...

    Eibar stayed sat at eighth in La Liga on Monday after they were forced to come back from a goal down against Malaga, who finished the Week 20 matchup with only 10 men.

    Malaga took the lead through Youssef En-Nesyri after 16 minutes but conceded a second-half equaliser to Eibar striker Kike Garcia, who showed predatory instinct to tap in and avoid what could have been an embarrassing defeat.

    Barcelona remain out in front of La Liga's biggest competition and strutted their stuff with a convincing 5-0 win at Real Betis on Sunday, while Girona clinched an impressive 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid the day previous.

    Real Madrid's 7-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday pushed them back into fourth place, but leaders Barca remain 19 points ahead of them and 11 points in front of their closest competition, Atletico Madrid.

    Read on for a recap of Monday's sole La Liga fixture and how it impacts the top-flight standings.

               

    La Liga Standings (Goal Difference)

    1. Barcelona 54 (48)

    2. Atletico Madrid 43 (20)

    3. Valencia 40 (20)

    4. Real Madrid 35 (21)

    5. Villarreal 34 (6)

    6. Sevilla 32 (-2)

    7. Celta Vigo 28 (7)

    8. Eibar 28 (-7)

    9. Getafe 27 (+5)

    10. Girona 27 (0)

    11. Real Betis 27 (-8)

    12. Athletic Bilbao 26 (1)

    13. Leganes 25 (-2)

    14. Espanyol 24 (-9)

    15. Real Sociedad 23 (-2)

    16. Alaves 19 (-13)

    17. Levante 18 (-12)

    18. Deportivo La Coruna 16 (-22)

    19. Las Palmas 14 (-31)

    20. Malaga 12 (-20)

    Visit the Sky Sports website for a breakdown of La Liga's standings in full.

                  

    Recap

    Five defeats from their last six outings and a record of one away win from 10 league matches played on the road this season pointed to a difficult task for Malaga in their trip to face Eibar on Monday.

    The Gunsmiths lost 1-0 at home to Atletico Madrid in their previous home outing and had not recorded back-to-back defeats at Ipurua Municipal Stadium this term, meaning a bounce-back response was sorely desired.

    The host outfit didn't get the start they were looking for, though, when right-back Capa's attempted pass to another defender was picked out by En-Nesyri, who seared down on Eibar's goal almost unopposed.

    Malaga's attacker managed to keep his calm and showed a level head to dink past Marko Dmitrovic in the Eibar net, with En-Nesyri finding his groove in scoring against this particular opponent:

    Eibar responded to the opener by tightening their grip on possession, but the lack of that necessary edge in the final third left the hosts wanting in their battle to equalise.

    Bebe came on to change that with a little more than 15 minutes remaining, however, and the former Manchester United attacker crossed in low for Kike to nip in at the front post and touch home the leveller.

    Zdravko Kuzmanovic added more substitute spice to the affair and, just seven minutes after coming on, picked up two cautions in the space of several minutes to earn himself a suspension.

    Eibar paid the price for Capa's error but ended up dominating almost 75 percent of possession and outshot their opponents, per WhoScored.com, with a sharing of the spoils likely a fair result for both teams.

    Pat Shurmur Named Giants HC After Vikings' NFC Title Game Loss vs. Eagles


    The New York Giants announced Monday that they hired Pat Shurmur to be their head coach. "I want to thank John Mara and Steve Tisch for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach of the New York Giants," Shurmur said in the announcement. "I am...

    The New York Giants announced Monday that they hired Pat Shurmur to be their head coach.

    "I want to thank John Mara and Steve Tisch for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach of the New York Giants," Shurmur said in the announcement. "I am looking forward to getting to work with Dave Gettleman and Kevin Abrams and starting the process to once again build a championship team.

    "I have been fortunate to work with many great coaches and players, and I am thankful for those relationships. I would like to thank my family and friends for their tremendous support."

    Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Shurmur signed a five-year contract with the Giants.

    Shurmur, 52, has spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. He started his NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles as a tight end, offensive line and eventually quarterbacks coach (1999-08) before spending two seasons with the St. Louis Rams as an offensive coordinator. 

    He was then hired by the Cleveland Browns to be their head coach in the 2011 season, though he lasted just two years, going 9-23 in that time.

    He then returned to Philadelphia, serving as the offensive coordinator for three years under Chip Kelly before joining the Vikings before the 2016 campaign. 

    Under Shurmur, the Vikings finished 10th in points per game (23.8) and 11th in yards per contest (356.9) in 2017 on the way to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Eagles. His offenses in Philadelphia also finished in the top five in both yards and points per game in 2013 and '14.

    Perhaps most notably, however, was the fact career journeyman Case Keenum thrived under Shurmur's tutelage, as he threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. In Keenum's 15 regular-season appearances, the Vikings went 12-3.

    Nick Foles, it should be noted, also had his best season with Shurmur as an offensive coordinator, throwing for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes for Philly in 2013.

    The 2017 season couldn't have gone more disastrously for the Giants, though the talent that led the team to a 2016 postseason berth is still in place. The question of the offseason in New York, however, will be who starts the 2018 season at quarterback?

    Will the Giants roll with Eli Manning or use the No. 2 overall pick on a rookie quarterback and hand him the reins immediately? The team could also use Manning to groom a young player at the position for a year, and how they handle the situation will define Shurmur's first season on the job.

    So, too, will be hiring a defensive coordinator to rebuild a disappointing and dysfunctional unit from 2017. Shurmur has his work cut out for him, but with players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins in place, the Giants have plenty of upside.

    Enzo Amore Suspended by WWE for Sexual Assault Allegations; Police Investigating


    WWE announced they have suspended Enzo Amore as the result of sexual assault allegations leveled against the cruiserweight champion. The promotion provided a brief statement: "WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving sexual harassment or sexual...

    WWE announced they have suspended Enzo Amore as the result of sexual assault allegations leveled against the cruiserweight champion.

    The promotion provided a brief statement: "WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving sexual harassment or sexual assault. Until this matter is resolved, Eric Arndt (aka Enzo Amore) has been suspended."

    Pro Wrestling Sheet's Ryan Satin first reported the news. Authorities in Phoenix are investigating the allegations.

    According to Satin, the alleged assault occurred in the early hours of Oct. 19, 2017. Amore posted a photo on Instagram Oct. 18 that was geotagged in Phoenix, and he was at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix on Oct. 19, based on another Instagram photo.

