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Multi-team deal completed sending Harden to Nets

UNDATED (AP) — Here’s the challenge for the Nets now that three-time reigning scoring champion James Harden is on board: getting Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — all individually great — to be great together. Futures and legacies will depend on what happens

Harden is the centerpiece of a deal that also involved Cleveland and grew to a fourth team when Indiana, made a separate deal with Houston. The Nets sent Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs to Houston, along with 2022, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks in 2021, 2023, 202 and 2027. The Nets also sent center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince to Cleveland.

A person with knowledge of the situation says the Rockets also are trading LeVert to Indiana for Victor Oladipo (oh-lah-DEE’-poh).

The blockbuster deal provides a needed boost amid a period of drama for both Houston and Brooklyn. It was struck less than 24 hours after Harden seemed to deliver a farewell address of sorts following the Rockets’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, and just before Irving was set to miss a fifth straight game during a personal absence from the Nets.


Celtics expect to play Friday, as NBA weighs more testing

UNDATED (AP) — The Celtics expect their weeklong coronavirus break to end Friday when they’re scheduled to host the Orlando Magic. Three of Boston’s games were postponed. In all, eight NBA games since Sunday have been postponed..

Leaguewide, eight games since Sunday have been postponed and the NBA is reviewing whether more games — including a Saturday contest in Phoenix and a Sunday game in Washington — will have to be pushed back. The Suns and Wizards were both scheduled to play Friday but those games were postponed because contact tracing showed neither club would meet the NBA requirement of having eight available players.

Meanwhile, the NBA is considering even more testing if teams can enlist local labs to save time. Teams in all 28 NBA cities have been told to investigate if there is a local lab that can process PCR tests relatively quickly; the extra tests would be conducted on game-day mornings and turn in results no later than one hour before tip-off.

The league regimen already includes daily PCR tests for players and coaches, and rapid tests on game days. The NBA told teams it was possible that a decision could be made on the extra layer of testing by the weekend. ESPN first reported the contents of the league’s memo.


Villanova returns from 10-day COVID break

UNDATED (AP) — The No. 3 Villanova Wildcats have ended a 10-day break for COVID-related reasons and returned to practice on Thursday.

Coach Jay Wright said he hoped he could field a full roster when the Wildcats play Seton Hall on Tuesday at the Pavilion. Villanova hasn’t played since a Dec. 23 win at Marquette.

Wright said he hoped Caleb Daniels and Jermaine Samuels would get cleared in time for next week’s game. The Wildcats are 8-1 overall but just 3-0 in the Big East.

The Wildcats need to play the scheduled Big East minimum of 20 games to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Wright said “there are a couple of scenarios that look crazy” to cram the schedule with the remaining scheduled games and the handful of games that must be rescheduled to reach 20. Wright says the Big East is considering several options, including the possibility of relaxing the minimum number of games.

Wright says there are still “good plans” to play the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

In other virus-related developments:

— Michigan State is postponing a second straight men’s basketball game due to a COVID-19 outbreak within its basketball program. The school says it will not host Indiana on Sunday as scheduled. The Spartans previously postponed a game at No. 5 Iowa because three players tested positive for the coronavirus. The players include center Mady Sissoko and guard Steven Izzo, son of coach Tom Izzo. Michigan State and the Big Ten are working on options to reschedule games against the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers.

— Two more Georgetown men’s basketball games — against Providence and Marquette — have been postponed after the Hoyas reported a positive COVID-19 test. Georgetown was supposed to play at Providence on Saturday and host Marquette on Jan. 20. Those will make it three consecutive postponements for Georgetown and five overall this season. The Hoyas were supposed to host DePaul on Wednesday.

— Georgia State has postponed its third straight game because of COVID-19. The Panthers halted all team activities for a week after multiple positive tests within the program, including athletes, coaches and support staff. That forced the postponement of two games against Sun Belt Conference rival Troy. Georgia State was scheduled to play back-to-back games against Coastal Carolina this weekend, but the Friday contest was called off. The teams are still set to play on Saturday. Both programs are looking at possible makeup dates.


Goff to start for Rams in Green Bay

UNDATED (AP) — Quarterback Jared Goff will start the Los Angeles Rams’ playoff game at Green Bay on Saturday, and John Wolford will be inactive. Coach Sean McVay announced his decision Thursday ahead of the final workout for the Rams before they travel to face the top-seeded Packers at Lambeau Field.

Wolford started the Rams’ last two games, but the second-year pro was injured early in Los Angeles’ 30-20 win at Seattle last Saturday. Wolford left the stadium in an ambulance with a neck stinger after a hit from the Seahawks’ Jamal Adams, and he hasn’t practiced this week.

Goff has been the Rams’ starter for the past 4 1/2 years, but he sat out their regular-season finale after breaking his right thumb, missing a game due to injury for the first time in his career.

Veteran Blake Bortles, who returned to the Rams in Week 17 after Goff’s injury, will be Goff’s backup against the Packers, and rookie third quarterback Bryce Perkins also might be active.