    Amore last wrestled on the Jan. 8 edition of Raw, losing in a count-out to Cedric Alexander. He had been scheduled to put the cruiserweight title on the line against Alexander at the Royal Rumble on Sunday.

    Liverpool Transfer News: Daniel Sturridge Reportedly Uninterested in Italy Move

    Liverpool Transfer News: Daniel Sturridge Reportedly Uninterested in Italy Move


    Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is reportedly uninterested in a move to Italian clubs Inter Milan or AS Roma and is said to have his heart set on a move to Spanish club Sevilla if he does leave Anfield this month. Italian website Tuttomercatoweb...

    Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is reportedly uninterested in a move to Italian clubs Inter Milan or AS Roma and is said to have his heart set on a move to Spanish club Sevilla if he does leave Anfield this month.

    Italian website Tuttomercatoweb reported Sturridge doesn't wish to move to Serie A despite speculation closely linking both Inter and Roma with a move for the England international (h/t Sport Witness).

    The Nerazzurri were said to be in discussions regarding a loan move for Sturridge, costing €2 million (£1.75 million) up front with a potential €25 million (£21.9 million) purchase fee at the end of this season.

    Sturridge's prominence on Merseyside has deteriorated as injuries have taken their toll on his progress with the club, and football writer Andrew Beasley evidenced the forward's falling production rate:

    The Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is "the only place" Sturridge would like to move, although Reds manager Jurgen Klopp is happy to keep the player, with Liverpool still involved in three competitions.

    There is a major stumbling block to the deal, however, in that Sevilla are yet to show any indication toward pursuing a deal, said Spanish football expert Guillem Balague:

    The Mirror's David Maddock reported Sturridge has already informed Liverpool's hierarchy he wants to leave the club, and the Reds are set on acquiring a £25 million figure if they do cash in.

    Balague provided further details on the Englishman's current predicament, with Roberto Firmino and now seemingly Dominic Solanke sat ahead of him in Klopp's striker pecking order:

    Sturridge has proved to be a frontman of incredible quality when fit for any significant stretch of time, but the forward—who has missed 12 games through injury this term, per Transfermarkt—has struggled for consistency.

    Liverpool writer Joel Rabinowitz has warned against the club letting Sturridge leave without any sort of replacement, however, particularly given the magnitude of this month's departures already:

    Sevilla strikers Wissam Ben Yedder and Luis Muriel have scored a combined nine league goals between them this season, and there's a chance manager Vincenzo Montella could yet hand Sturridge an Anfield exit route.

    However, barely a week remains until the winter transfer deadline on January 31, meaning Sturridge faces a race against time if he wants to secure first-team football in time for this summer's 2018 FIFA World Cup.

    Report: Todd Haley to Become Browns OC, Take Play-Calling from Hue Jackson


    The Cleveland Browns are reportedly on the verge of hiring former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to the same job, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Albert Breer of The MMQB added that head coach Hue Jackson will hand over...

    The Cleveland Browns are reportedly on the verge of hiring former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to the same job, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

    Albert Breer of The MMQB added that head coach Hue Jackson will hand over play-calling duties to Haley.

    Cleveland hasn't had an official offensive coordinator since Jackson took over in 2016.

    Jackson is just 1-31 in two years at the helm, with the offense especially struggling despite the coach's previous experience coaching that side of the ball. The team ranked 31st in total points in 2016 and dead last in the category in 2017.

    Meanwhile, Haley has spent the past six years as the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, finishing in the top 10 in both points and yards in each of the last four seasons. Despite his success, the organization chose not to renew his contract following the divisional round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    There was reportedly friction between him and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the season, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

    Haley—who was also 19-26 in three years as a head coach of the Chiefs—will now get a chance at a fresh start with Cleveland, although there will be a significant drop in talent from his time with the Steelers. Pittsburgh had six Pro Bowl players on offense this year, including three first-team All-Pro players.

    The Browns will still need to find a franchise quarterback after DeShone Kizer finished dead last in the NFL with a 60.5 quarterback rating this year, but bringing in an established play-caller like Haley is a step in the right direction for the organization.

    Kevin Durant Slams Clint Capela for Warriors Comment: 'His Job Is Not as Hard'

    Kevin Durant Slams Clint Capela for Warriors Comment: 'His Job Is Not as Hard'


    Houston Rockets big man Clint Capela caught Kevin Durant's attention when he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com his team is better than the Golden State Warriors after Saturday's victory. "His job is not as hard," Durant said of Capela, per Anthony Slater of...

    Houston Rockets big man Clint Capela caught Kevin Durant's attention when he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com his team is better than the Golden State Warriors after Saturday's victory.

    "His job is not as hard," Durant said of Capela, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. "When your job is that hard, you know you can't just come out there and say s--t like that. I don't expect that from CP [Chris Paul] and James [Harden] and [Trevor] Ariza and the rest of the guys because they know how hard it is to come out there and do that every night. Capela, catch and dunk every night, so it's pretty easy for him."

    Slam magazine shared video of Durant's comments (NSFW):

    The Warriors are the NBA's gold standard considering they have captured two of the last three championships and won a record 73 games during the regular season the one time they didn't earn the Larry O'Brien Trophy during that span.

    They are once again atop the Western Conference standings at 37-10, but Capela and Houston appear to be their toughest competition.

    The 32-12 Rockets hold the second-best record in the conference and are 2-1 in head-to-head matchups with the Warriors this season. They have playmakers in James Harden and Chris Paul who can go toe-to-toe with Golden State's array of go-to offensive weapons down the stretch of close games, as Harden proved Saturday when he drilled a step-back three right over Stephen Curry in the closing stretch to help secure the win.

    Despite Durant's assertion his job isn't particularly difficult, Capela is also in the middle of his best season to date with 14.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a two-way threat anchoring the frontcourt play.

    Most notably, the Rockets are a perfect 17-0 when Harden, Paul and Capela are all healthy and in the lineup, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

    "We're for real, for real. We are for real as it can get," Harden said, per Spears. "I have never been this confident playing in my entire career, not only by adding Chris [Paul] but the rest of our team. We have a team with depth that at any moment can impact the game. We just got to stay locked in the rest of the season."

    If Houston remains locked in, preventing it from reaching the NBA Finals will not be an easy job for Durant and the Warriors.

    Karl-Anthony Towns Responds to Criticism from Tweet Congratulating Eagles

    Karl-Anthony Towns Responds to Criticism from Tweet Congratulating Eagles


    It's not as bad as LeBron James wearing a New York Yankees hat to a Cleveland Indians playoff game, but Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is catching some flack for his allegiance to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL playoffs.  The...

    It's not as bad as LeBron James wearing a New York Yankees hat to a Cleveland Indians playoff game, but Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is catching some flack for his allegiance to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL playoffs. 

    The Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, and some fans in Minnesota took exception to Towns celebrating the result:

    Towns brushed aside the anger directed his way in response to the tweet.

    "I don't care," he said, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell. "I really didn't care regardless of what the feeling was. I really didn't care. I still laugh to this day people are still hitting me up, so it's all good. It's all good."

    Towns was born in Edison, New Jersey, which is roughly an hour and a half away from Philadelphia, and he said Monday he has been a fan of the Eagles "since I was young." It would be unfair to ask Towns to put his loyalties aside just because the Eagles are playing the Vikings.

    With that said, any initial irritation toward Towns from Vikings fans is understandable after the team came so close and missed out on an opportunity to play in its fifth Super Bowl—which is in Minneapolis no less.

    In the days and weeks ahead—as the sting of Sunday's defeat subsides—Towns' Eagles fandom will be likely be forgotten for the most part.

    The Timberwolves star can do his part to ease the hurt by getting Minnesota back to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. The Timberwolves are tied for the third-best record in the Western Conference (30-18) and look poised to make a run to at least the second round, which they've done only once in franchise history.

    Swansea City Shock Liverpool, Win 1-0 Behind Alfie Mawson's Goal

    Swansea City Shock Liverpool, Win 1-0 Behind Alfie Mawson's Goal


    Swansea City, the Premier League's last-placed team, shocked Liverpool in south Wales on Monday night with a 1-0 win, courtesy of a goal from Alfie Mawson. Mawson stunned the Reds shortly before half-time, giving the hosts the lead after a slow first...

    Swansea City, the Premier League's last-placed team, shocked Liverpool in south Wales on Monday night with a 1-0 win, courtesy of a goal from Alfie Mawson.

    Mawson stunned the Reds shortly before half-time, giving the hosts the lead after a slow first half. Liverpool were the better side after the break but couldn't break down Swans' defence, despite a huge advantage in possession.

    Here's a look at the team sheet, via James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo:

    Liverpool started with plenty of possession and had a great chance early, as Sadio Mane got in behind the defence but couldn't work the ball past Lukasz Fabianski. Replays suggested he may have been offside.

    Roberto Firmino was the next man to go close, but his effort was correctly brought back for a hand ball.

    Jordan Ayew was furious when he had the ball in the net after a corner had been given, and once again, replays suggested Swansea City had a right to be angry. On the other side of the pitch, Virgil van Dijk couldn't guide a header on to the target.

    The Dutchman beautifully isolated Salah after 30 minutes with a pass over the top, but the Egyptian tried a difficult volley and couldn't keep the ball down. Football Whispers were impressed with how the hosts handled Salah:

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired a shot right at Fabianski before Mawson gave the hosts a shock lead, taking advantage of a mistake from Van Dijk to power home after a corner.

    Paddy Power couldn't help themselves:

    Joel Matip and Andrew Robertson ran into late bookings, and Mane missed the final good chance of the half, firing a volley wide.

    The Reds continued to press to start the second half, but chances were rare. Fabianski stepped ahead of Firmino to deny him an opportunity, and Matip risked a second booking for another bad foul on Ayew.

    Fabianski continued his good showing with an excellent stop on Salah, who aimed a free-kick on target. Sportswriter Chris Wathan noted manager Jurgen Klopp lost his composure in the process:

    Mane tried to force the issue with a dive after light contact with Kyle Naughton and was lucky not to be punished for simulation, per Tom Evans of the Liverpool Echo:

    Emre Can and Matip both missed the mark with desperate drives, and Loris Karius had to be alert to deny Tom Carroll at the near post.

    Klopp brought on Danny Ings late and the Reds applied all kinds of pressure on Swansea, who could barely keep hold of the ball. Ings immediately made an impact with a lovely piece of skill, but once again, Fabianski kept his nets clean.

    Van Dijk missed with a wild volley and couldn't get past Fabianski with a header, and Salah went wide after good work from Adam Lallana. The final chance fell to Firmino, who somehow failed to equalise from a free header and instead found the woodwork.

    Liverpool and Swansea will both be in action in the FA Cup next.

    Premier League Table: 2018 Standings, Week 25 Fixtures After Week 24 Results

    Premier League Table: 2018 Standings, Week 25 Fixtures After Week 24 Results


    Liverpool's ecstasy from beating Premier League leaders Manchester City was short-lived as manager Jurgen Klopp's side suffered a 1-0 defeat at bottom side Swansea City on Monday evening. Alfie Mawson capitalised on record signing Virgil van Dijk's...

    Liverpool's ecstasy from beating Premier League leaders Manchester City was short-lived as manager Jurgen Klopp's side suffered a 1-0 defeat at bottom side Swansea City on Monday evening.

    Alfie Mawson capitalised on record signing Virgil van Dijk's miscued clearance to sweep home the breakthrough in the first half, and the Reds never found their foothold to level at the Liberty Stadium.

    Swansea's victory isn't enough to take them off the bottom of the table, although Carlos Carvalhal's third win as Swans manager did take them level on points with West Bromwich Albion and within three points of safety.

    The Premier League will take a brief respite in place of the FA Cup's fourth-round fixtures this weekend, but the action returns for Week 25 on Tuesday as midweek matchups make their way back into the English schedule.

    We profile some of the most promising fixtures coming up in the next batch of games and provide a look at the latest Premier League standings following Liverpool's loss on Monday.

                      

    Premier League Standings (Goal Difference)

    1. Manchester City 65 (52)

    2. Manchester United 53 (33)

    3. Chelsea 50 (29)

    4. Liverpool 47 (25)

    5. Tottenham Hotspur 44 (25)

    6. Arsenal 42 (14)

    7. Leicester City 34 (4)

    8. Burnley 34 (-2)

    9. Everton 28 (-13)

    10. Watford 26 (-11)

    11. West Ham United 26 (-12)

    12. Bournemouth 25 (-11)

    13. Crystal Palace 25 (-15)

    14. Huddersfield Town 24 (-22)

    15. Newcastle United 23 (-12)

    16. Brighton & Hove Albion 23 (-16)

    17. Stoke City 23 (-25)

    18. Southampton 21 (-11)

    19. West Bromwich Albion 20 (-12)

    20. Swansea City 20 (-20)

    Visit the official Premier League website for a breakdown of the table in full.