In other NFL news:

— Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is back with his team after having COVID-19. Stefanski returned to the team’s facility Thursday, 10 days after he tested positive with the virus and after he missed Cleveland’s playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Stefanski had been isolated in his home for the required 10 days since contracting COVID-19. He watched from home on his basement TV as Cleveland beat the Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. He’ll make his playoff debut Sunday when Browns play the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

— The Pittsburgh Steelers are shaking up their coaching staff. The team announced offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and assistants Shaun Sarrett and Tom Bradley will not be back following a first-round playoff loss to Cleveland. The decision to not retain Fichtner could impact whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns in 2021. Roethlisberger and Fichtner have a close relationship dating back to Fichtner’s stint as quarterbacks coach from 2010-18.

— A person familiar with the search says Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars are “working toward finalizing” a deal to make him the team’s coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Thursday because an agreement was not in place. The person says it could be done soon. Meyer would be leaving the broadcast booth and returning to the sidelines after a two-year break that followed another health scare. The 56-year-old Meyer has won three college national championships, with a staggering winning percentage of more than 85%.

— The New York Jets have completed their in-person second interview with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their search for a head coach continues. San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh met with New York on Tuesday and Wednesday.

— The Detroit Lions have agreed to terms with Brad Holmes to be their general manager. Holmes led the Rams’ college scouting department for eight years and started his 18-year career with them as a public relations intern in 2003.


Jones among 4 Alabama underclassmen declaring for NFL draft

UNDATED (AP) — Four stars from Alabama’s national championship team, including Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Mac Jones, are leaving early to enter the NFL draft.

Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain II and defensive lineman Christian Barmore announced their intentions to leave on Thursday. All are considered potential first-round picks.

There also are several Alabama seniors considered first-round picks, including Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, All-America tailback Najee Harris and Outland Trophy winner left tackle Alex place Jonathan Toews on long-term injured reserve

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (tayvz) will miss at least 10 games and 24 days after the team placed him on long-term injured reserve Thursday because of an unspecified illness.

The 32-year-old Toews announced prior to the start of training camp last month he was experiencing symptoms that left him feeling “drained and lethargic” and there is no timetable for his return. The veteran center has asked for privacy while he focuses on his health.

Toews helped lead the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships from 2010 to 2015. He had 18 goals and 42 assists in 70 games last season and was one of the team’s best defensive forwards and face-off options.

The team also announced Thursday defenseman Brent Seabrook has a lower back injury and moved forward Kirby Dach to long-term IR because of a wrist injury. The 35-year-old Seabrook hasn’t played since December 2019. He missed the playoffs after having two hip surgeries and a right shoulder operation and has not been on the ice since camp opened. Dach could miss the entire season after having surgery on his right wrist.


Knebel agrees to one year deal

UNDATED (AP) — New Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel has agreed to a $5.25 million, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration. The 29-year-old was acquired from Milwaukee on Dec. 2. Knebel was an All-Star in 2017 and a key part of the Brewers’ bullpen during their run to the 2018 NL Championship Series. The right-hander missed the 2019 season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and struggled after returning.

In other MLB news:

— José Martínez and the New York Mets agreed Thursday to a one-year contract that pays $1 million while he is in the major leagues and $225,000 while he’s in the minors. The 32-year-old first baseman and outfielder hit .182 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs last year for the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs, who acquired him in a trade on Aug. 30. He has a .289 career average with 43 homers and 182 RBIs in four major league seasons.

— Left-hander Nik Turley has been traded to the Athletics from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash, giving Oakland a reliable reliever for late in games after losing closer Liam Hendriks in free agency. Turley went 0-3 with a 4.98 ERA and one save over 25 relief outings — the most by any big league rookie — spanning 21 2/3 innings for the Pirates in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.


Pebble Beach for pros only this year because of COVID spike

UNDATED (AP) — The only stars at the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am this year will be the players. The spike in COVID-19 cases in California has led organizers to cancel the pro-am portion of a tournament.

Pebble Beach had already announced no fans. The 156 pros will play only two courses, Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.

Pebble has a long history of entertainers and celebrities mixing with the pros on one of the most picturesque courses in the country.

VIRUS status for Australia in doubt after contracting virus

UNDATED (AP) — Andy Murray’s status for the Australian Open has been put in doubt after he tested positive for the coronavirus only days before his planned charter flight to Melbourne.

Murray has been given a wild-card entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2021.

The Australian Open was delayed three weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions and is set to begin Feb. 8. Players and officials must spend 14 days in quarantine once they arrive in champion Rollins-McNeal suspended in doping case

MONACO (AP) — Olympic hurdles champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal has been provisionally suspended for a doping rules violation. Rollins-McNeal won gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The 29-year-old American was also world champion in 2013.

The Athletics Integrity Unit says it charged Rollins-McNeal with “tampering within the results management process.” It did not specify details of the case.

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