                 

    Red Devils Risk Clean Sheet Run at Spurs

    Manchester United remain 12 points away from Premier League leaders Manchester City but are clearly still motivated to impress in the top tier after clinching clean sheets in each of their last four league fixtures.

    However, it's in attack that United will glean most focus in Week 25 as new signing Alexis Sanchez could make his club debut away to Tottenham Hotspur, and ESPN FC profiled the Chilean following his move to Old Trafford:

    It's almost poetic that Sanchez's first opportunity to dazzle for his new club could be by helping to beat the closest rivals of his old club, a chance to show the Gunners exactly what they're missing—as if they need reminding.

    Spurs are on an impressive run of their own and are unbeaten in their last six league outings, although the Press Association's Tom Allnutt couldn't hide criticism of the team following Sunday's 1-1 draw at Southampton:

    Tottenham have won the majority (25) of their 45 Premier League points at temporary home Wembley Stadium this term, while Jose Mourinho's men have lost only twice away from home (Chelsea and Huddersfield Town).

    United have already beaten Spurs 1-0 on their own turf earlier this season and have the chance to complete a league double over Mauricio Pochettino's side, who hammered Everton 4-0 the last time they were in action at Wembley.

                            

    In-Form Foxes Look to Topple Toffees

    Leicester City may no longer be chasing Premier League titles and shock silverware, but the Foxes have timed a respectable rise back into the division's hierarchy leading into Wednesday's trip to Goodison Park.

    The BBC's John Bennett remarked upon their turnaround under manager Claude Puel, whose side are now five games unbeaten and haven't conceded a goal in 450 minutes of play:

    Everton, on the other hand, are enduring something of a downward spiral after initially showing great promise under Sam Allardyce, who has seen the team tail off of late, losing four of their last five matches.

    What's more, it appears Everton's sense of adventure has taken a particular hit since Allardyce's arrival, per Football365's Daniel Storey:

    A trip to Goodison Park would usually daunt just about any Premier League foe, but the Merseyside venue no longer looks as intimidating when Everton have failed to win in any of their last three games there.

    Victory over Everton could lift seventh-placed Leicester within touching distance of Arsenal and a possible European qualification place, and the goal-shy Toffees could be exactly the sweetener the Foxes are looking for.

    Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo 'Devastated' After Bucks Fire Jason Kidd


    Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is reportedly "devastated" his team fired head coach Jason Kidd, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.           On Monday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the Bucks fired their coach. Haynes...

    Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is reportedly "devastated" his team fired head coach Jason Kidd, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.          

    On Monday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the Bucks fired their coach. Haynes added the team has not yet officially notified Kidd.

    According to Wojnarowski, assistant coach Joe Prunty will serve as the interim coach following Kidd's ousting.

    The Bucks have struggled in January, going 4-7 and dropping four of their last five games. As a result, they have fallen to 23-22 overall and are just one game ahead of the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

    Wojnarowski noted the team elected to fire Kidd in part because it has fallen into the eighth seed but also because of "frayed relationships" and "general non-alignment." However, he pointed out the vacant coaching position figures to be the "most sought after" this offseason because of Antetokounmpo.

    That is no surprise considering he is only 23 years old and averaging 28.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game this season after he was named the league's Most Improved Player and made the All-NBA Second Team last campaign.

    It is clear based on Haynes' report that he had a positive relationship with Kidd, who has coached him every season except 2013-14, when he was a rookie, and been a primary figure within the organization as he's developed into one of the league's best players.

    The team was just 139-152 with Kidd at the helm and lost in the first round both times it made the playoffs.  

    Jason Kidd Reportedly Fired by Bucks After 3-Plus Seasons as Head Coach

    Jason Kidd Reportedly Fired by Bucks After 3-Plus Seasons as Head Coach


    The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd on Monday after a disappointing half season in 2017-18, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. The Bucks confirmed the move, and general manager Jon Horst released a statement via the team's official site: "We...

    The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd on Monday after a disappointing half season in 2017-18, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

    The Bucks confirmed the move, and general manager Jon Horst released a statement via the team's official site:

    "We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team towards the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships. Jason led a historic turnaround during his first season and would guide our team to two playoff appearances. He also played a meaningful role in helping to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. We thank him for all of his contributions and wish him the best."

    Joe Prunty will take over as the interim coach, beginning with Monday's game against the Phoenix Suns, per Wojnarowski.

    Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reported Kidd hadn't been told of the firing and that star Giannis Antetokounmpo was "devastated." On the other hand, Kidd and Jabari Parker weren't speaking, per Ryen Russillo of ESPN.

    The Bucks had high expectations this season after they went 42-40 last season with a young and talented roster. But the squad is just 23-22 and stands eighth in the Eastern Conference.

    Milwaukee ranks in the bottom half of the NBA in points scored (18th) and points allowed (17th) per game.

    Ownership felt the team was "underachieving," according to David Aldridge of Turner Sports.

    Kidd, 44, joined the Bucks in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets in 2014 but has been up and down since. He helped them to two playoff appearances in his first three years but finished with a 139-152 record in three-and-a-half seasons.

    He oversaw the development of several talented young players, including Antetokounmpo, who has evolved from a raw prospect into an MVP candidate this season. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon have also exceeded expectations under Kidd.

    While the squad has failed to live up to expectations in 2017-18, there is still a lot of talent between those young stars and others, such as Parker and Eric Bledsoe. Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight described the open position:

    In the meantime, the organization will turn to Prunty, who has never been a full-time head coach but has served on an interim basis, including for 17 games in 2015-16 when Kidd had hip surgery as well as earlier this season when Kidd left the team for the birth of his daughter.

    Prunty has spent more than 20 years in the NBA, beginning with the San Antonio Spurs and also spending time with the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

    With the top teams in the East going through slides and the rest of the conference jumbled in the standings, Prunty has a chance to find success in the second half of the season.

    CHAN 2018: Scores, Results, Standings and Updated Schedule After Monday

    CHAN 2018: Scores, Results, Standings and Updated Schedule After Monday


    Zambia held Namibia to a 1-1 draw during Monday's African Championship of Nations action, securing the top spot in Group B in the process.  The two teams entered their fixture with maximum points and a ticket to the next round already secured. By...

    Zambia held Namibia to a 1-1 draw during Monday's African Championship of Nations action, securing the top spot in Group B in the process. 

    The two teams entered their fixture with maximum points and a ticket to the next round already secured. By winning the group, Zambia avoid a date with hosts Morocco in the next round.

    In the other fixture, Uganda and Ivory Coast played out a scoreless draw. Here are the full results:

    Namibia 1-1 Zambia

    Uganda 0-0 Ivory Coast

    Here's a look at the final standings in Group B:

    Team, Goal Difference, Points

    Zambia, 4, 7

    Namibia, 2, 7

    Uganda, -3, 1

    Ivory Coast, -3, 1

    Tuesday's action will see the conclusion of Group C, as Equatorial Guinea take on Nigeria and Rwanda face Libya. For the full schedule, click here.

       

    All eyes were on the clash at the top of the table, as Namibia and Zambia battled it out for first place in Group B.

    Absalom Limbondi opened the scoring after just 13 minutes with a surprise goal after a strong start for Zambia. His free-kick appeared to take a slight deflection, but goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata should have done much better after leaving his line.

    The Chipolopolo worked hard to get back in the match and were rewarded 11 minutes later, with Lazarous Kambole tapping home after superb work from Ernest Mbewe. ZamFoot loved it:

    Kambole almost doubled his tally with a great volley that was blocked, and Mika Katiba found some space close to half-time but failed to get his shot on target.

    Nsabata corrected his earlier blunder with a strong save on Nandjebo Theophilus early in the second half, and Kambole missed a great chance to hand his side the lead, sending a header wide. Despite some late pressure, the score remained unchanged.

    In Monday's other contest, neither side took real initiative in the first half, although Uganda were the more threatening team.

    Mamadou Diomande went very close early in the second half, just missing the target with a good shot, and Allan Kyambadde didn't have better luck.

    With little on the line, the match lost all momentum late, and a 0-0 final score came as no surprise.

    Super Bowl 2018: Halftime Performers, Date and Odds for Eagles vs. Patriots

    Super Bowl 2018: Halftime Performers, Date and Odds for Eagles vs. Patriots


    The 2018 Super Bowl is a mix of the predictable and unexpected in more ways than one.  In the predictable column, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots making it out of the AFC reigns supreme. Hand injury or not, the usual suspects will arrive at U.S....

    The 2018 Super Bowl is a mix of the predictable and unexpected in more ways than one. 

    In the predictable column, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots making it out of the AFC reigns supreme. Hand injury or not, the usual suspects will arrive at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

    Likewise in predictability is the NFL calling upon one Justin Timberlake to handle the halftime performance. 

    The unexpected? These gritty Philadelphia Eagles making the Super Bowl without MVP contender Carson Wentz under center. As few predicted going into the playoffs, the Eagles emerged from the tougher conference with Nick Foles under center, creating one of the more interesting Super Bowl matchups we've seen in quite a long time. 

                  

    2018 Super Bowl

    Date: Sunday, Feb. 4

    Location: U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Kickoff Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

    TV: NBC

    Odds: Patriots -6, Over/Under 48

                 

    Halftime and Beyond 

    The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events around the globe each year, so it's one of the rare football games where the conversation about the performers—and even commercials—gets lumped right in with the football talk itself. 

    Timberlake, the former N'Sync member who handled the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004 and had the infamous mishap with Janet Jackson, is back once again ahead of a new album release. 

    The NFL announced his selection back in October: 

    As Timberlake told Pepsi in an interview, he's treating this opportunity like it is his first time because he'll have the stage to himself and full control over what happens as he leads one of the year's most important performances on a global stage: 

    Like the renowned performer, Brady and the Patriots know a thing or two about the stage. 

    Down 20-10 in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC title game, Brady did what he does, tossing a pair of touchdowns to Danny Amendola despite the absence of Rob Gronkowski, who left the game early with a concussion. Don't forget the oft-talked about cut on Brady's throwing hand, either. 

    Brady finished the day with 290 passing yards and the two scores despite only getting 46 yards and a score on a 2.4 per-carry average from his running game and a defense that coughed up more than 100 rushing yards. 

    The Eagles are the unexpected element here after losing Wentz, the guy who threw for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions over only 13 games. The Foles-led team going down at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons in the first round would have made sense, yet the defense kept Matt Ryan in check on the way to a 15-10 win. 

    Rather than struggling against a strong Minnesota Vikings defense in the NFC title game, Foles went out and tossed three touchdowns at home in what turned out to be an unexpected throttling, a 38-7 statement game. 

    Immediately after, the Eagles didn't shy away from the fact the Patriots await them. 

    "I know," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said, according to ESPN.com's Tim McManus. "Hey, Tom Brady. Pretty boy Tom Brady. He's the best quarterback of all time, so, nothing I'd like to do more than dethrone that guy."

     

    Minnesota received more praise for its defense entering the playoffs, yet it's this Philadelphia squad that looks ready to clash with Brady. The unit picked off Minnesota's Case Keenum twice, returning one for a touchdown while funneling the Vikings offense into ineffective short passes, hence running back Jerick McKinnon tying for the team lead in targets (12) and leading the team in receiving (11 catches, 86 yards). 

    Some will decry this particular Super Bowl matchup due to Wentz's absence, yet it glosses over the fact the Eagles might be the most complete team in football. And while Foles isn't Wentz, he has yet to throw an interception during the postseason and hasn't seen his completion percentage dip below 76 percent over the two games. 

    The consistency on both sides of the football explains why oddsmakers out of Las Vegas aren't comfortable slapping a huge line on this game in favor of the Patriots, even if the general early pulse surrounding the game from fans hints it could be a blowout. 

    Like rumblings about Timberlake's performance, the vibes surrounding this one will change over the course of the break before the game. So far, though, the mesh of old and new seems like it has the perfect balance. 

              

    Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds according to OddsShark.

    John Calipari Rips Duke's Recruiting Pitch After Zion Williamson Commitment


    Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari threw major shade at Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski after Duke landed highly touted 2018 recruit Zion Williamson. "I don't sell, 'When you come here, the university and the state will take care of...

    Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari threw major shade at Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski after Duke landed highly touted 2018 recruit Zion Williamson.

    "I don't sell, 'When you come here, the university and the state will take care of you for the rest of your life,'" Calipari said, per Kentucky Sports Radio. "You may buy that, and I've got some great property and some swampland in Florida to sell you too."

    SEC Country's Kyle Tucker shared more of Calipari's comments on the matter:

    "Every one of us in this country is based on you've gotta take care of yourself. And then when you make it, you make sure that you're helping [others]. And along the way you bring other people with you. And that's what we're trying to do, just give these guys the best opportunity. We're not trying to say this university or this state will take care of you the rest of your life. There's no socialism here. This stuff is, 'You've gotta go do it and we're gonna help you do it.' Some [recruits] like that. Some don't like it."

    Tucker noted how Calipari was likely alluding to comments Wildcats redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo made while he was being recruited during the spring of 2016. Diallo contrasted the respective pitches Kentucky and Duke had made him.

    Whereas Calipari and his staff emphasized how many of his former players have excelled in the NBA, Krzyzewski took an approach that focused on life beyond basketball.

    "Duke's pitch was if you come to Duke, you're going to be set for life," Diallo said, per Tucker. "It's more than just basketball."

    Williamson echoed that sentiment in explaining why he selected Duke over Kentucky.

    "It was always more than basketball with Coach K," Williamson said, per the Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler. "That basketball can stop bouncing for you at any time. If basketball was to end for me tomorrow, I would know I'm in good hands at Duke University."

    It's probably fair to say Calipari's criticism of Duke and Krzyzewski stemmed partly from envy about the fact the Blue Devils not only secured Williamson's commitment but have also assembled the strongest 2018 class in college basketball.

    According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Williamson is the No. 3 player overall and No. 1 power forward. He joins a group that includes R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish—small forwards ranked first and second in the class—and point guard Tre Jones, who's also the best player at his position.

    While Kentucky was once considered the pre-eminent destination for one-and-done recruits with NBA aspirations, that title has fallen to Duke.

    Yu Darvish Rumors: Pitcher Has 5-Year Contract Offer; Cubs, Others Interested

    Yu Darvish Rumors: Pitcher Has 5-Year Contract Offer; Cubs, Others Interested


    Starting pitcher and free agent Yu Darvish reportedly has been offered at least one five-year contract, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com: Darvish, 31, went 10-12 between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, compiling a 3.86 ERA,...

    Starting pitcher and free agent Yu Darvish reportedly has been offered at least one five-year contract, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com:

    Darvish, 31, went 10-12 between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, compiling a 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 209 strikeouts in 186.2 innings.

    Darvish remains arguably the top free-agent pitcher remaining on the market, though there's a case to be made for the 31-year-old Jake Arrieta. And while it appears a market has materialized for Darvish, given the list of reported suitors, the fact that he has yet to sign with a team well into January suggests he and his agent likely haven't been blown away with any offer to this point.

    That has been the general feeling around this offseason's free agency, which has moved at a snail's pace. Things may change shortly, however, as Crasnick noted:

    A few factors may be keeping teams from splurging for Darvish. His injury history—he missed the entire 2015 season following elbow surgery and only made 17 starts for the Rangers in 2016—is surely a factor. Plus, offering huge, long-term contracts to players on the wrong side of 30 is always a risk.

    He also struggled mightily in the World Series, giving up nine runs and nine hits in just 3.1 innings across two appearances, both losses.

    Finally, next winter's crop of free agents is set to include players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson and maybe Clayton Kershaw, among others. Many teams may be attempting to save money and remain under the luxury tax threshold this season so they can make a run at one of those players.

    Darvish is still likely to get a lucrative deal, with as many as five years reported to be on the table. But in years past—and prior to his World Series struggles—it's probable Darvish would have signed an even bigger deal than the one he'll agree to this winter.

    Jordan Clarkson: LeBron James Should Pick Lonzo Ball No. 1 in NBA All-Star Draft

    Jordan Clarkson: LeBron James Should Pick Lonzo Ball No. 1 in NBA All-Star Draft


    Somebody might want to inform Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson how the NBA All-Star Game works. The NBA tweaked the All-Star Game format this year and will allow two captains to select the teams from a set pool of players. Clarkson told TMZ...

    Somebody might want to inform Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson how the NBA All-Star Game works.

    The NBA tweaked the All-Star Game format this year and will allow two captains to select the teams from a set pool of players. Clarkson told TMZ Sports he believes Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who is one of the two captains, should take Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball with the first overall pick.

    Clarkson's comment was surely in jest, though he did his part to try to get the Lakers rookie into the All-Star Game, using the NBA's All-Star voting hashtag on Twitter two days before the voting closed Jan. 15:

    Clarkson's efforts were to no avail. According to NBA.com, Ball had 607,961 fan votes, which ranked sixth among Western Conference guards, and his nine votes from fellow players were 13th-most.

    The fact Ball even earned that much isn't entirely surprising based on his popularity—both by playing in Los Angeles and through the growth of Big Baller Brand and the Ball family.

    By the numbers, though, Ball certainly isn't deserving of All-Star recognition. He's averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and he's shooting 35.6 percent from the field.

    Were Ball to somehow sneak into the All-Star Game as a reserve, James would still be precluded from selecting him first overall. James and fellow captain Steph Curry are limited to picking from the eight remaining starters in the first round.

    Blind Long Snapper Jake Olson Tweets Video, Enters Name into USC QB Competition

    Blind Long Snapper Jake Olson Tweets Video, Enters Name into USC QB Competition


    There doesn't seem to be much Jake Olson can't do. The blind USC long snapper posted a video of him throwing passes on the Trojans' practice field, saying he is joining the upcoming competition to be the team's starting quarterback: Olson—who lost his...

    There doesn't seem to be much Jake Olson can't do.

    The blind USC long snapper posted a video of him throwing passes on the Trojans' practice field, saying he is joining the upcoming competition to be the team's starting quarterback:

    Olson—who lost his sight at age 12—saw game action for the first time in 2017, successfully snapping an extra point.

    He also showed his off-field athleticism last month at a golf driving range:

    Olson has become an inspiration to many with disabilities, and he continues to impress with what he is able to accomplish athletically.

    Meanwhile, filling the quarterback slot could be an issue for the Trojans in 2018 now that two-year starter Sam Darnold has declared for the NFL draft. Matt Fink appears to be the favorite as the only other player who saw playing time in 2017, but Jack Sears could also win the quarterback competition. 

    Incoming freshman J.T. Daniels, a 5-star recruit from Santa Ana, California, could also win the job.

    5-Star Center Prospect Moses Brown Commits to UCLA over Maryland, More

    5-Star Center Prospect Moses Brown Commits to UCLA over Maryland, More


    Coveted center Moses Brown provided a massive boost to the 2018 recruiting class of UCLA on Monday by announcing his commitment to the Bruins.  The announcement came in a video with Slam Magazine: Brown is a 5-star recruit who rates as the No. 21...

    Coveted center Moses Brown provided a massive boost to the 2018 recruiting class of UCLA on Monday by announcing his commitment to the Bruins. 

    The announcement came in a video with Slam Magazine:

    Brown is a 5-star recruit who rates as the No. 21 overall player in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He's graded as the second-best center among the group and the top player from the state of New York.

    The Archbishop Molloy High School standout, who's also played for the New Heights AAU squad, combines a 6'11'', 210-pound frame with high-end athletic ability and terrific awareness around the rim at both ends of the floor to give him immense potential.

    Scout's Josh Gershon discussed the signs of development Brown has already shown:

    As with most top prospects, the post player is expected to enjoy a short stay at the collegiate level before taking his talents to the NBA.

    Brown hasn't shied away from those intentions. In May, he told Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader his "plan is to be a one-and-done" and explained the common message he received from coaches during his recruitment period.

    "They're telling me, 'We're going to put you in the gym. You're going to work hard. And we're going to put you on the stage—you gotta perform,'" he said. "I'm just enjoying the process right now."

    Clearly, he'll need to add more strength, as well as overall weight, to his frame in order to make an impact in the paint against bigger, more powerful opponents. The key will be doing so over a period of a couple of years rather than trying to bulk up too quickly.

    That said, all the other tools are there for him to become a superstar, and it comes down to turning that raw talent into on-court ability during his likely short college career.

    Adding Brown is the type of signing that can make the entire class a success for Steve Alford. All signs point toward him having a massive impact from the moment he walks on the UCLA campus, which raises expectations for the 2018-19 season.

    He should become an immediate replacement for senior center Thomas Welsh, helping the squad return to contention in the Pac-12 after relative struggles during the current season.

    While his arrival provides a boost to the Bruins short-term outlook, he's destined to join Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and others in leaving long before his four years are up.

    Knicks Rumors: NY Interested in Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in Free Agency


    The New York Knicks are already thinking about potential options in free agency, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is reportedly one of them, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. An athletic wing is one of New York's biggest priorities for the summer,...

    The New York Knicks are already thinking about potential options in free agency, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is reportedly one of them, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

    An athletic wing is one of New York's biggest priorities for the summer, according to Bondy's sources, and Caldwell-Pope could fill that role as a talented two-way player with experience. The 24-year-old is averaging 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Per Basketball Reference, he ranks second on his team with 1.5 defensive win shares to go with his career-high 1.7 steals per game.

    This comes after four years with the Detroit Pistons, including three as a full-time starter. While he was likely hoping for a long-term contract last offseason, he ended up with just a one-year deal with the Lakers and needed to prove he could be an impact player.

    His off-court problems may give some teams pause, however.

    Caldwell-Pope spent 25 days in jail because of a probation violation, which prevented him from leaving the state and competing in select road games during that stretch. He was also suspended for the first two contests of the 2017-18 season.

    Still, the Knicks clearly need a lot of help after struggling to a 21-26 record this season. The team is 3-8 so far in January.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee remain under contract through at least 2019-20, but Caldwell-Pope could provide extra depth on the wing as a scorer and primary defender as the squad tries to return to playoff contention.

    Liverpool Transfer News: Latest on Mohamed Salah's Real Madrid Rumours

    Liverpool Transfer News: Latest on Mohamed Salah's Real Madrid Rumours


    The president of the Egyptian football association, Hany Abo Rida, and Pharaohs manager Hector Cuper have both added fuel to rumours linking Liverpool star Mohamed Salah with La Liga giants Real Madrid. As reported by MailOnline's Sam McEvoy, both said...

    The president of the Egyptian football association, Hany Abo Rida, and Pharaohs manager Hector Cuper have both added fuel to rumours linking Liverpool star Mohamed Salah with La Liga giants Real Madrid.

    As reported by MailOnline's Sam McEvoy, both said they have knowledge of Real's interest in the Egypt international, and the former said a summer transfer would be a good thing for football in the country:

    ''Real Madrid will make an offer for Salah during the summer.

    ''Salah is now looking to improve his game. Obviously if an Egyptian plays for a club as popular around the world as Real Madrid, it's going to be great for Egyptian football.''

    The news was not well-received in Liverpool:

    Salah had been linked with Los Blancos before, but those initial reports originated with Spain's unreliable gossip websites like Diario Gol (via the Daily Express' Jack Otway) and weren't real cause for concern to the Reds.

    Salah only joined Liverpool during the summer after a superb spell in Italy with AS Roma. The 25-year-old previously fell short of expectations with Chelsea but showed everyone during his time with the Giallorossi the Blues perhaps should have given him more chances.

    Now back in England, he's been nothing short of sensational, per the UEFA Champions League's official Twitter account:

    Salah has always been a tremendous athlete with superb long speed and short-area quickness, but he became a far more intelligent player in Italy and now boasts a versatile skill set. He can operate on either wing and is also effective cutting inside on either foot.

    While he's still at his best in the open space―making him a great fit for Liverpool's counter-attacking system―Salah no longer has to rely on his pace to score goals, and it's easy to see why a club like Real Madrid may have an interest at this time.

    Los Blancos trail rivals Barcelona by 19 points in La Liga―with a match in hand―and have scored just 39 goals in the competition so far, compared to the Catalans' 57.

    Cristiano Ronaldo isn't getting any younger and Gareth Bale's health remains an issue. Combined with Karim Benzema's poor form, the Spaniards are in dire need of an attacking upgrade, and Salah will likely be one of the names on their list.

    Convincing the Reds to sell won't be easy, however. Liverpool only just parted with Philippe Coutinho after a lengthy transfer saga and, as a result, have bags of cash and no need to sell another key player.

    Salah has shown a willingness to force a club's hand in the past, refusing to return to Fiorentina in order to facilitate a move to Roma, per Football Italia. A similar scenario involving Real could play out if he's eager to move, but so far, there has been no indication that's the case.

    DeAndre Jordan Trade Rumors: Blazers Have 'Tried to Engage' Clippers in Talks


    The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly "among the teams that have tried to engage the [Los Angeles] Clippers in trade talks for DeAndre Jordan," according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Stein added, however, that the Clippers "have yet to...

    The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly "among the teams that have tried to engage the [Los Angeles] Clippers in trade talks for DeAndre Jordan," according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

    Stein added, however, that the Clippers "have yet to receive a proposal from Cleveland, Milwaukee, Portland or anyone else that they've found seriously tempting."

    Portland is an interesting suitor for Jordan seeing as the team traded for center Jusuf Nurkic last season. Nurkic, 23, is averaging 14.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, though he has been inconsistent, and his defensive ability and effort often wane.

    That has led Nurkic to be benched for long stretches in several games this year.

    Jordan, meanwhile, has posted another solid season for the Clippers, averaging 11.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He's a far better rebounder and defender than Nurkic and remains one of the most dynamic above-the-rim finishers as the roller in the pick-and-roll.

    But the 29-year-old, who has a $24.1 million player option for the 2018-19 season, could become a free agent this summer. That could inspire the Clippers to move him before the February 8 trade deadline.

    If they do indeed make a deal, Nurkic would almost assuredly head to L.A. as a part of the trade, though for the deal to work under the cap, Portland would have to include one of its bigger salaries as well. Damian Lillard is ostensibly untouchable, and it's hard to imagine C.J. McCollum would be dealt either.

    That would leave Evan Turner—set to make $17.1 million this year, $17.9 million next year and $18.6 million in the 2019-20 season—as the next logical trade piece.

    Would a package built around Nurkic, Turner and perhaps another player or draft picks be enough to bring Jordan to Portland? Could the Trail Blazers involve a third team or get creative in some other way to make the deal work if L.A. isn't interested in Nurkic and Turner?

    It's a fascinating potential scenario, but at the moment, it also feels like a long shot.

    Chelsea Transfer News: Edin Dzeko Move 'One Step Away,' Marko Arnautovic Rumours

    Chelsea Transfer News: Edin Dzeko Move 'One Step Away,' Marko Arnautovic Rumours


    Chelsea are reportedly "one step away" from completing the signature of AS Roma striker Edin Dzeko, whose agent has flown to London for negotiations. Elsewhere, Marko Arnautovic has emerged as a shock target for the Blues. Sport Witness cited a report...

    Chelsea are reportedly "one step away" from completing the signature of AS Roma striker Edin Dzeko, whose agent has flown to London for negotiations. Elsewhere, Marko Arnautovic has emerged as a shock target for the Blues.

    Sport Witness cited a report from Italian website Pagine Romaniste, which supported the notion a move for Dzeko is close after one of his representatives, Silvano Martina, was due for talks with Roma.

    Some confusion arose after the London Evening Standard's Simon Johnson reported on the same day that Dzeko's agent, Irfan Redzepagic, was jetting into London for negotiations with Chelsea, but he cleared up the details:

    It appears action is being taken on both ends, both in London and Rome, to see to it that one of Serie A's most deadly attackers in recent years makes his return to the English top flight.

    Dzeko spent five seasons at the Etihad Stadium on Manchester City's books before leaving for the Italian capital in 2015—initially on loan—and the Telegraph's Matt Law has said he can be a Premier League success:

    Chelsea are in the hunt for backup to summer signing Alvaro Morata, who replaced Diego Costa but has now been found short of top-class cover, with Michy Batshuayi struggling to impress manager Antonio Conte.

    The Blues may not stop at Dzeko in their Serie A recruitment, either, as the Guardian's Fabrizio Romano reported another member of the Giallorossi could be en route to Stamford Bridge:

    Dzeko has scored 61 goals in 117 appearances for Roma altogether, per Transfermarkt, boasting an average of one goal every 1.9 games, far superior to his record of 72 goals in 189 games for City, an average of one goal every 2.6 outings.

    Italian website Tuttomercatoweb also reported Dzeko could be in line to double his wages in London, taking his earnings from €4.5 million per year to €8 million per year (h/t Football Italia).

    Meanwhile, West Ham United attacker Arnautovic is understood to be on Chelsea's radar as they scramble to find more alternatives for their forward line.

    Arnautovic has impressed under Hammers chief David Moyes in an improvised striker role, and ESPN reported Conte favours the former Stoke City star (h/t Daily Star's David Rivers).

    The Austria international moved to the London Stadium in a £20 million deal over the summer, and after stumbling in his usual wing position, Squawka showed how his form has exploded since moving more centrally:

    West Ham boss Moyes has laboured to find a reliable striking presence up top, despite the club acquiring Javier Hernandez's signature over the summer, and the thought of losing Arnautovic already won't be welcomed.

    Chelsea would need to offer West Ham a swift opportunity to make a profit on their investment in order to even tempt the east Londoners into selling, lest they risk another target evading their grasp.

    Teddy Bridgewater on Being a Starting QB in 2018: 'Definitely. No Question.'


    Teddy Bridgewater expects to be a starting quarterback somewhere next season. When asked Monday if he sees himself as a starter in 2018, the Minnesota Vikings player responded, "Definitely. No question," per Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer...

    Teddy Bridgewater expects to be a starting quarterback somewhere next season.

    When asked Monday if he sees himself as a starter in 2018, the Minnesota Vikings player responded, "Definitely. No question," per Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press.

    Bridgewater is set to enter free agency this offseason but hasn't started a game in two years while recovering from a knee injury he suffered prior to the 2016 campaign.

    The 25-year-old returned to practice in October and finally saw game action during a Week 15 blowout over the Cincinnati Bengals, finishing 0-of-2 passing with an interception. He was inactive during the team's playoff games when Sam Bradford returned from his injury.

    Case Keenum surprisingly became QB1 this season and was 11-3 as a starter, but questions still remain about whether he can be a long-term option at the position. His struggles in the 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field only amplified those concerns.

    Minnesota will have some tough choices to make this offseason, with Bradford, Bridgewater and Keenum all set for free agency.

    Based on the latest quotes, it seems Bridgewater only plans to return if he has a chance to regain his starting role. Otherwise, he would likely move on to another organization where there is an opening for playing time.

    The 2014 first-round pick started 12 games as a rookie and all 16 games in his second season, leading the team to an 11-5 record in 2015. He earned a Pro Bowl selection that year after producing an 88.7 quarterback rating.

    Unfortunately, injuries have since derailed his career, and it's difficult to know what to expect from him going forward.